Joe – Vietnam

voluntary english teaching in vietnam

The time I spent volunteering in Vietnam through Lattitude, was undoubtedly the best experience. From the people I met, to the rich culture I had the great privilege of encountering. This experience has given me some unexpected and very useful life lessons, which I feel has had a big part in shaping my character.

My first encounter at the school: Stepping onto the court yard for the first time. The school wasn’t huge. But it still housed over one thousand students. All of which emerging excitedly from the classrooms, filling the balconies of this three floor horse shoe. Myself, in the middle of the courtyard gazing up at the mass. My heart sinking with anxiety, only to be lifted by the applause of over a thousand enthusiastic children.

I had a lot of fun teaching. I found it particularly beneficial to incorporate games, adapting to the classes enthusiasm for learning with their capacity of understanding. I remember one day walking past a sports shop, buying a tennis ball, which became very useful for question/answer games. But despite the pressure of teaching around forty teenagers, I was never alone. There was always a loving welcome and support from the other teachers, and even the students. Any effort I ever made never went to waste, it was only met with a greater effort and enthusiasm of the wonderful people around me.

The teaching didn’t end in the classroom either. I was very happy to do an evening class for the teachers. This made it easier to develop friendships, which was very necessary when you’re away from home for the first time, half way across the world. I would often be invited out to experience Vietnamese culture. I went to two weddings. Festivals. Parties. Social gatherings. And sometimes just to have a coffee with a friend. I was always doing something, and something in this case was on the edge of my cultural understanding and imagination. It was brilliant.

With support which I am always grateful for, I organised a Halloween party. Often I would go up to the principal’s office to have a chat and a cup of tea. One day propositioning him with the idea of giving him and the students a cultural experience back.

The students, being aged between fifteen to eighteen were always very interested in western culture. Music, fashion, sport, what people my age did. So organising a Halloween party, stirred up a lot of interest. As for the party itself, again with grateful support, was extremely successful. There were games, competitions, kung fu and dance performances, all topped off with decorations the students had helped to make and some pretty awesome costumes. The night was great, but what was just as great was the chance for students to show off their talent, what interested them, incorporated with a western holiday and English speaking experience. A small admission fee was applied as well, which both helped to cover costs, and give money to the school.

The list is endless to the amount I had learnt from this experience. From developing life-long friendships, a stronger passion for different and colourful cultures. More confidence in myself to speak publically, overcoming obstacles in life which I may have been too nervous to tackle previously. It’s sparked a higher interest to possibly work internationally, to aspire towards a better future career. Learning other languages (I understand a little Vietnamese). It may have only been four months, but it gave me