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Impressions of Vietnam

The-Sea-Mountain-Vung-Tau-Clouds-Panorama-Scenery-1538102Vung Tau. Photo by Creative Commons Zero, 2016, via Max Pixel. 

“You know how it smells after it rains? It smells like that all time,” CIEE Alumni Emily Muscat says of Vietnam. It is this country that gave her the first big dose of wanderlust and ultimately led her to study abroad in Senegal with CIEE and later, teach abroad.

Emily was lucky to experience the countries in the relatively early days of American-Vietnamese exchange. In 1995, former President Bill Clinton formally normalized relations between the two countries after 20-years of severed ties. Ever since, Vietnam has enriched the lives of thousands of American teachers and travelers.

Although the scars of colonialism, war, and poverty still linger, today’s Vietnam has blossomed into one of the most culturally rich and visually breathtaking countries in the world. The country is now known as the land of pho and fairytale landscapes, a hidden gem of Southeast Asia.

Thailand 2Beach in Thailand. Photo by Arek Socha, 2017, via Pixabay

Emily remembers the country well. She spent time in the beach cities of Vung Tau and Nha Trang where she dipped her toes in crystal clear waters and explored ancient Buddhist temples. While in her base city of Ho Chi Minh, she took a spin on the always popular motorbike taxis. Anything goes on these things—chickens, families of seven, refrigerators, and anything else you can possible thing of that would conceivably carry using a motorbike! Although it didn’t exist back then, today motorbikes are used for Uber. Talk about an exhilarating morning commute!

Although she loved the energy of the cities, Emily’s favorite excursion was to Da Lat, located in the Northern region of Vietnam. The city is tucked into a lush valley surrounded by misty mountains, providing some of the most breathtaking views in the country (and relief from the high heat of summer).

Da latDa Lat. Photo by StockSnap, 2017, via PixaBay. 

Despite a once contentious relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam, Emily was greeted with nothing but kindness and enthusiasm from the Vietnamese people. She has fond memories of volunteering in the communities and participating in local customs, especially mealtimes. She remembers one night when she and her group went to a local restaurant. The owners caught wind that they were coming and made a special effort to make them feel at home by preparing curry with chopped up hot dog! The gesture was sweet but she still preferred the authentic Vietnamese food. Her favorite dish was Bún chả (pictured below), grilled pork served over a plate of white rice noodle and herbs with a tasty dipping sauce. As you can imagine, Emily loves Vietnamese food to this day. 

Bun_chaBún chả. Photo by Tuhang, 2015, via Wikimedia Commons.

Tet holiday, the Vietnamese New Year is celebrated in fashion around the country. Generally, the cities are cleaned up and decked out with yellow flowers and awnings are hung all over the main street. The flowers brighten up the cities and put everyone in the holiday spirit! Teacher's day is also widely celebrated. Vietnamese and English teachers alike are showered with flowers, gifts, and love from their students. 

Although it’s been several years since her visit, no time can erase the impressions of this country. Emily says she can still smell the rain, feel the heavy air on her skin, and picture the landscape: white sand beaches, gentle rivers, and mountainous jungles. She will always remember the captivating sights, smells, and sensations of Vietnam.

My New Year’s Resolution: Traveling and Teaching Abroad

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First Itch of Wanderlust

The first time I went to China, I visited as a student and a wide-eyed foreigner. I spent two weeks studying abroad in Shanghai, completing the fastest three units of college coursework in my life. On my trip, we hit all the major landmarks in Shanghai, from the beautiful modern skyline of the Bund to the traditional beauty of the Yuyuan Gardens in Old Shanghai. We finished our trip with an overnight train ride to Beijing, where we visited The Forbidden City and spent a day at the Great Wall. It is difficult to put into words the overwhelming sense of wonder experienced at the top of that Wall.

