Taiwan Teacher Interview With Andie Ayala
Today we interview one of our Reach To Teach teachers in Taiwan, Andie Ayala!
I am 24 years old and I have been teaching in Taiwan for a total of four months as of now. I always dreamt of traveling but didn’t know how I could make that happen without breaking my wallet. I graduated from college last year and decided it was time to be serious about traveling and looked into teaching abroad. In college, I studied abroad in Europe which proved to be very expensive so I knew that this time I wanted to chose a place to teach that would allow me to save a little money for when I went home. I looked into many different places and asked many different people and decided that Taiwan was the right fit for me. Right now I live 30 minutes outside of Taipei.
How have you enjoyed teaching in Taiwan to date?
I absolutely love teaching in Taiwan and teaching in general. Before coming to Taiwan I had worked with children, but I had never taught. The first day was very nerve-wracking but once I got the hang of it, I loved it. Taiwan is a very friendly country and very safe. There are loads of things to do no matter what your interests are: I have friends who are into the outdoors a lot and they go hiking, surfing and river tracing, if you love food there are amazing restaurants, there is always something going on.
I didn’t know what to expect before getting here but Taiwan keeps surprising me in many great ways. Every time I go to a new city I’m awestruck, Taiwan is filled with some amazing temples and pagodas, surrounded by amazing nature, yet still has a big-city feel in many parts. It truly is a one-of-a-kind place.
What advice can you give to new teachers interested in teaching in Taiwan?
My advice to potential teachers is to really think about how willing they are to adjust to a new culture. While many people speak English, especially in Taipei, there have been many times that I have had to communicate through hand gestures or through the little Mandarin I know, while I consider this a great way to learn Mandarin, it can get frustrating if you need information at a certain time. Taiwanese culture is not drastically different but there are a few practices, customs and dietary habits that are very different from Western ways of thinking. So if you are considering coming here think to yourself, ‘Am I ready to be open to adjusting to a new language?’ ‘Am I ready to be viewed as a foreigner everywhere I go?’ ‘Am I ready to try different foods and ways of thinking?’ In addition, I think it can be hard to really fit in with the foreigner crowd and find a place in the beginning. Eventually, everything will work out but for the first couple of weeks, will you be able to handle dealing with culture shock and being without a support system for a while?
Can you tell us about a particularly powerful moment in your classroom?
I remember one moment when the Chinese teacher for my class had a meeting and had to be gone for one of my younger classes. Not more than five minutes after she left, one of the students broke a piece on his backpack and started crying. When I tried to help the student he only spoke to me in Chinese and I didn’t know what was wrong. I asked the other students to tell me what he was saying and they kept telling me in Chinese, this was my first month so I only knew how to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ in Chinese. I tried to explain to them that I did not understand, that it wasn’t a joke when I said that I only spoke English, but they were very confused as to why I was not listening to them when they were telling me what was wrong until finally, it clicked for one of the students and she told me what was wrong in English. I fixed the toy and the class was back in order quickly but I felt that the class realized in that moment what it meant to speak Chinese and what it meant to speak English. I felt that they realized what speaking another language really meant and how useful it could be. They realized the power of two languages and most helpfully, that I really didn’t speak Chinese or Taiwanese. It was a very powerful moment for me to be a part of that kind of learning. After that, whenever they hear Chinese they make an effort to translate for me.
What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Taiwan?
I think Taiwan is a very safe country, very reliable, very friendly. One time one of my friends lost her wallet and after looking for it for two hours, found it on the floor of a parking lot completely untouched with all her money inside. You hear those kinds of stories all the time, I’ve forgotten shopping bags in restaurants and have always found things exactly where I left them. It is the kind of place where you can really live well if you teach English and there are plenty of things to do. It is very affordable, very easy to travel within and there are plenty of foreigners who live here.
That being said, I think a few of the negative sides of Taiwan are that it can be very smoggy at times within Taipei city and there is not much of a bar scene like there is at home. Obviously, there are many foods that are pretty expensive here or hard to find, dairy especially.
I have traveled to Hsinchu, Kenting, Tai Dong, and Hualien (Taroko Gorge). Each place was absolutely breathtaking, I really want to explore more of Taiwan but that will have to wait because for now I’m planning a trip to Japan for the summer and hopefully a trip to South East Asia later on.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
If you are looking for a place to teach, I definitely think you should consider Taiwan, it is a pretty underrated place. It is truly very beautiful but don’t feel obligated to teach just in Taipei. There are many beautiful places to explore within Taiwan that deserve a second look.
Do you have any favorite blogs or websites about Taiwan that you’d like to share with our readers?
I personally love http://taipei543.com/
Thanks a lot for your time, Andie!