Interview With JP – Teach in Taiwan During COVID19 – My Experience

Teaching in Taiwan in 2020 During COVID19

What do you have to do to teach in Taiwan during COVID19? Learn about the process from Teacher JP.

We’re back with another amazing story about Reach To Teach teachers that have taken the plunge to teach in Taiwan during COVID19! It’s no small thing to move abroad during a pandemic, especially when you’re coming from a country that is a known hot zone. The sheer amount of paperwork and preparation you need to do in advance can be overwhelming, but we like to tell our teachers, ‘If you’re persistent, Reach To Teach will get you through it!

Let’s go with our interview with Teacher JP.

JP arrived in Taiwan in September 2020, and I began working with him in January 2020.

RTT: Hi JP. We’ve worked together all year and I feel like I know you well, but please tell our readers a little about yourself. 

Teacher JP: My name is JP Venman and I am from the US. Michigan, specifically. I was born and raised there my whole life. I attended Michigan State University and graduated with a General Management degree from the business college. I have no prior experience teaching a class.

However, to prepare for teaching in Taiwan, I worked as an activity leader for an after-school program through the YMCA, coaching  students K-5.

RTT: Why did you decide to come and teach in Taiwan during COVID19?

Teacher JP: I actually made the decision to teach overseas before the pandemic was ever even a thing. I started online training beginning of October 2019. I had really structured my life around preparing to move overseas. But then the pandemic hit the US. I was unsure if I would even be able to leave the US to teach in Taiwan during COVID19.

Thankfully, Taiwan handled things very well and after the US calmed down in the summer I did not want to delay further. Therefore, even though the world still was going through a pandemic – and still is – I did not know when would be a “good”
time to teach overseas.

So, I made the leap.

I felt very comfortable coming to Taiwan as their Covid response was among the best!

Taiwan really makes people earn their way into the country – as evidenced by a required quarantine for 14 days. In my mind that is what has helped them stay strong during this pandemic.

RTT: How was your experience leading up to processing all your paperwork for moving to Taiwan? When did you start the application process? Did you find it hard to do all of the paperwork requirements in the US? Did anyone say anything about your decision to teach in Taiwan during COVID19?

Teacher JP: The experience of all the paperwork was long and quite tedious. I was offered a position in early/mid-June and began the documents and paperwork in late June.

I cannot say it was hard. Rather, it was frustrating at times and required patience and consistent work. It took having a strong “why” and desire to come over that pushed me through the long and drawn out documents process.

Reach to Teach had a step-by-step process for how to acquire my FBI background check. That helped tremendously. From there, it was figuring out my health form – which took multiple visits to the doctor’s office. Then I had to ship my documents to the TECO office in Chicago.

Thankfully, they processed things rather quick. Although it can be up in the air sometimes when relying on others to get things done, they got things done in a relatively timely manner. It was tough to communicate with the TECO Chicago office though. Their emails were also quite brief!

That is where having my overseas recruiting manager from my school, as well as Carrie’s help at Reach To Teach, really helped me out a lot.

RTT: Has your new school been supportive throughout this whole process? How did you enjoy working with them and with Reach To Teach? For a while there, things were pretty crazy! We are so impressed with how you were on top of everything. It has really been a lot of fun to work with you!

Teacher JP: Yes, they have both been very supportive! The school and Carrie at Reach To Teach have responded to emails
consistently and answering my plethora of questions.

Carrie, from Reach to Teach, was a blessing to work with.

She answered a bunch of questions I had as well and was willing to check in on how I was doing from time to time. As I know no one in Taiwan, my school recruiting manager and Carrie made me feel like I had people I knew, which really helped me feel confident with transitioning over to Taiwan.

The craziness never really died down! I felt quarantine was the first time I was able to take a breath and soak it all in, as I finally made it after such a long and drawn out process due to Covid and the documents.

I am grateful for all the help I received from both my school and Carrie during the process though!

Originally, I questioned whether I needed an ESL recruiter to assist me. However, I do not know where I would be right now if I had not originally contacted Reach to Teach.

