An interview with Tracy Wilson
Tracy is a Kiwi primary English teacher. She has been teaching in Brunei since 2018.
CfBT: What do you like most about Brunei?
TW: The people, the food, the lifestyle. The people are friendly and accommodating, they are just as curious about your culture as you are of theirs. Food is the star of the show here in Brunei, for any formal, informal event there is a massive feast with a variety of dishes, I still have more to test out! The lifestyle here is very relaxed, nothing is too much trouble, the amount of time I get to spend with my little one has doubled.
CfBT: Please describe where you live.
TW: We live in Kuala Belait. We walk down our driveway to the beach, the Panaga Country Club is a 5 min drive in the car or a 15 min bike ride away, our house has 3 levels, an ensuite in every room, it is very fancy and comfortable. Everything is available in Kuala Belait (Except shoes for my giant feet), good quality toys, food from the many markets, local supermarkets, the Naafi (A garrison shop) and of course the Supa Save (international supermarket). Every Sunday we go out for Noodles at our local Fish Market, we love where we live, it has a beautiful vibe
CfBT: Please describe a typical working day.
TW: I wake up at 6, and I’m at school at 7am, depending on meetings and PD, I’m generally home by 1pm. I have three hour long English lessons a day. 10am is break time, so I go and hangout with my colleagues in the staffroom. During my free periods, I tend to do my planning for the following week or catch up on making resources or admin.
CfBT: What school do you teach at? Describe what the local students and teachers are like.
TW: I teach at Sekolah Rendah Sungai Liang. I have one Yr1 Class, and two PRA classes.The teachers at my school are like any other staff I would find back home in NZ. They are happy to assist with translating, they share what they got up to on the weekends, their holidays, their family news. My principal is much like my previous NZ principal, leading by example and always focused on the students. The students again are like any other 5-8 year olds, some full of mischief, some very studious, and some very relaxed about life. They are sweet and will dish out high fives when they leave my classroom, I’ve even had a few “I love you Teacher Tracy” it’s wonderful that they feel excited to see me, and enjoy their lessons.
CfBT: What are the teaching resources like there?
TW: I am very lucky to have taken over an extremely well-resourced classroom. I have everything you could ever need. Puppets, toys, puzzles, whiteboards, stationery, books, everything required to teach English.
CfBT: How does teaching in Brunei compare to home? (e.g. discipline teaching hours, admin load, etc.)
TW: There’s actually no comparison when it comes to time. I would drop my daughter off at 7am and pick her up at 4.30, sometimes 5.30pm from Daycare. This did not sit well with me. My time teaching/planning/ staff meetings/ PD has halved. When it comes to admin, smart planning, planning at school when you have free periods, works well for me, even when I stay back a few times a week, I still manage to get home at around 2pm. Every now and then I will get a surprise message that there is a meeting that day or something needs to be handed in pronto to the management team, which initially was a bit bewildering, however you just put your flexible hat on and get on with it.
CfBT: What do you do in your free time?
TW: Relax! We have an amah (Aunty), Sylvia who cleans, cooks, looks after our daughter, taking her to school and back, so we do have loads of time on our hands. We swim every afternoon, or bike around looking for some monkeys, play at the park or catch a movie, we like to go on little adventures to Miri, or around Brunei, to the Jungle or the river. We enjoy going to the Panaga Country Club, for a meal, workout at the gym, swim or a play at the playground. Walks, sandcastles or toasting marshmallows at the beach. We have also enjoyed making new friends from different countries and spending time with them.
CfBT: What do you do in your holidays?
TW: Every holiday we travel. Since we have been here, we have gone to Bali, Penang, KL, Borneo Rainforest, Singapore, Vietnam for a month in December and home to NZ for a visit. The two reasons for leaving our family and home country was extra family time and travel, we are definitely making the most of it. We are looking forward to visiting the UK and Lapland in December.
CfBT: What is healthcare like in Brunei?
TW: We have generally had positive experiences with the Health facilities in Brunei. My husband will go to the local hospital due to the low cost of a consultation, however there can potentially be a long wait time. Every time he has received quality attention. I take myself and my daughter to the Panaga Health Centre (private healthcare clinic) for illness and dental care, again, it is around half of what you would pay back home.
CfBT: Please describe how you get from place to place (transportation in Brunei).
TW: My husband and I drive, I drop him off at his school or vice versa depending on the work load. Drivers are easily hired as well. Our amah drives our daughter to and from school.
CfBT: What advice do you have for teachers who are thinking about moving to Brunei?
TW: It isn’t easy when you first arrive, especially when you have young ones, there is a lot of information to take in, especially within the first few weeks. There is a long list of things that must be done- applying for an IC, getting your Bruneian license, finding a car to purchase ( I recommend hiring until you find the right one), finding a place to live, and on top of that figuring out what you’re going to teach!
Ask questions, look for the support, it is here, I had a handful of neighbours living next door to me who were always ready to assist us in whatever we needed.
Have high expectations of your students, have interesting, engaging and exciting learning experiences for them, they deserve an amazing hour of learning.
Consider what you are willing to accept of an education system. For me some areas have similarities, some not so much. If your focus is your role as an English Language Teacher work towards that.
If you want the relaxing life style, if you are accepting of other cultures, if you are willing to ‘just get on with it, if you are interested in another culture, if you want to embrace a new country (and food), if you want to see the world, I would recommend Brunei.