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Teaching English in Hong Kong: Alumni Q&A with Andrea Vandermeer
Written by: Andrea Vandermeer
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
East Lansing, Michigan
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Taught English abroad previously
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
Mexico, Spain, Morocco, Brazil
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I've always enjoyed traveling to new places and wanted to be able to stay even longer. Teaching English abroad has allowed me to live in Asia for the past five years and really get to know the region. I also wanted to do something that could make a difference. Teaching children to communicate successfully in another language can help improve their futures.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was worried that I wasn't going to be a good teacher and that I wouldn't be able to answer difficult questions from my students. I also thought I might not have enough patience to handle teaching children.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My family and friends were very supportive. They're all used to me traveling around and they were excited for me.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I had already taught for two years in Seoul, South Korea, without any certification, but I wanted to go somewhere else and thought that a TEFL certificate could help me find a good job. I chose International TEFL Academy because they have a high qualification and their price was reasonable.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
USA - Chicago
How did you like the course?
I enjoyed the course. Svetlana was an amazing instructor and I learned a lot from her. She really helped me out when I had a difficult student during the practicum. I thought the tasks were useful and the practicum incredibly important in increasing my confidence in teaching.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
It helped me get my current teaching position. It has also been very helpful in planning lessons and finding suitable activities for my students.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Hong Kong because I wanted a change from Korea, but I also wanted to stay in Asia. I chose Hong Kong because it's a big city, but it also has a lot of green spaces. It's in a great location to travel around the region and has an interesting history.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I've been in Hong Kong for over two and a half years. I really enjoy it here and plan to stay for another 2-3 years.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
The ELCHK Lutheran School
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.
My previous work visa had expired, so I was on a tourist visa. The school applied for my work visa, and it was approved within four weeks. I then had to activate it by leaving Hong Kong. I had already planned a trip to Shanghai and activated the visa when I returned to Hong Kong.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Bachelor's degree
- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
My school is a private Lutheran school that just started this year. There are only primary 1 students (age 6-7) right now. Next year, we'll have primary 1 and 2 students. I work from 7:45 to 5 each day and the pay is around HK $25,000 per month ($3200 USD). It's enough to save and live here comfortably.
Since it's a private school, I get a good amount of vacation time. Two weeks at Christmas, two weeks for Chinese New Year, and a week for Easter. I also get public holidays and a few extra days throughout the year. I enjoy working here because I'm treated like the other teachers and not given special treatment because I'm a native English teacher.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
My partner already lived in Hong Kong, so it was really easy for me to find a place to live. It's small, but quite nice.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, but most people born here don't consider it to be part of China. From traveling to China, I definitely agree with them.
Public transportation is great. There are lots of buses and mini buses that can take you anywhere. The train system is amazing too. It's fast and the trains come every few minutes. Taxis are also easy to get.
Nightlife is good, though drinks can be very expensive depending on where you go. There are always events going on and lots of places to hang out with friends. Hiking is a big thing and a really fun way to meet new friends.
Food: You can find just about any kind of food, though some are more expensive than others. Cantonese food is usually cheaper and also good. Dim Sum is a must try.
Expat community: There are a lot of expats, though more on Hong Kong Island than in Kowloon. The highest percentage of expats are from France and the UK. Americans are a bit more rare.
Travel opportunities: Traveling around Asia is super easy and can be quite cheap. Most places are within a four hour flight, and there are lots of direct flights available. Flying to China takes a bit longer and there are usually delays. I've traveled to Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam for long weekends.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent is my highest expense. Utilities aren't too bad, except for electricity for air conditioning in the summer. Food can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. It's the same for social activities. Hiking is generally free. Transportation is cheap as long as you aren't getting a taxi everywhere. Phone plans are reasonable and travel isn't too expensive either.
How would you describe your standard of living?
I think my standard of living is higher than it would be in the US. I have enough income to buy what I need and some of what I want. I can travel on the weekends and go out a few times a week for dinner and drinks. I have a good life here.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
Salaries start around HK$14,000 ($1800 USD) and go up from there. HK$14,000 is difficult, but not impossible. You'd have to have at least one roommate and live in Kowloon. Anything above HK$20,000 ($2550 USD) is pretty good and you can live in a nicer place with fewer roommates.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Make sure to do a lot of research on any school or center you're interested in teaching at. There are scams and employers that don't follow the laws.
I would recommend teaching English in Hong Kong, but you do need to be careful who you work for. There are some schools and centers that will take advantage of you. It's best to talk to someone that works there before signing a contract.
Also, negotiate before signing anything. You can get more vacation days and a better working schedule.
Andrea is from Michigan and got TEFL certified at ITA's headquarters in Chicago. She has spent the last 5 years teaching English abroad in Asia. She is currently teaching in Hong Kong.
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