Annalyssa’s life has been a whirlwind of travels and adventures, so it’s no surprise that she ended up biting the bullet and living abroad full time!
Now a teacher in Myanmar, Annalyssa got her start as a TEFL teacher in Taiwan. Trilingual and full of life, read on to learn more about her journey from California to overseas!
Tell us about your journey to teaching abroad. Did you go to college? Study abroad? What gave you the confidence to pursue this path?
My mom was a teacher all my life and I grew up traveling around. I knew from a young age that I wanted to travel everywhere. Teaching was a way for me to do that, my mom passed on her love of children and of teaching to me.
I have been living in the States for that past 3 years and I’ve put off going to college because I can’t decide what path I want to take for my life. I’ve been toying with international business, translation, teaching, cultural studies, and even becoming a journalist.
Instead of going straight to college and changing my major 3-4 times, I figured why not go out into the world and experience all I can, so I truly know what I want to do? Premier TEFL helped me take a step in the right direction. I’ve already experienced so much and it’s only the second week!
You’ve taught in Taiwan. Awesome! What drew you to Isle Fermosa? Share a few surprising things about Taiwan that you weren’t expecting.
Well, Taiwan is actually more home to me then America. My parents traveled around a lot. My dad grew up in Venezuela and Singapore and he always knew he wanted to live overseas again.
When I was two, my family moved to Taiwan. My dad was an English pastor and my mom taught ESL, just like I am now. There are many things that surprised me about Taiwan when I came back though. In less than three years it’s become so developed!
There are also so many places that are absolutely breathtaking. I’ve always loved nature and I always joked that I knew the island like the back of my hand because of how much I explored it. Every time I go back I find even more beautiful places though. It’s an island that just keeps on giving. The people are the sweetest people in the world and it’s really interesting to see how the culture there changes within such a short period of time.
There’s always something new going on, yet they still hold onto their core beliefs and traditions. The way they meld it all together is so interesting! Taiwanese culture is definitely something to experience!
What TEFL courses did you complete? What were the three most helpful things that you learned/practiced throughout your TEFL training?
I took the level 5, 168 hour TEFL course. I love how they teach us the many different kinds of English and show us how to incorporate more than one form of English in our teaching. They showed us many different learning styles and the best ways to teach for different learning types.
The TEFL course also showed us how to teach people with different language backgrounds most efficiently and what sounds they might have trouble with.
Can you share with us a memorable story from your classroom experiences? A positive interaction with a student, a great lesson where everyone was involved, etc.? What does it feel like to have those connections to your work and students?
I’ve only been teaching for less than two weeks and already there are so many! My favorite by far is just seeing the children every morning! Their bright eyes and adorable thanaka painted faces. Some children even paint Mickey Mouse on their cheeks! They run up and throw themselves at me in a hug screaming “teacher Annie!” I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it! Another thing that I absolutely love is watching everything click in their minds.
I played a game with my pre-3 class the other day. I had originally planned out a whole lesson, but when I got to class they were so happy and playful. I totally threw out the lesson and randomly thought of a game incorporating different “O” sounds.
I was surprised at how fast they picked it up!! They had so much fun! They were screaming and laughing and joking around the whole time! They picked up the concept I was teaching so much faster than I thought they would. It was so cool to see how smart and capable they are, being so young.
You’re not just teaching abroad of course—you’re having a ton of fun exploring Taiwanese culture, nature, and more. What are some of the best activities you’ve done while off the clock?
Oh my… adventures are my absolute favorite! I love going out into nature. Taiwan has so many beautiful places. One of my favorites is up in Jioufen. It’s an old mountainside port village that’s become quite the tourist attraction.
I’ve been going there since I was a kid and there’s this traditional Japanese tea house that I’ve always loved. You sip on some of the best tea and you have a view of the whole bay. There’s cats all over the village and you can hear the wind whistling all around.
My favorite thing about Jioufen is actually a hike a little up north. It’s a strenuous mile hike totally comprised of stairs, but the reward is more than worth it. You go half way up and all of the sudden everything is quiet. No bus horns, no traffic, no crowds. You’re also totally in the clouds. It’s the most magical place. After the hike, I usually finish off my evening at the tea house with some friends. There’s also no shortage of amazing food on the old streets!
Have you been learning Mandarin at all? Do you recommend that future teachers in Taiwan have a grasp on the language?
Mandarin was actually kind of my first language. My parents didn’t want me to go to the expat school, they wanted me to take advantage of the experiences I was given. I went to Chinese preschool, Chinese elementary school, up until high school it was mostly in Mandarin, except for a few months when we would travel.
During high school I went to an international school and was able to learn English, Chinese and Spanish. My mom knew that having a solid foundation in English was incredibly important as well, so after school my mom would teach me English and literature.
That being said, I think Mandarin is incredibly useful. It is a tough language to learn, but the best way to learn is full immersion. I can’t stress that enough. Trying to learn a language when you are not using or hearing it day to day makes it so so much harder. Most people can pick it up quite fast when living there actually! Also, what you get in return is so worth it! When the local people see that your trying to learn, they get so excited! They’ll help teach you as well!
So far I’m only in Myanmar for 6 months and I don’t know when I’ll ever use Burmese back home, But I’ve been given the chance to live in the community and be around people who are speaking it, so I’m going to try and learn as much as I can! Mandarin is one of the best languages to learn at the moment, so any chance you have to learn, I would jump on it!
What advice do you have to share with future TEFL teachers considering Taiwan for their time abroad?
It’s so easy to say “oh I don’t have enough money to travel” or “I can’t leave my job!” but honestly? It’s so easy. Yeah, moving overseas is HUGE, but if it’s something you know you know you want, then the hardest part is saying yes. Yeah, it costs money, but you’re getting certified to make money overseas (and it’s still like 300% cheaper than college) and you can literally go almost anywhere in the world!
The people at Premier TEFL did such a good job with equipping us for what we were getting into. They help with job placements, getting you acquainted with the country, and they help you find contacts to help you out when you’re there!
If you want to read more stories like Annalyssa’s, check out how Victoria is living the dream in Austrailia by teaching English online.