This is the start of a series of catch ups with our CELTA graduates to find out where they are in the world, what life is like for them and how they are using their CELTA qualification they acquired in our University Language Centre here in UCC.
First up is William Leary who did our first-ever fully online CELTA with us back in summer 2020 and now finds himself living and teaching in Vietnam and preparing for a Christmas away from home.
Let’s meet William.
My name is Will Leary and I’m from Co. Waterford but am currently living in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. My journey to Hanoi begins with deciding to do a CELTA course in UCC after graduating college in 2020. I decided to do the CELTA in UCC because of my joint interests in teaching and travel, and I knew this particular qualification would put me in a better position to get a job than just doing any old online TEFL course would. I completed the course in the summer of 2020 under the tutelage of Brendan Ó Sé and Sally Orren. It was originally supposed to be an in-person CELTA, but due to transpiring events in 2020 that we are all too aware of, it was moved online. I was originally quite annoyed about this as I wouldn’t be able to obtain in-person teaching practice, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the skills I gained in online teaching have been extremely useful in the last year and a half.
After completing the CELTA, I originally worked online with a company called iTutorGroup, and the competency with teaching online that I had gained in UCC was immediately applicable to my new position. Although I enjoyed teaching with iTutorGroup (mainly teaching children from China and Taiwan), I was keen to travel with my qualification, as that was one of the main appeals of getting my CELTA. I applied for a few jobs around Asia, and eventually settled on Vietnam due in part to the beauty of the country and also its fascinating culture, with extremely friendly people that reminded me of those back home in Ireland.
I got offered a job with Apollo English, in Hanoi, in February 2021. However, because of strict limitations on people entering Vietnam during Covid, I didn’t arrive in Vietnam until June of this year, whereupon I had to complete 3 weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine. Once again, online teaching turned out to be an advantage as I was able to continue teaching online throughout my quarantine period. How many people can say they were able to work whilst stuck in a hotel room for 3 weeks?
On release from the hotel, I began my teaching career in Vietnam over Zoom as Covid restrictions remained in place throughout the country. I expected this to only last a few weeks, but at the time of writing it is now December 2021 and I am still teaching English online! I am in the very unusual position of never having met my students in person, and I still long for the day that I can. But with thanks to my online CELTA and experience afterwards, I am now feeling quite comfortable delivering effective and enjoyable lessons online. Brendan and Sally did a fantastic job of moving the course online at short notice and while I have now got an advantage over other teachers who are just switching to online for the first time, I also believe I have gained transferable skills that will be just as applicable when I eventually get into the real-life classroom.
At the moment, I sort of have the best of both worlds as Vietnam is opening up for domestic tourism, but schools remain closed. This gives me the opportunity to travel and see more of this beautiful country, whilst working from anywhere as long as I have my laptop with me. There is a vibrant street food culture here which I am just getting to grips with (finding the most delicious Pho in some random place on the side of the road for $1 is wonderful) and a fascinating history that I am trying to become more familiar with. As I write this I am sitting in a resort in Ninh Binh while planning my lessons for the coming weekend. As we say back home, “I’m living the life of Reilly”.
I am preparing for my first Christmas away from home this year, as travel restrictions make it too complicated to fly back to Ireland for the holiday. Although Christmas won’t be quite the same without family around, I am looking forward to sitting outside in the 20-something degree heat come the 25th of December and I’ve even found a place here that does a Christmas dinner so I can feel a little more at home. It is winter here in Hanoi, but while the Vietnamese may be wearing their coats and scarves, the temperature is reminiscent of an Irish summer so I’m still in my t-shirt and shorts every day. I’ll miss the good craic and food in Ireland this Christmas, as well as the decorations in my childhood home, but I know that I’ll be back home again next Christmas so one year away from it all isn’t too bad. I don’t think my mum is feeling as optimistic about it though. She’ll be distraught without the whole family together. Anyway, not to worry, the next year will fly by!
Thank you so much for this, Will. I am sure our readers will enjoy learning of how you have put your CELTA qualification to good use and I sure would love to be sitting in a resort preparing my lessons right now.
Here’s wishing you a very Happy Christmas, Will.
The Language Centre in University College Cork offers CETLA courses throughout the year. For more information, visit our website.