Q and A: Teaching English In Vietnam

I had jokingly typed into Google “how to teach English abroad” and thought it was the most far-fetched thing ever… Until I realized it wasn’t! If you’re even slightly thinking about teaching English, just DO IT! Making the decision to uproot your life and move overseas is scary, but what’s scarier is the regret I knew I would have for the rest of my life if I hadn’t taken the jump.

Here is a list of questions I am frequently asked about teaching English in Vietnam:

What qualifications do I need?

In order to obtain a work permit, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree (in any field) and a TEFL/CELTA/TESOL certificate. Taking a course to get your teaching certificate gives hands-on experience and makes you more attractive to potential employers. Here is the link to my blog post talking about my TEFL course experience. Although you don’t necessarily need a degree to teach English in Vietnam, you will have less job options and possibly a lower pay (you would also risk working here illegally, but that is the case for many expats who live in Vietnam).

What organization did you go through?

There are numerous organizations to choose from, but I chose International TEFL Academy (ITA). They have connections around the world and are highly respected. The first step is to call and get set up with an advisor. Your advisor will help you figure out which TEFL course to enroll in, find a job, and get ready for your big move abroad. Here is the link to ITA’s website (if you call or sign up for a course through ITA, please let them know that I referred you).

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What documents do I need for a work permit?

-Degree in any field (original document)

-TEFL/CELTA/TESOL certificate (original document)

-Background check (within the last 6 months)

-Health check (this can be done in Vietnam)

-Copies of your passport and visa, along with 2 passport photos

**Please note that your degree and background check will need to be notarized and authenticated. US citizens are able to do this at the embassy in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, but some countries are not able to do this in Vietnam. Before you come research your country specific information!

Should I find a job beforehand?

Although most places prefer in-person hires, there are some that will hire you before arriving in Vietnam. That being said, I would still highly recommend waiting until you get to Vietnam before finding a job. This will not only give you more options, but will give you the opportunity to check out the school and leadership before accepting a position.

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What type of school should I work for?

There are quite a few options when it comes to choosing a school in Vietnam. Many English teachers who come to Vietnam work at language centers. Teachers at language centers typically work in the evenings during the week and all day on the weekends (around 20-25 hours a week plus lesson planning time). The hours are like this because most language center students have school or work during the day. The typical class size is around 15-25 students. Another valid option is public schools. Teachers who work at public schools usually work week days between 7 AM – 5 PM (hours vary between these times as some periods you may not have class) and Saturday mornings. The class sizes for public schools are normally about 40 students. I personally work for a private kindergarten where full-time hours are from 8 AM – 5 PM with a 2-hour lunch/nap break from 12 – 2 PM. The ages at most kindergartens range from 18 months – 6 years old.  If you have a degree in education then you are qualified to work at an international school, which has a higher pay.

What are the start-up costs?

Start-up costs include any expenses you may have the first 2-3 months before getting a paycheck. I would recommend bringing around $1,500 – $2,000 USD to be safe. Typical expenses during this time are rent, food, transportation, and toiletries. Keep in mind that many landlords in Vietnam require a 3-month deposit (my roommates and I were able to talk our landlord into a 1-month deposit and lower monthly rent – try to negotiate). Start-up costs also will depend on the area you live and lifestyle. Living closer to the city center and spending money on more Western items will be significantly more expensive than if you lived more locally. For example, a Western meal can be around $10 while a Vietnamese meal can be less than $2.

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How is the pay compared to cost of living?

The pay for an English teacher in Vietnam all depends on the teacher’s qualifications and the school they work for. Native English speakers (citizens of the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and South Africa) with a degree and teaching certificate can make roughly $1,200 – $2,000 USD per month. This money goes a long way since Vietnam’s cost of living is so low. Most people spend around $600 – $1,000 USD per month in Vietnam. This allows one to live comfortably, travel often, and even save money. Personally, I am able to finish work at noon, go to a personal trainer twice a week, travel once a month, and have multiple spa days! In America, this would literally be impossible for me to do.

