Volunteering is one of the best and most life-changing activities you could ever do during your travels.
If you’re considering volunteering as an English teacher in Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi, then I hope this guide can help you.
How to get started ☝️💻
Sign up at any volunteering platforms such as Workaway, WWOOF or HelpX. You’ll actually find more on the internet but in my case, I chose Workaway. Basically, you have to register as a volunteer, which would require you to pay for a fee. However, you can ask a friend if you could use his or her account or shared!
Lucas, one of the volunteers at a place I was managing in Bangkok way back, Siam Journey guesthouse, shared his account with me. Apparently, it worked! I advise you though to create your own account to give you more access to many volunteering activity options.
After successfully spotting one, you may contact the host and of course, it’s all up to your discretion or conversation on how you’re gonna carry out the settlement. In Hanoi, it’s very common to use the messaging app Whatsapp. Download it if you don’t have it yet.
How to get there ✈️🚃🤝☎️
Well, if you’ve finally got in touch with your host, they’ll be able to brief you about everything you need to know.
Will they pay for your flights?
Usually no. Book your own.
Getting ready 📝💼
Prepare your visa if you’re planning to stay long. Vietnam allows Filipino or tourists a 30-day free visa. Afterward, if you plan to extend, do it before flying to Vietnam as it is easier. Buy and pay online for around $25-$30 and get the visa upon arrival. Of course, fill out a form. It’s very easy. However, if you’ve missed this step, some agencies or hostels offer a visa extension service. I got mine extended for $50 and it took 3-5 days. Make sure to check the date of expiry, you don’t wanna mess around with the immigration, otherwise, you’ll fly out and in of Hanoi and continue your volunteering session.
Requirements and documents 💼📝
Not much actually. For as long as you’re 18 above, have your proper visa and a valid passport from any country and as long as you’re willing to do the volunteer work as an English teacher, you’re very welcome!
Volunteer duration 🗓📅📆
Basically, the majority of hosts require a minimum two-week stay. However, if you can’t commit and would like to stay for a shorter period, one week will do. Make sure to be clear with your host beforehand to avoid confusion or any unforeseen arguments. Furthermore, should you learn to love the place. You could volunteer even more and opt to stay longer than the minimum, it’s very welcome, feel free to ask your host!
I stayed for a total of 20 days! That almost three weeks! 🗓
My personal experience 👩💻
The manager, unfortunately, wasn’t in Hanoi and was in Singapore when I arrived. Upon searching the place, it was way more difficult than I expected. I got lost with the directions many times! I even broke my backpack while riding a motorbike with an old man who voluntarily took me to the place! But that wasn’t very pleasant I can tell you.
When I successfully arrived at a three-storey house, Vietnamese ladies gladly welcomed me. They were preparing ingredients for a yummy dinner. They first let me sleep at the female students’ room as the teachers’ room was full.
There were at least five foreign teachers staying and I was the 6th, one of them, a French lady, was leaving the next day to continue her journey around Vietnam. Don’t expect anything fancy, though.
Homestay is what they call the place, which I just found out later on when I mingled with the rest of the students. There were plenty of them, around 30-35 students who were in their 20s-30s. They’re incredibly nice people, contrary to the majority of Vietnamese people I’ve met later on in my three times of visit and stay in Vietnam.
The schedule 🗓🗓🗓
I must say the schedule was rather simple and easy. Volunteer teachers only have to teach 3.5 hours a day, Monday to Friday, and the rest is our free time. But there’s a twist, you don’t select your own schedule. The managers are the one in charge of setting and preparing the schedule for a week and they post it on the board in the kitchen. However, if you have any requests, you may ask the manager to adjust it for you. (gain, it’s all up to the arrangement of both parties )
What else to expect 🤔🤔🤔
I’ve mentioned above that you get the weekends and the rest of the time free after your volunteer teaching schedule, but, Vietnamese students always have the energy to do stuff and you’d always get invites from them whether it’s to ride a bike around the city, go to a coffee shop, do yoga or whatever they plan to do! Well, the decision is in your hands if you fancy an invite or not! In my case, I’d consistently find an excuse to say no because I wanted to find a quiet time.
On weekends, especially on Saturdays, students constantly design a plan to enjoy an outdoor activity that everyone is required to join in so, unless you have another activity, just learn to cooperate.
Furthermore, they also celebrate every single occasion or event at the homestay. For instance, the Women’s day that Vietnamese people value most, so that means a feast!
How about food and lodging? 🏚🏠🌮🍅🍆🍚🥚🥬
Yea. Glad you ask! Have I not mentioned that this basic necessity is included? Yes it is! Breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks are included. In my homestay, we have our own teachers’ cabinet where they fill it with foods and snacks!
You also don’t have to worry about cooking because each student at the homestay is responsible enough.Students are grouped and take turns in preparing meals and tidying up. Plus, Vietnamese have one of the most delicious and healthiest foods I’ve ever had!
In our kitchen, vegetables, fruits, and meat were always served! Always like a feast, actually!
As for the teachers’ room, you’ll have to share with your co-volunteer teachers. We got ours on the top floor with bunk beds but no toilet so well, you’ll have to go down to students’ room to use the comfort room. No worries though ‘cause you’re very welcome.
Do take note though to Bring your own toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste and the like.
To a large extent, I really love my volunteering experience at that homestay in Hanoi. I didn’t expect that it would turn out to be a noteworthy experience for me when everything seemed new and ordinary to me. I loved everything about it and I’d like to encourage you to try it at least once in your lifetime.
The whole experience taught me to be patient, more kind and to love more of what I do, which is teaching, without expecting anything in return but lessons learned from and given to my students. Everybody at the homestay showed me kindness and generosity beyond expectation What I admire most is that they were very eager to learn so it was actually easier to teach them English.
And here’s what Lucas’ says about his volunteering experience in the North of Hanoi
“Volunteering in Vietnam was definitely one of my best experiences if I consider the vision of a different culture, green nature and, above all, delicious and healthy food. The people are so kind… Adults invited me constantly to eat, and their great hospitality was such that I could not spend a dollar. The children were usually happy, it was obvious that they wanted to learn and progress, especially English (my area) because it allowed them to learn more about the world and also earn money in the future. What I did not like was the traffic in the cities and how crazy they are to drive, so I personally recommend going to small towns, where people are more relaxed. Definitely, Vietnam will give you many things, and if you do not exercise, also a few extra kilos!”
Friendly reminder: ☝️👌
Be careful of selecting your host as some of them may take advantage of you and your skill. Overall, I hope you all have a fantastic time!
I hope this helps you! Please feel free to ask me if I’ve missed anything! Enjoy! 🎉