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Teach English Online with VIPKid - Alumni Q&A with Sydney Lund
Written by: Sydney Lund
Last Updated: April 22, 2021
What is your citizenship?
I am a US citizen.
What city and state are you from?
Chino Hills, California.
How old are you?
21 years old.
Do you teach English online from within the USA or abroad? If abroad, where are you located?
I am currently teaching English online through VIPKid from Costa Rica. I have been teaching with VIPKID since November 2017. During my first two months with VIPKid I was teaching from the USA. For the last two months I have been teaching from Costa Rica.
What is your education level and background?
I have a Bachelors in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing, and a Certificate in Sustainability Leadership.
Have you traveled abroad in the past? If so, where have you been?
Yes, when I was 18 years old I traveled to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Since then, I have also traveled to Guatemala, Curacao, and Puerto Rico.
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
I did not study abroad during college. I graduated college a year early through a fast track degree program. Therefore, I was unable to study abroad.
What sparked your interest in teaching English online?
I wanted to teach online because I liked the convenience of working from home but also doing a job that was fulfilling and filled with purpose. I was looking for a job where I could work from anywhere in the world. I also wanted to work with VIPKid as a way to supplement the income I was making through my brick and mortar teaching job in Costa Rica.
What were some of your concerns before teaching English online?
One of the biggest concerns that I had about teaching online was the peak teaching hours. Since VIPKid is a Beijing-based company, I was concerned that I would only be able to work very early mornings. I have worked during the very early hours of the morning with VIPKid, however, most of the hours I work are on Friday and Saturday evening/nights and Monday through Thursday after teaching at my brick and mortar school. These times work for me because I don’t have to wake up early in order to teach with VIPKid. I can teach a few lessons after school, which gives me enough money to travel around Costa Rica.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I did a lot of research on various TEFL companies before I decided to get TEFL certified through ITA. I found that ITA really offered so much more than the TEFL certificate to its students. ITA has an amazing job search handbook that is categorized by country. The handbook has contract information and hiring information for dozens of schools hiring TEFL teachers for each country. You get access to this handbook once you start the class. I actually found out about the school that I teach at through the ITA job search handbook.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
I took the online TEFL course and enjoyed that I could go through the class at my own pace. It was also the cheapest option for me since I did not live near any of locations that offered the in-person classes.
How did you like the online course?
The online TEFL course really prepared me for both teaching English online with VIPKid and teaching English to children at my brick and mortar school in Costa Rica. At the end of the TEFL course you have the option of taking two additional modules. One of the modules is teaching English to Young Learners. I took this optional module and I felt that it really prepared me for teaching English online to children and teaching English to children in my brick and mortar school.
I also really liked how the TEFL course had us create lesson plans and then the course professor would review the lesson plans and give us feedback on them. When I was hired by my brick and mortar school in Costa Rica I was tasked with creating lesson plans on a weekly basis and creating lesson plans for the entire year. Since I had to create lesson plans for my assignments through the TEFL course I felt much more prepared when my school asked me to create yearly lesson plans before starting my job.
How has your TEFL training helped you with teaching English online?
Throughout each module there would be information regarding teaching English online. This information really helped me when I did my interview with VIPKid. I really enjoyed the section of the course that highlighted various learning types. I thought that this section of the course really helped me prepare for my time teaching online with VIPKid. When I teach online, I still need to remember that each student is unique and has a different way of learning. The TEFL course taught me strategies and tips on ways that I can best teach each student depending on their unique learning style.
TEACHING ENGLISH ONLINE - YOUR JOB
Why do you teach English online?
I teach English online because I can teach from anywhere in the world. When I applied to VIPKid I knew that I would be moving out of the United States in a couple months, so I wanted to have a job that would allow me to supplement my income and a job I could do from anywhere in the world.
How did you learn about teaching English online?
Which company do you teach English online with?
I teach online through VIPKid.
[Hot Tip]: VIPKid are just one of many online ESL schools. Download our Teach English Online Employer Comparison Chart to compare online schools, hourly pay, degree and experience requirements, and much, much more!
Please outline any specific requirements to teach English online with VIPKid
1. Bachelor's Degree – 4-years, any major
2. One year of experience either teaching or experience working with kids:
a) Teaching experience can include: teaching ESL, teaching grades K-12, teaching college, tutoring students, tutoring children, student teaching, homeschooling, etc
b) Working with kids experience can include: Coaching Pee Wee sports, volunteering at a youth group through church, summer camp work, babysitting/nanny, day care, teaching children’s dance/music classes, etc.
3. Ability to work in the United States or Canada:
a) You have to be a citizen of either the United States or Canada or have a work visa for either of these countries. However, you don’t have to physically be located in either of these places while your teaching. You can teach from any location in the world! I am currently teaching from Costa Rica.
4. Tech Requirements:
a) Stable internet connection
b) Laptop computer or tablet
c) Headphones with a microphone
Briefly explain VIPKid's application and interview process
1. Initial application: This is very short. VIPKid wants to know if you have a college degree and what experience you have teaching or working with kids. Make sure you highlight your experience teaching or working with kids in this section. They are looking for the experience to be a year or more.
2. Initial Interview: You will interview with someone from VIPKid who is a recruiter but not a teacher. The interview will be broken into two parts. This initial interview will determine your hourly pay. You do have the option to record your first interview, however I would strongly suggest choosing to do a live interview. This will allow you to interact with the interviewer and will help you understand the natural pacing of the classes.