Teaching English allows you to change lives, explore other cultures, and grow as a person. It has truly been an amazing experience so far and I’d love to help others who wish to do the same! If you would like more information about living / teaching abroad, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

52 Places To Eat In Ho Chi Minh City

(*) = my top picks

Breakfast:

1. The Running Bean

  • Order. the. french. toast.
  • 115 Hồ Tùng Mậu, Quận 1

2. Saigon Bagel (*)

  • Locations in Districts 1 and 2
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Salmon Gravlox Bagel

3. The Hungry Pig

  • They are most known for their breakfast, but offer lunch and dinner options as well.
  • 144 Cống Quỳnh, Quận 1

4. Cork & Fork

  • A small French restaurant that offers sweet and savory crepes, paninis, and wine.
  • 3/2 Đề Thám, Quận 1

5. L’Usine

  • Multiple locations in District 1

Vietnamese:

6. Quán Út Hương (*)

  • They have a large menu filled with various Vietnamese meals such as mì xào, bột chiên, rice dishes, and much more. They have two shops across the road from each other: one for take-away orders (with some seating) and the other for sit-down meals. Warning: the service here is terrible, but the food is cheap and good!
  • TK31/7 Nguyễn Cảnh Chân, Quận 1
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Mì xào trứng

7. Vo Roof Garden 

  • A beautifully decorated restaurant with a rooftop view of Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street.
  • 7th floor, 44 Nguyễn Huệ, Quận 1
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Fried fish filet with green mango and basil sauce

8. Cậu Ba Quán (*)

  • Various Vietnamese seafood dishes with vegetarian options (the tofu is highly recommended). If you are in Hồ Chí Minh, you cannot leave without stopping here!
  • 85 Hoàng Sa, Quận 1
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Mì xào hải sản

9. Cơm Tấm 577

  • 577 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Quận 3

10. Bánh Canh Ghẹ Chicharito

  • Good bánh mì. Pro tip: I notice that the food is better around dinner time, rather than lunch.
  • 17 Nguyễn Cảnh Chân, Quận 1

11. Bánh Xèo Ngọc Sơn

  • 103 Ngô Quyền, Quận 5
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Bánh xèo

12. Bánh Tráng Nướng in Chợ Hoa Hồ Thị Kỷ

  • This is not the exact address. It is a small food stall located within Chợ Hoa Hồ Thị Kỷ (flower night market).
  • Hẻm 52 Hồ Thị Kỷ, Quận 10
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Bánh tráng nướng (aka Vietnamese pizza)

13. Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện 2 (*)

  • Very good and a little less pricey than the fancier hot pot places.
  • 10 Nguyễn Thông, Quận 3
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Hot pot

14. Bún Thịt Nướng KK 

  • Hẻm 51 Cao Thắng, Quận 3

15. Bún Thịt Nướng Cây Xoài 

  • 1238 Quang Trung, Gò Vấp
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Bún thịt nướng (minus the pork)

16. Lò Bánh Mì Hà Nội Cúc Phương 

  • Good and very cheap bánh mì and bánh bao.
  • 61/5 Phạm Văn Chiêu, Gò Vấp

Vegetarian:

17. Mãn Tự Vegan 

  • Free vegan buffet, all that the owner asks is you make a donation as you are leaving (however big or small). It’s a small restaurant and does get extremely crowded, but the experience, food, and friendly staff make it worth it.
  • 14/2 Tôn Thất Đạm, Quận 1

18. Pi Vegetarian Bistro (*)

  • 19 Võ Văn Tần, Quận 3
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Pumpkin curry

19. Hum Vegetarian 

  • Locations in Districts 1 and 3

20. Prem Bistro & Café (*)

  • 204 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Quận 3

21. Buddha Chay

  • Locations in Districts 1 and 5

22. 3LA Chay

  • 32A Cao Bá Nhạ, Quận 1

23. Rou Vegetarian 

  • 37B Cô Bắc, Quận 1

24. Chay Phương Mai

  • 86F Võ Thị Sáu, Quận 1
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Pad thai

24. El Cafe International Vegetarian Food

  • 1 Bis Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Quận 1

English:

26. Union Jack’s Fish & Chips (*)

  • 130-1 Tôn Thất Đạm, Quận 1
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Veggie bangers & mash

American:

27. Burger Joint Saigon (*)

  • 136 Nguyễn Thái Học, Quận 1

28. Journey’s Sandwich Café

  • 21 Nguyễn Văn Tráng, Quận 1
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Black bean sweet potato burger

Sushi:

29. Poké Saigon (*)

  • It’s not exactly sushi and it’s Hawaiian, but it’s basically sushi in a bowl so I’m throwing it under this category. It’s the best poké I’ve had and the staff that work here are incredible.
  • 2nd floor of The Café Apartment, 42 Nguyễn Huệ, Quận 1

