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Teaching English in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Q&A with Melanie Boulet
Written by: Melanie Boulet
Last Updated: January 14, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I have always loved traveling and discovering new places, cultures, and languages. I like to see for myself how people live elsewhere, how things work for them, how life is different or simply similar to what I know. Because I was not happy and did not feet fulfilled in my work back home, I decided that it was about time for me to make the move and go for it!
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was mostly concerned about not having a degree and not being an English native speaker. What if it wasn't enough for the schools? What if I wasn't enough for them? Would I be able to make it? Was I totally crazy to think that I could make it at the end of the day?
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Everyone was really supportive of my decision. My friends and family know my passion for our beautiful planet and the people living on it. So, they were quite happy for me and were very interested in the whole process of moving abroad, getting this certification, finding work and living in a new country.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
For me, getting a certification was the very least I could do for myself. I don't think I would have done it without it because that is just who I am. I need some sort of guidance and tools to be able to go and present myself to potential employers. I am not a teacher by profession, so I wanted a minimum of knowledge to help me with this new challenge in my life. As I was reading blogs and articles on the net, it was apparent to me that the majority of schools required a TEFL certification at the very least. ITA seemed to be up there as a very good place to do just that, and I trusted them, so I joined!
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
I really enjoyed the course, of course I would have preferred to be able to join a group for the live classes, but it wasn't possible for me. So I did it online. It was a busy time, working a full-time job and trying to hand in the best lesson plans I could, but I learned tremendously about teaching and prepping lessons. The tasks are really made for us to get the feel of what life as a teacher is in everyday life. Although I rarely got my corrected assignments on time, I did really appreciated my instructor's helpful feedback.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The TEFL certification has been so very helpful with my current teaching position; without it, I would be struggling to find efficient ways to get valuable knowledge to the students. Classroom management, lesson planning, the importance of including all language styles in everyday lessons are just a few key elements that were eye openers for me.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Cambodia in the city of Phnom Penh because I did not have a degree and am not a native English speaker. I decided to come to Cambodia to give it a shot since I had heard that it was easier to find a job for people in my situation.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Cambodia for the past 7 months and plan to stay for another 6-12 months.
During which months does your school typically hire?
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I did not know this before arriving in Cambodia, so I entered the country with a tourist visa since it was cheaper (just $5!!!) than the business one. When I couldn't renew this tourist visa anymore (you can only renew once), I had to do a visa run, which means I had to get out of the country and re-enter with a business visa (called "regular" visa in Cambodia). So, in the end it cost me more than the $5 USD I wanted to save!! So, if you plan on teaching in Cambodia, ask for the regular visa when entering the country since it is the one you can renew without leaving the country. Other than that, the visa process is quite simple and easy.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
I teach five days a week, Monday through Friday. Five hours a day. I start at 7:50 and my day ends at 4:20. Each class is 50 minutes long. I teach Science and Reading in a primary school to 3rd and 4th graders. The students are aged between 8-11. My schedule has been the same throughout my stay here, which I do appreciate. My salary is 1,250 USD/month for 100 working hours (25h/week).
I am able to save around 500$/month. Of course it all depends on your way of living. I live a very simple life where I don't go out in bars, and I prefer cooking for myself. I don't often go out to restaurants. I ride my bicycle to work, so I don't have to spend on transportation. If I were still in my 20's, things would be a little different I guess! I would probably go out much more and experience the night life of the capital city.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I found my apartment looking through websites and visited a few before signing a six-month contract. I live on my own.
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Cultural aspects: Khmer people are very welcoming, friendly, gentle, and helpful people. They are always smiling, positive, and resilient. I try to learn from them and for this reason, I really appreciate my experience here.
Public transportation: There is no public transportation in the Phnom Penh. There are plenty of tuk-tuks and motos that will offer you their service while you're walking on the streets. It's quite efficient and not too expensive if you bargain a little.
Social Activities: Phnom Penh is a vibrant city, there is a lot to do and see. The multitude of different types of restaurants will satisfy any of your desires. There are many bars and pubs and cafes to suit your drinking style.
Expat community: There is a big expat community here in the country, so it makes it easy for anyone to make new friends. Also, there are many opportunities around town for cultural discoveries, from weekend hikes to museums and free documentaries, from bamboo festival to Khmer New Year, from shopping in the local markets to finding more Western food in supermarkets. There is always something going on in the capital.
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: $270 USD
Utilities: $20-25 USD
Food: $400 USD (I like to eat healthy food which is sometimes more expensive)
Phone: $20 USD
Social activities: $100 USD
How would you describe your standard of living?
I live very simply as I said, but I live comfortably.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
I think it all depends on your way of living and how much you want to save, but if you make around $1000/month, you should be able to live very nicely.
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would definitely recommend teaching English in Cambodia. This country makes it easy to find work even for non-degree holders, and you can renew your visa for as long as you want. The cost of living, although it is more than I had expected for a Southeast Asian country, is not expensive. The Khmer people are very interesting, and the country offers plenty to discover.
Melanie has always loved traveling and discovering new places, cultures, and languages. She was not happy with her job back home and was left feeling unfulfilled, but was worried not having a degree nor being a native-English speaker would hinder her chances of teaching English abroad. She decided to get TEFL certified, make the move, and teach English in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to primary school children.
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