My Experience with Teach Taiwan and Taiwan
by Dawn Herrick
My experience with Teach Taiwan and Taiwan itself has overall been a really great one so far. I am very happy to be in this country and plan to stay here teaching English for several more years. Teach Taiwan is a fantastic organization to work with from beginning to well into my first year. The coordinators assist in every step from the time an offer is presented and continues as long as you are with them. My every need is attended to and I couldn’t have done what they have for me on my own. From health checks, visa applications, work permits, contracts, renting an apartment, visits to my schools, and frequent check-ins. My personal coordinator has been readily available to help me when I need it and answer all my questions. I’m grateful to have such a solid support system.
I put in a lot of time researching teaching in Taiwan prior to leaving home and almost all the reviews from teachers both in Taiwan or have lived here previously were overwhelmingly positive. The common thread was how friendly the people are here. Friendliness is really an understatement. I’ve never met a more helpful, likable, generous and caring group of people both where I work and all around my neighborhood. My goal was to be a public English teacher in a public school here in Taiwan. I work in an elementary and a junior high school and I love it. I wanted to be a part of my students' normal daily lives. It’s amazing to see my students learn and grow and knowing that I am a part of that is so special. Students here are funny, sweet and very excited to have a foreign English Teacher! I learn a lot about Taiwan from them every day such as where to eat, what foods to try and simple Mandarin phrases that come in handy.
When I first arrived, I was welcomed at my schools by students and staff with gratitude and excitement like I’ve never experienced! I’ve been here a year and every day I feel truly valued. The staff and teachers I work with really care about me and how I’m doing. They’ve helped me feel comfortable in all aspects of living here. I’ve learned so much from them about living as a local here. I’m part of a close-knit family and enjoy coming to school every day. Co-teachers are very helpful and communicate with me daily and my students help me learn Chinese!
My experience teaching in Taiwan has been wonderful and challenging at the same time. I teach about 20-22 hours per week at two schools and use the rest of my time researching and planning lessons. I’m a first-time teacher so everything was brand new. Lesson planning is one area that can be tough depending on your experience as a teacher and your school. Some teachers use books provided by the school to teach lessons and others, like myself, plan lessons on their own. It can be intimidating at first, planning lessons for students not knowing them or their English level. Thankfully, there are many websites out there to get ideas and worksheets from. I have found a few that I use often until I get the hang of creating lesson plans of my own. Talk to your school and other teachers to get you through those challenging lesson planning times!
There are so many amazing things about Taiwan and one is the food. Some favorite dishes in Taiwan are beef noodles, stinky tofu, scallion pancakes and pineapple cakes. Bubble tea and fried chicken are two of the first things I tried when I arrived. There are fresh fruit and vegetable markets in every neighborhood, as well as food stalls. Food is very affordable here. My personal favorite is hot pot and dumplings! In Taiwan, there are so many different kinds of foods to try and great restaurants to visit. You can find almost any kind of cuisine here. The first place to start is the Night Markets. There are many to choose from around Taichung city. Going to the day and night markets with friends and fellow teachers is a great way to get to know Taiwan culture and get to know each other.
One of the most important things you can do living in another culture is get to know people. Taiwan has a lot of expats and fellow teachers. Facebook is a great way to join groups that offer all kinds of information. Taichung has a group where you can ask fellow teachers and expats all kinds of questions about places to visit, restaurants, how and where to find doctors, where to find specialty items or things you miss from home and many other topics. This group has been an absolute gold mine of information. I’ve found a bicycle, my hairdresser and great places to shop within this group. Everyone is always very helpful.
Meetup, a social group website, is another way to meet people and find others who are interested in things that you like to do. There are many groups to choose from, such as hiking, cycling, language exchanges, dinner clubs and sports. Events are scheduled daily and you can find almost anything from beer and game night to camping and hiking in the mountains. Facebook also has several groups to check out and join as well. It can be easy to stay home and chill out after a day of teaching but if you’ve taken the time and energy to move to a completely different country, get out and explore as much as you can.
Hanging out with your fellow school teachers and foreign teachers is a great way to start getting to know the people around you. I’ve met people from my own country and all over the world. I spent my first Christmas in Taiwan with my fellow foreign teachers having dinner and singing karaoke and it was a great experience. For my first Lunar New Year, I had a fancy dinner at a party center and listened to a Taiwanese band sing awesome music with Taiwanese teachers from my school. It was super special and a time I’ll never forget. I love learning about holidays and festivals here in Taiwan. People are eager to include teachers in their special events and traditions.
Daily life here in Taiwan can be tough getting used to at first. Every single thing is so different. It can be quite scary or very fun depending on how you look at it. A willingness to live outside of your comfort zone for a while is the key for a smooth transition into another culture. Google translate and Google maps are definitely tools needed to survive those first weeks in your new neighborhood. For me it’s been a life saver! Luckily there is a 7-11 on every corner that can take care of most of your needs in the beginning. My day begins with a quick breakfast and a latte at one of the food stalls across from my school. No matter where you live there are many kinds of food stalls nearby to get lunch or dinner. I was nervous for a while trying to order food for myself but I have found several places that would help me out even though they couldn’t speak English. I’ve met lots of friendly people at food places that teach me Chinese and I help them with English!
I have really enjoyed living in Taiwan. My only real struggle is the weather in the summer months. Taiwan is a tropical island and tropical weather is something to get used to depending on where you come from. I had no idea I could sweat that much! Light, breathable clothing is an absolute necessity! Most apartments have air conditioning and since I’ve been in the country many of the schools have installed air conditioners in offices and classrooms. My advice is bring plenty of clothes and be very aware of your own personal tolerance of hot and humid weather. The winter time here can be quite cold at times. Some apartments do not have heating, so bring warm clothes to wear and sleep in.
Overall, living and working in Taiwan as a foreign English teacher has been wonderful and it’s a really good place to teach for the first time. It is a great place for mature teachers as well. My staff and fellow teachers have been so very kind and make my experience here happy and comfortable. The transition to living in another culture is much easier and a lot less stressful because of them. I’ve made friends here and plan to explore everything Taiwan has to offer. I highly recommend using Teach Taiwan as your recruiter for many reasons. The visa process can be challenging and they take care of all the paperwork quickly. They are very easy to work with and help with literally everything you need. More importantly, having job placement assistance is priceless. Teaching in public schools here has been a pleasure and I look forward to spending more time getting to know this beautiful country.