Live Session with ITTT Alumna Brittany from "The Life of Brit"
Welcome to another live session this week and we're on at a different time this week. Usually we're a little bit earlier, but we have a special guest today, and that's because she's based in Germany. So we had to change the time a little bit. I’m Linda from ITT, you've probably seen me before, if you've watched us live and I’m here with Brit today.
Hi Brit! Hi, thanks for having me, and painting your time to meet my schedule, and thank you so much for getting up early.I know it's early in Germany right now. just have my coffee and I’m good to go.That's awesome,where in Germany are you exactly? so I’m based near Trier, which is along the border with Luxembourg. So very close to Luxembourg?
Watch the live session here
That's cool, that’s exciting. Have you been to Luxemburg?
I had one chance to go before all of the COVID shutdowns and lock downs earlier. It's really beautiful place,i really want to go, it's so close to Germany.i was born and raised in Germany.so i really want to go to all the neighboring countries.I see we have some people watching already, could you please, if you can see us and hear us, could you leave a comment? Where you're from? where you're watching from and maybe also where you are in your TEFL journey? I’m always very curious to know, are you currently taking a TEFL course? Are you planning to take a course? Are you already teaching abroad? Please let us know that'd be really cool.
Like I said, we have Brittany here today. We're doing a TEFL talk, sort of a casual TEFL talk today.
About Brittany’s really exciting career path after TEFL. It's really exciting and I think a lot of people, who also want to teach abroad or take a TEFL course, are really going to be interested in your experience and what you can share with them so please always drop your questions in the comment box.
We are live on Facebook, and we're also live on YouTube. So please don't hesitate to ask questions.
So I’ll just start with introducing myself.
So my name's Brittany, or Brit for short, and I got my TEFL certificate at the end of 2016. while I was working full time and then applied to teach English in Korea and that kind of jump started this whole exciting adventure for me.
Where I found a passion for travel blogging. I got to travel around Asia, I started freelance writing, to where I am now, which is a grad student in Germany. So it's been a very exciting adventure.
Why did you pick South Korea? Is there a reason?
Honestly the perks were just too good to pass up in South Korea. I had my eye sights set on Asia for sure. So I was looking at the best places to teach in Asia, because I'd never been at the time in Korea.They just pay so well.That's why a lot of people go to Korea.
I have a website where I actually have written a lot about my experiences in South Korea as a TEFL teacher, traveling solo and it's LIFEOFBRIT.com if you want to check it out. I am very happy to reach out or have conversations with fellow TEFL teachers or aspiring travelers, with any questions you guys may have. So feel free to send me an email or a DM.
Awesome and can I ask you about the picture where was that taken? It look really cool.
That was in India actually.
After I finished my last contract in Korea, I went on a backpacking trip throughout Asia, and spent two months in India, which was just an incredible experience. All paid by my savings. I was able to scrim together teaching in Korea, and this is in Rajasthan.
Nice, that looks really nice.
So why get TEFL certified?
I have a lot of people asking me if it's worth it or what you can do with the TEFL. So for me personally, I got TEFL certified, because I was a little bit unhappy with where I was at, my job wasn't really my passion. I had worked in marketing before, and I wasn't sure if that was really my path. I was always dreaming of traveling, but I had student loans and I was kind of living paycheck to paycheck. So travel seemed really impossible for me, and I started researching, just how can I travel abroad while earning an income? So I can pay down my loans and pay for travel and still have a good quality of life.
And that's kind of where TEFL came in. I found TEFL and immediately became interested. It's just such a great opportunity, it takes English speakers and places them all over the world in a job where you can learn about the new culture, earn an income, and travel around any region of the world.
I always loved traveling and so teaching English abroad, it's such a great way and then especially in a country like Korea, where you earn a pretty good salary, and all the perks that you mentioned, and the cost of living by American standards. I don't know my money went further than it did at home.
Cool, did you have any teaching experience before you went?
No, I did not.
