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Teaching English in Jakarta, Indonesia: Alumni Q&A with Jessica Long
Written by: Jessica Long
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
La Grande, Oregon
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I was at a point in my life where I needed to make some serious life choices. I had graduated from Massage Therapy school in 2007 but was unable for various reasons to take the state board exams until 2009 at which point I found out that you must take the exam with in two years or you have to repeat your schooling. So I was looking into doing that again but it fell through. I had to re-evaluate what I wanted to be doing and really all I knew was that I wanted to travel. I looked into how to make money while traveling (because I am not blessed with loads of money), teaching English seemed to be the best choice so I signed up!
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was off to Jakarta. By far the biggest city I had ever been to, I was worried I would get lost and never find my way back home.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
They were very supportive.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
When I looked into teaching English, everything said TEFL certification is a must! I found a few schools that offer TEFL certification but ITA was by far the easiest website to navigate and the most informative.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Class
How did you like the course?
I really enjoyed the online TEFL class. It was easy to fit it into my week. My instructor was very knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. Any questions or problems I had she was always very quick to respond to me with her advice or help.
Because I am from a very small town in the middle of no where, I didn't have a lot of options for my practicum. I ended up teaching my friend's dad who is from India, I learned a lot about how to teach and what to do and not do through the program and from the practicum.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
Almost no one hires without a TEFL certificate! I would be careful about accepting any position that does not require one. The TEFL course also prepared me for a teaching environment. When I was taking the class I was shocked to realize how little I know about the English language and grammar!
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I taught English in Jakarta, Indonesia! I sent out applications to a few different countries and Jakarta got back to me first. Everything fell into place with the school and moving, it was just right for me.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have just finished my one year contract, I would love to come back someday!
How did you secure your English teaching job?
I found a job on ESLbase and requested more information about the job. Three weeks later I landed in Jakarta.
How did you get your work visa? If you didn't get a work visa, please elaborate on working under the table without a work visa.
I arrived in Jakarta with a Visa on arrival for 30 days. I had to tell Immigration that I was only there for an interview because to work there, you must have your work visa before you begin working. However, I was working for around 20 days before I was sent to Singapore for my work visa. Now, everything in Indonesia works on bribes. From getting pulled over to getting your drivers license, just pay someone a bit of money and you're on your way!
When I arrived in Singapore I was to find a man sitting out side of a McDonalds, give him my passport, a wad of cash and a bunch of passport sized photos. This was one of the scariest things I have ever done! When I found him, there were about 20 other people in line to give him their passports as well. I took a breath and handed him my life! I was to meet him again in the same location in 4 hours. I wondered around Singapore for a few hours, went back and sure enough, there he was with a work stamp in my passport. I got on a flight back to Jakarta and the school processed the rest.
In a few weeks I had to go to an office for finger prints and another photo, then a week after that I had my "Kitas". With this identification card, you can travel within Indonesia with out ever having to bring your passport. You get local prices on tourist attractions such as temples and parks. This also allows you to work in Indonesia.
Tell us about your English teaching job!Hours: I was working for a language school, my hours could be anywhere form 1:45 to 9pm, normally though I would start at 3pm. On days that I worked at a public school (as they were contracted with my language school to have a native teacher come in) I was picked up by a driver or a taxi called by the school, at 9am.
I had 23 hours per week or less. Any time the hours went over 23 we got over time pay. We also were paid extra for long days. So If i was teaching at 1:45 and then went home and came back at 7pm and had one class, I would be paid for the whole day.
Students: I was teaching children as young as 4 years all the way up to adults and business professionals. Students ranged from beginners to advanced with their English skills.
Vacation: We were given a total of 22 days as a holiday. Some of which was taken on public holidays. I had 12 days holiday that I could take at a time of my choosing.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
The school provided housing if the teachers wanted it. We had a 5 bedroom house with a live in maid. The school was about 5 minutes walk away from the house. I lived with all the other native speaking teachers at our center.
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc. about your country:
Culture: Indonesia has something to offer everyone. The Indonesians are some of the most friendly people I have ever come across, but things that we might consider to be rude, they do not. As some of them have never seen a white person before, they would openly stare at you. You try to make them look away by making eye contact, but they just keep on looking.
Public transportation: is CHEAP. You can get an Angkot ride (a small van on a set rout) for 3,000 Rupiah. As of right now when I am writing this, that translates into 26 cents USD. I once was in a taxi for about four hours (traffic is unreal) and I still paid less than 20 USD
Food: The food is amazing, if you get to Indonesia try rendang, it is boiled beef in some kind of sauce that will blow your mind. Make sure to ask for a perkedel with it.
Travel opportunities: Because there are over 17,000 Islands in Indonesia your travel options are never limited. Take a boat over to the thousand islands for the day, or fly to Bali for the weekend!
What are your monthly expenses?
The Indonesian Rupiah is around 10,000 to 1 USD.
Rent: My rent was 85,000 IDR per month.
Transportation: would fluctuate from month to month depending on my activities but I would say about 300,000 to 500,000 in a busy month. But it is completely reasonable to say you might only spent 100,000 per month if you take the bus and not the taxi. A train ride from Jakarta to Jogjakarta might only be 70,000 or less.
Communication: Everyone in Indonesia has a blackberry. To get an unlimited data plan on your SIM card would be around 99,000 per month.
Food: is cheap! You can eat in expensive restaurants and find Mexican, French and Indian food. You would pay American prices. Or you can eat the delicious street food and spend less than $2 USD per meal.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
You need to earn about 9,000,000 Rupiah per month to be comfortable ($ 900 USD). But If you can get into an international school it is very easy to make 18,000,000 ($ 1,800 USD) per month or more depending on your qualifications and experience.
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Research the countries you are interested in. Find out what the locals are making vs what you might be making. Find out everything you can about that city and country. If possible see if the school you are looking at will put you into contact with current teachers and see what they have to say about living there.
I would recommend Indonesia to anyone! It is a wonderful country and I plan to return!
Jessica was at a point in her life where she needed to make some serious life choices. She had graduated from Massage Therapy school in 2007 but was unable to take the state board exams until 2009, at which point she found out that you must take the exam within two years or you'd have to repeat your schooling. Jessica had to re-evaluate what she wanted to be doing and she kept coming back to travel. She took ITA's Online TEFL Course and moved to Jakarta, Indonesia to teach English to children.
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