Interview with Teacher Toni: Life in Taiwan After Quarantine Is Great!
Learn about life in Taiwan for Teacher Toni and check out our final teacher interview of 2020.
In today’s interview, we’re introducing you to Teacher Antonia, known fondly to the RTT team as Coach Toni. Before we jump into our interview, we’d like to thank our teachers once again for being so patient and understanding during this most difficult of years.
It takes a lot of patience, planning, and going with the flow to move abroad during a pandemic year. I know, because I flew into SARS in China in 2003. It takes a special sort of person to persist and move forward with these types of plans, especially when the whole world is experiencing such trying times.
We’re proud of our teachers and we’ve loved meeting them this year. (And yes, we met Toni last month and she’s officially part of the family now!)
RTT: Hi Coach Toni! I started working with you this summer and I must say, you really know how to hustle. I was so impressed with how persistent you were and how quickly you got everything done for your move to Taiwan. It must feel surreal being here. I feel like I know you fairly well and have enjoyed our talks and correspondence. Could you please tell our readers a little about yourself?
Teacher Toni: It does feel surreal being here. To start, I will tell you a little bit about myself. I have been teaching for five years as a full time physical education teacher in primarily Spanish and Chinese immersion schools. I am very energetic, competitive, and love a new adventure. As stated, I can be very persistent and once I set my mind to do something I am sure to do it, or at least come close.
RTT: Why did you decide to teach in Taiwan during COVID19?
Teacher Toni: Teaching abroad has always been a dream of mine. I walk to work every day and I am still wide eyed and bushy tailed. For anyone coming from nearly any other country, if you choose Taiwan prepare to step foot into an unusual Utopian island.
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 Toni: I will not lie and say the process was easy. It was stressful. You have to make a list and tackle one thing at a time. The main challenge was getting doctor appointments in a timely fashion. I would print out multiple copies just in case you mess up or the doctor forgets to sign something. During the pandemic there is little room for error because getting another appointment can mean 2-3 weeks later and will delay everything. I started my application process two months before arriving in Taiwan.
In addition, my fingerprints suddenly became ineligible. If you are as lucky as I am you will have to continue to pay and send off new fingerprints until they am eligible, no exceptions!
This can be very time consuming and expensive. In the end I had a letter written on my behalf stating my fingerprints had vanished! If you wash your hands a lot or use chemicals to clean, etc., this can easily happen to you too! Beware and prepare!
RTT: I’ve heard this from many teachers this year and was so surprised the first time it happened with fingerprints. Thanks for the reminder! What was the quarantine process like for you? How did things go at the airport when you arrived? Can you tell us a bit about how you spent your time in quarantine? Is life in Taiwan what you expected it to be?
Teacher Toni: Quarantine was not great; I made the best of it. If you are active like me I suggest bringing a jump rope and a TRX and some protein shake! I am a vegetarian and the food that is served in quarantine hotels contains many meat products. The protein shake I brought with me saved my life. As well as Uber Eats!
Set some daily goals, make time for FaceTime, and soak up your “you” time. Once you get out you will not stop running. The day after quarantine I had a day to get some essentials and then immediately began working. Not to mention there are endless activities to explore in Taiwan, which I’ve greatly enjoyed!
RTT: Yes, and we’re going to make sure we show you more about life in Taiwan in 2021! That’s a great tip about protein shakes. I keep telling teachers to pack comfort food and to make sure they add UberEats and FoodPanda for fresh veg and fruit deliveries in quarantine!
Has your new school been supportive since you arrived here? How are things going with your new school? We understand you’re just a few months into your new position and it’s still new, but we’d love to hear your thoughts if you feel comfortable sharing.
Teacher Toni: Despite the hurdles of living in a hotel box for 15 days, traveling for two days on an airplane, and being on lockdown for six months in California there is an end. My new school has been beyond supportive. My “Taipei Moms” have helped me to find a place to live, get groceries, set health appointments, showed me around the neighborhood and they helped me open a bank account! I love them.
RTT: Taipei Moms are the best. I have a Granny Club in my building that feeds me all the time! 🙂
How did you enjoy working with Reach To Teach? For two months, things were really stressful while waiting for your documents to come in and we know it was hard. Was there anything we could’ve improved on?
Teacher Toni: It was very helpful to have a checklist of things to bring that Taiwan didn’t have. I would suggest a checklist of items to plan for immediately upon arrival.
Furnished apartments are not fully furnished. With housing deposit, flight costs, house hold appliances, new climate clothes, food, quarantine hotel, and toiletries I averaged around 5,000 US dollars or more.
Reach To Teach recommends that teachers bring a MINIMUM of $3,500 to Taiwan to get started, but they also emphasize bringing more. Carrie will go over the basic costs with you, but she’ll be very firm about saying it’s impossible to do it on less than $3,500, especially with quarantine costs.
I would suggest providing more information around the salary and contract logistics. Every school is different and the contracts can be very confusing and intimidating at first. Especially if you must make a career choice within 24 hours or less. Possibly providing a brief video to refer back to regarding the information about paying taxes in Taiwan and holidays off in Taiwan would be helpful.
This way Reach to Teach doesn’t have to continuously repeat this important information.
RTT: That’s a great idea. Yes, taxes in Taiwan can be confusing. A video might help with that! I’m not sure how we’d do that for holidays on Taiwan since we operate on the Lunar Calendar, but I send this Taiwan holiday link out in my very first Welcome email to all teachers. I hope it helps.
Now that you’ve experienced life in Taiwan for a few months, how do you like it?
Teacher Toni: After living in Taiwan for a few months I love it more and more each day! This country continues to surprise me with daily goodness.
RTT: What advice would you give to new teachers that are thinking of teaching abroad during a pandemic? Should they go for it?
Teacher Toni: Many people looked at me like I was crazy leaving and quitting my job during a pandemic. If this has happened to you, all the more reason to just go for it! Those people are not on your level but there are plenty of other foreigners who are and you will meet them in Taiwan.
RTT: Do you think having a recruiter was a plus for you?
Teacher Toni: Yes, I really enjoyed working with Carrie and Rex. I felt we knew each other so well even before we ever met! I never felt stupid for asking “stupid” questions. Having a recruiter helps immensely! I highly recommend exploring all options available to you and seeking help!
RTT: Toni, there are no stupid questions. We’re glad we were able to answer everything for you and questions are good. It means teachers are thinking ahead and preparing! Is there anything else you’d like prospective teachers to know about for 2021 and for teaching in Taiwan?
Teacher Toni: Food for thought: BE FLEXIBLE.
For the past few years I was set on perusing Spain and becoming fluent in Spanish. Once the pandemic happened I quickly discovered my job options we limited and I needed to let go of this fantasy and see what else was out there. I decided to open my mind up to new possibilities. Once I did this it became clear Taiwan was where I was meant to be.
Now that I am here it is crystal clear and I am fully in. I encourage anyone reading this to do the same. Sometimes the “plan” we have is not meant for us and if we are open and flexible enough the “new plan” might be the best choice you ever made for yourself.
You never knew what opportunities will follow. Good luck!Please share!