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An interview with Lorraine Kerrigan

Lorraine is an Irish primary English teacher who has been teaching in Brunei since 2020.

CfBT: Can you please describe CfBT’s induction program and how it was for you?

LK: CfBT’s induction program was exceptional. It was all-encompassing and covered a wide range of topics in both our professional and personal lives. Without a doubt, the opportunity to observe experienced CfBT teachers was invaluable before I commenced employment in my school.

 

CfBT: What do you like most about teaching English in Brunei government schools?

LK: Working in Brunei is unique as I am the only ex-pat teacher in my school. My Bruneian colleagues are supportive, friendly, and always willing to lend a hand. I have found the more you give in Brunei the more you get in return.

CfBT: Please describe a typical day as a teacher in Brunei

LK: I work in a large rural primary school in Tutong where I am currently teaching Pra (Junior Infants in Ireland). My timetable consists of 32 weekly periods including ECA’s. I normally have up to four hours of non-contact time per week where I plan my lessons and make resources. A normal day at my school typically commences with a morning assembly at 7 am. This is followed by a whole school programme (classes) across different subjects to raise attainment from 7:15 am. Regular classes begin at 7:40am and end at 12:00 pm. Stay backs can vary, from whole school staff meetings, professional development, SIP meetings to planning. One aspect that stands out for me is that my teaching role is like that of a subject teacher rather than a classroom teacher. Rather than planning and creating resources for multiple subjects, I can focus my efforts on one subject. 

 

CfBT: What are the teaching resources like at your school?                                                     

LK: As I am teaching one year level, I am fortunate to have my very own classroom with air-con. My school has a well-resourced library and a local Bruneian coach who has a wealth of resources and is happy to share. Resources are also available via the CfBT Share Point and Teams. I can also borrow puppets, picture books, graded readers, and other materials if and when I need them from the CfBT library.

CfBT: What type of support do you receive from your CfBT line manager?

LK: CfBT line managers (Education Project Manager/EPM) have a unique understanding of the daily life of an ex-pat teacher in Brunei having previously taught in Brunei. My EPM is my first port of call for any queries I may have.  He is never more than an email or text away. He regularly visits my school sharing ideas, strategies, and resources that I can implement in my lessons while offering any support he can. 

CfBT: What professional development opportunities have you had?

LK: CfBT offers a wide range of professional development opportunities and it is clear they have an interest in ensuring all teachers grow professionally whilst in Brunei. I have participated in online professional development ranging from pedagogy to updating my ICT skills.  With the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, face-to-face professional development workshops are resuming. This year I am looking forward to the opportunity to participate in a lesson study workshop with CfBT colleagues.

CfBT: What has been the most memorable moment so far?

LK: Seeing my students excitedly working with firefighters who visited the school to demonstrate how to extinguish a fire. They were so excited in the days leading up to this event and they were not disappointed. 

CfBT: What was it like to move from your home country/ previous country to Brunei?

LK: Moving to Brunei was smoother than I could ever have imagined.  In the midst of a global pandemic, CfBT organised flights from Dublin to London and onwards to Brunei.  After landing in Brunei, we were escorted to waiting buses and ferried to our quarantine hotel where we stayed for fifteen nights. Waiting at the hotel for us was a CfBT welcome pack which contained a Bruneian sim-card and some necessities such as washing powder, food, juices, etc.  The welfare team at CfBT also created a WhatsApp group for new arrivals which was invaluable for sharing information.  After the quarantine period ended, a CfBT representative greeted us in the hotel lobby.  We were taken to our temporary accommodation which included all amenities and then handed the keys to our rental cars.

 

CfBT: What is your accommodation like?

LK: Finding a suitable place to live can be a challenging experience even in your own country. CfBT made it easier by providing me with a list of suitable rental agents with property in the area I wanted to move to.  Viewings were arranged quickly and easily, and once I found the one that best suited my needs, CfBT took care of everything else from the house inspection to the lease agreement.  I live in a spacious, fully furnished 3 bedroom house on a quiet cul-de-sac on the outskirts of Bandar.   

CfBT: What is it like to live as an expat in Brunei?

LK: Brunei’s ex-pat community is small but closely knit.  From the friends I made during the induction programme to colleagues I have met along the way (such as at CfBT coffee mornings), it is clear to me that there exists a small but vibrant ex-pat community in Brunei.  I have even met some Irish living here.  Living in Brunei means embracing outdoor activities, such as hiking, river cruises, and kayaking.  It is a great place to enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends.  I love going for walks along the eco-corridor (the waterfront on the Brunei River) and for hikes along my favourite trail Bukit Sipatir.

CfBT: Please share what the general cost of living is in Brunei compared to your home country.

LK: Of course, it goes without saying that petrol in Brunei is much cheaper than it has been in Ireland for years!  Great news if you just like hopping in the car and taking a spin to Temburong or KB.  Other utility bills such as electricity (a pre-paid powerkad) are also much cheaper here in Brunei. You will also find good accommodation in Brunei that might not be within your budget if looking for a similar property in Ireland.  For anyone who has rented in Ireland, you will know how challenging it can be to find suitable accommodation, especially in the urban areas.  Here in Brunei, that is not a worry as there are plenty of options and of course the generous CfBT allowance means that those properties that would normally be out of reach in cities such as Dublin are an option here.

CfBT: What is the food like in Brunei?

LK: Bruneian’s love their food.  In school, there are regular ‘makans’ organised by the different departments and at these ‘makans’ I have sampled Bruneian food generously shared by the local teachers.  The sharing of food at ‘makans’ offers teachers an opportunity to connect and develop friendships. You will also find all you need on the supermarket shelves which contain lots of the well-known British brand names. Should you wish to eat out, Brunei has you covered.  There are restaurants that cater to every taste and budget.  My personal favourites include Jazz bar and Grill, Coco Cafe, High frequency Cafe and Little Audreys.  There are so many more that I can’t wait to discover as well!

CfBT: What do you enjoy most about living in Brunei?

LK: Living in Brunei has been very rewarding.  Whilst I do work hard, I find that I can make the time to do the things I love as Bruneians place a high value on a good work-life balance.  

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