3. Mock 1: During your Mock 1, you will be giving two different lessons to teach. You will have roughly 10-15 minutes to teach each lesson. One of the lessons will be for a beginning level student and the other lesson will be a high beginner/low intermediate student. The interviewer for your mock 1 class will be a real VIPKid teacher who has been with the company for at least six months. Mock 1 is all about practicing your teaching and timing of the lessons while providing a fun class for the student. You will be given both verbal and written feedback after your Mock 1 class
4. Mock 2: If you did not get hired right after your Mock 1, don’t worry you still have Mock 2! Take the advice that you were given from Mock 1 and use that advice to help you succeed during you Mock 2 class.
5. Sign the Contract
6. You’re hired!
Is there a minimum number of hours you have to work per week/month, or is scheduling completely flexible and up to you?
VIPKid recommends that you open at least seven time slots per week, which is 3.5 hours of work. However, this is just a recommendation and the scheduling is completely up to you. You can schedule yourself for the same hours every week or for different hours every week. It’s up to you when you want to open and not open up time slots. .
Is this your full time job, or a side hustle?
This is my side hustle. I work full time at a school in Costa Rica where I teach English, math, and geography to first and second graders at a private bilingual school.
How many hours per week do you teach English online?
I work anywhere between three to five hours a week through VIPKid.
What do you love about teaching English online with 51Talk?
I love the flexibility that VIPKid offers. I like that I can open time slots when I want to work and I don’t have to open more time slots if I don’t want to work that week. The lesson plans through VIPKid are provided for you, so you don’t have to lesson plan or prep for any of the lesson beforehand.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Why did you choose to teach English online from Costa Rica?
Costa Rica was the first country that I traveled to outside of the United States and remains my favorite country I have visited. When thinking about what country I wanted to live in, I couldn’t stop thinking about Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a lot to offer, from natural beauty to impressive wildlife both on land and in water to the friendly people who live here. To me, Costa Rica seemed like the perfect place to live and teach. I ended up in Playas de Coco, Guanacaste by chance. I applied to multiple schools throughout Costa Rica and was hired by a private bilingual school in Playas de Coco. I really wanted to live by the beach and teach kids, so I took the job and it turned out perfectly!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
The people in Costa Rica have been very nice and friendly. As a solo female traveler, I have never felt unsafe during my time in Costa Rica. Public transportation is very cheap. It costs about $3 to take the public bus for three hours. Taxis are more expensive than the busses, however they are a cheap way to get around your local city.
There are so many different activities and adventures to go on in Costa Rica. I paid $50 for an all day adventure park where I got to go zip lining, horseback riding, kayaking in a river, see a waterfall, feed giraffes on a safari, and have a buffet lunch included all in one day. Many of the people who work in the tourism industry know a little bit of English. However, I would recommend knowing a little bit of Spanish before you arrive. It’s helpful when calling taxis, asking for help, and for getting directions. I also think that it shows a level of respect for the local culture and the people really appreciate your effort.
There are a lot of travel opportunities within Costa Rica. You can see beautiful beaches, lush rainforest, mountains, cloud forests, and mangrove forest all within the country. It’s a great country for anyone who loves nature and adventure.
LET'S TALK ABOUT MONEY...
What are your monthly expenses?
→ Rent and utilities: $225
→ Food, Toiletries, Necessities: $200
→ Phone: $20
→ Internet: $18
→ Public Transportation: $30
→ Social Activities: $100-200
→ Insurance: $40
→ Travel: $200
How would you describe your standard of living?
My standard of living is very similar to that in the United States. I live in a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a roommate which is located a four minute walk from the beach. My apartment has hot water and a very nice pool. I have enough money to eat out a couple of times a week, to go on adventures, and to travel somewhere within Costa Rica one weekend a month. There’s really nothing more that I need or want that would increase my standard of living. I’m very happy with my living situation here.
Does earning $USD from teaching English online (in oppose to earning in the local currency) mean you can afford to live a little more extravagantly in the country you are located?
Yes! I live off of the money that I make from my brick and mortar job in Costa Rica. The money that I make through VIPKid allows me to travel throughout Costa Rica and Central America.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably in Costa Rica?
I would recommend anywhere between $1,000 - $1,250 a month would allow you to live a comfortable life and would leave you enough money to travel, eat out, and explore the country.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ONLINE ESL TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching English online?
I would recommend learning and becoming comfortable with phonics, since this is something that is taught during almost every lesson through VIPKid. I would also watch a lot of videos about TPR since this is very important when teaching English online.
Would you recommend teaching English online from Costa Rica?
I would recommend Teaching English online from Costa Rica because the money that you can make online through VIPKid goes a long way here. You can charge $10 per hour for a private English lesson in Costa Rica. However you can make roughly $9-10 for a 30 minute lesson through VIPKid.
Finish this sentence: You should teach English online if you…
You should teach English online if you want the option to make money while traveling or to make a side-income from your regular job.
A California native, Sydney graduated from an Oregon University with a Marketing degree when she was 21, and then headed off to teach English abroad in Costa Rica for one year. She is passionate about sustainability, is an active traveler, loves doing sports in nature, and is currently learning Spanish.
Want to Learn More About Teaching English Abroad?
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