RTT: Could you describe what happened when you arrived in Taiwan and were given your quarantine instructions by the government? 

Teacher JP: The first step was the SIM card. After that was figuring out my new number and filling out a health form on my phone. The language barrier was difficult but entertaining. I figured things out so that is all that matters! I can’t entirely
remember every step I had to go through as I made my way through the airport. It was a lot to soak in.

I do know I went through a few more stops where they made sure my form was filled out and then I went through customs.

There was plenty of help along the way to direct and guide me – again, not easy because I don’t speak a lick of Chinese – but it was manageable.

After grabbing my bags, I met with a driver assigned to me by my school. He took me straight from the airport to my quarantine hotel. The hotel was prepared for me and I went straight to my room and have been here ever since! I am writing this on day 13 out of 14.

Although, this is technically my 15th day in the room. However, since I arrived to the hotel at 7am, that first day did not count since it wasn’t a “full” day.

RTT: How has quarantine gone for you? What is a normal day like for you?

Teacher JP: Quarantine has gone very well. At times I feel like this is my entire trip here. And that I will head back to the airport after this and fly home. Alas, that is not the case and my experience here has not even begun!

The first few days were definitely an adjustment. Getting used to the time change and overcoming jet lag was tough. But I started a steady routine on Day 3. A normal day for me is up around sunrise, do some yoga and stretching, eat, and then do my school training, learn some of the language, workout, listen to podcasts, eat lunch, and then tackle the afternoon.

The afternoon can feel quite long for me. So, to help, I put in some things to do at certain times to keep some structure. My afternoon includes doing more yoga, reading, watching some Taiwan videos, practicing some breath work, and other
odds and ends up until dinner.

Dinner is at 7 and then I am usually in bed at 9pm.

The food from my hotel is delivered at three set times: 7:30am, 12:30pm, and 7:00pm

I have enjoyed the food. Although, if someone has tendencies to be picky about their food they eat, it may be a turn off at times. So, have an open mind with the food! Also, at times the portions can feel like not enough food for me. I have not ordered food yet, but I know several people in my training have.

If you like to eat a lot, bring some snacks or download a food delivery app!

RTT: What advice would you give to new teachers that have to go through quarantine before they can teach in Taiwan during COVID19? Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?

Teacher JP: I would tell a new teacher to ask themselves: “Is it worth it?”

Is two weeks in quarantine worth trading in for a full year in a new country? I can’t even say I know that answer for sure as I am still in quarantine! But my answer to that question before coming over was absolutely a “yes”. I found it very much worth sacrificing
two weeks in order to live in a foreign country for the next year.

In the grand scheme of things two weeks is nothing.

The first few days were a challenge. After that, it has been smooth for me. Reading, learning the language (I’m using Duolingo), yoga and working out, podcasts, and training from my school have kept me occupied. I’d recommend people bring any books they enjoy.

Be open to learning new things or investing time into topics of interest. Taiwanese television can also be quite entertaining to flip through!

RTT: Do you have any favorite blogs, resources, or websites about Taiwan that you’d like to share with our readers? (Housing, info, etc.?)

Teacher JP: Not necessarily. I used Nomadic Matt’s resources on teaching in Taiwan to help me decide if a TEFL course was a right move for me. He then directed me to Carrie at Reach to Teach. She was a tremendous help. I trusted her from the beginning.

Carrie and my school were my resources about Taiwan. With all my questions, I was able to get all my answers from my connections in Taiwan. My connections being my school and Carrie!

RTT: JP, I’d say we’re friends now with the amount of texting and calls and emails we’ve had going back and forth since March. Anything else to add?

YouTube videos about Taiwan also helped sway me towards coming here. If you need some further insight into Taiwan… YouTube can be your friend! I’m not a blogger or a huge social networker. However, I am very open for anyone to message me on Facebook Messenger with questions!

Just type in “JP Venman” and let me know how I can be of assistance.

I’d like to thank Carrie for all her help. I encourage anyone wanting to teach overseas to use Reach to Teach as your #1 resource for teaching in Taiwan.

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