Joshua travelled to Vietnam to teach English to people of all ages.
A need to teach
"After researching various organisations and associations which offered volunteer programmes for students; I finally decided to volunteer with Travel to Teach – a relatively small organisation yet one that still seemed dedicated to a good cause. The company offered many different placements across the globe, ranging from teaching in Bali, Thailand and other areas of Asia to helping out communities in Europe and Northern Africa.
"I chose my programme – teaching English to students in Vietnam – based on many factors which included a personal desire to visit South-East Asia and the fact that Vietnam is still technically seen as a developing country where the need for young people to be able to speak English as a foreign language is becoming more and more important."
"Although the main focus and drive of this experience for me was to volunteer and make a difference to others – I also saw it as an opportunity to experience a new and completely different culture and way of life. My first encounters with Vietnamese culture came during my first week spent in Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam before I travelled up to Hoi An, which is situated on the central coast, before going on further to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay in the north of the country.
"In general Vietnam was not quite what I had expected as the cities were a lot more modern, hectic and diverse than I had thought, with huge designer shopping malls and futuristic skyscraper style buildings scattered across the cities.
"For my first week in Ho Chi Minh City I tried to undertake as many activities as possible, including going on an overnight stop to the Mekong Delta with some Australian travellers I had met in my hotel, visiting a couple of the many museums and palaces, and also enjoying the vibrant nightlife of the busy city in order to gain a greater understanding of the culture. However, it was my visit to the War Remnants Museum which perhaps gave me the most understanding of Vietnam and its extremely difficult yet fascinating history."
Making a difference
"Once I arrived at the teaching centre in Hoi An, I got assigned classes and given timetables to teach English to a selection of students from the surrounding schools and colleges. The students were generally aged between 16 and 24 with varying levels of understanding of English, though we were also able to volunteer and teach an infant’s class on the weekend which was with children who were aged four to six. The classrooms were quite small in comparison to those here so the classes were no bigger than 12 or 15 students at a time, but I felt this allowed me to get to know the students more and teach them on a one-to-one basis more often during the lessons."
"Looking back at my time spent volunteering I can quite confidently say that I made a difference to the students whom I taught - so much so that they were even correcting my grammar towards the end of my programme. However, I also feel that - perhaps equally as important - I was able to help improve their social abilities as many of the students were extremely shy and quiet for the first few lessons yet were able to show more confidence as the lessons went on. Additionally, the students I taught – and young Vietnamese people in general – were extremely keen to learn anything about Western culture and aside from teaching a language I was able to trade knowledge with the students about our varied backgrounds and cultures."
"Overall, my experience of volunteering through the Make a Difference Travel Scholarship has been an extremely valuable one. First and foremost I have been able to help others and make a difference in the lives of the students which I taught and hopefully many of them will pursue learning English as a foreign language even further.
"I also feel it has helped to me to grow as an individual by taking me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to undergo new experiences, meet new people and adapt to new surroundings. This enabled me to improve my communication skills greatly on both a personal and professional level, whilst also aiding my development in terms of gaining more career focused attributes while also allowing me to improve the skills and abilities which I already possess."