Xplore Asia and TravelBud Review – An Amazing Introduction to Our New Lives

When it comes to moving away from home to a completely different culture, the list of potential problems and worries might seem endless. If you’re planning on shifting career too, that list will more than double.

Whatever the reason you’re deciding to uproot for, be it early retirement, escaping the rat race, wanting to try and save money or just because, well, what else is there to do? Then choosing a company to help the process can be an absolute godsend.

We found discovered TravelBud online after doing a bit of research on TESOL qualifications and jobs abroad. We had always set on Vietnam, but the company based in South Africa have programs in, Thailand, South Korea, Mynmaar, China and South America.

Once signed up to a program with TravelBud, you will be given ongoing support from one of the companies agents and put in touch with your specific program coordinator. For us, this was Lisa at Xplore Asia.

Xplore Asia aren’t just a company who will help you get your qualifications though, following the strong company vision of:

Dedicated to helping people discover the life-changing adventure of working and studying abroad.

We have found Xplore Asia both facilitators of our dreams and the support network that many people lack when moving abroad.

Here’s the course we signed up to:

  • Course: Welcome to Teach Vietnam + TESOL with XploreAsia
  • Length: 4 Weeks
  • City: Hanoi

Why These Idiots Chose Xplore Asia

(Not because we are idiots) We chose Xplore Asia after a few weeks of research and budgetting led us to discover that the company was both ethical, efficient and didn’t hide anything much from us before arrival.

Lisa (our coordinator) was on Skype whenever we needed and answered questions promptly and with a palpable enthusiasm, which only made us more desperate to be on the flight heading out on our adventure teaching abroad in Vietnam.

For those interested in other locations we can imagine the program is even better. As Vietnam is still very much in it’s youth.

We did look at completing our TESOL or TEFL at home, but fitting it around work would have been near impossible, and who are we to turn down an extra month in Vietnam, rather than another grey month in the UK?

Looking back especially, we would have struggled to make the move without Xplore Asia and their connections and vast wealth of knowledge.

Cooking Class, Hanoi
Cooking Class, Hanoi

What Do You Do with Xplore Asia?

If you’re wondering ‘what’ or ‘who’, Xplore Asia are, then here’s a quick overview of what they’ll do for you if you decide to sign up with them and make the move abroad.

Firstly, they’ll act as guidance for Visa’s, luggage and everything else you can think of before you move.

Lisa (or your own program coordinator) will pack your inbox with useful hints on everything you need. If you’re lucky, some emails might even come through twice!

When you have your documents prepared for teaching, you’ll arrange an airport pick up in your home for the next 4 weeks. This will take you to the hotel where you’ll be staying with your new family for the duration of the course.

Xplore Asia then put you through an orientation week based on your chosen country before jumping right into the intensive course.

Museum, Hanoi
Museum, Hanoi

Xplore Asia Orientation Week (Sh*t got real)

As part of your 4 week course, you will spend one week being introduced to this new and crazy country. This week is a real eyeopener and will have you doing and eating things you never thought you would!

Over the course of the week you will take part in lessons about Vietnamese culture and politics, learning some vital aspects of Vietnamese life. All are taught by Lan Anh, a local girl from a neighbouring village on the outskirts of Hanoi.

You will be taken to visit different museums in the city where you will learn about the history of Vietnam and the Vietnamese way of life. You will also be given a basic introduction to the Vietnamese language and will have at least 4 hours in class learning.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl-VBvfFcet/?taken-by=idiotsteachabroad

The highlights of the week for us were the experiences we had outside of Hanoi City centre and in the local Vietnamese countryside.

We were taken to the countryside to make traditional Vietnamese hats. This initially seemed like a pointless task. However, we soon learned it was down to us to tackle a traditional Vietnamese market in order to obtain all of the equipment we needed.

Aided only by a Vietnamese phrase sheet, we were sent to converse with the local street sellers in order to buy equipment. This task was nothing short of amazing!

We were thrusted into Vietnamese life and forced to haggle in our very terrible and broken Vietnamese. An invaluable experience.

We proceeded to end our first week on a high. We were all boarded onto a minibus and were shipped out to the countryside to take part in a Vietnamese cooking class.

Lan Anh’s family had kindly offered to open the doors of the beautiful farmhouse to 17 westerners.

We were taken across rice paddies to pick our own ingredients and were shown how to use them create incredible Vietnamese dishes.

We sat and ate the food we had prepared with the whole family. An experience we’ll always remember.

Cooking Class, Hanoi
Cooking Class, Hanoi

Week 1 TESOL Program Review

During the first week of the TESOL program we were introduced to different teaching methods commonly used for ESL learning. Prior to our first lesson we were asked to research these and prepare to discuss them in the classroom.

This forms the base of everything you’ll be doing, so understanding these methods will hugely help in future lessons.

It was a good, if not slightly theory heavy week. Here’s a quick cheat of what you’ll learn:

Direct Method

This method is often referred to as the ‘natural’ method. This is because it encourages students to learn their second language in a similar way to their first.

