If you are new to teaching abroad, you might feel overwhelmed by going abroad for the first time. This is where teach abroad internships come in – programs that typically provide support before and during your teach abroad experience. This guest blog post written by Kyla Garvey shares what it’s like to participate in a Premier TEFL teach abroad internship.
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Why did you decide to do a TEFL internship through Premier TEFL?
I decided to do my first two TEFL internships (Vietnam and Thailand) through Premiere TEFL for different reasons. My first internship was in Vietnam in 2020. I graduated from college and wanted to explore the world by teaching abroad, but I had never even moved out of my state. Premiere TEFL’s Vietnam internship was appealing because it provided me with an online TEFL class with a certification, a placement internship, and full support through the moving process.
Knowing that I would have an induction week and assistance with my visa and documents assured me that the transition into my new life would be less stressful than doing it on my own. I knew the training week would give me an introduction to how the teaching process in Vietnam worked while also meeting other interns. It was the perfect option for someone like me who wanted extra assistance adjusting to a new life in a new culture.
On the other hand, I chose the Thailand internship that I did in late 2021 because finding a job abroad in the middle of COVID was a difficult task. Of course, I still desired the benefits that were similar to the Vietnam internship, including the onboarding assistance and introduction to Thailand. However, the additional bonus of job security was my top priority at the time.
Premier TEFL Internship Process Vietnam
The process for my Vietnam internship was simple. Once I completed my online course, I had to do some paperwork like background checks and document legalization. I also bought my plane ticket. Once I arrived in Vietnam, I checked into the hotel provided by the program and began a week-long training.
This training was a mix of learning how to teach in Vietnamese schools, teaching resources, understanding the culture of Vietnam, and learning some Vietnamese. This week was busy and tiring, but I felt more prepared when entering the classroom.
Despite the busy schedule, we were still given time to explore Hanoi to get used to life in Vietnam. At the end of this week, we were moved into our living spaces provided by a separate company in Hanoi that was in charge of our placement schools.
We were given our school placements, introduced to our companies, and given our schedules. Some interns were in the same company as me, and others were placed in different locations across Vietnam. The following Monday, once we had settled in over the weekend, we hit the ground running, going straight into our teaching positions.
Premier TEFL Internship Process Thailand
The process for Thailand was a bit more complicated due to the impact of COVID-19 on entry restrictions. The traditional paperwork for Thailand included visas, document legalizations, and background checks. However, specific COVID requirements included additional documents and procedures to legally enter the county.
For example, I had to quarantine on the island of Phuket for two weeks under the Sandbox program before being able to move around Thailand freely. I found this process extremely stressful because of the added additional preparation that could have caused me more trouble if not completed correctly.
After completing my quarantine, I headed to Chiang Mai for a two-week training period. The training was helpful for the same reasons the Vietnam training was helpful. It gave me an introduction to the culture in Thailand and what to expect in the classroom.
During the second week, we were given our placements which ranged from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. These two weeks were intense but let me over-prepare to enter the classroom. Once the training was completed, we traveled to our assigned schools.
From there, the school I was placed at helped with my adjustment to my new city, including my working visa, opening a bank account, and finding a place to live (something not provided in this internship but was in Vietnam). Once settled, I got straight to work at my school, meeting my students and the other teachers I would be working with. From there, the rest was up to me.
Students and Schools Abroad Through the Premier TEFL Internship
While teaching in Vietnam, I had a lot of students. I was jumping from different schools and classes each day. I was initially overwhelmed by the number of classes I had, making it difficult to remember all my students. Yet there were similarities within each school that made the introduction of new students and schools easier.
All the classrooms were set up in rows with wooden tables for three to four students. Each class also had a Vietnamese English teacher there to assist in the classroom. This was extremely helpful for addressing the children by name, brainstorming classroom activities, and understanding the school and classroom management.
The schools also had a three-hour break in the middle of the day. Some students went home to have lunch with their parents, and others stayed at the school for lunch and naps. During that time, I could go home, eat out or spend my time how I wanted.
Since my time in Vietnam was limited because of the shock of COVID around the world, I do not have any more detailed insight into the daily life inside the classroom with the students, but this is my perspective from the limited time I was able to teach there.
I taught at a kindergarten school in Bangkok. The age ranges in my school were three-year-olds to six-year-olds. I stayed with one class the entire day, where I taught for two one-hour class periods, then helped with lunch, and nap time and planned afternoon activities for the children before they went home for the day.
