By Renee Christensen, English teacher in Myanmar
When I decided to teach abroad, I hadn’t even heard of Myanmar and now I am living and working in Yangon, Myanmar. I started my journey in Thailand and was offered the opportunity to teach in Myanmar. Accepting that offer has turned out to be the best decision I could have made!
Yangon is a big city and continues to grow. The most interesting part of living here is seeing the juxtaposition of the new and modern Yangon working its way in behind the ancient and traditional lifestyle that is still so prevalent. This country is not filled with tourism and foreigners as many parts of Thailand have become. There is a simplicity and rawness that still exists even throughout the largest city in the country. Behind that simplicity though are construction sites building up new hotels and condos one might expect to see in any large Western city. In the next several years, I think that modern advancements and tourism growth will overtake the traditional and ancient lifestyle that still exists here today and consider myself lucky to have such an authentic experience.
I’ve only been in Myanmar for about two months so I haven’t been able to do too much traveling around yet. I was able to go to Bagan for a long weekend. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Bagan is an ancient city that is full of ancient pagodas and temples. You can climb to the top of many of the temples and look out at the ancient ruins that span for miles.Traveling here is inexpensive and very easy. There are night buses that run between cities so you won’t lose precious adventure time by traveling during the day and you save money on accommodation by sleeping on the bus!
Many people ask me if it is safe here. The answer is, YES! Myanmar suffered for many years under military rule and has only been “open” for a couple of years now. There are certain areas of the country which continue to be “unsettled” and are not considered safe to visit; foreigners are not allowed to enter those regions. Myanmar, as a whole, is a safe country which inhabits kind and welcoming people.
This journey has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I’m 31 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up but I know that teaching here in Myanmar is exactly what I’m meant to be doing. Living in Myanmar is challenging in some of the most simplistic ways. I have truly learned to differentiate between my wants and my needs. I have witnessed and experienced the value of genuine human kindness more in the past two months than I have at any other time throughout my life.
If you are considering teaching abroad, stop waiting to be ready. You’ll never be ready and it will never be the right time. Yes, get yourself organized and prepared but stop excusing yourself out of an experience that most people will only ever dream of. Whatever your doubts or fears, be assured that the reward far outweighs the sacrifice.