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Hanoi, Vietnam English Teaching Q and A with Robbert Koeslag
Written by: Robbert Koeslag
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
Laren, Gelderland, The Netherlands
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?
Been traveling through South America for 3 months, China, USA and many countries in Europe
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
Did an internship in Barcelona, Spain
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
It has always been in the back of my mind to go abroad and teach English. I got bored with my office job and wanted to give something back to society, help students practice their English, and with that, get a better chance on a bright future.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Will I be able to secure a job being a non-native English speaker?
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Most of them knew that I would leave the country at some point. They were supportive and praised me for my courage.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
After doing some research I found out that all respected companies require you to have a TEFL certificate. Besides that, knowing how to speak English doesn't make you a good English teacher. I searched on the internet and ran into International TEFL Academy. Their website had loads of great info so I decided to request a brochure. Within the same day I received a phone call and they addressed my most urgent questions. They happened to have a special offer that month so I decided to go for it.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Class
How did you like the course?
The course was very straight forward and laid out well. The instructor gave constructive feedback and could be reached through mail and on certain hours through chat. It was very manageable next to my daytime job. For the practicum part, I tutored an Armenian girl which was a great experience where I learned to put all theory into practice, and on top of that, learned many things about Armenia as well!
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
As a first time ever teacher, the TEFL course gave me the right tools to start. I'd like to compare it to learning how to drive. As soon as you get your license, you really start to learn how to drive. I felt that the TEFL course gave me a good foundation and the confidence to start teaching.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam as it is one of the countries that would have opportunities for non natives and have a booming economy. I am interested in Asian culture and love the food!
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
Arrived here October 2014 and I have a one year contract.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
Just arrived here and started applying.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
Currently working for ILA Hanoi
How did you get your work visa?
Still in the progress of getting a work visa. Arrived on tourist visa. Make sure you have all your certificates and diplomas certified/legalized. They require a bachelor's degree or higher with a TEFL (or comparable) certificate. Vietnam just changed the immigration rules so by the looks of it, we have to do a visa run after the 3 month visa expires.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
Currently I work just under 20 hours which is considered full time. The pay is good and am able to save up about $ 300-500 USD per month depending on how much I spend and travel. On average they pay $20 per hour. Cost of living is cheap here! I am working in a language center and have classes ranging in age between 6 and 14. Because it is a language center, classes are mostly in the weekend and evening. I am currently on a part time contract, this means that the more I work, the more I get paid. I can request holidays but this is unpaid. I get two days off per week, Tuesday and Thursday. The school also has a contract with a public school where I teach two times a week. They use a chalkboard and sit in rows in a big classroom with 20 students. This is very different from the language center where we have interactive white boards and small classes and movable desks so you could easily play some games and mingle.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
There is a useful facebook group for Hanoi, it's called Hanoi Massive. Here you can find pretty much anything you need. I live with my girlfriend. It's about 50 square meters and has everything we need.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
LIFE IN VIETNAM - Vietnam is buzzing, you eat your food sitting on a small plastic stool on the pavement watching the traffic go by. It could be considered chaotic, dirty and loud, but I absolutely love it.
GETTING AROUND - The Vietnamese love their motorbikes and it is the best way to move around. I bought a bicycle and find this a great way to get through the city once you are confident enough (they don't obey the traffic rules and a red light is ignored often), wear a face mask though. Buses are cheap and get you everywhere although it takes a little longer.
NIGHTLIFE - Nightlife starts and ends early, at about midnight most things close (old communist rules).
MAKING FRIENDS - There are plenty of things to do and the Vietnamese are eager to help out and to get to know you and speak/improve their English or teach you how to cook up a Vietnamese dish. As said, the food is fast, fresh and delicious! There is a big expat community and easy to meet up both expats and local people. I'm here with my girlfriend so can't tell you too much about the dating scene but know that some of my colleagues are dating Vietnamese and my manager is married to a Vietnamese.
TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES - Travel opportunities are numerous; there are low cost carriers that take you to Cambodia, Thailand, and other surrounding countries for cheap. Ha Long bay can be done in a day trip and there are several other day trips that you can make on your motorbike to get out of the city.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
HOUSING & UTILITIES - Rent is about $200-300 USD per month including utilities.
START-UP COSTS - You need about a $1000 USD as you will have to pay rent in advance, pay a deposit, buy a motorbike, some professional clothes (have to wear a tie) etc.
FOOD - A plate of rice on the street can go for as much as $ 1 USD, a cheap beer also a dollar, cinema ticket $2 USD, an expensive western meal would cost you $10 or $20 USD if you really splurge. I can get a proper steak for $5 USD.
TRANSPORTATION - I can buy a used motorbike for about $300 USD, and gas is cheap.
PHONE - For my phone I pay $5 USD per month.
THE BOTTOM LINE - If you do and eat like the locals life can be really cheap!
How would you describe your standard of living?
Standard of living on a teacher's salary is very comfortable.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
If you earn $1000 USD per month, you can live comfortably.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching English in Vietnam?
I would definitely recommend teaching English in Vietnam. Before you come make sure you read up on the internet and get the required documentation and make sure it is legalized/certified. Save up a little bit to cover the start-up costs. The people here are friendly and the food is amazing!
Robert is from the Netherlands and took ITA's Online TEFL Course. He was bored of his office job and wanted a change, so he moved to Hanoi, Vietnam to teach English.
Want to Learn More About Teaching English Abroad?
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