Teacher Journal: Elizabeth
Taught in Vietnam
Since earning my International Affairs degree in 2002, I have eagerly awaited any opportunity to live and work overseas. Becoming an English teacher in Vietnam has been the perfect chance for me to get international work and living experience that I can use to build my resume no matter what career path I choose to follow, and whether international or in the U.S.
I feel like now is an exciting time for Vietnam, and a very exciting place to be in my first expatriate experience. After a very short time here I already see that it is a country in the process of great change, and while seeing so much of the traditional culture still intact, I also see how much the country is developing and changing.
I am already developing a great fondness for it here and I really hope that in the future more Americans take an opportunity to come and gain a greater understanding of the beautiful culture, country, and people of Vietnam.
Things are going very well for me in Vietnam. I really love living in HCMC and I'm so glad that I made the decision to come here. I've got a job at a great language center and I really like working here and I'm meeting great people, both through LanguageCorps and through my job and guesthouse. I feel like I've been very lucky; my Vietnam experience has been great!
I also want to take a moment to say how great the Corps Advocates here in Vietnam have been. Bob, Hien, and Thu Ba have really been invaluable. Hien and Thu Ba worked so hard to find us jobs and make sure we were comfortable and happy, and I know they are still working at it for others. Bob is just wonderful, and I know my experience here wouldn't be the same without him.
A Teacher's Life in Vietnam
I'm enjoying Vietnam and teaching and everything so much that I have now decided to stay a while. I'm actually just about to sign a contract with the school I am working at to stay on longer than the initial year I planned. From there I am not sure what my plans are. I currently have a real feeling that I will continue teaching English somewhere else for another year or so. I think right now I am just feeling very lucky to be doing something I love and to be living in a way and a place where I can have a great life and travel (my favorite thing) so much.
Teaching in Vietnam really is a wonderful lifestyle and if you are up for the challenges (and there are some) then it is more than worth it to give it a try. HCMC is not yet one of the ultra modern Southeast Asian cities like Bangkok or Singapore, but it is still such an amazing city and so full of excitement and things to do. In comparison to the local economy teaching also pays very well in Vietnam so I am lucky to lead a very good life. I've been able to take time away from work and have amazing travel experiences in Vietnam and around the region. All around this year has been full of a lifetime's worth of experiences.
Some Challenges Along the Way
While it is very clear that I love Vietnam and love most things about my living and teaching experiences here I will be the first to admit that there are also a lot of challenges that come along with the experience.
The first three are communication, communication, and communication! It's not just the language barrier, but that is a huge part of it. Vietnamese is a tough language to pick up, so even when I do have a chance to use the few words and phrases I know I still get blank looks. And while around most of the tourist areas and areas popular with expats I find plenty of English speakers, sometimes I like to get away from the typical western haunts and just ordering a drink or finding your way to the bathroom can be a real challenge. I've also had to get used to totally different boundaries on what people talk about. The subjects I've always been taught were taboo among strangers are sometimes fair game here; I usually start a new class or meet a new Vietnamese friend and have to answer questions ranging from my love life to my income level and many things in between. Everyday I try to remind myself, no matter how awkward I might be, it's just standard getting to know you.
Another common obstacle, and one that I still battle with on a regular basis, is the simple fact that I came from a wealthy and very developed country to a country that is still generally classified as "developing". Ho Chi Minh City isn't some sleek tourist destination like Paris or Rome. Ho Chi Minh City isn't home to some of those western creature comforts we all take for granted. And outside the city for travel and vacations is an even more foreign world.
But, all the challenges or obstacles aside, I am so thrilled with the decision I made to come here. I have completely fallen in love with Vietnam, even the occasional annoyances have become endearing to me in some way. I can't recommend this enough. If you're ready for an incredible experience, to see and learn a lot, and you can handle the challenges along the way then Vietnam is definitely a place to go.