Continue reading "My New Year’s Resolution: Traveling and Teaching Abroad" »

'Tis the Season: Celebrating Holidays While You're Abroad

Amanda Thailand

On Thanksgiving, the entire side of my mother’s very large family likes to congregate in Northern Maine. Each person proceeds to eat double the amount of food recommended for an adult male, at least one small child gets mild frostbite from too much sledding, and after dinner most souls, including me, find a free spot on the carpet or couch to succumb to a food coma. I’d never known Thanksgiving without a party of 50 to make things interesting, but that was before I lived in another country where US holidays didn’t apply. While at university in Montreal, my most memorable Thanksgiving away from home was donning a man’s costume and acting in a 17th century revenge tragedy before returning home to a cheery meal with my roommates, stage make-up still on. I still made sure to make my favorite apple pie for the occasion, but there was a little more French spoken at the table than I grew up with.

Continue reading "'Tis the Season: Celebrating Holidays While You're Abroad" »

Things Every Woman In Her 20s Should Do

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Recently, I asked a few of my favorite, well-traveled, wanderlusting gal pals a question.

Now keep in mind, these ladies have lived all over the world: America, Chile, Spain, China, Senegal, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, Paris, Hawaii, Israel, Scotland, and London (to name a few)! And together they’ve traveled to dozens and dozens of countries. (These ladies know what’s up.)

Where should every woman go in her 20s?

When I asked them this question, I expected to receive a wide array of answers due to the fact that these ladies have been all over the world.

But, here's what I discovered:

They all gave me the same four answers.

Thus, behold: an expert [and compact!] list of things every woman in her 20s should do:

Continue reading "Things Every Woman In Her 20s Should Do" »

13 Places That Will Change Your Perspective

BlogPhoto: Amy Sininger, Angkor Wat Monkey

“The best journeys in life are the ones that answer questions that in the beginning you never thought to ask.”

It's true what they say... Traveling is the best way to learn.  Take it from these well-traveled ladies: you often discover and learn a lot more than you expected while traveling.

Here are 13 places that changed how we view the world:

Continue reading "13 Places That Will Change Your Perspective" »

Things You'll Hear Before Moving Abroad: Part 1

Palms2Photo Credit: Amy Sininger

You've done it: you've taken the plunge and decided to move abroad.  This is an exciting time of planning, deciding what to pack, selecting places you want to see and adventures you want to pursue.  You spend your time checking through endless to-do-lists and plotting ways to tell your friends and family about your bold and adventurous plans.  To prepare you, here are some responses you are more than likely to hear regarding your decision to move abroad.

"You're going by yourself?!"

I received this question frequently when telling my friends and family that I was moving to Thailand last year.  My answer: "Yes!"  Many people are intimidated by the thought of traveling, let alone moving, to a foreign country – especially by yourself.  However, it is very common, especially for individuals going to teach abroad.  In fact, you are likely to find that the majority of other teachers abroad have also flown solo.  And in my opinion, this is actually better than going with someone because it allows you to meet new people you would have never met otherwise; and these are people who have similar goals and interests as you.  In fact, our teachers gain on average 7 lifelong friends while teaching abroad.  Plus, traveling with CIEE makes it accessible and CIEE TEFL can help you prepare.

"What made you want to do that?"

You mean other than going to live abroad in a tropical country where everything is significantly more affordable, where I'll get to work with kids and make a difference, learn a new language and culture, meet interesting people, try new and delicious foods, travel in my free time, drink coconuts on a beach and invest in myself?

"You're going to meet someone and stay there forever."

I suppose this is a possibility, if that happens to be something you're looking for.  However, my response to this usually consisted of me telling them that I was going to teach abroad to work with kids and fulfill my travel bug.  It was not my goal to get wifed up in Thailand.

"Aren't you scared?"

There is, of course, some degree of fear before moving abroad.  You feel anxious and nervous about most everything: the flight, the people, the new job, the food, where you'll be living.  This is normal!  It's just your mind and body preparing for the unknown.  Instead of convincing yourself that you're "scared," try looking at it another way.  It's what the Swedish call "Resfeber," and it means: the tangled feelings of fear and excitement before a journey begins.  Embrace it! You are doing big things.

"Where is that?"

Allow your ego to be boosted a bit and explain where the country is that you will be moving to (see, you're using your teaching skills before you even leave, you smarty-pants).

