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Teaching English in Da Nang, Vietnam: Alumni Q&A with Brandon Bryan
Written by: Brandon Bryan
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Never left the country
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
The opportunity to get out of America and see other countries WHILE getting paid initially sparked my interest in teaching English abroad. I would always see blogs and stories pop up on social media of people living abroad, and it seemed like they were all "livin' the dream". I decided to look into it a bit more and sure enough, I realized teaching may be a good avenue for me to see the world. I was tired of the 9-5 cubicle life, so teaching seemed like a great change.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
My main concerns were money and finding a stable job. I wasn't concerned about my safety or culture shock. I had heard stories of people getting on with companies and then being unemployed three weeks later due to visa complications, or things like that. I also knew of people (from reading online) who had strung together a few part-time jobs and were still struggling to rack up enough hours to support themselves. Granted, a lot of these people didn't have the qualifications that I do, but it's still something that I constantly thought about. Secondly, I didn't have a huge savings account before moving, so I was a bit weary about moving without a job lined up; I didn't want to deplete my savings account.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My friends thought the idea was pretty cool, while my family thought the idea was pretty crazy. Everyone was supportive though. Of course, my older relatives were all concerned for my safety, but they don't realize that current life in Vietnam is quite different than how it was 50 years ago.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I knew in order to maximize my job opportunities, I needed a TEFL certification, so getting certified was a no-brainer. I read so many great reviews of ITA online, so they really stood out to me. I also happened to live about a mile away from the Chicago office in Lakeview, so one day I stopped in the office on my way home from work, and Paige sold me! A great first impression from the people I talked to in the office solidified my choice.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
USA - Chicago
How did you like the course?
I loved the course! The course was very student-centered, and the instructors gave us great feedback and practical advice each day. There were a lot of group activities and speaking opportunities. We gave short mock lessons quite a bit and the practicum was extremely helpful, since we taught real classes to actual students. My practicum instructor was extremely knowledgeable in helping us tailor our lesson plans to the needs of our students and objectives of the each lesson.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
My TEFL training has helped me most with creating lesson plans and identifying teaching objectives for my classes. I have my book saved to my computer, and I still refer to it from time to time when I find myself stuck while planning.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose to teach English in Vietnam in the city of Da Nang. I chose Da Nang because it's in a great central location with the beach/ocean on one side of the city and mountains on the other. It's a great location for adventurous people who like to motorbike and explore outdoors. It's also affordable and possible to save a decent chunk of money. It's not polluted and crowded like the two bigger cities in Vietnam, so that was appealing too.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I was in Vietnam for a total of 13 months. I just left a few weeks ago, and will be going to Thailand in six weeks. I loved it!
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.
It was quite simple. I got hired while on a tourist visa, and upon getting hired had to leave the country for three days in order to obtain a business visa. It's a Vietnamese law that you leave the country in order to obtain a new visa. I went to Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok and picked up my business visa, then returned to Vietnam. My school took care of all of the paperwork and communication with Vietnamese authorities. I simply handed them my documents, and they did the rest.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Bachelor's degree
- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
Hours:18 teaching hours per week, 15 office hours (33 total hours)
Pay: $1300/ month + about $2500 in total bonuses throughout the year
Savings: I saved about $600 each month
Type of school: I worked for a language center
Students: Children aged 4-16
Vacation time: 10 days vacation, 6 sick days, and 13 days for public holidays
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I found an apartment just by walking around and speaking to the apartment manager at each place I stopped by. Most realtors in the neighborhood I lived in speak some English. It was really easy. I lived with my fiancee.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Public transportation: There isn't really any public transportation in Da Nang other than taxis and a bus system that is pretty unreliable. If you live in Da Nang, you have no choice but to buy/rent a motorbike.
Nightlife: The nightlife in Da Nang is fun! You basically have your beach bums who drink at chilled-out bars on the beach side, and then city-goers will patronize clubs and more vibrant bars on the river side. Nightlife isn't as active as it is in Hanoi and Saigon, but there is a good enough scene to enjoy.
Expat community: The expat scene in Da Nang is great and the Facebook expat group is really helpful, so you can always find something to do and good social opportunities with other expats and locals.
Food in Da Nang is amazing. There are food stalls everywhere which typically serve up Banh Mi and Pho, among other things. You can find all of the Vietnamese staples in the city centre of Da Nang. Food is cheap and eating out is actually cheaper than cooking at home. You can also find dog and cat if you so desire.
Dating scene: I wouldn't know anything about the dating scene, because I have been engaged since before I arrived in Da Nang.
Travel opportunities: There are tons of travel opportunities in Da Nang. It's a central location, so it's a great place to motorbike around, and it has a good airport which will get you to many places in Southeast Asia for a reasonable price.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: $450 total (for two people)
Utilities: about $30/month
Social Activities: about $100, all of this for me was beer, and thankfully beer is quite cheap in Vietnam. I drank about twice each week.
Transportation: I bought a motorbike for $300 and spent about $20/ month on gas and routine maintenance
Phone: $10/ month for a good simcard Travel: $200 month
How would you describe your standard of living?
I had a great quality of life in Da Nang. I was probably in the upper class or upper-middle class for what I made. I lived in a really nice area of Da Nang about a 5 minute walk from the beach.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
You should earn at least $800/ month to live comfortably.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Teach in Vietnam! I would recommend doing your research and not letting your fears overwhelm you. It can be a bit scary at first, but you have to just dive in and do it. You'll learn as you go, you can't expect to be fully prepared for everything. You have to just go with the flow sometimes. Also, make sure you get health insurance, it's the least you can do.
Brandon is originally from Austin, Texas and got his TEFL certification at ITA's headquarters in Chicago. He had never traveled overseas before he took the plunge to teach English in Da Nang, Vietnam.
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