What is your favorite travel memory?
I don’t want to sound clichéd – but it’s the little moments that mean the most to me. Of course I vividly remember an incredible temple, or stunning view at the end of a gruelling hike. But I see travelling as a mosaic. Tiny fragments that add up to create something beautiful. It’s the everyday, the moments we take for granted, that I hold especially dear.
Take my trip across southern Thailand as an example. I spent two months driving from beach to beach through thick jungle, in an old banger that I’d bought off a wily Thai farmer. My passenger was a five-month-old street dog that I’d adopted. And my best friend joined us for some of the trip. But what do I remember the most? It’s the little moments.
Stopping to refuel in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by limestone mountains that jut up from the forest like ancient skyscrapers. Then having a broken conversation with a lady selling fresh fruit from a stall next to the forecourt, neither of us having a clue what the other was saying. And snacking on that fruit, and 7/11 toasties, whilst my dog made friends with the local canine residents. Always ready to scoop him up and head back to the car if they took a disliking to each other.
This happened every week. At least twice. For two months. Now I’m not saying that stopping at service stations are my favourite memories of that Spring break trip. It’s just an example of the everyday, the normal, that really makes me smile. It could be exploring a market, getting a haircut, or the food delivery guy excited to practice his English, while my dinner gets cold. These are the moments that we take for granted. But these are the moments I cherish the most.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
It's not easy to identify changes and growth within yourself. I feel very much the same as I did when I was a teacher in China, and then Thailand. I still have the same passion for travel, experiencing new cultures and food, and all else that comes with living abroad. But now I am back in the UK, and through my work, I have a different connection with the world. I’ve learned to find satisfaction and fulfilment by helping people, young and old, to have their own adventures. But don’t worry, I still have my own planned, for myself and my not so little dog.
I’ve also learned a lot. And learning is growth. I’m very grateful to Arnold, the Director of Impact Teaching, for giving me the opportunity to develop in an unpressurised and supportive environment. No day or week is ever the same. From creating social media posts, to marketing campaigns, and documents for our teachers. I’m always doing something different and learning new skills.
So although it may not be clearly obvious to me, I have certainly grown in the development of my professional and business abilities. But have I changed? I think not. That passion for the world is still there, but is now channelled into assisting others explore it.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
We feel that the very best stories are actually from those that don’t return, at least for the meantime. And it seems that China is the country where our teachers stay the longest, beginning new lives for themselves and assimilating into the culture. It really is a special place. And I wonder if I might still be there were it not for the covid pandemic. Many of my cohort from 2019 still call it home. The mysterious culture is alluring. The food is some of the best in the world. People are friendly, warm, and kind. But realistically, it’s probably the great salaries and working conditions that tempt people to stay.
What we really love to hear about is our teachers making their new city, town, or village – into their home. This absolutely does not have to be over years. It’s perfectly achievably for those staying only six or twelve months, and is more about mindset and openness than anything else. Being part of a community like a sports team, or learning the local language, are both perfect examples of this. It gives us great satisfaction to see the confidence it breeds, and fulfilment it leads to. We encourage our teachers to do as much as they can because we know that’s what will ensure they have the best possible time.
I’ve given you absolutely no specific answers. Sorry. It’s because every story is special and unique, whilst simultaneously mirroring each other. Learning skills, becoming more assured, independent, and developing a sense of self. These are the best stories that we hear all the time from teachers, wherever they may be, during and after their time abroad.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
Heading back to Thailand would be very tempting. I fell in love with the country – it’s wonderful people, incredible scenery, and unbeatable weather. The work was also incredibly rewarding. Students and teachers alike were so grateful and kind. And I must mention the food. The ability to afford eating out three times a day, dishes that are fresh and flavourful, simply cannot be done in the UK. Or most other countries for that matter. There’s not a week that goes by where I don’t think about sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and bitter flavours of pad krapow, gaeng som, and som tam. To name but a few. But would I choose Thailand again? Maybe not, I’d want a new adventure.
And I think China might just be that adventure. Because despite my time there, I know that I only saw a fraction of what the incredible country has to offer. From the icy north to the beaches of the south. It’s culture is rich and fascinating, China has it all. Plus the working environments are great. The salaries are fantastic. And there is the opportunity for career development that allows teachers to gain invaluable experience, earn more, and develop as professionals. Even in your first year as in China, it’s very possible to save a large portion of your salary. This is something that would draw me back. But of course – the food can also stand its own, even against the exquisite flavours of Thailand.
In reality though, as my parents get older, I wouldn’t want to be so far away. So if I was to choose one of our programs it would likely be Poland or Hungary. They are both home to beautiful historic cities that allow for unique experiences. Sadly though, my teaching days are over, and I am content helping other begin their own exciting journeys.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
What makes us unique is the fact that myself, and the Director of the company, Arnold Vis – really care about our teachers. I experienced this first hand when I myself was a teacher for Impact Teaching. Throughout my time in China and Thailand, I was in semi-regular contact with Arnold. He was always so happy to speak, hear about what I’d been up to, and help with any issues. I always felt supported and that I had a solid base. I’ve heard plenty of complaints from teachers that had come with other companies, of course there are a ton of fantastic ones out there, but there are some bad guys too. What really makes us special and unique is that we care for our teachers on an individual basis, they are treated like people not just a way to make money. And I’m proud of that.
The training and support element that we offer also makes us stand out from the others. From regular Zoom calls to an orientation day in central London, all the content needed to make our teachers ready and prepared for life abroad and in the classroom is provided. For example, the visa process can be a confusing and stressful process. We are there throughout, at the end of an email or the phone, to guide teachers to a successful application.
And transparency is another of our core values. The teach abroad industry can be a murky one, but we strive to always be completely honest with our teachers. We are genuine people who are proud to help others begin adventures of a lifetime. So we see no need to deceive or exaggerate. In the blogs on our website that our teachers write, we encourage them to speak the truth, even if it’s what they are saying is negative. We echo this when we hold interviews and throughout all our correspondents with teachers. Honesty is the best policy.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
If you’ve got this far – thank you and well done. I’ve spoken a lot, so I really hope you’ve found it enjoyable and insightful. And don’t worry, I’m not going to say much more, because the answer to this last question is above in all my answers.
It was my desire that through these words, my passion for my job would become clear to you. Arnold, our Director, shares this passion. If he didn’t, then I don’t think I would be working with him. I feel very lucky.
This is why I believe we are and will continue to be a successful company. We care. We are honest. We want the best for our teachers. And we provide a fantastic service that helps inexperienced teachers becoming professionals, earning money across the world. We navigate them through stormy waters, and help them have the time of their lives.
So, where will you make your impact?