 

- Amy Sininger, Teach in Thailand

Read Part II

 

Explore CIEE TEFL to see where TEFL can take you!

Teaching English in Spain vs Chile

So you've narrowed your teach abroad prospects to Chile and Spain. You probably have some Spanish language chops and want to fine-tune them in an immersive experience, while also helping others learn your native language--English. Each country has their benefits and unique offerings, so choosing the right one for you can be a difficult choice. Let's break it down!

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Qualifications and Requirements

Spain

  •  Native English Speaker
  • Bachelor's Degree
  • US/Canadian citizenship (for Governmental program)
  • Upper intermediate to advanced Spanish language skills

Chile

  •  Native English Speaker
  • Bachelor's Degree
  • Upper intermediate Spanish language skills
  • TEFL/CELTA/Education degree more commonly needed

Position

Spain

 Many teaching placements go through Spain's Ministry of Education as a Language and Culture Assistant. 

The North American Language and Culture Assistants Program is an initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain. The program is primarily devoted to providing US and Canadian students and graduates -majoring in any subject- who are native speakers of English or French with the opportunity to assist foreign language teachers in a variety of schools in Spain and to learn about Spanish culture and society and also about its education system. As a language assistant, you will usually support an English teacher, but you will never replace the teacher.

Chile

 In most cases, you will be placed as the Lead Teacher or Private Instructor.

Students

Spain

Public School, K-12

Nikki Dacosta_spain

Chile

 All ages, depending on employer; If you go through CIEE Teach in Chile, you will be teaching at a community college. 

Locations Available

Spain

If you go through CIEE Teach in Spain, you can have location specificity, such as the Madrid provincial region. Otherwise, you may be placed nationwide.

Madrid at Night (1)

Chile

Jobs are mostly centralized in Santiago.

SC daily life sunset after forest fire

Lifestyle

Spain

The language and culture assistants will have to work a minimum of 12 class periods a week, depending on the region. The assistant and the classroom teacher or department chair may agree upon other tasks or responsibilities for the assistants to carry out, such as attending meetings and participating in extracurricular activities. They may also be asked to participate in all sorts of events the school organizes.

Contract dates: beginning of October until May 31

Chile

Classroom hours range from 15-22 hours a week.

Contract dates: February until mid December

Shayanne Gal
Photo Credit: Shayanne Gal

Pay and Benefits

Spain

 600-1000 euros/month, depending on province

Chile

 500,000 chilean pesos/month as a starting salary; increases with certification and experience

Cost of Living

Spain

 Madrid vicinity

Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant 10.00 €
Shared Apartment               400.00 €

Chile

 Santiago vicinity

Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant 5,000.00 CL$  
Apartment (1 bed) Outside of Center 270,000.00 CL$
   

Visa Process

Spain

 Visa fee is $150

  • Background check
  • Medical form
  • Appointment with consulate
  • Proof of medical insurance

Chile

 Visa fee starts at $470, depending on consulate

  • Proof of financial well-being
  • background check
  • medical form
  • proof of medical insurance

Another benefit of going through a program provider, like CIEE, is that comprehensive travel insurance is included, as is visa acquisition, an in-country orientation, as well as temporary housing before contract start.

Must-see Sights (Bonus!)

Spain

  • Santiago de Compostela (You can make the infamous pilgrimage there, El Camino!)
  • Barcelona
  • Toledo
  • San Sebastian
  • Seville
  • Madrid
  • Spanish Islands

Amanda Cummings FA15_spain_toledo

Chile

  • Cerro San Cristobal
  • Valparaiso
  • San Rafael Glacier
  • Torres del Paine
  • Lauca National Park
  • Easter Island
  • Skiing in the Andes!

Valle nevado

If you decide to teach abroad through CIEE Teach Abroad, assistance in finding housing in Spain and Chile is typical for an applicant. Additionally, complete visa assistance is provided by the organization, and will guide you through the entire process, from application, to employment, to visa acquisition, to in-country orientation, and even travel insurance. Want more comparisons? Check out our country guide infographic!

