Interview with Taiwan English Teacher, Tina Wu

Teach English Abroad

Teach English in Taiwan

How long have you been teaching English in Taiwan?

I have been teaching English since August 2008, so a little bit over a year.

How did you find your first teaching job?

Back when I was still in the States and trying to make contacts here in Taiwan, I emailed many schools and a place called Asian Consultants International. Some of them didn’t respond, and some of them told me to contact them again when I arrived in Taiwan for openings at that time. So when I arrived, I emailed Julie Teng again, through ACI. Her company is to help schools find English teachers, and so she helped me to find interviews at schools that fit me and also had what I was looking for. All I had to do was to go to the interviews and accept the school that I wanted.

There are some companies who do similar things, and they require a consultant’s fee which is usually 10% of the first month’s salary. But through ACI, the fee was paid by the school I accepted.

How easy is it to find English teaching positions?

It was pretty difficult in the beginning, especially trying to find teaching positions while still in the US because most schools wanted to meet in person immediately, or they needed someone right away. They were also really bad with responding to emails right away. I later learned that making phone calls and showing up in person are definitely more effective than emails. However, once I arrived in Taiwan, I used websites such as tealit.com and esl99.com to find listings. ACI was also very helpful. I was able to obtain interviews rather quickly and within a couple of weeks of landing in Taiwan, I had accepted a position.

Is it necessary to have teaching certificates or training to find employment?

Teaching certificates are not required when teaching at bushibans (the private after-school programs) in Taiwan. Some schools would prefer work experience, however, most of them seemed to require only a bachelor’s degree and a native English accent.

How did you get your first work visa?

I did not need one since I am a Taiwanese citizen. However, my roommate last year obtained hers rather quickly and efficiently through the school she was working at. My understanding so far is that the schools will issue one for those who need it upon hire.

Have their been any benefits or problems with being a Taiwanese American?

Some benefits are definitely not having to worry about work visas and paying the ridiculous amounts of taxes foreigners have to pay. Some problems are that there are some schools that are strictly looking for Caucasians in their teaching positions (Why? I still haven’t quite figured it out yet.) so getting hired by them is quite impossible. Also, if you do get hired at a school, you have to pretend to not know any Chinese!

Is it possible for teachers to arrive without a work visa and look for a job?

Yes, very possible. My roommate last year showed up without one, found a job within a couple of weeks using the websites mentioned before, and her work issued her a visa. She entered on a visitor’s visa which was good for 30 days, so as long as she found a job within 30 days, there were no problems.

What is the cost of living in Taiwan?

Rent would probably average about $10,000NT ($311USD) a person including bills, maybe a little less if there are roommates involved. Food is relatively cheap. A simple meal from a roadside vendor can range from $50-$100NT ($1.55 – $3.11USD). Although, one would expect to eat out more often because most studio apartments here do not have kitchens. Going out on a weekend night can range from $500-$2000NT ($15.55 – $62.20USD), depending on the location and costs of drinks/meals. Most covers at clubs/bars tend to be around $700-$1000NT ($21.77 – $31.10USD).

How much money can the average teacher expect to save?

The typical salary for an English teacher is $50,000-$60,0000NT ($1555 – $1866USD). After food, bills, entertainment expenses, one can expect to save about $20,000 – $30,000NT ($622 – $933USD) a month.

Do you recommend Taiwan for other English teachers?

I definitely recommend Taiwan to other English teachers. The students are pretty easy to teach. Most of them are pretty well-mannered and genuinely want to study English. The quality of life is excellent, especially in a big city like Taipei. For those city-lovers, Taipei is definitely the place to be. And on an English teacher’s salary, you could live quite comfortably in Taiwan. Public transportation is also clean and easy to navigate, so you can get anywhere without trouble. There are also signs in English, so you wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost either.

What do you love and hate about Taiwan?

In Taipei, I love that there’s always something to do, somewhere to go, a diverse group of people to meet, and endless amounts of food and shopping here. The other cities in Taiwan, as well as the coasts, are close by and could easily be made in one-day or weekend-trips so there’s so much to explore around the island.

I hate that Taiwan is so far away from the US, and the plane rides are 13+ hours just to go home.

What advice would you offer for others thinking of teaching English Abroad?

Bring at least $1000USD to hold you over before you finally get a job. Come with an open mind, especially when trying some of the local food. Sometimes, the locals can make you feel like an outsider with the stares and the “Oh, you sound like you’re American,” comments, but most importantly, that it’s important to try to adapt and learn a little bit to be able to somewhat understand and fully experience the local culture. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on your basic grammar and phonics rules that you’ve forgotten you learned way back in elementary school.

How long to you plan on staying in Taiwan?

As of right now, maybe a few more years, but I thought I was only staying for a year when I arrived, and now I’m going on two. So I’m really not quite sure yet.

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