2005 was a time I felt I needed to broaden my horizons and gain more knowledge in a subject I would enjoy. I was 27 years old and had travelled to many places either alone or with other people but I felt that I had not truly immersed myself into the countries and cultures enough and I wanted to pursue a REAL travel experience. I found I-to-I and I visited their office in Leeds (conveniently my hometown) They made me feel so welcome and made me a nice cup of tea and sat me down to advise me. To cut a long story short I fell in love with their company’s ideas and it matched my burning ambitions to find a real travel experience and finally, I found a subject I really wanted to do, and that was to teach the English Language. The question was how would I begin this journey? Well it turned out I-to-I had that answer for me.
I enrolled on a 60 hour course but instead of completing it in one fell swoop; I took my time and researched many of the modules covered. The tutors (Judy Mabe and Alex Semakin) were lovely, helpful and full of the knowledge (and patient with my many questions) I needed to pursue my goal to become a teacher. I learnt a lot of theory on this course and I supplemented that with a 20 hour intensive course which was great for a real hands on teaching experience. I enrolled on short courses too such as Teaching young learners, a 20 hour grammar course and teaching larger classes which all taught me the skills I needed. It was amazing to have completed them and the knowledge they provided was extremely helpful as it gave me the key ingredients in order to teach effectively.
In October 2007, I took the BIG Step and applied for a three month teaching placement in Hanoi, Vietnam. You are probably wondering why did I choose that place, well I believe it was where I needed to be and as I will reveal later I was exactly right! :) The organization was great and I-to-I were there every step of the way. It was nice knowing they were there to back me up if anything untoward should happen and they were great at organizing everything and made me feel safe. The school, which was called Binh Minh (Sunrise) Secondary school, was amazing and the teachers there were welcoming and really helped me to fit in to their school way of life. Having the teachers say to me that I was a real English teacher made me even more thankful to I-to-I for providing me with the training.
When I returned to England, after traveling through the rest of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, I visited I -to-I's office again to give them a hearty warm thank you for providing me with not only the training, feeling safe, the organization and professionalism but also making me more confident in myself to continue to pursue my dreams and that I am eternally grateful to them. Since 2008 I have been the happiest I have ever been. I was offered a job in Hanoi because of my TEFL certificates with a great language school where I stayed for nearly 3 years perfecting and always improving my teaching skills. I taught all ranges from Beginner levels to Advanced, young learners (Young learners course and teaching larger classes course from I-to-I helped greatly here) I can now teach TOEIC, which is The Test of English in Communication, which also provides students to gain access to higher employment and higher salaries. I taught many high – level Business English classes for reputable companies. The students were just as enthusiastic as me and were great students to teach and to see them progress in English, which is a tough language for them to learn, really made me very proud to be doing something I love and helping people to pursue their dreams really made me thankful to be in the job I really loved.
I wanted to improve my teaching skills even more and delve deeper into the different methods of language teaching with different theories so in 2010 I enrolled on a CELTA course in Hanoi. Due to the knowledge from I-to-I, I gained the highest mark which again was thanks to I-to-I’s training. I really would love to advise more people on what these courses and placements can achieve because I truly feel that I-to-I's courses and placements are a foot in the door for people who are not quite sure about going it alone. I see on the website people are often confused about the differences between I-to-I's TEFL courses and The CELTA course. All I can say is that I-to-I was a great step because by taking their courses I gained great knowledge and experience and with deciding to pursue it as a career it helped enormously with my CELTA as I had already trained on many of the aspects of ESL teaching with I-to-I. My decision to do both was one of the best decisions ever. Also, the confidence that the project has given me was unique in that it made me even more confident to go it alone.
I am currently teaching for a language school called IBEST which provides professional training for Vietnamese students wishing to study overseas. I am currently teaching IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) I had to complete another intensive course on these difficult English Language Testing Systems in order to be able to teach it but it was well worth it as my teaching skills, enthusiasm and love for the job have grown even more and helping students to achieve the score and level of English they need in order to achieve their dream of a master’s degree in The USA, The UK and Australia is one the greatest things to achieve and I feel I am really helping people with their lives It is very rewarding and to say I love it would be and understatement as I absolutely adore teaching there. It does not even feel like a job as every day is something unique and different. When I wake up in the morning I want to teach and they do say "To love your job is half the battle" Well in my case that is 110% true.
I have been living in Hanoi, Vietnam for almost 5 years now and have become fluent in the language after studying at a university in Hanoi. I feel this also helped me and think that learning another language is extremely rewarding in gaining a great insight into the country, culture and its people. It is also great for finding out the differences between the language of the country you are in and the English Language. It took me about two years with many mistakes (Failure is the mother of success) and getting into situations I thought I had not agreed on such as buying something I did not need by saying the wrong word, but eventually something clicked and my Vietnamese language just took off from there really and I have not looked back since and I still continue to learn as I have a deep passion for languages especially Vietnamese. It is just so different to English and I love the way the Vietnamese use words with extra feeling and deeper meanings which allow you to discover new parts of life and culture every day.
Why did I choose Vietnam out of all the places I could have volunteered in? Well as I said at the beginning I believe it was my calling as the first person I met in Hanoi at the airport just by chance became my soul mate for life. After we met in 2007 we were friends then became a couple for three years and now since 2011 we have been happily married and we have a great life here in Hanoi together.
If I had to give one piece of advice to anyone who is thinking about doing something new in a new place then all I have to say is go for it. Do not worry about the “if’s and but’s” they are actually what make the journey better. I feel that there are more people who are stuck in life and find it hard to pluck up the courage to do something that is completely alien to them but with I-to-I to help them in the first few steps I believe that anything is possible and can help more people discover things they never knew. I discovered things (and still continue to do so) that I never knew even existed. The possibilities are just endless and you may end up discovering things that will open up your mind, body and soul in ways you never even thought of. They do say that travels broadens the mind and I do believe this wholeheartedly as even times when I struggled to let go of some of my deep beliefs I learnt from others to share my beliefs with their beliefs which in turn made my life happier as I learn and continue to learn from others in order to teach to the best of my abilities.