To ensure you are covering all of your bases, complete your TEFL with CIEE as well. We offer several courses online, and even abroad! Enroll today and begin  your abroad adventure!

The Ultimate Guide to Packing to Teach English Abroad

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Packing can be stressful, even for the most experienced traveler. We're here to help you prepare for your move, with a comprehensive packing guide from those who have been there before. Print, and check them off as you pack!

What not to Forget:

☐ Passport! & plenty of extra passport photos for initial visa, and any visas you need while traveling!

☐ Debit card. Make sure to contact your bank and credit card companies to alert them that you will be abroad.

☐ Diploma! Pack it in a sturdy folder at the bottom so it doesn't get ruined! You most likely will need this for your work visa. Check your country's visa requirements to be sure.

☐ Things that fit.-- ie. 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of sandals, 1 trusty pair of flats or dress shoes for teaching, bras, underwear. Asia has shoes and bra sizes that are smaller than what you can find easily here. 

☐ Deodorant. Most deodorant you will find in Asia will not be formulated as strongly as what you're used to. Pack a few!

☐ Body wash/Face wash. Often times, most in Asia are made with whitening agents. You will be able to find ones made without whitening, but it can be difficult. So, pack these from home to last you a few weeks.

☐ Rain jacket. You may not use it all the time, but it's always nice to have this during your travels!

☐ Cardigans. Bring 2, and alternate them. They are important to make sure your shoulders are covered while teaching!

☐ Breathable clothing. If you are teaching in Southeast Asia, keep in mind the very hot and humid climate, so pack things that aren't heavy, and easily packable (ie. doesn't wrinkle easily!)

☐ General toiletries (toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, your favorite chapstick, brush, etc.)

☐ Leggings & 1 comfy sweatshirt. Travel days! No explanation needed.

☐ Camera. No, not your iPhone. Investing in a good camera before you go is always a good idea. Those travel pictures will last a lifetime.

☐ Travel backpack. Preferably, find one that holds enough for a week, not too large, and zips like a suitcase, instead of at the top. Amazing investment for long weekend trips!

☐ Neck pillow. Get this! An absolute must for buses, vans, cars, planes, need I go on?

☐ Eye mask. Perfect for traveling, and sleeping in crowded hostel rooms.

☐ Supply of prescription medications. You may need to navigate your insurance provider a bit to get enough months' supply of your prescription medication, but you will thank yourself later. 

☐ Insurance card and emergency contact information. You never know when you will get a bad case of food poisoning, strange rash or need to get any last-minute vaccinations while abroad. No one likes getting sick away from home, but this will alleviate a lot of the hassle.

☐ Invest in Spotify Premium. Using it's offline mode is crucial for those long travel days and you want to save data.

☐ Pictures from home, anything small worth sentimental value. Take some time and print photos of friends, family, your house, your town, etc. These will not only be great tokens of home in your apartment, but will also be great teaching tools for your classroom!

☐ Kindle, Nook, or any other e-reader perfect for travel days!

☐ Chargers! (Laptop, phone, camera) These can be expensive to purchase if you forget.

☐ Guide book. CIEE Teach Abroad sends you a Lonely Planet book unique to your country-- so don't forget it!

☐ ESL Teaching resources, such as lesson plans, classroom resources, etc. Your TEFL is also a great resource to pull from :)

☐ Journal. Document your experience, the places you visit, and your thoughts. 

What to Leave at Home:

⊗ An exorbitant amount of clothes. Don't bring anything you don't wear at home! Limit yourself.

⊗ Don't bring more than 1 pair of jeans/pants if you are going to be living in Southeast Asia. It will be a waste of precious packing space!

⊗ Don't bring tons of makeup or toiletries. Yes, there are Sephora's in Asia.

⊗ Don't bring inappropriate clothing, and expect to get much use of it. Take into consideration the culture you will be immersing yourself in.

⊗ Don't pack a hair dryer. It will take up unnecessary room, and will most likely blow a fuse once you arrive. Buy a cheap, compatible one there!

Remember, less is more! You aren't traveling to Mars, so pack what you absolutely need, and buy the rest as you settle in. Cheers to a new adventure!