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30. Sakura Việt Nam

  • 505 Sư Vạn Hạnh, Quận 10

31. Sushi 79

  • 2nd floor of The Café Apartment, 42 Nguyễn Huệ, Quận 1

32. Sushi M – H (*)

  • Side of the road, cheap, and delicious sushi shop.
  • 193 Đường Nguyễn Văn Cừ, Quận 5

33. TL Sushi 

  • 34 Đường số 45, Quận Gò Vấp

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34. Yen Sushi & Sake Pub 

  • Locations in Districts 1, 3, and 7

Italian:

35. Pendolasco 

  • 36 Tống Hữu Định, Quận 2
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Squid ink tortellini stuffed with shrimp

36. Pizza 4P’s (*)

  • Locations in Districts 1, 2, 3, and 7
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Half salmon miso & half margherita pizza

37. Pizza Company 

  • It’s a chain restaurant across Southeast Asia and the inside is nothing special, but the pizza is actually very good and always my go-to.
  • Multiple locations in HCMC

38. Phở Ông Tây (*)

  • Great western pasta dishes.
  • 17 Quốc Hương, Quận 2

Korean BBQ:

39. Lò Nướng Đá

  • 63 Phạm Văn Chiêu, Gò Vấp
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Vegetable skewers

Mexican:

40. La Fiesta! (*)

  • Amazing food and staff. There’s always a coupon for a free margarita online and you get a free lemon tequila shot when you get your bill. Pro tip: try the queso mac & cheese.
  • 33 Đặng Thị Nhu, Quận 1

41. A Simple Place (*)

  • 84 Quốc Hương, Quận 2

42. Sancho’s 

  • 207 Bùi Viện, Quận 1

43. Taco Leo 

  • A more healthy Mexican option.
  • 20 Cao Bá Nhạ, Quận 1

Indian:

44. Bollywood Indian Restaurant & Bar (*)

  • 207 Bùi Viện, Quận 1
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Dal tadka

Other:

45. Vintage Emporium 

  • Locations in Districts 1 and 2

46. Bến Thành Street Food Market 

  • There are various food stalls offering different types of food from around the world – Vietnamese, Indian, German, Thai, etc.
  • 26-28-30 Thủ Khoa Huân, Quận 1
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Egg biryani from an Indian food stall

47. The Maker (*)

  • 3rd floor of The Café Apartment, 42 Nguyễn Huệ, Quận 1
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Spaghetti arrabbiata

48. Chanh Bistro Rooftop 

  • Multiple locations in District 1

Dessert:

49. Ca Cao Dừa 136 (*)

  • There are various things on the menu, but the ca cao dừa is a must-try and only 17k.
  • 136/1 Nguyễn Tri Phương, Quận 5
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Ca cao dừa (coconut ice cream with cocoa powder)

50. Maison Marou (*)

  • 167-169, Calmette, Quận 1

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51. Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart 

  • This place is known for their cheese tarts, but an unusual (and somehow good) option from the menu is cheese ice cream. They also have durian and chocolate cheese flavors.
  • Multiple locations in District 1
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Cheese ice cream

52. Uncle Lu’s Cheesecake 

  • Just a heads up – it’s not your typical cheesecake, as it has the texture more of like angel food cake. Nonetheless, it is delicious (especially with milk poured over it).
  • 25 Đường Huỳnh Thúc Kháng, Quận 1

 

Until next time,

Hales

Pros Of Being An Expat In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Almost 7 months ago I made Hồ Chí Minh my home and it has been spoiling me ever since. Not every day is a bed of roses, but Việt Nam has enriched me with so many new experiences and growing opportunities that I will forever be grateful for.

Over the last few years, Hồ Chí Minh’s expat community has grown immensely, and continues to do so. Here are a few reasons why I, as well as many other expats, have chosen Hồ Chí Minh as a second home:

Lifestyle

One of the main things that bring aspiring English teachers to Việt Nam is the low working hours for good pay. A typical work week for English teachers is around 20 – 25 hours, giving plenty of free time. The pay is also high compared to the low cost of living, which allows for a comfortable lifestyle, frequent travel, and a little money left over for savings.