I mean, I did have some volunteer experience with young children, but I was going to school for speech therapy, and when I was in college and then after that, I had to go to grad school. If I wanted to continue speech therapy and I wasn't ready for more school or for more loans. So I just nabbed up the first job I could find which was marketing. So i didn't come from a teaching background at all.
Okay, do you think your TEFL course helped you get more confidence, or you know what you're doing in the classroom, that sort of stuff? Definitely! I mean, I was so terrified of getting up in front of a classroom of children. I mean they are young children but you know children are also extremely honest and lively and they'll just say whatever. So a TEFL or TESOL course really helped teach me different classroom management skills and how to relate to kids and keep them focused.
Some perks of online TEFL, there are many different TEFL you can take. You can go into an in-person class that's you know usually about four weeks or you can do it online. For me, I did an online TEFL. I found it the most convenient because I was able to get TEFL certified on my own time. I actually got my TEFL while I was still working full time, which was nice.
I could keep earning an income and I wasn't totally sure yet what I wanted to do with that TEFL afterwards, so it gave me the time to think on it and it was affordable. Online TEFL courses are generally a fraction of the cost but in person they're really good if you have the time to devote and the money it's obviously super valuable to have physical in classroom experience but for those of us who maybe don't have that opportunity or that privilege the affordability of online TEFL is very good.
I also appreciated that there was no travel required for class. I’m from a smallish town in Wisconsin and I wasn't really near any TEFL classes. You know if you have to take an in-person class you have to go to a big city like maybe Chicago was the nearest one, which is two hours away and that was just too inconvenient for me to do and it also gives you more time to decide where to teach so I was between teaching in Korea japan in Taiwan and so when I was getting my TEFL the ITTT blog has a lot of great resources sharing all the different experiences of where you can teach so it just gave me more time to sift through and decide where it was right for me.
Why did you decide you want to teach English in Asia? What was so appealing about Asia to you?
As an American most Americans travel to Europe or to Mexico or to South America, so for me maybe it sounds silly but Asia was this place where I didn't know anybody who had ever been. I’d never been and it just looked so beautiful and so diverse and so vibrant and actually, I had studied abroad in Copenhagen in college for three years so I'd already kind of seen a lot of Europe and it just made sense to me, okay Asia's the next place I'd like to go.
How long did it take you to complete the course?
I think it took me a little less than three months. You have up to six months to complete the course with ITTT but most people like me and Bri,t we completed it much faster and you can even complete it faster. I know some people who completed the course in a month or even a few weeks but they're probably not working so it's really great for anyone if you're working full-time. Anyone can take an online TEFL course and get certified.
What about your TEFL interview when you interviewed for Korea how was that like?
It was scary. I applied with the EPIK program, which is the public school for anyone who doesn't know and they do a Skype interview with you when you're in your home country and I just remember my interviewer being very straightforward - very just this is what your application says can you confirm you know what are what are your thoughts on classroom management like how do you manage a classroom, etc. So having to rely on those techniques I learned in my TEFL course.
Was it a Korean interviewer?
No it was actually a British person who must have been working for the department of education.
### All right and then so you got your TEFL and then you went to Korea. Please give me a brief overview of teaching in Korea.
You can choose public or private schools and I went public just because with the public school it's a normal eight to five day so you're working the normal work day and they do provide such good perks it's very hard to pass up. At a public school in Korea you get a fantastic salary. It was less than I was earning in America but it went further because of the cost of living was much more affordable. You get insurance with the job and you also get a pension. You get free housing, like a free furnished apartment, so that means you're not spending money on rent.
Now it's 26 days of vacation with Korea's public schools, plus I believe it's 18 national holidays. So a lot of time off in Korea if you time it right, I just really appreciated. It was a good work-life balance. You hear of some schools and other places where you don't get as much vacation time or they expect you to work long late hours.
Could you talk a little bit more about EPIK the program?
So it's hard to know how competitive EPIK is, because they are quite tight-lipped and they don't really say how many people apply and how many people they accept, at least not that I’ve seen, maybe they do, but the application process is a little bit intense.
