Teacher from the Welsh valleys shares the first weeks of her new life teaching and living in Ho Chi Minh City

Sarah Curran is a primary school teacher from Rhigos in South Wales. This summer she moved to Vietnam with her family. She began teaching at The British International School in Ho Chi Minh City in September. Here Sarah talks about her new experience of living and teaching overseas:

My initial opinion of Vietnam was that it’s very different to where I come from in rural Wales! It’s much busier, very built up and there are lots of motorbikes everywhere. I have a pool in the garden of my accommodation, which makes me think I’m on holiday! It’s wonderful to spend time with my daughter and husband swimming after work. The accommodation is provided by the school and is part of my package. It’s only a 10 minute walk away from school, but I have to admit I’ve been taking a taxi due to the heat!

Developing my skills

My reason for moving to an international school was that I wanted to work in a different way. I’m teaching a new curriculum at the British International School in Vietnam. In Wales I taught the Foundation Phase. Here I’m teaching the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). It takes time to adjust to the different terminology but teaching using a new curriculum has many benefits. It makes you consider why you are doing something, instead of just doing it automatically. It also makes me question what is most important when teaching.

School differences

The size of the school in Vietnam is very different to what I’m used to my school in Rhigos had 76 children, here there are 1800! Even though the school is very large it’s friendly and personable. There’s a family environment and children from a variety of classes say hello to me. We are not called by our surnames here either so I’m known as ‘Ms Sarah’.

Teaching in this school is definitely going to challenge me as a teacher. The quality of teaching inspires me and I hope to develop a world-leading Early Years campus while I’m here. It’s been really refreshing to be in an environment where the main focus is on a child’s progress, not attainment. The technology at the school is also fantastic, and will help me in developing creative teaching techniques, for example I’ve learnt how to use the green screen for presentations.

Settling in

The school is supporting me amazingly well. The Human Resources staff were very attentive and helpful before I left for Vietnam. They made sure I was well prepared and had everything I needed. When I arrived, the management staff were welcoming and showed my family and I around the school. Since starting work, every member of staff has been willing to help out and extend the hand of friendship. I’ve been invited out for food several times already and recently tried Pho which is a traditional dish that’s a kind of soup and hot pot. My family and I have already been away with a teacher to a beach resort, and also recently had a BBQ at their house. There’s a nice balance here you don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to, but equally it’s ok to be independent too.

Advice for others

My advice for teachers considering teaching at an international school is to go for it! Make sure you prepare before you leave but don’t come with expectations go with the flow and take the experiences as they come. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry, as you are probably not the only one feeling this way – don’t be afraid to talk to someone about it. If you are coming with a family, make sure both parents are happy. There may be challenging behaviour from your child while he or she adjusts so having a strong relationship really helps.

How I found this job

When I started my search, I’d look at the TES (Times Education Supplement) and didn’t know which school was good or not. I needed someone to give me advice, and confidence that I was selecting the right school; however much you do a Google search, you really won’t know the schools, plus there were cultural issues I needed to understand. It’s a huge commitment if you don’t know what you are letting yourself in for and I very quickly realised that I needed an expert to help me. The service TIC gave me was completely outstanding. They helped me to shape my CV; to put things together in the right way to highlight the skills and experiences that mattered. They helped to prepare me for my first ever Skype interview! I worked with several members of the TIC team. They got to know me well enough that they were able to match me with the right school. They knew the school well and had visited it recently. That gave me great confidence that the school we were talking about was real. It gave me a sense of security that was very important. This job is perfect for me; it fulfils everything I wanted. I’m very confident that I’ll end up having a very positive experience.