Connie is a fellow blogger who I heard about through another blogger. I’ve been reading her stories about her time in Asia for almost two years now and I am excited to feature her on another A Day in the Life interview about her experiences teaching English overseas!
- Name: Connie Hum of Connvoyage
- Location: Currently visiting New York City for the summer
- Job Title: English Teacher
How did you decide that you wanted to teach English overseas?
I can’t say I set out with the exact intent to teach English overseas. It sort of just all worked out that way.
I was leaving New York City in 2009 for an undetermined amount of time to travel and volunteer with different organization around the world. I had worked with children and young adults before and really enjoyed it so I decided that getting a TEFL certification would be a great benefit to me as a volunteer and as well as to the children I would eventually work with.
I completed my TEFL certification that same summer and a year later, I was volunteering to teach English in Thailand! It was such a rewarding experience that I plan on teaching English overseas again as I continue to travel.
Did you go with a program or find work independently?
I usually find my volunteer and work opportunities on my own or through word of mouth from friends and other travelers. It can be tough because you really need to spend the time doing research and corresponding with organizations. Working with a program could definitely save you time, but most charge a fee. As a traveler, and especially one trying to do it for as long as possible, every little dollar counts.
It takes more time for me to find teaching opportunities but I’ve ended up working with organizations that I am truly passionate and invested in so I don’t regret the hours spent on the internet searching.
How did you decide where you wanted to teach?
There’s definitely a selfish element in deciding where I want to teach! My goal with travel and teaching is to also learn more about the different cultures I encounter. I choose places to teach based partially on my own interests. Of course, if there’s an incredible opportunity with a foundation I feel strongly about then the location doesn’t matter.
Overall, if you’re going to teach somewhere and spend a good amount of time in an area, you have to make sure it’s a place you want to be! Otherwise, you’ll be unhappy. It doesn’t matter if you love the work, you’ve got to also balance it with your own quality of life. Without it being what you want, the unhappiness will seep into your teaching as well.
It’s not a good thing, which is why I always ask myself if the location is a place that I can be happy in, even if it’s for a few months.
Why is teaching English a good postgraduate option?
Even though I didn’t start teaching right after I finished my Bachelor’s degree, I can see the benefits for postgraduates. It’s such a great experience to get out and explore the world around you. It really helps shape your world perspective, which is especially crucial now in such a globalized and ever-globalizing world.
I think in our mid-twenties, we’re still developing and forming ourselves; discovering who we really are. Adding a perspective of living and working in a foreign country only helps to discover who we are and round out an individual.
What’s your daily routine like?
At my last job in Hong Kong, I was teaching at an after school learning center so my working hours were from 1 in the afternoon until 9 at night.
The mornings were completely mine, which I loved because I’m quite a slow morning person. I wake up early, but I’m just slow getting out of the house! I love to sit with my bowl of cereal and cup of coffee, check emails, read the news, see what’s going on with Twitter, etc.
Unfortunately, getting off work at 9 really killed my social life and was so unhealthy! I would eat dinner around 9:30, often alone because everyone else had already ate. By the time I was done with dinner, my friends were headed home for the night in order to get to their jobs in the morning. I would go home and wind down for a few hours, often working on my blog, before going to bed. It was a horrible schedule. I’m glad I’m no longer working there!
Alternatively, when I was volunteering in Thailand, I taught English for only four hours each morning. After planning future lessons, I had the rest of the time to hang out on the beach and explore the Thai countryside! That was very nice.
Who is teaching English NOT for?
So many people! Teaching requires more than just being a native speaker of a particular language and not everyone has the qualities AND the qualifications to be a teacher. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t give it a try if it’s something that they’re interested in, but you have to be INTERESTED in teaching, in education, and making a difference. As cheesy as it sounds, teachers really do make a strong impact on their students, and this role shouldn’t be taken lightly.
One thing that really irks me about teaching English, especially overseas, is that there are so many unqualified and UNINTERESTED teachers out there. Too often I came across English teachers who were only teaching because they needed money to continue traveling. It was just a job for them. Teaching English is NOT for people like that.
What have you learned from being an English teacher?
Although I’m constantly teaching others, I find that I’m learning more about myself in the process! Teaching is extremely challenging and I’ve learned how to quickly adapt to changing situations. What may work with one student may not work with the next and as a teacher, you need to be able to see and approach things in a dozen new ways. Teaching has also taught me what the limits of my patience are, and how to be more patient with others when I need to be.
These are amazing lifeskills to have and I wouldn’t have learned them without teaching.
Do you need any certifications or knowledge to be a teacher?
Certifications and degrees can help land you a job but it is by no means necessary. I do, however, recommend it for someone who’s never taught before and has no working experience with children and/or young adults. It helps prepare you and gives you an idea of what to expect when you become a teacher.
Any additional advice or information?
If teaching English abroad is something you’re interested in, DO IT! If you don’t enjoy it, then stop. More often than not, it’ll be a rich and rewarding experience that can change your life. To me, something that has the potential to alter you life in a positive way is ALWAYS worth doing!
I want to thank Connie and also recommend that you read her Volunteer page if you’re thinking about voluntouring. Do you have a unique post graduate job or volunteer opportunity that has allowed you to travel? Send me an email and you could be our next interview!