A millennium’s worth of history, staunch French-colonial architecture and one of the planet’s most tantalizing blends of the Old World and the New. This is 21st-century Hanoi, and it’s a prime candidate for your next volunteer assignment.
Coveted for its location, ancient Hanoi changed dynastic hands many times, yet each round of invaders was wise enough to add to the city’s majesty rather than overwhelm it. Today, Hanoi is a rare example of a Southeast Asian capital that has fully embraced modernity without paving over its historic center. In so many words, it’s inspiring.
And for volunteers who apply through Friends for Asia’s English teaching placements, this striking city opens itself in new and exciting ways. The Friends for Asia English Teaching Volunteer Project offers a candid view of daily life in Vietnam. Volunteers enjoy an inside perspective on a side of this country that tourists rarely encounter.
English teachers on this project are a world away from the tour buses, touts and scams that plague the tourist trail. Even the daily commute is worth talking about, carrying you through some of Hanoi’s most authentic neighborhoods. This project presents fantastic opportunities to hang out with locals, visit rural temple fairs and take part in cultural community events, but it also demands flexibility, patience and a strong sense of independence.
In Vietnam’s public schools, members of the English faculty are normally well-versed in grammar and mechanics. If anything’s missing, it’s the fluency that develops through practice in a native-speaking environment. Regardless of your teaching background, your mere presence at school gives students and faculty the chance to take their English skills out of the textbook and put them to work in the real world.
But there’s more to this arrangement than language arts. For many of these students, this is the only chance they have to meaningfully interact with a Westerner. The classroom is miles away from the tourist scene, and you’ll be in a unique position to influence the way these children grow up thinking about foreign cultures.
Your role in class depends on the school as well as your own comfort level. You’ll be paired with a Vietnamese teacher and have the option of going into class with this person and simply helping out with daily lessons. However, for anyone with the confidence and the drive to do their own lesson planning, nothing’s quite as rewarding as leading your own class. The students love it, and it gives Vietnamese teachers the chance to catch up on projects and paperwork.
The time you’ll spend in class depends on the school’s needs as well as the time of year. Generally, you’ll be in front of students anywhere from 10 to 20 hours per week. Volunteers with plenty of ambition can donate more time planning and possibly helping out with projects at school.
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