To begin your adventure, start with your TEFL! CIEE TEFL now offers courses abroad, in Thailand and Vietnam, in addition to our online course. Leave your information below, or contact us to get started!

Teaching English in Thailand: Expectations vs. Realities

Teach_Morgan Klaas_Thailand 13 (1)

Everyone can paint a picture of what their life will be like in the future-- whether that's a new job, new school, new city...Or maybe painting all of those things because you chose to teach abroad. Sometimes creating a beautiful utopian picture of something ambiguous or uncertain can be an affirmation of a recent decision. I get it-- change is scary. We all bring with us a set of certain expectations of what life can, should or might be like. Having recently completed my venture as an English teacher in Thailand, there are certain expectations that were (immediately) debunked. Repeat after me: change is good.

8 Expectations (& Realities) of Teaching English in Thailand

1. It won't be that hot.

Reality: Okay. I am from the Midwest. I thought I knew humidity. Truth is, you have no clue until you step out of the Bangkok airport and succumb to the unavoidable heat wall as a welcome to Southeast Asia. Thailand will teach you a whole new lesson on bearing the heat and unpredictable weather. On the bright side, you will probably never be cold and depending on timing, be able to skip a brutal winter back home :)

2. 25,000 baht isn't a lot of money.

Reality: It's all relative. Typically, your monthly salary will range from 25,000-30,000 THB ($700-$900), and it will range based on your experience (and your TEFL). Also, some schools and programs will cover the cost of an apartment (especially if you go through a program like CIEE). What is very little money in USD is a lot more in THB.  Fact: You will be able to criss-cross Thailand and Southeast Asia on that salary. I did!

3. Thai food isn't that spicy-- I've had Pad Thai before!

Reality #1: The Thai food you know from the States is very Americanized. Reality #2: Thai people are immune to the chilis! Most touristy restaurants in Thailand will tone down the heat, but expect to repeat "mai phet" (no spice) or "phet nit noi" (a little spicy) over and over in the small open-air eateries in  your town. You probably will learn your lesson after your first helping of green curry or papaya salad.

4. Teaching can't be that hard.

Reality: It's so hard! You will question yourself, you will question your knowledge, and you will learn every day. It's an amazing experience to teach English to those who are learning it as a second, third or even fourth language. It makes you realize how difficult the English language truly is, and finding ways to explain just why we conjugate verbs, and how to communicate that reasoning to Thai students will be an everyday challenge. You will be thanking your TEFL certificate every day.

5. I can't wait to live on Phi Phi island!

Reality: Your teaching job will more than likely be in a rural part of Thailand, or near major cities, like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, but finding jobs on paradisiacal islands is much more difficult. Upside? You have countless beautiful vacations a short plane trip or overnight bus away. Long weekend? Head to Koh Chang or Koh Samet. Spoiled, yes.

6. I probably won't need my TEFL training.

Reality: Refer to #4, please. You will be thanking your lucky stars you chose to get TEFL-certified once you arrive in front of 50 hyperactive, preteen Thai students. Plus, you will feel so rewarded once you feel that you are truly teaching and making a difference.

7. English is universal-- everyone will speak it.

Reality: No. Outside of Bangkok, many older-generation Thais speak very little English, and you will consistently face language barriers (especially with your students!). But, by doing your part, you can learn a bit of Thai and be able to communicate when needed. (Pointing also goes a long way when ordering food, too)

8. I will be on my own.

Reality: You have the option for solo travel if that suits you. Prefer a crew? Not to worry. Thailand is a hot-bed of backpackers, young and old people alike. People from all over the world travel through Southeast Asia-- with Thailand being a transport hub, never fear! Hostels are a great place to meet people and new friends when traveling. Another bonus: if you decide to teach English through a program or organization like CIEE, you will go through an orientation in the beginning. Say hello to your new travel buddies!

Amandaharr_thailand5

Still thinking about getting TEFL-certified? Why not complete it in Thailand or Vietnam! CIEE now offers a Destination TEFL program, giving participants the opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia for two weeks and become TEFL-certified. Email us or leave your information below for additional TEFL information. Spots for November's departure are filling up, so don't wait!

