The food, the culture, the people. These are just some of Jonathan’s favorite things about Taiwan. But Jonathan wasn’t always on this path. Before he decided to teach in Taiwan, he was following a different plan until he came to a crossroads. Jonathan needed to decide if he wanted to continue living in a small town, or take the plunge and explore a whole new world? Keep reading to discover the challenges Jonathan encountered moving to Taiwan and how he feels living abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tell us about yourself! We’d love to know about your background, what drew you to teaching abroad?
What drew me to teaching abroad? Growing up I always had this desire to travel and see other countries. I grew up in a very small town where most people haven’t seen outside Canada. I had always considered teaching abroad but was afraid of taking that plunge, mostly from feedback from others or the stereotypes of what teaching abroad is like. So I went on a very different career path. I worked in this career for over four years, and it was very rewarding. But It wasn’t exactly what I was interested in. There came a time when I was going through a transition in my life and it felt right to take this plunge. So, I decided to take a TEFL course with Premier TEFL and it got me excited about teaching abroad. It was the best decision I ever made. They were helpful throughout the whole process.
You first applied to a different internship, then reconsidered to Taiwan. What changed your mind to teach in Taiwan?
What made me change my mind to go for the internship in Taiwan? It was the personal recommendations from people who have traveled here. So I decided to do my own personal research. An internship in Taiwan captured more of my interests. Great food scenes, a combination of beaches and mountains, and an interesting culture that I wanted to know more about. Taiwan I think is a very underrated country in Asia that most people don’t know about. So many times people confuse Taiwan with Thailand.
What were three things about your experience in Taiwan that you did not anticipate? (This helps future teachers preparing for a trip there to feel more ready!)
The three things that I did not anticipate in Taiwan were:
- Living in Taiwan. My body would go through so many physical changes with being sick. For example the climate and different foods.
- Western holidays and how difficult sometimes it can be. Being away from friends and friends. E.g Christmas is not overly celebrated here.
- Although the Taiwanese people are friendly and helpful, the language barrier has been challenging at times.
What is one thing about the life of teaching abroad in general that you never expected/ Weren’t prepared for?
One thing about teaching abroad that I never expected was the different cultural and work expectations in a school situation. I sometimes didn’t know what sometimes was expected of me.
Can you share with us a favorite story or two from your time teaching English in Taiwan?
I have so many stories and experiences from living here. One that comes to mind is a few weeks ago. I went on a jungle hike to a remote town and was invited in by locals who I have never met. They were so excited to share everything with me.
Another story that comes to mind is when I left my last school. The number of cards and letters I received from parents thanking me. It helps me keep motivated.
Two years later and you’re still in Taiwan, you clearly love it there! What are your favorite things about Taiwan and are you still teaching?
I would have said due to the Covid crisis I have been unable to travel internationally, so I have been able to explore more of Taiwan. My favorite thing about Taiwan is the warmth of the Taiwanese people. And also the combination of mountains and beaches and the convenience and efficiency of being able to go anywhere. You can go to a 711 and even buy train and plane tickets and many other things. Yes! I am still teaching.
Can you tell us how Taiwan has been affected by COVID-19 and how the country is handling it? Do you feel safe living there?
For most of the time here life has been normal. Work, schools, nightlife has not been affected. Taiwan acted very quickly to keep Covid 19 away. Also, the Taiwanese people worked together to keep it away. Right now Taiwan is having an outbreak of the virus, but they are working hard to contain it. I do feel safe living here, Taiwan is one of the world’s safest countries.
What’s your favorite phrase/word of the English Language?
Roll with the punches.
What advice do you have for someone on the fence about whether to teach in Taiwan or not?
My advice for someone teaching abroad is to have an open mind and to allow yourself to be flexible. Teaching is hard work and you will go through so many daily challenges that were simple back home. For example, doing daily banking, or buying groceries. But stay positive and stick through it. It will make you a stronger person and will be some of the most rewarding times of your life.
Finally, what does the future hold for Jonathan?
I plan on maybe hopefully staying one more year in Taiwan, and use that experience to maybe teach in another country here in Asia! I don’t think I could go back to my regular life in Canada.