I teach English in Cambodia. Why teach in Cambodia? This article explains how I made the move here, gained my TEFL qualification and found employment teaching English overseas. South Africa is the place of my birth, my roots, my country and my anchor. I love South Africa dearly. Last year however, my situation became untenable after two decades of being a self employed professional artist. Last year, after a spate of burglaries and thefts, no foreseeable future and a plummeting economy, I started research to find an alternative to my situation. I was about to turn 40 and needed somewhere I could find gainful employment with my specific skill set. It unveiled some interesting facts about the prospects for someone like me. To teach in Cambodia was one of them.
Obviously, the options are limited without a degree but there were a handful of countries that would be viable. I considered guinea pig farming in Ecuador, orchid cultivation in Uruguay, houseboat management on Lake Kariba in Zambia and admin work in Georgia. All of these options required a considerable investment with no real guarantees of returns. Then one day over a cup of coffee researching Asia, my eye caught a website in Cambodia.
A short introduction teaching in Cambodia
First of all, the Kingdom of Cambodia is not for everyone. It is rough around the edges, like Hessian cloth. Unpretentious, direct and unrefined with a rich history. Some might even call it a backwater of Asia. This is all true to some extent when viewed from a developed western perspective. The same is true of Africa and as a South African, I was intrigued to explore this option.
Secondly, I love nature and the outdoors. I also have a fascination with the tropics. Not the postcard tropical island idyll but the jungle. Raw, unspoiled tropical rain forest. Cambodia has the largest remaining uninterrupted stretch of tropical rain forest in Asia. It is a vast and beautiful place with a long chain of mountainous terrain called the Cardamom mountains running through it. It is accessible mostly only by boat on the numerous gentle winding rivers. I took the pictures posted in this blog on our recent trip out on the Tatai River to the nearest waterfall.
Is teaching in Cambodia safe?
Cambodia is still recovering from an horrific recent past. A brutal civil war and resulting dictatorship wreaked havoc on a gentle people. The trauma runs deep here and the population deeply resents violence of any kind. There is virtually no crime and the people are incredibly honest. It managed to reaffirm my belief in the positive intrinsic nature of humanity. This place had changed my life for the better.
About TEFL in Cambodia
The website I came across changed my life. It was a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) website. Teaching? Me? Never. Or so I thought. We started researching the field of teaching English in Asia. I found that besides from Laos, Cambodia is the only country in Asia that allows someone to teach English without a degree. I was well aware of all the TEFL scams in South East Asia (Thailand and China come to mind) and wanted to be sure that this was legal. A long story short, it is totally legal.
All that is required is a good command of the English language and a TEFL certificate with some practical experience. Cambodia is developing rapidly. It is struggling to meet its demands for decent, qualified English teachers.
Deciding to teach English in Cambodia
We decided to take the plunge and booked our tickets to Cambodia in January of 2019. A private taxi picked us up at Phnom Pehn International Airport. We were driven across the country to Koh Kong. Koh Kong is on the western coast of Cambodia. This is where we were to attain our TEFL certification.
We did not know what to expect. No amount of research could ever guarantee a physical outcome. You must implement your research in reality. We were astounded. The TEFL course is presented at a small English language school in Koh Kong City. It provides education for 122 Cambodian students between the ages of 4 and 18. This is where we gained our practical experience. Our course material was handed down to us by Nico Millen. He is the course instructor and principal of Koh Kong World Academy.
The TEFL course
The 4 week course was comprehensive, hands on and relevant. The course also provides valuable cultural insight of a society vastly different to western civilization. This turned out to be the hidden gem when teaching Asian students. Most Asian students are not familiar with the Latin alphabet. It is almost impossible to teach them the English language and it’s phonetics using traditional blackboard teaching techniques. The practical teaching component and the teaching methodology developed by Nico Millen over 8 years of teaching English in Asia, made it possible to traverse the language gap. It allowed me to teach these inspiring kids successfully.
Since completing our course, we have found gainful employment here in Koh Kong as English teachers. We are loving it. We have also seen many fellow South Africans complete the course since January 2019. They have all found employment in Cambodia. Nico Millen has a fantastic track record of helping his TEFL students. He can boast of the fact that 100% of his students have found employment as English teachers in Cambodia.
Easy visas and no red tape
I have spent years in a line at the South African Department of Home Affairs for relevant paperwork. I cannot convey the ease of process here in Cambodia. South Africans can visit Cambodia without a prior arranged visa. You get your 30 day visa on arrival for $35. Your employer applies for your work permit (which you pay $200 for). Acquiring a one year multiple entry visa is as easy as paying between $280 and $300 (depending on the service provider). This one year visa can then be extended indefinitely, year on year.
Life is too short to wait for your government to sort themselves and your country out. Come live a decent life here in Cambodia. Have a look at the rest of the website as well as their Facebook page . I urge you to send them an email and they will contact you back.