A Day in the Life: Teaching English in Thailand

 "From the Field" recognizes our past and present CIEE teachers, sharing anecdotes and first-hand accounts of their experiences abroad. Adapted from her blog, here is Amanda H's story: 

Time for Something Different.

I wanted something really different, and different I got. That was the whole reason why I was in Thailand, right? A change from the norm, a shock to my system. Changes can be beneficial in so many ways. A week into my new life as an English teacher in Thailand, and I can confidently say, yes, things are different. From the moment I wake up to the last sleepy thoughts before going to bed.

A typical day in Thanyaburi, Thailand, for this American is never boring. Here’s the rundown from cell phone alarm to Netflix and chill sweat in my bed all night.

Amandaharr_rajamangalaU

English Teacher in Thailand probably looks something like this.

I wake up at 7:30AM, in a slightly damp bed from my sweat. Full disclosure, this is my fault since I do have the option of A/C in my studio apartment. Bravely, and maybe naively, I thought living without it may help me adjust to the constant 90-degree heat & humidity of Thailand. So far– not quite. Will report later.

I shower. Like most Thai showers, hot water is considered a luxury, and many don't have the temperature option. Fortunately, the water isn’t like cold water at home. Instead, the one temperature option is more of a luke-warm, which feels refreshing considering the heat. :)

Getting ready is a much quicker process than at home in the States. Here, less is more, again considering the heat. It's a lesson in minimalism and low-maintenance. 

I put on either my knee-length dress or skirt, flats, and grab my cardigan. Thai schools have a strict dress code for teachers, since modest dress is ingrained in the culture. This means that while teaching, your knees, shoulders and toes must be covered. Yes, in Thailand. In 90+ degree heat. That being said, students across campus choose to wear wind-breakers and long sleeves all the time. Refer back to my thoughts on hopefully gaining the ability to adjust to the heat^.

I leave my apartment building, hit the unavoidable heat wall, begin my aforementioned sweat, and maybe swing by the coffee shop down the street. If you order a coffee in Thailand, it will come iced with ample amounts of sugar and condensed milk. You either love it, or you hate it.

I walk to school, cross the bridge over a canal, am now definitely glistening, and stealthily walk to the second floor to sign-in to an appropriately titled folder ‘Foreigners’. This is where the English teachers sign in and out each day. And ah, air conditioning. Then I follow my daily schedule which is set up in two 3-hour blocks– 9AM to Noon, and 1PM to 4PM. I am either co-teaching a class, meeting with students in the English Speaking Corner, or having a break. Our schedule allows us two Speaking Corner shifts and four co-teaching classes per week. 

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The students here are usually very shy when they first meet a native English speaker, which is then hastily followed by a series of random and not-so-shy questions, including: “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Do you believe in love at first sight?” “Are you homesick or lovesick?” and “What do you notice first about the opposite sex?” Every day is something new and unexpectedly hilarious. So far, I have loved the ability to truly help students with writing essays, pronunciation and teaching them new vocabulary words. Oh, and selfies are ever-abundant. Peace signs included.

The English teachers usually converge again for lunch around Noon, and we venture to one of two campus cafeterias or “canteens.” I have been able to successfully eat most meals for 30-35 baht ($.84-$.97) So far, I stick with rice, chicken, noodle dishes, and sometimes if I’m lucky enough to find the correct line, potatoes. It takes a week or two to truly ace ordering food, given the language barrier. 

The rest of the day is finished around 4-4:30PM, and I venture back to my apartment. 

I try to exercise as frequently as possible (read: carbs) at the University stadium that is usually packed with students running, playing soccer, or cheering in the stands. I love all of the activity at night. Oh, and in case you were wondering, it does not get cooler once the sun goes down. A solid 90-degree night-time temp is considered normal. Sweat update: unreal.

I end my day with Netflix, and by finding solace in the little things, like my ceiling fan. I <3 Thailand.

-Amanda H., Teach in Thailand

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