By Brandy Armstrong
Detroit, MI USA
I’ve been traveling since the beginning of 2018 to make positive change in the world. I started at home, helping friends of friends to get back on their feet and have a chance to start over. Sometimes, it was a whole family that didn’t go homeless, because they lived with me. I’ve built schools, repaired homes, and helped at struggling hostels. Here in Vietnam, I taught English.
I didn’t really know if I would enjoy teaching English, but I could see that there was a need. Rural Vietnamese children have little to no access to English and it would give them more opportunities in life to speak it. So, I signed up with Coins for Change, because I love that they have a 3 month minimum and that some of the proceeds from paid classes go toward programs for single mothers.
I’ve really enjoyed teaching the kids and even some adults. My classes have ranged from 2 years old to adults, not in the same class, of course, but I’ve had experience with different levels and ages. It’s far from perfect, and sometimes my kids’ attention spans are really short! The best part, is when the kids realize they know more English than they thought and start really using it or when they get really excited about learning.
My favorite age ranges are the little bitty kids 2-5 years old and the 11-teen groups. The little ones, when they get things it’s really rewarding and exciting. Plus, most of the time they’re either really cute or really funny. The pre-teen to teenage group are, in my opinion, the most curious. They want to know about your life and what it’s like to live in a different country. When you find the things they are into, they dive in head first to learning. But, being able to ask them about their lives and what they like really gives you a deeper understanding into their lives.
Vietnam is a place full of curious, friendly people. When the Vietnamese are able to speak or practice English, they’ll always ask questions or happily pose for pictures with you. Initially, this was a challenge for me, because even as an American, we don’t tend to be as open as Vietnamese people are. The biggest challenge is traffic. While generally, you can trust sidewalks to be safe and that people will drive on the correct side of the street. Be aware, they zip down the sidewalks on motorbikes or drive the wrong way down a one way street.
Working in the country is very rewarding, because you are giving kids access to English, that they wouldn’t have had a chance to get. Not enough of the teachers here speak English and so, the country’s goal of English for all students by 2020 is daunting. You really see how you’re making an impact in the rural community when you teach in the country. There are limitations to groceries, so if you’re a dairy fan, stock up in a big city. But, there are fresh markets all over and buying fresh, locally grown produce and meat is easy.
If the city is your thing, remember, Coins for Change charges the lowest fees per student of any other English center in Vietnam. So, it makes English more accessible for low income students. If the school you’re with has contracts with local public schools, it makes the classes free to students! (This also happens in rural Vietnam) Shopping is fun and easy in bigger cities.
I started with a 3 month commitment and I’ve been here much longer. I really enjoy that I can extend after my initial commitment and it’s encouraged. If you’d like to experience different parts of Vietnam, you can switch to different schools every three months. For the best experience, consider what is important to you when picking between rural or urban schools and really dedicate yourself to working hard. It’s definitely worth it.