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Travel

With Hồ Chí Minh containing one of Việt Nam’s main airports, it is cheap and easy to travel within Việt Nam and Southeast Asia. There are many beautiful places in Việt Nam to travel to that are just a quick bus or plane ride away. International travel is also fairly cheaper here than it was in the US. It’s easy enough to book a last minute plane ticket to Malaysia without breaking the bank. Of course, this all depends on the type of traveler you are. If you’re wanting to stay in a nice resort it’s going to be pricey, but if you’re down with hostels then it can be very cheap. After moving to Southeast Asia and seeing the beauty it has to offer, my bucket list of destinations has expanded drastically (RIP to my bank account).

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Cheap Beauty Treatments

Back in the US I was hardly ever able to have a spa day, as it’s ridiculously overpriced (along with basically everything else in the States). Luckily, ‘Nam has blessed me with all things cheap – massages, facials, nails, the works. Don’t get me wrong, there are many expensive places here too, but why would I go to those when I can get a killer gel mani / pedi for 350,000 VND? Ladies, are you ready to move here yet?

There’s Always Something To Do

Hồ Chí Minh is a big city packed with millions of people, which means it’s always filled with things to do. There are night markets, DIY classes, and various shows. My favorite Friday night outing has been going to the past 2 Sofar Sounds shows. Seriously, amazing. I have a love / hate relationship with Bui Vien, but it’s definitely a must-see as it’s filled with various bars, clubs, and restaurants! If none of those do it for you, there are always the tourist hot spots like The Café Apartment, Post Office, or War Remnants Museum.

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Before my second Sofar Sounds show. They discourage having phones out during performances, so it’s a nice way to disconnect and relax.

The Unreal Coffee Scene

Việt Nam is the perfect place for coffee lovers, as it’s one of the world’s largest coffee exporters. Whether it’s the famous cà phê sữa đá, drip coffee, avocado coffee, egg coffee, coconut coffee – you name it, Việt Nam has it all. There are at least 5 coffee shops on every street and most of them are so cute and offer a unique experience.

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Shelter Coffee & Tea – one of my new favorite coffee shop finds. Avocado coffee (left) and cà phê sữa đá (right)

Food

Don’t worry, Hồ Chí Minh has most western food to satisfy your cravings (if you find Ranch though, please hmu), but the real deal is how delicious and underrated Vietnamese food is. There’s nothing like sitting on a small stool on the side of a road eating a plate of cơm tấm. If you can tell me where I can find better bún thịt nướng or bánh mì, that’s the day I will leave Việt Nam. On top of how amazing the food is, I can eat most meals for less than $1 or $2 USD. There’s no beating it, really.

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Bánh tráng nướng (Vietnamese Pizza)

If you have any questions on my life as an expat in Hồ Chí Minh, please feel free to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

A Day (Or Two) In The Life Of An English Teacher In Vietnam

Since moving to Vietnam, I get a lot of questions on what my days typically look like. In reality, the daily activities here are not that much different than in America, but it’s more of that my lifestyle is different. I ashamedly admit that I spent most of my free time in America watching Netflix, with occasional outings. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that Ho Chi Minh is a busy city or that I want to make the most out of living in a foreign country or maybe both, but my lifestyle has completely changed. I hardly ever just sit in bed and binge watch Netflix now. I always at least try to just get out of the house, whether it’s going on an aimless walk, to a coffee shop, or to a museum. I work 8:00 – 5:00 PM every Monday – Friday, which is pretty rare for expats in Vietnam. Expats working as English teachers typically work evenings on the week days and all day on the weekends. My week days and weekends differ quite a bit so I will do a rundown of both.

Week Days

6:00 AM

This is when I wake up and get ready for work. Since I don’t work until 8, I normally go to The Coffee House by my work in District 3 every morning to get a cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese milk coffee with ice). Yes, all of the workers know my order and have it put in before I even reach the counter with their hand waiting to scan my rewards. Yes, they also help me with Vietnamese pronunciation and yes, my pronunciation is still the worst, xin lỗi.

8:00 AM

I work from 8 – 5 PM, with a two-hour break from 12 – 2 PM for the kids’ naptime. This is normally when I eat lunch, grab another coffee, lesson plan, and then steal a kid’s pillow to take a nap too. After work I will book a Grab Bike home, but if it’s Monday or Wednesday I will head straight to Vietnamese lessons until 8:00.

Yoga
Another foreign teacher’s and my class doing yoga.

