Alissa’s Story: Coming To Taiwan During COVID Through Reach To Teach
Alissa’s Story: Coming To Taiwan During COVID Through Reach To Teach
2022 Quarantine Edition
RTT: Hi Alissa! First off, congratulations and welcome to Taiwan! You’re waited close to a year to get here and have navigated the many different changes that have happened with coming to Taiwan during COVID. Can you believe we started working together in July 2021! How are you feeling about that extra-long wait to get to Taiwan? Could you please tell our readers a little about yourself?
Hi Carrie! I can’t believe it’s almost been a year either. The time flew but seemed to go by so slowly. Ever since I boarded the plane to Taiwan and arrived here, I don’t think it’s truly hit me yet. I’m happy, grateful, and excited for what’s to come. I’m stepping further into unknowns, and I love it. Every day I look outside the window of my quarantine hotel, and I think, “Wow, I’m actually going to live my life here!” (I’m out now, by the way. I started teaching this week at my school in Taichung.)
Oh yes, I have to introduce myself!
Hi, everyone! I’m excited to share this journey with you as I am currently sitting in my quarantine room! I am 23 years old, and I’m from the U.S. I love reading, writing, watching food docu-series and good films, and even doing yoga and pilates! I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher, but I also wanted the flexibility to take care of myself, be on my own, meet new people, learn languages, eat good food, and immerse myself in different cultures!
Doing more research about life in Taiwan and Taiwanese culture, I figured we’d fit together somehow.
RTT: Could you walk us through the paperwork process for obtaining your employment visa to Taiwan?
At the beginning of the process, I already had my background check, four passport photos, a copy of my passport, reference letters, and certifications. I had to wait for my physical diploma to arrive in July 2021, which is when I planned on coming, but as we all know, Taiwan’s borders closed in May 2021, so I had to wait.
Now, the health check, well, that took me two months to get. The health check shouldn’t be a problem, but it is tedious, so please take your time.
Ensure your health service provider administers the proper tests. Check with your designated TECO (Taipei Economic and Culture Office) to ensure you have everything before sending it off to them for authentication. Also, make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations, especially your COVID vaccinations, as you can’t enter Taiwan without them.
I had everything ready to go around September 2021 to send out, but I still had to wait because the borders weren’t opening as we had thought.
RTT: When did you start the application process? Did you find it hard to do all of the paperwork requirements in the US?
For the employment visa, this wasn’t too hard. I was a bit more careful with my paperwork since I had experienced some setbacks in my work permit paperwork process. I knew how to send things in quickly, and I started the resident visa application at the beginning of March 2022. As soon as Carrie at Reach To Teach gave me the go-ahead that the borders had opened, I called TECO to confirm, and the representative gave me all the information on the paperwork I needed so that I wouldn’t run into any problems.
My school had just sent over the work permit and another piece of paperwork I needed. I completed my visa application online and made sure everything was correct.Reach To Teach has written extensive guides on how to complete the visa application and how to complete the quarantine information. It truly saved time and energy! Click To Tweet
I didn’t want to mess up this process as coming to Taiwan during COVID has proved to be a lengthy process for everyone, so I called TECO a few more times for clarity.
I had my passport photos taken within the proper time frame, passport, money order, visa application (make sure the barcode shows!), and my official work permit.
Every TECO office is different so double-check with yours to ensure you have everything you need. I sent my application through priority express, and it got there in one day! With the self-addressed pre-paid return envelope you have to include, I also had that as Priority Express, so when they send the visa and receipt back to me, I wouldn’t have to wait so long.
When I first spoke to the TECO visa representative, she said it could take up to two weeks depending on the number of applications they receive, but it only took five days for me!
As soon as I got it back, and started booking flights, and booking a quarantine hotel began!
RTT: Did anyone say anything about coming to Taiwan during COVID? What did they think about your decision to teach in Taiwan during a global pandemic?
Oh my goodness, yes! My father was very pessimistic and worried about my decision. But he knows that I’m going to do whatever is in my heart regardless of what anyone says.
I didn’t like to tell many people about my plans to move and teach. Just my close family and close friends knew, and they’ve been so supportive, loving, and excited for me. Especially my mom! I really couldn’t have done this without her! Whenever I felt doubtful or anxious about my decision and if it was possible because of the prolonged circumstance, she always guided me to what I already knew.
RTT: How was your experience leading up to processing all your paperwork for moving to Taiwan?
