My first few weeks in Vietnam were both challenging and exciting at the same time. Adapting to the lifestyle was difficult for me and it took a couple months before I truly settled into living in Hanoi. Coming from Minnesota, I had a lot to get used to in moving to Vietnam. First, was the weather. Minneapolis had just been hit by a late spring snowstorm before I left. When I arrived in Hanoi the humidity was overwhelming. I was used to the crisp cold air of Minneapolis and it was hard to adjust to the thick warm air of Hanoi. The summer humidity can be oppressive at times and you’ll have to accept being rather sweaty for most of the summer months.
The traffic was another thing that took a long time to be familiar with. The traffic in Hanoi is chaotic. Motorbikes, cars, bicycles, buses, you name it, will be coming at you from every direction. I could barely cross the street my first week here. Furthermore, not many people follow the traffic laws which can make the roads extremely dangerous. For my first couple weeks I thought there was no way I’d ever drive a motorbike in Hanoi, after awhile though you understand the flow of traffic and learn how to operate the streets safely. Something that shocked me upon arrival was the amount of people in Hanoi. The population density is extremely high in the city. There’s people everywhere you go! Even coming from a big city like Minneapolis did not prepare me for the busyness of Hanoi.
Few areas can be classified as “quiet” and it takes awhile to get used to the constant honking, roosters crowing, and people shouting loudly. However, you’ll learn how to drown out the chatter and before long it will simply become background noise. Bringing earplugs or a noise maker could improve sleeping conditions until you get used to the nightly noise.
Once I arrived in Hanoi my schedule was packed full. I arrived during the night and started my orientation the following day. The orientation was 4 days and involved learning more about the company through powerpoints, touring the city with a guide, and trying some of the local cuisine. It was a lot to take in at once but was also exciting. After the short orientation I was given two weeks of classroom observation to help prepare me for taking over classes of my own. I found observing other teachers to be extremely helpful. I highly suggest paying careful attention to the lesson structure and activities you see. It could be beneficial to ask to see a lesson plan to learn how to create one yourself.
After two weeks of observing I took over 8 classes of my own. That was probably though most stressful part of my whole experience. In my opinion, there’s only one way to learn the art of teaching and that’s to be thrown right in. You have to learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Moreover, you have to learn the student’s preferences and what teaching style is most effective to connect with them.
You’ll be moving halfway around the world to a culture that is much different from the one you're used to. You’re going to deal with a ton of adversity your first couple weeks, that’s kind of what you’re signing up for. That said, it’s a thrilling feeling to be somewhere so different. If you can set aside the feelings of discomfort you’ll be able to see the beauty of living abroad. What you learn about the world and about yourself will completely rearrange your perspective on life. It truly is remarkable the benefits you can gain from living abroad. The first few weeks may be hard but look past it and focus on what you could gain. It will all become easier in no time.