6:00 PM

I normally get dinner in my neighborhood around this time, either solo or with my roommates. My go-to places are Út Hương and Bánh Canh Ghẹ (both off of Nguyễn Cảnh Chân street in District 1). Vietnam isn’t necessarily known for its great customer service, but the customer service at Út Hương is probably the worst I’ve experienced. every. time. The only thing that keeps me coming back for more is the terrific food.

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Mì xào trứng at Út Hương.

7:00 PM

If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll head to either The Running Bean or Cộng Cà Phê (both are coffee shops) to get some work done for a few hours. If not, I’ll probably just run some errands and then work on stuff at home.

10:00 PM

After working with little kids all day, I’m normally exhausted so catch me going to bed early every night, not sorry about it. People in Vietnam normally wake up early anyway, so I like to as well … just not as early as they do. I can hear my neighbors out and about by 5:30 AM. Some breakfast places in my neighborhood are normally closing up shop by the time I leave for work at 7:15 AM if this tells you anything.

The Weekend

9:00 AM

The sunlight normally wakes me up pretty early in the mornings, but I tend to not leave the house until around 9 in the morning. The first thing I do on weekend mornings is take my laundry to get cleaned (exciting, I know).

9:30 AM

In the mornings I’ll go for a long walk, stopping at Phúc Long to get a smoothie and chocolate croissant then head to the park to get a little nature fix in this concrete-filled city. Every time I go to the park, I end up meeting a local or two wanting to practice their English, which gives me the chance to practice my Vietnamese.

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A Buddhist temple in Tao Đàn Park.

12:00 PM

Lunch time! My favorite lunch spot so far is Hum Vegetarian in District 1, where I got green curry and rice noodles.

1:00 PM

Around this time, I’ll try to do something more intriguing. A few things that I’ve spent my days doing is going to the War Remnants Museum, visiting temples in District 5, and going to a spa with an infinity pool in District 7.

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Thiên Hậu temple in District 5.

3:00 PM

With no shame at all, there is always a part of my day that will be dedicated to some coffee shop time. Vietnam’s coffee culture is out-of-this-world so you can’t not go to a coffee shop every day. I always go to my favorite place to get work done on the weekends, The Running Bean.

6:00 PM

My favorite time of the day – dinner time! I normally eat dirt cheap throughout the week, so I like to treat myself to nice meals on the weekend. One of my favorite finds so far is VO Rooftop Garden. The food is superb, the aesthetic is on point, there’s a nice view of Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street, and it’s decently priced for the location. A few weeks ago though, Ngân (a woman who owns a laundry shop in my neighborhood) invited my roommates and I over for a home-cooked Vietnamese meal with her, her family, and some friends.

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Having dinner at Ngân’s home.
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The dinner she prepared for us. She even made a ton of vegetarian food for Mima and I.

7:30 PM

My weekend nights are always different, but mainly consist of doing something in District 1 or 2. Right now it’s soccer season, so on game days there will be huge screens set up on the square of Nguyễn Huệ for people to sit and watch (it gets CRAZY – the Vietnamese don’t play around about their soccer). Some other things I have spent my weekend nights doing are going to rooftop bars, hitting up Bùi Viện (my feelings for Bùi Viện are bittersweet but I’ll spare you), going to a Sofar Sounds show, the movies, and more.

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After Vietnam beat Malaysia and won the AFF!

There you have it, a day (or two) in the life of an English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!

Until next time,

Hales

The Benefits Of An In-Person TEFL Course

*Disclaimer: I have only taught English and taken the TEFL certification course in Vietnam, so this may or may not apply to those wishing to teach English in other countries.

One of the biggest decisions I had to make when deciding to teach English abroad, was whether I should take the online or in-person TEFL certification course. Now that I have finished the course and started teaching, I cannot recommend taking the in-person class enough. Not everyone’s situation is the same, but if you have the means to do so, it is well worth it. Here are some of the benefits of taking an in-person course in Vietnam:

Personally, I learn better in a classroom environment

This isn’t everyone, but it is me. I couldn’t tell you a lick of knowledge I retained from my online classes when attending university. I would skim through the information I needed to finish my assigned tasks and ignored the rest. I was even blessed with the amazing invention of Quizlet that helped me study even less for those classes than I already was (if you’re a university student in the United States, you know). Granted, maybe it would have been different if my online classes were even somewhat relevant to my area of study, but I have a strong sense it wouldn’t have made a difference. I am a visual, collaborative, and kinesthetic learner, which makes in-person classes far more beneficial for myself. I strongly recommend taking into consideration what type of learner you are before making the decision to take an in-person or online course. Having an instructor that I could meet face-to-face with when I was stressed or confused about the material made a world of difference. I also loved having classmates to learn from and bounce ideas off of. If you learn better individually, then maybe the online course would be a better fit for you – or maybe the in-person course would push you outside of your comfort zone, grow you, and help build up your confidence in teaching like it did for myself.

