Teaching English in Bandung, Indonesia: Alumni Q&A with Courtney Dart

What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Alexander, New York, USA

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Bachelor's Degree

Have you traveled abroad in the past, if so, where?
Yes, I'd been to Canada with friends and family, Jamaica as a bridesmaid in a wedding, and I studied abroad during the summer of 2015 in Leggio, Israel for an archaeological expedition.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I had wanted to travel more after my study abroad experience in college, but not to vacation spot to spot. As an anthropology major, I knew I was more interested to learn to live among other people and really immerse myself in other cultures. I found teaching English abroad a great way to do just that, impact a community and invest in my future.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
At large, leaving friends and family and being alone for a year. Knowing that I could not only literally, but emotionally, distance myself from people back home, thinking they wouldn't understand the life I'd chose to live overseas. Also, anxiety, thinking that teaching may not be enjoyable and I may fear wanting to leave and come back home.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
To my surprise, all my friends and family members were so happy/excited for me. The reason for their support had to due with the fact I mentioned wanting to travel abroad and live and/or teach English abroad for 2 years before getting around to doing it. Some family were more concerned than others, thinking that where I was headed would be more dangerous than at home in NY (which was the opposite feeling for me).

Teach English in Indonesia TEFLWhy did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I chose to get TEFL certified with International TEFL Academy because I read a lot of great reviews from the Alum section on the web page, had motivating interactions with the advisors, and ITA came up most during questions I would search from topics like 'steps to start a career teaching abroad' to 'what not to pack', and more. Aside from being an online accredited school, I liked the ease and depth of their website and the compassionate, fun-spirited people helping me.

Which TEFL course did you take?
Online TEFL Course.

How did you like the course?
I was very pleased with the content and delivery of the online course. It was a well structured course, with weekly assignments, check-ins, compilations of readings and videos. I could easily work full-time and study without feeling like I was drowning with material. The instructors were well spoken and gave good analogies (I love a good analogy!). The most necessary/rewarding part was the practicum- something that I started mid-course and felt I could apply things I was learning per week as I completed the 10-weeks.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I received my online TEFL training in 2017, but didn't teach English overseas until 2019. I think if I had taken the course and left right after, then the information I learned would have stuck with me more. Although, once overseas I was trained to a small extent and shadowed teachers, I would still say learning how to structurally write a lesson plan and what to be aware of when experiencing culture shock are invaluable information gained from the course. On the other hand, I think taking the TEFL training course in a selected region once overseas could be even more valuable, so one can take the info learned and have already dove into work/life abroad.

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I taught English in Bandung, Indonesia on the West part of Java Island. I began teaching there in August of 2019 and had planned to stay for the entire 1 year contract, however due to the recent 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, I chose to come home after teaching there 7 months.

I taught in Bandung, Indonesia because the company I chose to work for had a newly opened center and it was a city not many foreigners go. Tourist famous places like Bali enticed me, but I knew that going to a less traveled place would provide a more enriching experience. It taught me to open up and put trust in the kindness of others. In other words, I took the path less traveled and I think it had a bigger impact.

What school, company, or program are you working for?
I taught for EF English First Indonesia

TEFL Indonesia

During which months does your school typically hire
They hire year-round. EF is not a public or private school, but an English language company that is located all around the world and hires by an in-need basis; they advertise open positions all the time. Side note: EF English First Indonesia has over 70 locations as of 2020 and is opening new locations all the time, so it's a high demand market.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
Yes, I was hired prior to arriving.

How did you interview for this position?

What kind of Visa did you enter on?
I entered on a travel visa, but a week after I was sent to Singapore and back with a valid 10 month working visa.

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
Fortunately, I wasn't much involved in the visa process since the company took care of the arrangements. All that was expected of me, once documentation and flight info was provided, was to reach a governmental office in Singapore and hand over the documents with payment. Having a work visa provided was one selling point when job searching.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?
TEFL certification, Bachelor's Degree, and a Native English Speaker.

What is the best way to apply?
Apply online. Here is the contact email for the teacher recruiter that offered me my position with EF English First Indonesia: ninien.irnawati@ef.com. If anyone is interested in contacting the hiring manager from the center I taught at, I'd be happy to provide the information via private message. You can find me on Instagram @barbiecourt.

