Jacob Hanania is an Israeli currently living and teaching ESL in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. When he was a kid, he dreamed of becoming a rockstar (or a psychologist!), but now he dreams of traveling the world endlessly WITHOUT being a lame tourist.

With three more months to go of his TEFL internship, it’s not long before he’ll be making moves to accomplish his goals. Let’s talk about Jake’s inner motivations and double check his sanity for willingly leaving beautiful Israel. Read on for some crazy TEFL inspo!

Tell us about your path to TEFL teaching. Was it hard to leave your home country, Israel or your big kid job at the British Council?

First, my latest job was in customer service at an online travel and hotel-booking company, not the British Council (which was a couple years back). It was a big-kid job, filled with good people and all, but it wasn’t anything I was passionate about.

It wasn’t a choice I made lightly, I really do love my friends and family, I just felt that I needed to get away from everything and really start living life.

Tell us where you’ve taught/are teaching abroad and give us a little snapshot into your classroom experiences.

I’m teaching in Cambodia at a new school with some really great staff that I became good friends with, rather than just colleagues. David, the head of the school, is a really good mentor, advisor and teacher and his advice goes a long way. The students are great, they have such great respect for teachers as well as being charming and honest individuals themselves.

Jake in Cambodia

What drew you to teaching in Cambodia—besides the fresh mango fruit shakes, that is? Further, what has surprised you most about teaching English in Cambodia?

It seemed like a magical land, far away from everything I was used to at home or even Europe. What’s surprised me is how easily you connect with the people, whether they be new friends, colleagues, students, or shopkeepers.

Describe a typical day-in-the-life for you as a TEFL teacher.

You start off the day early, I had one class I was teaching at 06:15 AM! After getting ready with a quick cold shower and a light snack, you start the day off, the city is already up and about at 6 (sometimes there is already traffic!). Everybody had their own schedule before the evening classes, so me and one of my teacher friends had joined a gym and would be working out and getting a meal before class.

After around three hours of evening classes, you finish your day by going to have some chicken skewers or something from the local restaurant next to our apartments, where we would finally get home, full and happy, playing music until everyone gets too sleepy to keep talking. All of this within walking distance, this is generally how my day would go about.

Jake with students

What are three things a future teacher in Cambodia should know before they start their gig?

Prepare adequately for the heat/mosquitos (they come together), you will need to adjust your ear to understand some people’s pronunciation and don’t worry about anything, the Cambodian people are the sweetest people on earth.

Why do you love teaching?

Because you really feel like you have the chance to impact these student’s lives for the better. For example, when I started teaching, many of my students were too shy to speak English in class.

After a few weeks together, they were speaking English during class, with me and with each other, in-between classes.They even joke around in English together (and it has even reached their Facebook accounts).

Jake on a scooter

What’s next for you? More TEFL jobs, becoming a TEFL trainer, getting a PhD in TESOL, world domination?

I think I will leave the world domination idea to the religious fanatics and the rich super-villains of world politics. For now, at least, I will continue in my TEFL career, continuing here for a few more months and then maybe some new country somewhere far away again. 🙂

I would like to get my Masters (one day) and perhaps PhD in Political Science, but that can wait until I have my travel and teaching bug settled.

Thanks Jake and best of luck in your future travels!

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