International English Teaching Project

A travel through South East Asia

Date: 2015-10-13 - Comments: 1 - Author: - Category: Travel

My two friends and I decided to travel through South East Asia this year. When we finally made a plan of the countries we wanted to visit we were recommended this H’Exchange program in the very North of Vietnam. Before leaving home we met up with Guilia and Bea to discuss the arrangements and to hear about all the teaching they had already done in the village, by this point we were very keen and excited to get out there and meet all the amazing people we’d heard about in the tiny little village of Hau Thao.

Once arriving in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, we became a little more apprehensive about the following weeks-spending time in a completely unknown place with new people and taking on task we’d never tried before. However, the day before leaving for Sapa we made a call to our host May to confirm a pick up and it instantly put our minds at ease.After having a quick chat with May we were so excited to start this new adventure, she seemed so lovely and so pleased herself. A 6 hour sleeper bus later we arrived in Sapa to swarms of village women in their traditional clothing offering us home stays, which we had to politely decline until we finally met May. May was extremely welcoming, she seemed as excited to meet us as we were her. She told us all about the time Guilia and Bea spent in the village and the impact it had on the kids and families of Hau Thao.

After a quick lunch in one of the local street food restaurants with May we were taken on the most insanely beautiful motorbike rides through the mountains and rice fields. All of us completely breath taken and so excited to be spending the next couple of weeks there. We arrived in Hau Thao about 20 minutes later and lead up the mountain to Mays home by her lovely husband Khu, shortly after arriving at the house we were greeted by her youngest son Sung (5), who is the most adorable kid in the world. Throughout the day we gradually met the rest of the family, her other two sons Lung (12) and Chang (8). We were welcomed into the family instantly and experienced May and Khu’s amazing home vietnamese cooking and introduced to more of her friends and family from Hau Thao and the surrounding villages.

We discussed a schedule that night with May for teaching the kids and asked what they were particularly interested in learning. So at around 6:00 that evening kids were piling in to start the first lesson and soon Mays house had turned into a mini school of excited children ranging from the ages of 4-16 years old. We were overwhelmed by the turn out considering the size of the village itself and the enthusiasm of the kids was incredibly rewarding. Our first lesson required some planning so before we started we had sketched up some visual aids for the teaching as most of our teaching was through demonstration and repetition. For the first class we simply went over the information Guilia and Bea had provided us with and needed repetition. This consisted of a written up alphabet, the days of the week (that were still up hung on the walls from Guilia and Bea), animals, colours, numbers and greetings. We were amazed at how quickly they picked it up and how good their memories were which left us with a lot of planning for the next couple of weeks.

The following lessons we invented new games which the kids all seemed to enjoy immensely. For actions we made up our own movements to complement the word. Then, we would either shout out the word and the kids would have to do the action or we would do the action and they’d have to shout out the word. Another game they loved (probably because it was so competitive) was one where we drew images that they’d recognise from our pictures of clothes or food for example. The class was split into two groups and one person from each team would come to the front and we would shout out the word and the first kid to pick up the image that complemented the word would win a point for their team-we had to make endless copies of the images for every game because they were always ruined because of the excitement. We also played a drawing game in which one student would come to the front and draw a basic image from what we taught to the class and the rest of the students would have to guess what they were drawing. I could go on forever about the countless games we played with them but the main aim was that they enjoyed the games and it made the learning even funner for them.

As the lessons went on we were able to move out of the basic repetition they were used to and were able to expand their vocabulary in familiar areas. We managed to increase their knowledge of animals for example by teaching them names of insects and other animals they may come across outside of the village. We taught them more in-depth emotions and gave them a larger sentence structure for certain areas, so they could form a sentence. Something we recognised may be important to their knowledge were senses. To teach them their senses we used visual imagery again however, we were able to make it more impressive by playing a game that allowed them to pair senses with food etc. This allowed them to make a longer sentence such as “I taste the noodles.” or “I see the waterfall.”, eventually we could pair not only senses but actions as well “I’m washing in the waterfall.” Another helpful aspect we taught was the time. This they picked up amazingly quickly, we simply drew analogue clocks with the digital time written below. To learn this initially they would draw a clock with the time that we would give them. After they got the hang of it we played a game in which we made a massive clock on the floor out of sticky notes with all the numbers. We would give two students either the big or small hand of the clock and then shout out a time and they would have to place the hands in the correct places.

On our last day we were treated to a huge celebration with all of our students, their parents, May’s family and others from the village. We were showered with gifts to thank us, when we really should have been thanking them. Overall, we had an amazing time teaching in Hau Thao, we really felt that our work had a larger impact on the villagers and their lives too. One of the most rewarding feelings in the world! I could not ask for a better way to spend my time travelling and I’m so glad that we were lucky enough to get this chance and to be welcomed by such genuine caring people. We loved our entire experience there and didn’t want to leave after the two and a half weeks.. We were so lucky to be welcomed into such a tight knit community so openly. And leaving was the hardest part, but I really hope to return soon!

Awesome experience, I’d definitely recommend. Thank you so much!

Niamh, Gina and Tirza.