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Find out more about life in Brunei as an English Language Teacher.
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MILLIE MARRINER

A single mother who has taught Early Year and Primary level education in rural Victoria, Australia.

Age: 49

Nationality: Australian

Home: Melbourne, Australia

Has been in Brunei for 3 years.

What do you like most about Brunei?

Brunei is a quiet and safe place to live but you can see beautiful things and enjoy many activities outdoors if you choose to. You might get hot but you can enjoy the jungle or beach and spend time with friends without going too far. People are friendly and I like that you can interact with locals through sport etc. You’re not living in an enclosed, gated community. You’re living in Brunei.

Please describe where you live.

I live 300 metres from the beach in Tutong district, in Kampong Sengkarai. I live in a flat now after moving from my first house ‘in town’.  There are other CfBT teachers around to socialise with, or I can walk along the beach road myself. The flat/apartment that I chose has alI that I need. It’s comfortable, cool and is close to shops, a cinema, the beach and other walking/cycling areas.  I drive half an hour to school through a rural area with no traffic. Sometimes I think closer to work would be better but I love living where I do. And fuel is so cheap here

Please describe a typical working day.

Most days I arrive at school at 6.45am, sign in and make a coffee! I teach three year levels in lower primary and so I see each of these classes for an hour every day. All are quite different. I have time to do planning, make or copy worksheets, etc between classes. When the students leave at 12.30pm, my next few hours vary day to day. There are regular staff meetings on Mondays, or Professional Development sessions on Wednesdays. I might have to travel to a school or the CfBT offices for meetings in Bandar Seri Begawan district, or occasionally present a workshop of my own.

How does teaching in Brunei compare to home? (e.g. discipline, teaching hours, admin load, etc)

For me teaching in Brunei means a new focus of teaching English as second Language. I’m one of the lucky ones who have my own classroom so I can set up the space as it suits me and my programme. Compared to my experience in Victorian schools in Australia, I find the overall pressures on my time much less, but we can be called at short notice to attend a meeting or complete tasks like data entry. Luckily we usually have time inside normal working hours to get it done. It is expected that we have up-to-date lesson plans, assessments and other records but as professionals I think that’s all quite reasonable. I’ve found over my three years here that my lessons run more to suit the level my students are working at, rather than meticulously following the programme. Of course, general course outlines are followed, but flexibility and making the programme engaging for the students is really important.

Another big difference is that in Brunei primary schools there’s generally only one foreign teacher per school. All your colleagues will be locals. I actually like this system and really feel part of the Brunei team as opposed to being part of an expat team in a Brunei school.  It’s not always easy, and can have it’s frustrations, but I find if you show a willingness to be part of a team, the local staff will appreciate your efforts.

What do you do in your free time?

I can choose to have a lazy day on the couch, or I can join friends to going walking and exploring. There’s many places nearby that are good for a picnic, a short hike or cycle. Meeting friends for a sunset get- together on the beach is a favourite way to relax on a weekend. I’m not a big shopper but there’s plenty of places to explore, and certainly many great cafes and restaurants. Not so many in Tutong, but Bandar Seri Begawan is not far away. And of course, a quick trip over the border to Miri, Malaysia is good for some of the things missing in Brunei.

What do you do in your holidays?

I love travel so it’s usually straight to the airport for me! Having not travelled in Asia before moving here, I have many places to cross off my list. As a single woman here I can save money each term to enjoy a trip nearby or return home to see family and friends.

Another big difference is that in Brunei primary schools there’s generally only one foreign teacher per school. All your colleagues will be locals. I actually like this system and really feel part of the Brunei team as opposed to being part of an expat team in a Brunei school.  It’s not always easy, and can have it’s frustrations, but I find if you show a willingness to be part of a team, the local staff will appreciate your efforts.

What would you say to a teacher thinking about Brunei?

Don’t listen to all the bad press! I know in Australia the media can beat up a story. As a non-Muslim here I feel safe, comfortable and accepted wholly by my colleagues and neighbours. You can make a good living, save well and be financially comfortable. You can enjoy the surroundings of Borneo but you do need to make an effort to get out and do things. And yes, it’s hot, all the time, so it can put you off being outside. Brunei’s a place for people who love nature and hiking, sailing or cycling. There’s sports groups and gyms to join. You can make your own fun with a BBQ for friends at home.

This is my first foray into international teaching and I’m very happy I made the decision to come.

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