My class size was twenty-eight students, but they were split into two classrooms because we could not have more than fourteen children in one classroom due to COVID restrictions. Within my class, I worked with two other teachers, who taught the students other subjects while I taught English, working with me for all activities outside the classroom.
Without them, my job would have been a lot more stressful. They helped me adjust to the school, my classroom, and my daily routine in the school. At my school, we also had a group chat with the parents, who were super involved in their children’s education and supporting the school. I especially loved the involvement when we had to move to online classes.
In Thailand, I felt really close to all of my students. With the parent’s involvement and spending the entire day with my students, it was hard for me to say goodbye. My experience teaching in Thailand was the most fulfilling of my ventures worldwide, and I hope to return someday.
Pros and Cons of Teaching English in Vietnam
The part I enjoyed most about teaching was the excitement of my students to learn English. When I walked into those schools in the morning, students ran up to me, said hi, and talked about anything they could with me in English. The students always looked forward to English class.
We played many games in the classes because the schools’ primary need for foreign English speakers was to practice pronunciation. That meant getting creative with ways to practice the repetitive content they were learning.
On the other hand, something I did not enjoy about the teaching experience was the hopping around from school to school that were sometimes not even near each other. It often took a lot of time out of my day traveling between each school.
This made the adjustment period more difficult because there were times when I had to figure out how to get from point A to B. One time, another TEFL teacher and I got stuck at a school. We were on the outskirts of Hanoi and had yet to set up our taxi apps properly, so we had no idea how we would get back. It wasn’t the experience I was expecting to have during my first week of teaching.
My favorite part about my placement was staying at the same school five days a week with the same class. My schedule was consistent and less stressful because I did not have to hop around from different schools or classes. It also meant I could teach the same age range giving me more room to fine-tune my teaching techniques. Classroom management was also easier since I could build stronger relationships with my students due to my constant presence in the class.
Pros and Cons of Teaching English in Thailand
Teaching in Thailand has been my favorite teaching placement teaching English abroad. This does not mean that there were not any negatives, there were, but I enjoyed being a teacher there the most.
Another thing I enjoyed was the parent-teacher communication while teaching at my school in Thailand. We had a group chat between the parents and teachers, sharing photos, weekly newsletters for the parents, and discussions about school events.
My least favorite part at the time was switching from online to in-person because of COVID. If the school had a positive case, they would close down the school and conduct classes online.
While the parents ensured their students showed up and participated, teaching three to four-year-olds through a screen was difficult. At a young age, a lot of their best learning takes place in person through interactive activities. While I was always well-informed about changes, I missed being in the classroom with my students. I was able to use my training through Premiere TEFL to keep the online classes engaging and meaningful, even if I would have preferred to be in the classroom.
Who would you recommend Premier TEFL’s internship programs for?
I recommend the Premier TEFL internships for people who are just starting their teaching abroad journey or for those who are looking to teach in a region that is new to them. It is the obvious choice for those who are just beginning because Premier TEFL offers the certification and a guaranteed job.
There is assistance with paperwork, introductions to the new country you will live in, and training to help better prepare you for when you are in the classroom. Navigating the proper paperwork and information needed to move to another country is already a headache. I myself could not have imagined being successful without the assistance of Premier TEFL’s partners in each country I did their internship.
The internships also open up the possibility for more teaching jobs for those who wish to continue to live abroad as a teacher. Not only will you gain alluring workplace experience, but you will also connect with many other TEFL teachers who can help get you to where you want to go.
Internships can also be helpful when moving to a new region. For example, the teaching skills and requirements you may have gained while interning in Thailand or Vietnam will differ significantly from working and teaching abroad through the Argentina or Spain internships.
The culture, day-to-day life, visa requirements, and expectations in the classroom will be vastly different. Going through an internship to switch countries worldwide will help in the same way as doing an internship for the first time. There will be assistance when easing into a new teaching environment to help you have the best experience during the adjustment phase. Ultimately, it is an excellent first step when venturing into new places.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about teaching abroad?
My advice for those who wish to teach abroad is to know yourself. Everyone has different expectations about what they want in life. Moving abroad to a different country comes with its own give and takes.
It is more than just traveling to a country you admire. You’re immersing yourself in a different way of life. Above all, most people who move abroad to teach do so alone, so starting a new community to gather love and support starts from ground zero. These may seem like aspects of life that are easily overlooked because we do not notice them until they change, but these are some of the little parts of our days that matter in the long run.
Thanks Kyla for sharing your experience!
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