Hi, I’m Turgay 23 years old and just started my last semester at the EPFL as a mechanical engineer. I noticed that after all these years I wasn’t getting most of the summer holidays and I thought that doing an internship in my field would be a good way to spend that time. As I like travelling and discovering new cultures IAESTE seemed to be a good option. After having applied, unfortunately I didn’t get an internship in engineering but got only retained for my 4th choice… teaching English in Vietnam. I was a bit skeptical at the beginning but at the end of the adventure I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else.
Overall the organization wasn’t the hardest part, IAESTE gave a good support and handled all the aspects about getting a visa which actually some months which was a bit annoying for the plane ticket but at the end I booked it before receiving the visa. Otherwise there wasn’t other major things to prepare. Don’t forget to take enough money in the local currency, the bank system isn’t as smooth as in Switzerland (I’d recommend to take something around 300CHF in Vietnamese Dong)
After exchanging a few e-mails with the employer, the arrival was planned and she came to pick me up at the airport and directly bring me to the house where I was going to stay for the coming months.
The first weeks were hard. The day after I arrived they already asked me to start to work without even giving some basic formation or letting me attend to some classes to see how other teachers were doing. I was in charge of teaching English to different classes for kids aged from 2 to 6 years old. Even though I had already some teaching experience teaching to kids is completely different, it is hard to keep a structure and make them listen to you, you have to make the course entertaining enough and adapt the level for them. So don’t be surprised if they start to chew your papers, tear them apart or even pee on them ;-). Anyway after the first weeks I started to get to know them better and was able to plan better my classes and then most of the classes ran smoothly and it was a great pleasure to work there, the kids are very lovely. The workload was very low approx. 6 hours per week (Yes, per week!). Good English speaking teachers are rare in Vietnam so they pay you well for the time you work. Since the 6 hours were spread throughout the week, the days were still blocked and instead of just staying those 6 hours in the school I was usually spending some extra time there just playing and having fun with the kids
Life in Thai Nguyen
Thai Nguyen is a city of approx. 300k people. It is not a very modern neither a touristic city but it has a lot of charm. The place is very authentic with not many foreigners and the people there are veery friendly, there wasn’t that much things to do but you start to have your own routine, meeting with the friends and just hanging around the life is very peaceful and I really loved my stay. One very good aspect is that the seat of IAESTE Vietnam is there so actually there are many other interns as you (mostly English teachers too) so you will meet many people organize events and have a lot of fun, we were probably something around 25 people in that city whereas in Hanoi they were only 3. Another thing that made the stay amazing there is the local committee. The volunteers at IAESTE Vietnam were incredible, all of them are really involved in the association and try to make your stay as good as possible. There are weekly meetings where you see all your friends in a pub, many activities: cooking contest, football games, day trip visits or 2 days trips and many other stuff.
Vietnam is probably one of the most beautiful country in the world not only does it have absolutely stunning views but the people are absolutely amazing, they are one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Oh and the food, the food is great! Anyway if you go there try to travel as much as you can, there are soo many places to discover even the smallest places are amazing… During the week due to the work, there wasn’t much time to travel but each weekend; we tried to go around with some of the other interns. Thai Nguyen is a good place to start to travel in the North, it’s pretty much central and also travelling there is very cheap so don’t hesitate. At the end of my 2 months internship I took an extra month to travel. With it I did over 3000km across Vietnam and it was one of the best adventures I ever did, there are too many pics but here is a small glimpse of it.
Don’t think too much and go for an internship with IAESTE! Avoid the tourism places, go off the track, meet the locals, learn the language and enjoy every moment of your adventure.