Travel, Teach, Live in Asia
Teaching abroad is a journey for all of us but embarking on a new nation in a new continent for the first time can be daunting for even the most ambitious and fearless teachers! You've plucked up the courage to study, gain qualifications to have the chance to travel but the final step of moving abroad is tough. In this piece I'll be hopefully be able to share my experiencing of both travelling to and teaching within Malaysia, a beautiful (and not so scary!) South East Asian nation. ESL and EFL schools over here are situated predominantly in the major cities, including but certainly not limited to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru etc. Summer Camps aren't quite such a phenomenon and so you'll mostly be working in a part or full time role in a permanent school. As a city gal myself (but a lover of the countryside too) I searched for posts in Kuala Lumpur, took up a 12 month contract and found myself on a plane within a week. Here's my experience!
The first days
Daunted but unphased I started one day in London and ended my journey in KL (via Dubai) a full calendar day later. Thankfully I had digs setup very close to the airport, a place in which I ended up staying for several days. My first impressions were of a clean, friendly and thriving major city. Not unlike many other bustling settlements KL has its share of noise and bright lights but underpinning that is a very hospitable atmosphere. Food is both fab, tasty and cheap, particularly the street hawkers who are both regulated and clean. Restaurant food is tasty but more unexpensive if you stray into the most tourism orientated areas, but elsewhere reasonable prices are to be found in abundance.
Teaching a new nationality of student for the first time is tricky, as many will know. You have stereotypes buzzing around in your mind, are the students going to be punctual, friendly, engaged? I was teaching all ages ranging from young adults way up to retirees. I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of my reception from everyone in the school. Excluding the occasional mobile phone out in class they are a lively bunch eager to learn. Job prospects are much better for the competent English speakers here and since the students pay fees themselves they have a real incentive to learn. I find the first few days challenging learning transport routes, making friends, you name it! However, I'm settling in nicely to my new 'home'!
Flourishing and branching out
Many of you versed in the travel community will know that Malaysia tourism is big business out here and continues to grow. The expat community in KL is nothing short of amazing, I had a dozen or so connections from London alone after 3 or 4 months. New friends introduced me to even newer friends and before long I was enjoying the variety and independence of my stay. As of today I've been teaching for 4 and a half months and I'm finding the experience a thrill, despite the hard work.
My tips for others considering Malaysia
If you're accustomed to a cool climate (like me!) you'll be struck by the humidity of the major cities. Malaysia has a tropical climate and the temperature is warm year round. Just aclimatising can be challenging for your body in the first few days. Carry water and wear light clothing! The Malaysian people are an incredibly friendly bunch but they're also conservative and modest, women can wear cool fabrics but it's important to cover up! Healthy respect is a good thing in any culture, regardless of whether you're mixing with the local Chinese, Indian or Malay population.
I'll continue to drop in on occasions to share my experiences in KL, it's good to vent and share! Over and out for now - Sandy, Teacher in KL