They do ask you to fill out a ton of, like ton of paperwork.You have to clean background check, prove your degree, a college degree, you have to have a TEFL and then you have to create a lesson, a sample lesson plan for them to check over and do an interview and then you have to come to Korea and pass a drug test and a health screening.
What about all the documents you need?
You need like a criminal background check and all that stuff. So as an American, I had to get like a federal background check, which is from the FBI so depending on your country, you have to go to the federal government and get it from the actual country's main government, a background check showing you're clear, a copy of your degree, that's what you have to get it officially certified your TEFL certificates.
I think I had to send a resume and you have to sign a bunch of waivers, when I applied at least, that were like, I don't have any tattoos, that are visible, talk about your piercings so Korea is still a little bit conservative.
How long were you in Korea for?
I was there for two years. So two contracts and always the same school. This is actually my school in the picture. I worked at an elementary school in Daegu and I actually had two schools. So I had a main one, main big school, that I was at four days a week, and a smaller, like mountain rural school, that was about a 30-minute bus ride up the street. It was very small. I only had maybe eight students in a class at a time versus at the other school, I had, I think, 35 students in the class.
I actually have a friend and she's also in the EPIK program and she also has like one main school and two side schools or something in the countryside. It's pretty common, especially when you're kind of on the outskirts of the city. So that's where I was living and they do actually give you a little bit of a bonus, if you have more than one school. I think it's an extra 100 a month for professional schools. So a little bit of a perk and it actually I enjoyed it. I got to mix up my weeks, didn't feel so monotonous, doing the same or seeing the same kids every day. So it was cool.
Did you take a lot of trips while you were in Korea?
The way the vacation time works in Korea, I think traditionally in western countries teachers get the entire summer vacation off or winter vacation off but in Korea actually you are working through those vacations, but those school breaks are when you're allowed to take your vacation days. So you do have to kind of plan. You only have those two short periods to take your vacation but during that time, I was able to travel. I think I traveled every school break. I went to places like Indonesia. I got to see Bali, which is beautiful. I went to Japan and the Philippines, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and many trips throughout, just South Korea as well because South Korea has so many beautiful landscapes and places to see. So a lot of travel opportunities.
The EPIK journey always start kind of in Seoul with an orientation and stuff so it actually depends where you're placed in Korea so because my placement was in Daegu, which is a city in the center of the country, my orientation was actually in Busan.
The other thing that drew me to Korea was just how the EPIK program really held your hand throughout your process into moving into Korea. They pay for your airfare or they reimburse you for the cost of your airfare and when I arrived they picked me up at the airport and they took me to the orientation where I had room and board for 10 days and they immediately started teaching us.
It was almost like another mini TEFL course but from their perspective and giving you cultural tips about living in Korea and even a little mini Korean lessons. It was so nice. It made my transition to Korea so relaxed like very stress-free and I had a friend who was teaching in Spain and she had to do the whole process on her own. Nobody picked her up and I just remember her being so stressed and frazzled and so different from Korea. People imagine that's another great perk when coming to Korea for sure or of the EPIK program. It is, especially if you're new to the country. I mean anytime you go to any new country, it's overwhelming so just to have that additional support was very valuable for sure.
What was your best part about teaching and living in Korea?
Honestly, it was just such a carefree lifestyle for me. I was making more than enough money to cover my living expenses and my student loans and I could afford travel and you know coming from a really stressful job at home that often I took home with me the teaching in Korea, you don't take home with you.
You can get all your work done at the office and actually you only teach, I believe, 22 teaching class hours with EPIK programs. So that left 18 hours of lesson planning. So more than enough time to get your stuff done and more actually, I mean that's why I started travel blogging, because I had so much free time at work - just a carefree lifestyle and travel.
So what TEFL helped me achieve, we sort of already talked about, a lot of this stuff but I taught English in Korea. I would not have been able to do that without a TEFL, that's a requirement and after teaching in Korea I actually taught in Vietnam, for a summer. So I finished my Korea contract in January or February I believe, and then traveled for a few months and then moved to Vietnam that June and started a two-month summer camp there, which was really incredible. I was able to get a job at an international school and live in Ho Chi Minh City for two months.
