Why did you choose this program?
The post-graduation blues were kicking in and I didn't have much planned for the foreseeable future. I wanted to travel, but not at the expense of my CV. I wanted to gain experience while I travelled, and Premier TEFL's Vietnam Internship was the perfect opportunity.
With a short commitment of 4.5 months, paid accommodation, guaranteed work placement, what could go wrong? I would arrive at my new destination with other like-minded teachers who would experience Vietnam for the first time.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The programme provided me with an accredited TEFL course, work placement, paid accommodation, and transport to and from the school. Considering it was my first experience outside of Europe, many of the logistics were taken care of. This meant I could immerse myself into the culture without worrying about, well, anything, aside from making a good impression with the other teachers.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
To embrace every aspect of the new culture, and not to worry. While there are inevitably moments of culture shock and homesickness, you'll adapt and realise how culturally flexible you really are. Whether you have a good time or a bad time (which I highly doubt), you'll finish the internship with a wealth of invaluable experience. To this day, I am adamant it is the greatest thing I could have ever done for my personal development.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
School starts quite early and you'll be teaching lessons at around 8 am. You'll enter a classroom of about 30 - 50 children, which sounds daunting, but is actually a blast. They'll greet you with immeasurable enthusiasm as you converse and implement your fun teaching activities, and the lessons go by quickly due to the energy of the students.
As a teacher, you'll have a three-hour lunch break, which leaves you more than enough time to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee and the local cuisine with your fellow TEFL teachers. After you finish teaching for the afternoon, you are free to saunter down the bustling streets of Vietnam and do as you please!
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I had a big fear of the transition in general, as my comfort zone was shrinking in the UK. However, I realised this and I recognised the change as a huge necessity for my personality. I felt fine about the whole experience beforehand, thinking "future Will can deal with the actual logistics of it all", and a week before I got an immense wave of pre-departure anxiety.
I was intimidated by what was to come, whether I turned out to be a terrible teacher, whether I hated Vietnam, or whether Vietnam hated me. It's very common to be anxious about the things that could go wrong, and that's why you just have to embrace the transition. Not everything will go your way, you'll overcome new challenges, but this will only be a fraction of your amazing adventure.
Should I learn Vietnamese beforehand?
In Vietnam, the locals LOVE it when you speak (or at least try to) Vietnamese. They'll often laugh, but this is very endearing. They are already extremely friendly (In fact, I have never felt safer than I have in Vietnam), and they'll be far more engaging if you try to learn their language. Instead of saying 'hello', greet people with 'xin chao'! Instead of ordering a hot black coffee, order a 'ca phe den.'
While you should absolutely learn Vietnamese, the expat scene in Vietnam is thriving. You'll meet many people who are fluent in English, and the English of your students may surprise you too!