Teaching English in Ankara, Turkey: Alumni Q&A with Chris Brandon

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Winona, Minnesota

How old are you?

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

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Taught English abroad previously

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Before teaching English in Turkey, I had visited Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Denmark, France. After my year in Turkey, I visited Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, England and now live in Sweden.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
I never studied abroad as an undergraduate, but I am now a graduate student in Lund, Sweden.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I was working in an unfulfilling job and always wanted to live abroad. I knew if I didn't do it now, it would be difficult to do it later. Luckily my wife was onboard with the idea!

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was worried about the language barrier; missing family and friends--especially during holidays; and more trivial worries like missing out on my favorite sports teams and foods! I had never taught before so that was probably my biggest concern.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
They were very supportive--especially my father who was constantly asking us about the progress of our job search.

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
In order to get a well-paying job at a credible institution, I knew I had to be certified. My wife and I chose ITA because it was convenient and seemed most credible. We also spoke with Jeff over at ITA who answered all our questions.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Class

How did you like the course?
I really enjoyed the course. The instructor was knowledgeable and her feedback was always insightful. The pace was very manageable, yet rigorous. The practicum was the most useful aspect of the course because it gave me hands-on experience and allowed me to apply what I had learned in the course. It was also helpful to review English grammar again!

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
Since I had never taught before, it was nice to find that the online course was more thorough than my on-the-job training. And having the grammar guide with me in Turkey was also helpful.

Teach English in TurkeyWhich city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
Due to my academic background in middle eastern history and my wife's middle eastern heritage, we chose to teach English in Turkey in the city of Ankara. We chose Ankara instead of Istanbul because of the economic benefits (employer bonus plus cheaper cost of living).

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay? 
We lived in Ankara for 13 months and were very sad to leave.

How did you secure your English teaching job?
We used ITA's job search guide to start the process. We also asked Student Affairs to review our resumes and also review our contract before signing it. It took just a few weeks to get an offer.

What school, company, or program are you working for?
We were both hired as English teachers at Wall Street English, a company with schools in 28 countries worldwide.

How did you get your work visa?
We were told to enter Turkey on a tourist visa, and then, with the help of our school, applied for residency and then, a work permit. So we worked under the table for many months before we got our official work visa. Having said that, we still got paid every month, opened a bank account, and had no other problems.

Tell us about your English teaching job!
My wife and I each worked about 30 hours a week and were able to live off of one salary (1800TL) and saved the other salary. Our employer gave us each 300TL for housing and 250TL for lunch. We also got health insurance and were paid via direct deposit each month. We taught Turkish professionals during the nights and weekends. The hours weren't great, but we had lots of free time during the days to do other things--like read, apply to graduate school, etc. We were lucky that we got 4 weeks (30 days) of paid vacation, so we ended up traveling pretty much every month for the first 9 months. We were very lucky with our boss, colleagues and students. Their hospitality and friendliness were second to none. They truly made our experience unforgettable.

We also had enough free time to take on private lessons which helped us earn even more money (we charged about 100-150TL an hour).

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
One of our colleagues literally walked the streets of Ankara with us and helped us contact landlords via "for rent" signs in apartment windows. We ended up living with a roommate--a young Turkish guy who used to work at our school. He ended up being a great friend and we still keep in touch. The apartment was a 2 bedroom apartment with a large dining room and living room. There was no oven or dishwasher, but we had a building man who collected our garbage each day and the building was pretty new.

TEFL TurkeyPlease explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    
Turkey is an amazing country and a great place to live and work. If you get paid in US dollars or Euros, it's really advantageous. The people are extremely warm and friendly; the food is delicious and it's not as conservative as its portrayed in the media (in the big cities at least). Living in Ankara was also good because it was centrally located and allowed for us to travel on the cheap to Istanbul, Safranbolu, Izmir and other cities. Because it is the capital of Turkey, Ankara's expat community is full of embassy staff and other business professionals.

One more thing about the food! Due to the Balkan/Middle Eastern influences, Turkey has a diverse (and delicious) cuisine. It ranges from pasta to stuffed grape leaves to (numerous versions of) kebabs.

What are your monthly expenses?

NOTE: $1 USD = 3.05 Turkish Lira as of January 2016. Exchange rates fluctuate daily.
Rent: 1500TL was the total cost for our shared 2br/2ba apartment in our area (utilities included)
Food: Two people can share a main course for lunch or dinner for about 20TL
Transportation: 0TL (we walked to work - a metro ride costs 2TL)
Phone: Our monthly phone package (SMS/Calls only -- no data) was 20TL
Travel: A one-way plane ticket to Istanbul was about $30 and a bus ticket started at $11 (that's how we were able to travel so often)!

How would you describe your standard of living?
Upper-middle class. Very comfortable. We ate out 2 meals a day and traveled monthly.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
2000-3000TL would be great, especially if you live in Istanbul and want to live in a good location.

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Definitely consider teaching adults because, in my opinion, it's more rewarding because you get to engage in a more meaningful way. You can discuss history, politics, culture, etc. Teaching English abroad isn't a vacation. It's a big lifestyle change so make sure the country you choose and the school you work for are a good fit. Contact people online, read employer reviews and talk to ITA staff and alumni.


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