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Teaching English in New Taipei City, Taiwan: Q&A with Krystle Cotten

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Cary, North Carolina

How old are you?

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

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?
The Bahamas!

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I’ve always wanted to travel, even as a kid. When I got to college, the desire grew even more when I found out that you could study abroad, but it was hella expensive! So, over the summer before my senior year of college, I took my very first solo trip to Boston. AFTERWARD, I WAS HOOKED WITH TRAVEL, ESPECIALLY SOLO TRAVEL! I received my Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and since I loved different cultures and languages so much, I even minored in Spanish. I wanted to find a way that I could combine my two loves of teaching and travel and found out the teaching abroad was actually more common than I thought. So, here we are today!

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Of course I was a little worried about the language barrier. So, I researched countries that I would be able to survive not knowing the language at all. Also, I was worried about how much I was going to miss my friends and family being thousands of miles away.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My friends were down for it from the beginning. They figured I’d do something like this! My family was VERY indifferent AT FIRST. They honestly didn’t believe me. But once I constantly... and I mean CONSTANTLY, talked about it my entire senior year of college, and they realized I was serious, their indifference turned into worry.

Of course, my parents were scared for my safety. I got lots of “Krystle, I can’t just drive an hour and a half to get to you anymore. If something were to happen to you, I would have to get on a plane and it would take days to get to you!”. I mean... it was true, but I definitely felt like I had to do my part in doing LOTS of research on the country (politics, safety and demographics, etc.). Not just for their peace of mind, but for my own as well.

Once, I gave them that information, their worries slowly faded and it turned into SUPPORT! About a month or two before I moved they were more like, “Yeah Krystle, I’m gonna visit and we’re going to go here and there...”. My dad still made my mom go with me to move me in and get me settled for the first two weeks LOL, but it was a lot of fun and she LOVED it and once she realized just HOW SAFE Taiwan is and how easily accessible everything is, she was extremely excited for me and my dad and other family members feelings reciprocated!

Teach English in Taiwan TEFL

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
Honestly, once I realized what a TEFL was and that I needed it, I just Googled “Best TEFL courses”. It definitely helped that ITA had it in their name (great marketing guys *wink*)! ITA was the first school that popped up and once I saw the breakdown of the information based on region, country, etc., the TONS of articles, reviews, surveys like this one, and videos of real people that are actually doing the damn thing, I was HOOKED! I called just to get a little more information, not really taking it seriously them, and I talked to Matt. He was the nicest person ever! I exchanged my info with him and he emailed me right away with more information. He walked me through every step of the way and that’s what ITA has been doing for me, even now!! They’re always there when you need them and I absolutely love them! <3.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
The In-Person Chicago TEFL class.

How did you like the course?
I DESPISED online courses in college. I never did good in them. I don’t like being taught from the book or having to teach myself, especially on a subject that I’m not familiar with. I love that in-person class intimacy. So, I decided to do the in-person Chicago course (Why wouldn’t I want to do it at their headquarters where everyone I need to talk to is in the next office? Ya know?). I loved this course! It was tough and we had to log a lot of hours in such a short time, but it was definitely well worth it. Jessica and Juliana are angels and they gave lots of information on the English language and how to better teach it to ESL students. It was amazing how much I did not know about English. We were all thinking about how much we hated this confusing language afterward! LOL Nonetheless, it was wonderful actually being in front of the teachers and building so many bonds and networking before we even left the country.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The cultural aspect of teaching and being in the classroom is SO IMPORTANT, sometimes even more important that the actual information that is being taught. How to carry yourself in the country and in the classroom, were YOU are the foreigner has been vital in my time here in Taiwan. They’re a very open-minded country compared to other East Asian countries, but knowing the different ways to show gratitude, what to and what not to do, not just in the classroom, but walking down the straight has saved my butt a few times and has helped me win over my director too. The ITA course helped me become more aware of that and I really thank them for that!

How long have you been in Taiwan and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been living in New Taipei City, Taiwan for five months and plan on staying here for another year, although it might be longer!

Why did you decide to teach English in this location?
Student loans suck and I am planning on starting my Masters degree soon, so I needed to save money; Asia was definitely the best way to do that and I wanted a job BEFORE I left home. Once I decided on Asia, honestly I was hooked on Thailand at first. But my ITA classmate (heeeyyy Amanda) said that she wanted to go to Taiwan, so I’d figured I’d do some research on it.

