Updated: Jun 11, 2022
How do you start teaching English in Cambodia? I interviewed Byrony who spent time teaching English in Cambodia as a volunteer and shares a cautionary tale of choosing the right place to teach in Cambodia.
The traveling teachers series is all about people who travel and, you guessed it, teach! Each interview features a different teacher, traveling to a different place, and teaching a unique group of students.
There are many questions surrounding traveling and teaching. So often we hear of people teaching abroad, but what is it really like? How do you find opportunities? Through this series, I hope you are inspired by the good work going on around the world, learn, and start to think about ways you can travel and teach abroad yourself. I’m excited to share this story of teaching English in Cambodia with you!
If you plan to be a traveling teacher, a TESOL certification is going to be necessary. I got mine through International Open Academy for just $19! Highly recommend this as a first step in your traveling teacher journey.
Teaching English in Cambodia
This week I am excited to bring you a story about teaching English in Cambodia! Byrony taught for three weeks in Cambodia and has some really great insight into tourism and travel because she also studied it in college. She has traveled all over Europe and South America—visiting over 30 countries with sustainability and cultural responsiveness in mind. She shares her adventures on her blog, Travels and More. Here is her story of teaching English in Cambodia!
What inspired you to start teaching English in Cambodia?
I wanted to help. That was the first thought I had that I could somehow head to the developing world with all my wisdom and help. I was eager to do something that has a lasting impact.
How long did you teach and where?
I taught in rural Cambodia for three weeks at a project called “The Hope Agency.” Three weeks turned out to be not nearly long enough to make the lasting impact I had first hoped.
Were any of your expenses covered with the teaching experience?
I paid a contribution to the volunteer agency (Original Volunteers) and a small admin fee. I was told the contribution would go directly to the project, and that was extremely important to me. I booked my own flight, but the project itself was free, along with basic accommodations, two meals per day, and an optional breakfast that you could pay additional for. Taxi pick up from the airport I was told would be included, but I ended up paying for it, which did concern me slightly at the time.
How did you find the program or opportunity to teach abroad?
I basically began my research very early. I didn’t want to pay thousands of pounds or dollars to have this experience in the luxury of a private volunteer home or hotel. I wanted to pick something that was ‘basic’ and challenging, as I felt it would lead to a more authentic volunteer experience.
I researched for projects where I would have to do a little organizing of my own and not contribute a lot of money to a profit-making mega-machine company hiding behind the disguise of a volunteer agency. I found Original Volunteers online and had a few calls and exchanged a few emails with them, and they seemed like the right choice. I was studying Tourism Management at the time, so I already had an existing knowledge of this form of tourism, so the idea of volunteering wasn’t very new to me.
Were you able to spend time traveling and exploring the country while teaching?
Yes, I realize now that in hindsight this was a massive motivation for me to volunteer. I picked a country I wanted to see and was keen to explore in my free time. My desire to help was second, and teaching came second to this desire to get to travel Cambodia as part of my volunteer experience, but it was only after the trip I truly realized that.
On weekends we were able to explore Cambodia to whatever extent we wanted. We visited the coast and also the capital along with a trip to Angkor Wat—no trip to Cambodia is complete without this, and I was determined to pack this into my three-week volunteer experience. We would travel in groups, usually in transport organized by the volunteer project. We also had an extra day off for a Cambodian national holiday during my time on the volunteer project.
What were interactions with students like?
I would teach for two hours a day with another volunteer that was ‘long term’ on the project—my role became more of a teaching assistant, but fortunately, the people before us on the project had created a curriculum and organized classes by age group and number of children. The groundwork and probably hard work had already been put in place before my arrival, and I was easily able to slip into the role of teacher.
The two classes I taught every day were always the same. I had one class of 8-9 year olds and one, much larger class of 4-5 year olds. The language barrier was much more difficult with the younger children and classes could be quite chaotic if not filled with fun and games. The older children were much more eager to learn. They were keen to be in school and keen to speak English.
What was your favorite part of teaching English in Cambodia?
My favorite part was the educational and eye-opening experience I had. I went on to base my undergraduate dissertation on the topic because it became something that was so important to me. Interacting with the children and becoming a part of their lives and culture for such a small period of time left more of a lasting impact on me than it probably did on them. Although there are a lot of negatives surrounding volunteer tourism, I can’t deny that it’s an experience that changed my outlook on travel, life, and culture in general, which is quite profound.
What is one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to teach abroad?
Always question your intentions. Before and after your trip. For me my intentions were good, and I wanted to help and be a part of something that could change the world. But I realized that my intentions were also quite selfish; I wanted to travel and to see and experience Cambodia at the same time. Always be honest with yourself about your intentions. That’s important.
You can follow Byrony on her social media listed below. For more about Cambodia and other awesome destinations, make sure you check out her blog!
For more about the traveling teachers series, click here.
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