Gathering all the paperwork was taxing, but the health check was a doozy for me. I had to keep getting my background check redone because it would expire while waiting. It wasn’t definite that the borders were opening then, but I still wanted to have everything prepared just in case.
The first time I sent in my health check to be authenticated by TECO, they sent it back a couple of days later because I had it notarized incorrectly, and I got confused with the self-addressed pre-paid envelope.
Around this time, I began to think if Taiwan was even possible. The process was tiresome and costly when it came to shipping. I ran around to my doctor’s office, getting it notarized, double-checking everything at the post office before sending it off. Then I had to do the health check again because the immigration office flagged the first one I sent to Taiwan due to it becoming expired. I was so defeated, but I didn’t stay down for too long!
RTT: Yes, you have been such a trooper! We know how hard you’ve worked and how persistent you’ve been. We’re overjoyed that you’re here and we’ve been able to chat with you now that you’re here. What has the quarantine process been like for you so far? Can you describe a day in quarantine?
I am very grateful for this time in quarantine. It’s given me some time to adjust, rest, and prepare for what’s coming next. Then, I hit the wall around day four; I am currently on day eight out of ten.
I’ll explain a COVID self-test day in quarantine!
So, now my body wakes up at 4am in the morning. I can usually get enough sleep. When booking your quarantine hotel, you can have meals brought to you or not. You can also have food delivered to you through Uber Eats if not through the hotel. I had food brought to me through the hotel ands I’ve included some photos so you can see what meals like. I never know what I’m going to get, and it’s a surprise every time. I look forward to it every day. The staff can’t knock on the door or ring the doorbell though.
There is a chair in front of my door where the food is placed. Also, the staff gives you extra toiletries, tea bags, instant coffee, cups, and small trash bags. Whenever I need to throw out trash, I just place it on the tray under my chair, and the staff will come to pick it up around 2:30 pm every day!
My morning starts with a meditation around 6am after laying in bed for a while. I go to brush my teeth and wash my face. Then a moderate home workout. It rejuvenates me and prepares me for the day of isolation ahead. I have my first meal between 7 am to 7:30 am. If I oversleep, it just sits out on the chair. There is no microwave here, and I don’t want cold food, so maybe that’s why I’m up so early. Or I’ll order some Breakfast or Brunch through Uber Eats if I want something a little extra; my favorite place so far is MWD (My Warm Day), and it’s so good!
I’ll open the curtains to let the sun in; my view might not be special to others. But it is to me. Down below, I’ve become invested in watching the man throwing scraps of wood out of a building, watching electricians work on stuff, and listening to the sirens and garbage trucks chimes that move throughout Taichung.
It’s a grand time as the simple things in life move me.
As the day goes on, I receive automated messages from the CECC to check my well-being. Another check-in message from Foreign Affairs.
It’s 10 am, and I’ll do my COVID self-test. It’s lunchtime between 11 am to 11:30 am, making me even more excited! I’ll wait for my food, snatch it up and eat it! Then I’ll make tea with the kettle I have in here. In the afternoon, I’ll do my teacher training through the school app and use the books my school sent for reference for what the students will be learning. I might order some bubble tea or personal items from the pharmacy through Uber Eats (not sponsored.) By day 4, I’ve become Pavlov’s dog to the sound of a wrestled plastic bag or lunchbox put on the chair.
As the evening falls, I have dinner between 5 pm to 5:30 pm. The dinner is exquisite! I’ll likely watch a series of YouTube videos or a new drama I’ve been trying to catch up on (note: Get a VPN. HBO Max is not available in Taiwan. Also, a lot of content on different services is not available here as well as Netflix and Hulu)
Then, I’ll start to wind down my day with a shower, journaling, and maybe reading. Light’s out for me around 9 pm or 10 pm!
So, I say this to whoever makes their way to Taiwan and will likely be in quarantine.
Please take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally in quarantine. The days will seem long.
RTT: This is the best description we’ve received so far about life in quarantine from our teachers, Alissa. Thanks for walking us through it. How did things go at the airport when you arrived in Taiwan?
It was so amazing! It was my first experience of culture shock here, and it was awesome! I didn’t expect it to happen so soon.
My admiration for Taiwan started to multiply when I realized that Taiwanese people do not mess around, especially regarding the pandemic. There is so much care to look after their own, but they give foreigners the same amount of care.
I come from the U.S., which has an entirely different pandemic culture.
After getting off the plane, we were guided into a waiting area to receive our PCR test (this is the first of many you will have to take.) I waited for my name to be called, and then I was given a sticker with a number on it. The staff was so efficient! I proceeded to test with the swab going back in the nostrils; if you’re not a fan of that, you’ve been warned! I think you have to wait for your results to be processed.