  • Students are immersed in their second language and are encouraged to only communicate in their second language whilst in class
  • New vocabulary is introduced to students using visual aids
  • Focus is mainly on correct pronunciation
  • Grammar is introduced through speech

Communicative Approach

The communicative approach focuses on the students ability to converse in their new language. The target language is learnt and practised through interactions with others.

  • Students practise vocabulary through conversation with others
  • Focus is on ability to share information
  • Students often practice through role play relating to every day life

Task-Based Learning 

This method is often introduced during the production stage of a lesson. Students are required to carry out a task using their second language.

The task might be something as simple as ordering a pizza, or as complex as dealing with an emergency.

Overall Keegan, our instructor hammered home the importance of each method and his cool and slightly rebellious demeanour meant what was sort of a dry topic, was actually pretty fun.

There was a load more theory in the first week, including classroom management and starting to deliver our first in class demo lesson. All invaluable experience and information.

One slight improvement we wished we had, was more ‘doing’ during the longer theory sessions. But overall, we passed and there was a LOT to get our teeth sunk into.

Week 2 and 3 TESOL Program Review

Keegan introduced us to lesson planning in all it’s forms. And we further expanded our little minds in terms of teaching theory and teaching classes of different ages.

Week 2 also began our weekend classes or ‘English Camps’, which were our real in class demo lessons with actual students. Terrifying.

After meeting with our teachers we had to plan lessons to fit in either the first or second hour of their classes. It came as a bit of a shock to sweaty Eddie mumbling his way through a poorly planned lesson. But Ellie swanned through gracefully and had the kids eating out of her hand.

These weekend camps were the real learning curve of this course, and as much as the initial ones were slightly scary, we wish we’d have a few more chances!

We’ve really condensed these courses into these short little sections, but there is so much to take on. All of it fascinating and all of it carefully guided through by our South African Strokes fan tutor, Keegan. Someone the entire course was gutted to say goodbye to at the end.

Week 4 TESOL Review

Here  you deliver your final lesson plan to your new friends and start to seriously consider what the hell you’ve got yourself into.

On the final day you have a 3 hour exam. Which, is actually pretty fun for those who’ve been out of school for years!

You’ll likely have been placed somewhere by this point in your course too, so preparation for your move or visa hop will have started. The support we got surrounding our placement was one to one and amazing. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome!

The Xplore Asia Family of Idiots

This is a big part of what made this course so amazing for us. The people we were with for the ride.

We’ve got to take our hat (our straw Vietnamese hat) off to most, who actually opted to do this move to another country and a completely alien career alone.

But in the group of hysterical South Africans, happy go-lucky Australians,  tanked up Brits, chilled/patriotic Americans and a few other reaches of the earth, we found a little family.

Group Graduation, Hanoi
Group Graduation, Hanoi

Albeit a stupid one full of heavy mid week drinking sessions and other extremely questionable behaviour.

Don’t get us wrong here though, this wasn’t some gap year piss up. More like those times down the pub chatting absolute garbage with mates we all need sometimes.

And we all passed so we can’t have been that bad.

We will certainly be staying in touch with our course mates turned new mates and now have places to stay up and down Vietnam and around the world.

The Instructors 

Our instructors/placement team and everyone we worked with through our course were amazing.

Our XploreAsia Team, Hanoi
Our XploreAsia Team, Hanoi

We had Lisa our first point of contact. Helping y’all get settled here in Vietnam. And Meg (Meg, proudly hailing down the road from sunny Grantham!) always on hand to help us with anything Vietnam was going to throw at us, and then also with our course and our placements.

They were friendly, helpful and even offered to take late night phone calls in order to get us settled.

Keegan was our instructor for the course. Sort of like the frontman to the Xplore Asia band. He delivered everything clearly, had real working knowledge of teaching and was always open to a bit of light hearted and slightly weird humour.  We owe him a shot or 43.

Ian hung back and helped get us placed, always chilled and ready to make a witty comment.

Lan Anh was our Vietnamese ‘contact’ for the course. The amount of work she did and the cheeriness she did it with was pretty astounding. She was a big part of making a new country feel like a new home for us.

All in all everyone from the Xplore Asia team deserves a big thank you from us.

Calm Down, Surely There’s Negatives to Xplore Asia?

When we arrived to study down Lang Ha round we were pretty shocked by our accommodation. But, quickly realised this was nothing but a bit of culture shock.

If things got too much in either hotel, Xplore Asia quickly sorted any issues and we actually miss our months home at the Hong Anh hotel a little now.

Whilst there may be some small issues, the family run hotel turned on the charm and became welcoming. Especially in comparison to what we’ve just seen in Manila.

Other nit pick issues are the tiny bits of long theory that need breaking up. But, this will be fine for most people who can hold their attention for longer than 30 minutes.

Final Word:

The XploreAsia TESOL course has literally taken two idiots from Leeds and turned them into teachers with paying jobs in Vietnam. All while giving us new mates, getting us to drink beer over ice and teaching us the importance of the bum gun.

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