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Teaching English in Singapore: Alumni Q&A with Christopher Hamrick
Written by: Christopher Hamrick
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
Raleigh, North Carolina
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 studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
It was never truly a plan of mine. I was studying English in university and nearing graduation without the motivation to work a 9 to 5, or - at the time - to further my education. As I was wrapping up my senior year, I was working at the local literacy council and tutoring adults ESL. This was my first role as an educator and my introduction to ESL. I found the experience of working with immigrants both rewarding and eye-opening. I began to research ESL jobs and discovered the global popularity of the industry. I had studied abroad for a Summer in Italy and enjoyed the experience of being in another country long-term. Essentially, I did not fear travel. So ready for a post-graduation adventure, I began to research what I needed to do to teach English abroad.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
To be honest I had few. I had never worked or even been around young children before, so the uncertainty of whether I would enjoy working with kids was a minor concern for me. Another apprehension I had was adapting to new financial responsibilities.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
I received complete support from family and friends. My family's primary concern was that I go somewhere safe and my friend's primary concern was whether they could come and visit me. Both concerns, I completely understood.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
The ESL jobs that I was initially looking into required a certification. I chose International TEFL Academy because I read excellent reviews online and liked the abundance of information and job-search assistance that was offered with the course. There was also a discount at the time I that I signed up. Never a bad thing.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course.
How did you like the course?
For an online course, I found it to be engaging and considerably memorable. My instructor was helpful and reachable. The course was enjoyable and allowed me - as a student - to inject my personality into the tasks. The practicum requirement (live practice teaching with actual ESL students) was excellent for additional experience.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The tasks in the training were mostly pertinent to the teaching jobs I have held. I have employed strategies that I learned from the course and found classroom management tips to be most helpful in working with children. The confidence I took away from the practicum eased my nerves heading into the classroom.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Singapore. I was teaching in Taipei, Taiwan, last year and had the opportunity to visit Singapore. I enjoyed my visit and made some good friends that call Singapore home. It's expensive compared to many countries in Asia, but the currency goes a long way when it comes to traveling to other nearby countries. This was and has remained a huge perk of working in Singapore.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Singapore since January 2017 and plan to stay through January 2019. But anything can change.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
The school's name is I Can Read.
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 completed and sent the visa paperwork to my hiring company upon accepting the job. I then entered the country on a Tourist Visa. My hiring company did most of the work for me. All I had to do was go to the Ministry and have my photo taken and fingerprints scanned. The whole process was pretty seamless for me to receive an Employment Pass (EP).
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!
Considering the majority of Singaporeans are bilingual in English and another language, teaching here is not necessarily teaching ESL, although having a TEFL and ESL teaching experience is helpful! I am working as a Reading Specialist at a private enrichment center. I teach young children pre-reading and reading skills. Most of my students are between 3 and 6 years old. I teach Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings and from 9-6 on Saturday and Sunday. I am paid 4500 SGD a month (approximately $3316 USD as of July,2017). I get 20 vacation days a year (during set term breaks) plus-holidays.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
Fortunately I had friends living here before making the move. I moved into a friend's condo and we are roommates. It is expensive to live here, and I don't know of anyone on a teaching salary that is living alone, but I'm sure it could be done.
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
- Culture: The culture is so blended, which I love. There are people living, working and raising families here from all over the world. The diversity really gives Singapore a great energy that I haven't experienced before.
- Public Transportation is cheap, clean and efficient.
- Nightlife: My working hours put a limit on my nightlife experiences. Going out here is expensive, but can definitely be fun!
- Social Activities: The weather here is great for hanging out at pools with friends or going to beach clubs. Hiking in the jungle or jogging along the river is a nice use of time.
- Food: Eating here is a huge social activity. I feel like I'm constantly meeting up for meals with friends, and I have personally found the food to be excellent!
- Expats: The expat community in Singapore is huge, and most of the expats I have met have been extremely warm and open to new friends. I do feel like most expats that I have met moved here already in a relationship.
- Travel: The travel opportunities are abundant and affordable. It's great to be able to fly to a beautiful island and not be overly concerned about how much I'm spending. Traveling is where the currency exchange rate can really be on your side!
What are your monthly expenses?
- Rent: Spacious condo in central Singapore - I'm paying $2,600 for rent and utilities (I'm getting a good deal!)
- Phone/Communication: $150 a month because I use too much data. I have never been one to carefully budget, so these numbers are estimates.
- Food: Can be very cheap or very expensive, but I like to eat - $750?
- Social Activities: Maybe about $500 a month?
- Transportation: I have a short commute to work, so even if I Uber it is fairly cheap - $200?
- Travel: I am not traveling each month, but tend to use my remaining savings on travel.
How would you describe your standard of living?
I consider my standard of living to be very comfortable
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
It all depends on what someone considers to be comfortable. Maybe $3500?
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would say don't worry too much and go for it. Do your research and be prepared. Be open to new experiences and new ways of thinking that you'll inevitably encounter. Ask a lot of questions and always listen to the answers. I recommend teaching abroad to friends quite often. If you give teaching abroad a chance and it's not for you, you can always return home knowing you made a positive difference by providing an education to children that can use it to shape their own lives. So far I have found Singapore to be a lovely country to live and teach in and I do recommend it highly.
Christopher was studying English in university and nearing graduation without the motivation to work a 9 to 5. During his senior year, he worked at a local literacy council tutoring adults ESL - he found the experience of working with immigrants both rewarding and eye-opening. This led him to start researching ESL jobs and discovering ITA and TEFL certification. Post-graduation, he got certified and moved to Singapore to teach young children pre-reading and reading skills.
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