Everything was very structured and streamlined to what you’d need. After waiting an hour for your results, you’re good to leave and head down for arrival through a quarantine taxi.
Before doing so, I had to get a Taiwan SIM card to get my test results, receive my COVID Rapid Test kit, and the staff explained how the test kit must be used through quarantine and self-management quarantine. I went to the currency exchange. I headed to customs when I had to show them my visa and custom form (which you fill out on the plane, so keep a pen with you!)
I headed down to baggage claim to grab all of my stuff, and before you can leave, your bags might be searched. I didn’t have anything worth flagging, but I willfully had mine searched by a sweet doggy! He’s a little Beagle on duty! Umm, worth it!
Once I had my bags, I waited in line for a quarantine taxi. But before you do that, you are sprayed down with sanitizer. All of your body, except your face, the bottoms of your shoes, and even your luggage! I got my paperwork detailing the reason for my stay and quarantine hotel, and it was given to the driver. Then into the quarantine taxi I went and I was headed to Taichung!
RTT: Has your new school been supportive since you arrived here?
My school has been so caring and supportive! I have never received this kind of support before, so I am excited to give back in my way through teaching! Before I arrived in Taiwan, my school manager sent me a message through Line to welcome me and introduce herself.
My school director and manager would check on me to ensure I got here safely. My manager still does throughout my time in quarantine. She even brought me bubble tea when dropping off my school books, a queen!
My school is also helping me with an apartment to rent, for which I am just so grateful! In Taiwan, it can be challenging for foreigners to find a place to rent because some landlords aren’t willing to rent to them. I’ve just secured a sweet, little apartment for NT$12,000 and I’ve found out Ms. Gina is just as nice in person as she is with her messages.
Even with the training process and questions about teaching, I just ask my school director or manager, and I get supportive and clear feedback from them. I am excited to meet my students and grow as a teacher here!
RTT: What advice would you give to new teachers thinking of teaching abroad during a pandemic? Should they go for it?
You totally should! But only if you like children and have a genuine interest in teaching. When you start interviewing with schools, they will likely ask you that. Mine did. So I advise you to think deeply about that; it’s not a vacation. It shows when you don’t have an interest in the kids you’re teaching or what you’re teaching. Children pick up on these things; they will know. Coming here and doing this work has to come from a real place.
There is nothing wrong with considering using a recruiter. Not one bit. I was recommended to use Reach To Teach through International TEFL Academy’s Student Affairs office. I completely understand why!
I’ve been working with RTT since July, I believe. I knew I was in gracious hands two seconds after my initial interview with Carrie; even through the waiting, it’s been great!
Also, this is a giant leap! Listen to your heart!
Obstacles may come along, but you will get through. I know it!
Carrie told me it would go fast once everything was ready to go, and she wasn’t lying. When traveling to Taiwan, it’s crucial to take of yourself. All the traveling wherever you’re coming from is draining. So, take the journey of coming here or wherever you want to teach day by day. Even hour by hour.
Through all the chaos, just take a moment to realize how far you’ve come and how far you have to go. It’s a riveting time. Please give yourself grace for allowing yourself to expand in a new direction. Take it easy.
RTT: Do you think having a recruiter was a plus for you?
OMG YES! Teaching abroad was utterly new to me, and I knew I needed help doing all of this. Carrie, it’s just been fantastic working with you and your team. I wouldn’t be here without your help! Could I have done this on my own? Possibly.
But it would’ve been a hot mess and taken me even longer to get here. I didn’t know what was going on in Taiwan, so I probably would’ve been behind in processing all my paperwork, especially waiting for a visa.
Reach To Teach has been excellent. I’ve learned so much on my journey to Taiwan. I have a new life because of your kindness, dedication, and guidance! Thank you for even choosing my application and helping me get here. I’m beyond words. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I’m excited!
I’m grateful to interview for you, and I hope that this was insightful to anyone planning to teach and start something new. Byeee!
You are too kind. I think one benefit to waiting a year – and there’s really only one – is that we got to know each other quite well while we were waiting for borders to open. I’m so glad I’ve also had time to catch up with you on the phone in Taichung and I look forward to meeting you in person soon, Alissa.
Thanks so much for your time, Alissa. We know other teachers that are considering moving to Taiwan will be interested in learning about Taiwan quarantine and what to expect. They’ll also appreciate your invaluable tips. Have the most amazing year in Taiwan!
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