By: Rochelle Caruso
I was seated in a hostel dorm in Cusco making casual conversation with a group of travelers when I struck up a conversation with an American guy who was teaching English in Peru.
Immediately I was asking questions:
How do you do this?
What is it like?
What qualifications do you have?
I had always wanted to move abroad and for the first time I thought this might be a feasible option.
Upon my return to Canada, I was feeling those inevitable post travel blues. And like every girl in a coming of age movie, I just knew I had to do something more than work in the same town I’d spent the last 22 years in. So I began Googling “teaching English abroad,” and the whole seemed a little too good to be true? Apparently, my Bachelors of Science degree and my Canadian passport were two of three very crucial requirements, despite my severe lack of teaching experience. The other item I needed was my TEFL certification.
Many different companies offered certifications but the education and training did not seem to be substantial in the slightest, and I didn’t think that was fair to my future students. I wanted something that would allow me to be the best teacher I could possibly be. When I came across International TEFL Academy’s TESOL/TEFL certification courses, it seemed like an excellent option. From the 120-hour course to the practicum to the alumni support, I felt confident I would have the training and support to make this idea a reality. So, was this it? Am I really going to do this?
At the age of 23, I technically no longer require my mother’s permission to move around the world, but ideally, I wanted her to be supportive of my decision. So I walk into her kitchen, sit her down and go, “Mom, I’m going to move to Vietnam to teaching English”, to which she replies, “Oh honey, I think that’s a great idea!” Umm excuse me mother, I just told you that your child is going to move half way around the world and you’re just over the moon about it, you could at least pretend to object? Her support was confusing and I was not expecting it so I launched into this massive explanation about my TEFL certification, the advice I had got from ITA and why I had chosen Vietnam. In retrospect, I think I was convincing myself more than I was convincing her, but either way by the end of the conversation, I had enrolled myself into my course and it was sorted, I was going to move abroad and teach English.
I completed the Online TEFL certification in the summer of 2017 while I was working full time. Initially I had considered doing an on-location certification, but after some advice from Ashley (the most amazing Admissions Advisor) she recommended I keep working if I can and keep saving for my upcoming adventure. For the next two and a half months, I was Vietnam this, Vietnam that, and I was loving the course. It had been over a year since graduating from University, and I was eating up being back in school, learning and researching. The course was excellent! It was very easy to balance the course while working a full-time job. After work every day or even on my lunch break, I’d squeeze in an hour or two, which made it very manageable.
The course went by so quickly, I learned a lot of things that I wanted to incorporate into my classroom. My instructor Quinn encouraged me to combine what we learned in the course with our own personal teaching style to create lesson plans that were unique and tailored to our students. I found the course made me very self-reflective, and I could quickly figure out what styles of teaching I excelled at while getting tips and ideas on how to incorporate others.
I completed my practicum at Flexibility Learning in Lethbridge. The staff and students there were amazing and completely inspiring. I was primarily teaching and working primarily with refugees, so our main role as educators was to teach them English that would be extremely useful in their day to day lives. Whether it was conversational skills about buying food at a grocery store, or written tasks including filling out school forms for their children, we were really making a positive impact in these people’s lives. It was incredibly rewarding and I was so excited to move overseas and have my own classroom!
Fast forward five months and I have been living and teaching in Vietnam since October 2017. There were and still are days that are stressful and I wish things had the ease that they would in Canada, but there is never a day that I regret my decision to move abroad. If you are on the fence or thinking about it, just do it. Just commit, you will never look back on this time and think I shouldn’t have done it. In five months, I have traveled throughout Vietnam and Thailand, with plans to go to Laos and Cambodia this spring. I have taught the most beautiful children and worked with incredible people. Not only am I learning so much about Vietnamese culture, I am making friends from all around the world and having the greatest adventure. There will always be reasons to not go, but there are so many as to why you should.
Rochelle Caruso is 24 from Alberta, Canada with a BSc in biochemistry from the University of Lethbridge. Before flying off to Hanoi, Vietnam, she worked as a chemistry technician at a college in her home town.