Tell us about your English teaching job!
My contract was full-time work, about 40 hours a week, providing 2 days off a week (not necessarily 2 days in a row/ weekends since my center was open 7 days a week) Side note: each EF Indonesia is franchised and operates differently. I was paid monthly, a salary equivalent to about $960, which is 3 or 4 times more than a local English teacher was paid. I was able to save between 200 to 500 USD a month (not factoring in rent since I paid for the entire year up front). Data for a phone was surprisingly cheap; Compared to 1GB of overage data U.S. phone carriers would charge $15 for, in Indonesia I could buy 20GBs for $7.

Get TEFL Certified and Teach English in Indonesia

The school I worked for was a kids and teens English language school; ages ranged from 3 years to 24 year old college students. There were a lot of national holidays on top of the 15 personal vacation days I was provided (again, each center offers different contract incentives). I liked that working for this company I felt like an independent contractor that shared ideas and sometimes co-taught. It gave me a greater sense of reliability and independence all while spit balling lesson plan and Life Club ideas off each other and laughing.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
The company put me in a hotel for the first week I arrived then provided an apartment walking distance to the center, however after a month with the help of my co-worker I found an apartment to live in that catered to college students and was a bit more modern/westernized apartment (much more comfortable for the same cost: about $250 a month)

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...   
Indonesia is a very conservative country and the largest Muslim country. Calls to prayer happen from sun up to sun down and can be heard from everywhere 5 times a day (something you get used to hearing). My take on their society seemed as though children were well-behaved and grew up quicker. And anytime I asked someone a question or to help, no matter whether or not they could help, they always tried- never did they say no or they couldn't.

As a vegan, I didn't try many foods, but found a number of vegan options and vegan restaurants with an asian twist. Street food is an essential part of many peoples daily food intake. Two of my favorite Indonesian street foods are Tempeh Bacem and Tempeh Mendoan.

Getting around in the city of Bandung, since it doesnt have a mass transit system like the capital Jakarta, everyday I called a 'Gojek' or 'Grab' similar to an Uber or Lyft only this was by motorbike. Everyday until I left, my favorite thing about life there was taking a motorbike and looking around passing by street markets, dipping through small alleyways, and racing the main roads.

Social activities involved a lot of dining out, checking out coffee shops, and walking around malls (malls are the places to be at) with co-workers and friends. There was one beer garden known to be the foreigners hangout spot which often had game nights and was a chance to meet like-minded travelers. Bandung is a college town, made up of a bunch of local brand shops from coffee to clothes, not as much of a hustle-n-bustle of a city unlike Jakarta. It's an artistic city, with over 18 colleges; specialized Arts College and IT University. I got involved with the dance community and modeling gigs.

TEFL Indonesia

Its a cooler city since its surrounded by mountain ranged said to be the city in the bottom of the bowl; People living/working in Jakarta travel to Bandung on the weekends for the weather and laid back pace of life, which has turned Bandung into the city with the worst traffic as many of my local friends would say. It's easy to travel to the many nearby islands, which also tend to feel different each place (Bali is primarily Hindu. It felt like another country with its customs/ religion).

What are your monthly expenses?

  • My studio apartment in a high rise building cost me about $230 a month
  • Electricity and propane cost about $18 a month
  • Monthly groceries and dining out cost $100 - 160 USD
  • Transportation cost about $40 - 70 USD a month
  • Phone data cost about $7 a month
  • Workout classes/joining a gym cost anywhere from $3 to $14 per class
  • Social activities like karaoke, museums, national parks, etc. to enter cost as little as $3 to $7 USD (and if you have a KITAS/working visa you can get the local prices)
  • Traveling to other cities by train or bus cost around $20 roundtrip

How would you describe your standard of living?
As a foreign EFL teacher my standard of living was well off. I adjusted to some uncomfortable situations and set-ups at first, but gained comfort easily knowing that I could afford it. Unlike a lot of the population, my salary comparable to a local English teacher was most times 3 or 4 times more.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
It depends on your habits and ability to adjust. If you want to spend to be comfortable, by all means, you can afford it, but a foreigner can live off of less than $400 USD a month.

What advice would you give to someone looking to teach English abroad?
I'd say, reach out and we can talk it over and we'll become instant friends! Then I'd say do it! I'm happy to give people perspective from my own journey, but it's still such a different experience when one actually arrives and starts living and working in another country. We each have our own view which we need to take it.

I would highly recommend teaching in Indonesia. It's a less saturated market than most Asian countries, if you like warm weather and cinematic tropical rain storms you'll love it, even though theres an easily distinct divide between rich and poor living next door to each other, people are respectful, warm, and know how to treat each other, and for the most part kids and teens really enjoy learning and will warm up to you instantly.

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