Y’all, almost every YouTube video, article, and blog expressed almost nothing but great things about Taiwan! Like I said before, they’re more open-minded than other East Asian countries (they have big Pride parades and events on GOVERNMENT property every year, the nightlife is INSANE, they’re BIG fans of the States, and hip hop culture THRIVES here). Being a person of color, knowing that I was going to be living in such a homogeneous country, that really set me at ease with my decision and I was elated to find out that those YouTube videos and blogs, DID NOT LIE!

What school, company, or program are you working for?
English Wonderland - Guang Fu

During which months does your school typically hire?
Usually around July - September.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?

How did you interview for this position?
Via a phone/Skype interview.

What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Work Visa

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
My wonderful school handle A LOT for me! So blessed. But I did have to give them my passport, a business casual headshot with a white background (you can’t smile in it), proof of housing (a copy of my lease) when I found an apartment, and my work contract. It took about 3 weeks to get my Alien Resident Card (ARC)/Work Visa.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?
Bachelor's degree and a TEFL Certification.

What is the best way to apply?
Email - Tealit.com is where I applied through and you send your school an email with the information that they asked you to provide.

Tell us about your English teaching job!

I work at a place called English Wonderland. It’s a 3-DAY camp-style program that works through the New Taipei City government to help get their 5th graders excited about the English language so that when they get to middle school and actually take English courses, they’ll be a little less intimidated. Schools all around New Taipei City send a few of their 5th grade classes to us to stay the 3 days and two nights with us (foreign staff do not spend the night). IT’S SO EASY AND MY SCHEDULE IS GOLDEN!

We only work 3 days a week!! I only work half the month and get paid for the full month! We work long hours when we do work (12 hours), but it is WELL WORTH IT! We get the weekends off and when the other team is working (every other week) WE GET SIX DAYS OFF!! IT IS AMAZING!! So, I like to travel around Taiwan, get things done around the house, and I am now starting to travel to other countries nearby! I have enough time that I am starting a Masters program too!

We can teach any subject that we want to teach and are interested in. For example, I teach gymnastics! Other teachers teach computer, magic, music, drama, etc. REALLY, anything you want to teach goes, as long as your students are listening, speaking, and are interacting with the English language as much as possible! You can keep your same lesson (as long as it works), no helicopter parents, no tests, no grading, and any supplies you need, BEST BELIEVE you’re going to get it (no coming out of pocket for anything… unless you want to). Great, right?

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
My job helped me with the apartment search. Jinson, the foreign teacher life coach, showed me 4 different apartments and I just chose which one I liked the best. After two days of being in Taiwan, I was moved into my new home. I live on the top 6th floor of my building (without an elevator, but hey, I get an extra workout) and am a two minute walked from a MRT station. I live alone which was such a relief for me, coming here right out of college and my landlord speaks fluent English and her husband is a handyman, so anything that gets broken is fixed right away! It’s so safe here (my washing machine broke once and I washed my clothes at a laundromat at 2 AM once with no fear at all) and my neighborhood is awesome and my neighbor are really friendly!

TEFL Taiwan

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...  

Cultural Aspects: Very nice and inviting. There’s so much rich and beautiful culture here.

Public Transportation: Two words - EASY AND EFFICIENT!<

Nightlife/Social Activities: SOOO MUUUCHHH FUUUNNN!!

Food: I’ve never tasted anything as good as food here. PERIOD.

Expat Community: Large. There’s many Facebook groups, just join and you’ll be fine!

Dating Scene: I have a boyfriend, so I don’t have much experience.

Travel Opportunities: Taiwan is smack dab in the middle of Asia, so it is so easy and cheap (compared to the States) to travel to different countries in Asia. I’ve been to Singapore, Hong Kong, and will be going to Thailand very soon. And DEFINITELY more to come!

What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: ~$550-650 USD (everything is included in my rent, expect electricity)
Food: ~$50-100 USD (grocery shopping is more expensive than eating out, so I typically always go out to eat)
Social Activities: ~$20-30 USD
Transportation: ~$15-30 USD
Phone Bill: ~$15
Travel: ~$400-500 USD (flights and hostels included & I’ve only stayed places 4 days or longer).

I save about $500 USD a month and can save more if I don’t travel or go shopping that month :)

How would you describe your standard of living?
I live a very comfortable lifestyle.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
If you’re living in the city Taipei/New Taipei City, I would say ~$850 USD.

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
DO IT! Do lots of research, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. But other than that, SHUT UP AND GO!!


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