The people you meet

It’s scary enough moving to a new country, but even scarier to do it by yourself. Taking the TEFL course in Vietnam provided me with 37 other students who were in the same boat as myself. They welcomed me with open arms and there I made some of my best friends in Vietnam. A lot of the people I met through the course were similar minded as myself: wanting to grow, travel, meet new people, and learn about a different culture. They all come from different places and backgrounds, which was a breath of fresh air and I’ve learned so much from them. People aren’t lying when they say the TEFL course is intense. I have never been busier than I was those four weeks. Luckily, I was surrounded by people who constantly encouraged and refreshed me when I needed it the most. These are still people that I can count on to this day.

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These are some of my classmates from the course.

Getting familiar with a new place and culture

I found a lot of comfort in the fact that when I hopped off my plane in a foreign country there would be someone waiting to pick me up at the airport and take me to housing that was already provided for me. For the first month I didn’t have to worry about what area I’d want to live in, who my roommates would be, or how to even find a place to live in the first place. Instead, I got to spend that time meeting new people, exploring Saigon, and learning more about the Vietnamese culture. My friends from the course turned into my future roommates and after living in Ho Chi Minh for a few weeks, we then had a better idea of the type of area and amenities we desired in a home in Vietnam. There was no rush in finding a place to live or a job, which made the process a breeze for the most part.

I probably would have never stepped foot in Gò Vấp District if it wasn’t for the course

Okay, Gò Vấp isn’t for everyone. If you’re backpacking through Southeast Asia,
it probably isn’t on your list of stops. It’s kind of dirty, crowded, and not the most beautiful sight in Ho Chi Minh. It’s a more local Vietnamese area, which means being one of the few foreigners there, you get stared and pointed at more than one would like. ‘Hello’ is the extent most of the locals’ English there goes, which makes Google Translate and charades your best friend. Taking everything into mind, there still is always a special place in my heart for Gò Vấp District. I got to experience a more genuine Vietnamese way of life than I would have if I had lived in District 1 or 2 right off the bat. But really, let’s talk about the food – it is out of this world good! I have yet to find cheaper and better tasting food than I had in Gò Vấp. All of my favorite spots knew my order by the end of my stay and I spent less than $2-3 USD a day on meals. My daily sinh tố dâu (strawberry smoothie) cost 20,000 VND (~ $0.86 USD) and bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich) was a merely 7,000 VND (~ $0.30 USD). Gò Vấp has so much charm and is unique from any other place I’ve been to in Ho Chi Minh, I couldn’t recommend a visit there enough.

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The view of my neighborhood in Gò Vấp District.

It makes the job search process SO much easier

To start off, the TEFL course at AVSE requires their students to complete 8 hours of classroom observations and 12 hours of teaching practices. This helps when employers ask about your experience in teaching English as a second language, as well as getting a better understanding of the education system here in Vietnam (which is very different from that of the States). Many of the companies my classmates and I taught at while taking the course offered us jobs on the spot and AVSE helps you throughout the entire job search process. This is really just a huge shoutout to Jane at AVSE, because she works day in and out to ensure that all of the students find jobs when they graduate from the program. I really would not have found my amazing job without her help and I am eternally grateful. It made the entire process a lot less stressful than it would have been otherwise.

Those are just a few points as to why I would recommend taking the in-person course in Vietnam, but there are many more. Again, this may not be the best option for everyone, but if you are able to, go for it! If you have any questions about life in Vietnam, teaching English, or getting TEFL certified feel free to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

 

Growth

In the past two months, I have completed my TEFL certification, signed a lease on a house with three kick-butt roommates, and have been working a full-time job teaching English at a Kindergarten. Things have settled down over the past few weeks and I am finally feeling adjusted to life in Vietnam. Living here has been amazing, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. I was sick for two weeks from the pollution, caught a stomach bug, got a nasty Saigon kiss (burn from a motorbike’s exhaust pipe), and have had a few phone problems. If I hadn’t developed a love and gratitude for this country, I probably would have packed up and flown home by now. When a motorbike driver turns my 8-minute drive home from work into 25 because he doesn’t want to look at his GPS or listen to my directions, I get frustrated. I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m smiling, saying ‘this is great’ every time something negative comes my way. But at the end of the day, this country is worth all of the downs because it has so many more ups.