That sounds amazing. Was it hard to find that opportunity?
I got a little bit lucky in that, I did a lot of googling and I happened to just stumble after going deep in the internet, I found my job and then it just so happened that I knew somebody who knew somebody, who taught at that school and they were able to give me a good word. I’m not sure if that helped or not, but I got an interview and it also was advertised on the Internet.
It was advertised on the school's website. Honestly, the best thing to do is just move to Vietnam. I know it sounds really scary but just move there and pass out your resumes; that tends to work best but also just search international schools in Hanoi or international schools in Ho Chi Minh City and just find an email contact and email them. That's what I did for a few different schools before like finally I kind of found the one that worked for me.
I got a little lucky I think, but I think it helped that I had those two years’ experience already as an English teacher.
After teaching in Vietnam, it was kind of a transition. Vietnam was coming to an end and I still had a few months backpacking left planned and I was running a little bit low on money, and I wanted to investigate teaching English online, which I think really became super common a couple years ago. Maybe as I was ending my time in Korea is when I started hearing about it. So I applied to Palfish and started teaching online with Palfish, which is a super easy way to make money.
I know a lot of people who make a full-time income, for me, I used it more supplementary. Especially as an American, the time zone difference isn't super great for teaching because you're teaching Chinese students who are after school, which ends up being very early morning in America. I taught English online actually all this past year when COVID hit and finding employment goes hard and also having to work at home so if anybody has any questions about that I’ve been writing a lot about teaching English online the past few months.
How is teaching in Korea different compared to Vietnam?
One main thing is that I did teach just like a summer camp with kindergarten kids versus in Korea I was teaching public school curricula for like elementary school like third grade to sixth grade. Vietnam compared to Korea is very laid back. Korea is very bureaucratic, they have strict rules, bit more polite and prim and proper. You have to follow the rules, a lot of paperwork.
In my summer camp maybe they would tell me the main overarching topic but then I had the freedom to create the lesson as I wanted it versus in Korea they have a textbook that you do the lesson based on the textbook and then you can maybe add one extra activity after that.
What about the students? Was there big a difference between Korean students and Vietnamese students?
I think Korean students they are tired a lot because they go to so much school. Vietnamese students seemed a little bit more lively maybe and also they were kindergarteners. I should really reiterate so maybe that's being young. Both were different and really lovely in their own way. It's hard to fully explain.
How was the transition from teaching middle school and kindy to online?
It's really weird actually because you're so used to like when a child isn't fully understanding what you're saying when you're there in person with them you have so many more opportunities to like perhaps or other ways of getting the meaning across but when you're teaching English online all you have is just the screen and you and maybe your hands and then whatever prop you have immediately in front of you. It was a little bit of a weird transition. It's also different in that a lot of teaching online platforms are just one-to-one with a student versus in person it's with a whole entire class. So in a way it's also almost better you have more time to get to know an individual student; get to know what they struggle with and what they need help with and how they learn best.
When I was in Korea and I had a class of 35 kids, I just never had the chance to fully do that because it's just a lot going on.
How was the process of getting into teaching online with Palish or just like a general? Was that difficult or what are the requirements?
For teaching English online the requirements are pretty similar depending on the platform some require a college degree and some do not but almost everyone does require a TEFL. At the very minimum you have to have a TEFL. Some people prefer seeing teaching experience and some companies don't care as long as you have the TEFL and you can prove you have a clean background.
For Palish, you fill out a profile, you sign up I believe with your phone number, fill out a profile with your name, a bio, what qualifications you have, you have to upload photos of your qualifications as proof and then you normally have to do a recorded interview, which is often a lesson demo.
So they'll show you one of their lessons and you have maybe 10 to 15 minutes to record how you would teach it and you have to make sure you use lots of TPR which is like on the spot.
So you book as soon as you fill out and submit all your information and your documents. Then they let you choose a date and a time and there's tons of Youtube resources that's what I relied on for how to best do these lesson demos because they don't really tell you a lot about it from the company themselves.
They're just like okay do this lesson demo good luck and we'll let you know.
