XploreAsia recently asked one of it’s newest teachers, Karen, what it was like to teach in such a diverse and exciting country. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you find out about the program and what made you decide that Myanmar was the place to go and teach?
I found out about the program by word of mouth. I had three friends/coworkers come through the XploreAsia program in Thailand. After the TESOL course, two went to teach in Laos and the other in Myanmar. Their experience planted the idea of teaching abroad in my head and the more I heard, researched and thought about it, I decided it was something I wanted to do as well. I signed up for the same program in Thailand and during the course, the placement team asked if I would be interested in coming to teach in Myanmar. There was an opportunity that required both a business and teaching background and my qualifications happened to fit.
Can you take us through a day in the life of a teacher in Myanmar?
My teaching experience with adults is different than that of a teacher working with children. I get up in the morning and take a taxi to the DICA building where I teach classes. In the morning, I teach beginner English to a group of 8 students. After class, I take a taxi to the NELC Xplore office, where I have time to plan my lessons, make necessary copies, and bounce ideas off of other teachers. In the afternoon, I head back to the DICA building and teach a group of about 20 students. This group has a higher level of English and we are working on Intermediate Business English, more targeted to the language they will need in their jobs. All the students are incredibly eager to learn and appreciate the Western style of teaching! I have had multiple students tell me in the 3 weeks we have had class that they like how much opportunity to practice they are given in class. Teachers teaching children will have a much different schedule.
How would describe Yangon city?
Any way I describe Yangon, it will likely be different by the time whoever reads this gets here. It is constantly changing and I have found it very interesting to talk to fellow NELCXplore employees who have been here 8 months or longer to hear about what Yangon was like before. You cannot go a block without seeing a big construction project and working with DICA, you can see how busy the country is with the influx of foreign companies coming in. There is a strange dichotomy between modern and the old world. You can walk down a single street and see cell phone and an Apple store, but also see markets with people preparing and selling fish and meat.
The infrastructure and technology are still shaky. Internet is accessible with 3G and cell service, but this is spotty at best. Occasionally, the electricity goes out and you just have to make do without lights, internet, and air. Sometimes there is enough electricity for lights, but the air goes out. Nothing is a guarantee. Traffic jams are a part of daily life and the constant construction makes it worse.
The people are incredibly friendly and love to talk to you, practice their English and teach you Burmese. There are tea shops and beer stations all over the city where people get together and watch movies or football matches. It is a very lively city and people are always willing to get together.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
So far, my free time is spent mostly by getting dinner or drinks with fellow NELC Xplore employees or watching movies in my apartment. Occasionally, I have gone to the driving range or shopping. I just purchased my first bus ticket for a weekend beach get away today and plan to spend more time exploring the surrounding areas over the next couple months. There is a good amount of nightlife in Yangon, so I have only scratched the surface when it comes to seeing all there is in the city as well.
What have been some of the highlights of your experience so far?
Singing karaoke on stage in front of all my students and the entire Investment Department and their families at their anniversary dinner was definitely a highlight. Visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda and riding the circle train in Yangon are also two must-dos!
What would you say to prospective teachers thinking about coming to Myanmar?
It is a great experience! Come here with no expectations and mold yourself to the way of life. There will be challenges adjusting, but being in Myanmar during such a time of change is very exciting!