I have been doing what I came here to do: have new experiences and grow as a person. I am constantly being pushed outside of my comfort zone, meeting people from all over the world, and learning a new culture and language. Not every day is a huge adventure. Some days my biggest adventure is going to work or taking my laundry to get cleaned – but every day does provide me with learning experiences. You become quick to realize the people who genuinely want to get to know you versus those who just want to use you (especially being a westerner). Although there are some that fall into the latter, there are far more in the prior. The people I have met here, locals specifically, are the most kind, gentle, helpful, and playful people I have ever met. I will continue to stand by that. I have been apologized to countless times because of their English being ‘not good’ (which most of the time, isn’t true) … I’m sorry, what? I am living in their country, they are speaking my language because I cannot speak theirs, and they are apologizing to me?! There is always someone who will stop to tell me directions, help me move tables when it starts pouring down rain, or just wants to have a conversation to get to know me and/or improve their English. Back home I would just do the same things day-in-and-out, but here I am forced to try new things and meet new people. I have learned a lot about who I am, grown mentally, and developed a newfound confidence in myself.

Teaching has also been a huge factor in this. I can’t say I was thrilled when I learned I would be teaching three-year-olds, but now I wouldn’t change it for a thing. I have grown in my communication skills, creativity, and patience. I have also learned to always celebrate the little things. I get SO excited when my kids even say ‘please’ or ‘sorry.’ I’m grateful for this because I realize we would miss so many of the small, but beautiful things in life if we solely focused on the ‘big’ achievements.

Life isn’t meant to be predictable, it’s meant to be exciting, adventuresome, and full of growth. Before I moved to Vietnam, I was working 9 to 13-hours a day, 6 days a week (sometimes more). I would come home, eat dinner, then go to bed – occasionally meeting up with friends to maintain some form of social life. There wasn’t any excitement and I sure wasn’t growing, but I thought that’s how life was supposed to look. Society says that we have to go to university, get married, have kids, and work towards retirement – then you can travel and do all of the things you wanted to do at the age of 65 (or older). We are supposed to climb the ladder at our jobs and make a ton of money – that’s what ‘success’ is. But are the people who have more money than they know what to do with, truly happy? Maybe, but I think life is more than just material things and satisfying ridiculous societal standards for my life. It’s my life. There were many people who told me not to come to Vietnam or that I needed to start ‘settling down’ (honestly laughing at the phrase ‘settling down’. What does that even mean anyway?). I could have let those things stop me, and they almost did. I’m dang glad they didn’t. Moving here was the best decision I have ever made and I couldn’t imagine my life any different. I’m not saying everyone should quit their jobs and move to Vietnam, I’m just saying please don’t let society or other people tell you how you should live your life. Do you. Get to know people who are different from you, continuously push yourself out of your comfort zone, and just grow, man.

Okay, my update-turned-rant is now over.

Until next time,

Hales

Life In Vietnam: Week 1

*This is my experience living in my area (Go Vap, Ho Chi Minh).

As my first week living in Ho Chi Minh City comes to a close, I reflect on my experience so far in this beautiful and chaotic place I now call home. I have learned so much about myself and the Vietnamese culture just within this past week. A common question I am asked by friends and family is what it’s like living in Vietnam. I have written and rewrote this blog multiple times because it’s hard to put into words. So here goes nothing!

This is a quote that I look back to while living abroad:

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” -Clifton Fadiman

It’s easy to be ethnocentric and try to compare a country and its ways to your own. If you do this, you’ll more than likely find nothing but negatives and a downer attitude. You have to remember while traveling anywhere that they don’t design things for your comfort, they do it for their own comfort. When you realize this and open your mind, you’ll see the beauty around you. “Travel like Gandhi, with simple clothes, open eyes, and an uncluttered mind.” That’s how you learn and grow as a human being. As an anthropology minor in college, I loved studying other cultures and decided to take myself out of the books and to learn first-hand. Short term travel is great, but you only get a slight peak of what’s underneath. So why not live long-term amongst a culture completely different than my own?