What are some things you have to watch out for then when you do the demo lesson?
I have a problem with a lot of filler words. So I just say “like” a lot and they don't want that. So for 10 minutes don't say “okay or like” and they want you to be really expressive, very over the top happy and a little bit of baby talk, which can feel super weird but that's something they want to see. Props - it doesn't have to be anything crazy, I have flashcards - if you just have one stuffed animal toy to get the kids attention that works as well.
I see and you were saying at Palfish you teach Chinese students?
Yes so Palish is based out of China and is primarily Chinese students I think they do have up to high school age students but most of my regulars are from elementary level.
Can you decide how many hours you want to teach
or do they say you have to teach a certain amount of hours?
So Palfish is super flexible. This is one of the things I liked most about them. They do not have any minimum requirements as some online teaching companies, which want to see an x amount hours minimum a week. At Palfish, I believe they have some technicality of maybe seven hours in a month but I’ve gone a month before without teaching and it was fine. However, they have a booking system where you can just pick which days and which time slots you'd like to teach and you open them up and students can book them if they'd like and you get a notification when it's booked and you just show up and lessons are 25 minutes.
You can book in 30 minute increments so it's pretty structured and pretty easy to set your own schedule and then you know close it if something comes up.
DO they give you all the teaching materials?
Yes, they provide all the lesson materials. I mean it's honestly you just show up you do have to wear a blue t-shirt and have a clean background.
Tell us a little bit more about your travel blogging.
When I first moved to Korea, I’ve always had a bit of a passion for writing and for photography and I thought I should try this travel blogging thing. So I started sharing or I created a website and started writing travel guides about my experience teaching in Korea specifically Daegu, which is a big city. I think it's like 2.5 million people though and there's an expats scene there and I found a lot of success writing about Daegu because there are so many expats there but there was hardly any information on the internet about Daegu in English. So I had a lot of fun just like sharing guides about how to teach EPIK, about what to see and do in Daegu, what to see and do in Korea and it just grew to now I share about all of my travel adventures as well as tips for general teaching English online or teaching English abroad.
Travel blogs or blogs in general are just a great resource because it's from a real person who really had that experience so I think travel blogs are a great resource for anyone who wants to travel or go abroad right.
I came home from my big travel excursion in Asia and I started freelance writing for a few people. I started off writing for a friend and then applying for one-off job ads and i started earning an income freelance writing, which wouldn't have been possible without my travel blog because that essentially was my portfolio to show other people my writing abilities and my skills and my ability to rank on search engines you know that's an important marketing aspect.
And now you are in Germany?
Now, I’m in grad school in Germany going to school for English literature and media. Honestly, I do think my TEFL gave me that boost. My bachelor's is not in literature so I think having that TEFL degree in English and I do learn a little bit about the fundamentals of the English language gave me the boost my application needed.
There's a question about Palfish. Do you offer help for people wanting to join palfish as a referral coach?
So actually I have helped other people. So I have a few guides and if you list me as your referral coach or your referral teacher, I get notified that you signed up and then I message you and just say “Hey welcome to Palfish, if you have any questions let me know,” and I do help people along with their interview process for any questions they may have so if you'd like I can try to help you. Send me a DM and I can let you know.
Do you have any plan for after grad school?
For now it's very open in the air, especially with the way the world is right now. I have no idea but I am very open to teaching again . I did have a mini dream to go to the Gulf Arab states maybe divide each for a little bit but we'll see where. The salaries are very good salary and that's just another part of the world I haven't seen yet.
I think very helpful for people who want to follow your footsteps this was I think really impressive and thanks so much for your time. Well thank you for listening to my story I’m always happy to share because I just know I came from a place before all my travel adventures where I just felt travel was too expensive and impossible for me to ever be able to afford especially with student loans and I was making an entry level salary so just hearing that other people make it happen with not a whole bunch of means is a little inspirational.
You know you take a TEFL course and that's where it can lead you so that's really awesome.
I’ll see you all hopefully next week in another live session and maybe we'll see Britney again too, all right, awesome, thanks for watching.
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