Vietnam is a world of its own. From the rainy days, messy sidewalks, and chaotic streets, to the wonderful people, good food, and beautiful culture; I have come to fall in love with it all in such a short time. The rain showers have become a refreshment during the hot and humid days, the messy sidewalks tell a story and make for a good laugh (and really who cares if you get a little dirt on you), the chaotic streets are full of life and energy. My friends and I joke that we always feel super powerful as we cross a street while motorbikes are zooming past us. I don’t know why, so I won’t have an answer for you if you ask. As I’m typing this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop blowing kisses to a little baby while she puts on her Hello Kitty pollution mask about to hop on a motorbike with her mom. You’ll find the craziest things watching motorbikes drive by that I’d like to declare motorbike watching is WAY better than people watching! I feel less stressed, carefree, and happier than I have been in my life. (And the food is some of the best I’ve ever had)

But the people here? That’s what takes the cake. The Vietnamese are the loveliest people I have come across in my life. They LOVE westerners. I have never felt so treasured, welcomed, and safe than I do here in Vietnam. Anytime I leave the house I receive tons of smiles, waves, and hellos. They are also not afraid to pull you in for a picture without asking and relentlessly stare at you – when I say stare, I mean STARE. Sometimes it can be a tad bothersome, but as soon as I say hello, I am greeted with a huge smile and enthusiastic wave like the rest and my heart melts every time. They call Thailand the ‘land of smiles’ and although I’ve never been and might be biased, I think Vietnam is the real ‘land of smiles’ hands-down. They are eager to have conversation with you to practice their English and help you with your Vietnamese. For instance, when my group of friends and I were exploring District 1, we were approached by a 10-year old girl named Ashley asking to practice with us, where we then had a 20-minute conversation learning about her and her family. They will also go out of their way to help you find where you’re trying to go, open doors for you, make sure you feel comfortable, and help you move tables when it starts pouring down rain on yours. The kindness I’ve been shown here I have rarely experienced in the States. So, to all of my loved ones back home who are worried sick, don’t be. I’m in good hands!

This unique country has already come to feel like home in such a short amount of time, I can’t help but look forward to the future with excitement and anticipation to see what will come.

Until next time,

Hales

I’m Moving Where?

As I sat in graduation two months ago, I thought I knew the plan for my life (at least for the next year). I was going to live and work in Springfield as I prepare to send out grad school applications, move into my own apartment, and get a dog. Little did I know, life had a change of plans for me.. Throughout the next few weeks I grew unsatisfied with the thought of staying in my small college town. It felt so…stagnant. My goal going into 2018 was to stop living life in my comfort zone. I wanted to experience new places, people, and things. I had always wanted to live overseas and the suggestion my mom gave about teaching English abroad became more than something I just giggle about because it sounds so unrealistic. The more I researched, the more realistic it became. Come mid-July, I had bought my one-way plane ticket to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam!

Why Vietnam?

My heart was originally set on Italy. The magnificent architechture of Rome, rowing through the city of Venice, eating delicious pasta in Florence! It all sounded too good to be true…and it was, for me at least. For starters, Italy would drain my bank account to the point where I’d be barely making it by. On top of that, the Italian government isn’t super keen on giving work visas to American citizens, so I’d be working ‘under-the-table’ aka illegally. I decided to open my mind to new places and Vietnam began to grow on me. It’s an easily overlooked country when it comes to travel, but its amazing beaches, motorbike-filled streets, good food, and beautiful culture drew me in and the more I started to dig, the more I fell in love. On top of that (and much more), it’s decently easy to obtain a work visa in Vietnam and the cost of living is very low. I’d be able to save money moving there. Yes you heard it right, I’d be able to save money moving overseas!

So, come September 12th I’ll be boarding a plane (or three) and flying off to my new home. I’ll be taking a month-long course to get my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate so that I will be able to teach English in Vietnam. Throughout that month, I will be studying English grammar intensively, creating lesson plans, and getting hands-on teaching practice. After that I’ll be free to look for a teaching job anywhere I please!

I’ll make mistakes, miss home, and have bad days, but I’ll also have good days, make new friends, and have the adventure of a lifetime! I’m excited to learn, grow and experience a new culture different from my own. This blog is to keep y’all updated throughout my move to Vietnam, but feel free to reach out to me at anytime!

Until next time,

Hales