I never imagined that I would be teaching English online instead of working in the marketing industry.
A lot of things have changed in four years. Heck, I have changed a lot in four years!
When I reminisce about the days when I lived in Dubai heading up a marketing department for an international company, I ponder how life can change without a moment’s notice.
Fast forward a few years, and here I am in 2021 in beautiful Thailand, living a completely different lifestyle and teaching English online to people from all over the world.
Let me take you on my journey and how I got to where I am now: freedom.
Climbing the Never-Ending Career Ladder in Skyscraper City
The corporate life in the iconic Emirati city — the “sandpit” as local expatriates call it — was great.
I kept pushing myself to reach new heights, wanting to see how far up the career ladder I could go. With each promotion came a satisfying sense of achievement. I was one step closer to my ideal of what “success” was supposed to appear. However, one thing that was always missing was the feeling that I was making a meaningful impact.
I realised that I was merely helping CEOs reach their goals and contributing to the company’s mission of reaching sky-high revenues.
I knew I could do more, achieve more, be more, and yet I felt that the rigid paradigm of the corporate world was forcing me to curb my personal growth.
Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, competition in the Dubai job market was stiff. Anyone who had a job was grateful, and anyone who didn’t was struggling to find one.
Therefore, happy or not, I couldn’t just quit my job.
Due East – New Day, New Chapter, New Life
One day in 2018, by a twist of fate, everything changed.
My company was restructuring and as it happened, one door closed and another was opening. The funny thing is that I had a gut feeling that things were about to change in a significant way, and I couldn’t have been more excited.
Of course, at that time, I had no idea what the universe had in store for me, but I had faith that it was going to be great!
In August of that year, I started looking for a new place to call home in South East Asia.
I began with Singapore, continued north to Malaysia, and finally Thailand. They say home is where the heart is, and I rediscovered my heart in magical Thailand.
Despite not having a job, I knew things would work out for me somehow. My gut told me that being in Thailand was divine intervention and the universe had my back. Thanks, Universe!
And, I wasn’t too wrong.
Shortly after that, things just started falling into place, which miraculously included a source of income for the following year.
Goodbye Old Normal, Hello Teaching English Online with Cambly!
Then COVID hit, and my freelance gigs started drying up. Through a purely coincidental acquaintance, I became enthralled with the world of online ESL tutoring.
It seemed like an excellent way to temporarily monetise a skill that I had but never thought of capitalising. I could cover my expenses until I figured out what I was going to do next.
So, I started getting my TEFL certification and joined Cambly in February 2020, just as COVID-19 began. It was perfect timing, as it provided a smooth transition of income from one source to another, especially during such an uncertain time.
I was grateful to the universe once again.
Oh, how I had initially underestimated Cambly!
Once I started building my base of regular students, I quickly realised that teaching English online was more than a mere side-gig.
I can honestly say that my 13 years in marketing management have never been as rewarding as my short time tutoring students on Cambly.
It has allowed me to gain first-hand insight into other cultures — how people live, how they think, and the pros and cons of their own countries.
These D&M conversations have often shed light on issues I was unaware of or had a mainstream view of.
I have lived and worked across different continents and think of myself as an open-minded person who tries not to judge or carry preconceived misconceptions.
However, I’m glad that Cambly has shown me that we never stop learning.
Teaching ESL online has given me the chance to broaden my worldview and address some of the things I thought I knew, but in fact, I was either un- or misinformed.
In this regard, Cambly has undoubtedly been a significant factor in my personal growth and transformation over the past year.
The Common Threads Running Through 7.9 Billion Individuals
Another revelation has been how similar we all are.
At first, it may not seem likely that cultures in East Asia, the Middle East and even South America would have anything in common. Who would have thought that there would be so many parallels!
Having lived in different parts of the world, I can say that it has been incredibly eye-opening to recognise so many common threads across our diverse human existence.
We often distinguish ourselves through our differentiating traits, i.e. what makes us unique, what sets us apart from others.
But in fact, I was surprised that there are more similarities between us than I had thought.
It is pretty powerful to realise that there are potentially more things that unite 7.9 billion people on this planet than divide them.
If this was a common and fundamental belief and understanding, could we be more compassionate as a race? Could we end disputes, end wars?
I admit it is a little unusual to trace how I went from Cambly to Stoicism.
Yet, the conversations with my students led me to a deeper, profound dialogue in some way.
Cambly is More Than English Conversation Practise
It seems like “we go way back” with some of my students, as they say. We prepared for interviews together.
We celebrated their acceptance into international internship programmes or a new company. And when they just needed a sympathetic ear, then we would chat about the tough time they were having.
My regular students have become more than paying customers who pay my bills. I feel a sense of responsibility toward them, which to this day still surprises me.
Pictured above is my Cambly Stats — almost 500 students made a world of difference in my life
It is immensely rewarding when a student deliberately chooses you as their tutor because they believe you can help them in their quest to become a better English speaker.
However, even more touching is when a student opens up about their personal lives and is not afraid of being vulnerable or emotional during a class.
A student once shared her heartfelt appreciation for the value she feels I have added to her life.
Her words were nothing short of tear-jerkers! What a precious thing to have a student in her early 20s openly express her sentiments in a foreign language that she is desperately trying to master.
I am a 39-year-old native speaker, and even I don’t express my feelings in such a heartfelt way!
Then there are students such as a delightful ten-year-old South Korean girl with near-perfect English. She boasts an intellect that made me wonder what I was doing with my life at that age and a sense of humour that isn’t far from the banter my friends and I enjoy.
Gosh, this is a different generation of ten-year-olds!
I do not converse with children effortlessly, but some of the kids I have met have blown my mind with their intelligence, wit, and maturity.
Never would I have imagined that these casual, spontaneous, and open interactions with people from all walks of life would lead to friendships over time.
When Students Teach
Yes, we are ESL tutors; however, I would like to shout out all the students who have challenged me over the past year. And here I thought they were the only ones learning!
It’s been a fantastic journey of expanding my command of the English language.
Unless you are a professional English teacher or have studied linguistics, most of us talk every day without thinking twice about why we say what we say (until your 2.30 pm Friday reservation asks you, “What is the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which'”?)
I must say, it has been quite a sobering, humbling, and refreshing experience to realise that we never stop learning, even from our students.
I’ve Created a Life Worth Living
Yes, indeed, a lot has changed from my corporate days wearing suits and leading a marketing team of an international company.
Looking back at when my journey began in the departures lounge of DXB airport, my life has changed in a way I could have never foreseen.
Here I am three years later, scheduling my own time and living a healthier, more flexible, and more gratifying life than ever before. Who knew that teaching English online would bring me so much fulfilment?
Gone are the awful 6.30 am alarms, traded-in for leisurely 9 am coffees.
The stuffy suits are back in the suitcase, and instead, casual summer clothes now fill my wardrobe. And last but not least, I make sure I have enough time to enjoy all the other beautiful things life has to offer.
I climbed the career for 13+ years, looking for meaning.
Ironically, I found it by conversing with inspiring people from every corner of the world over the last year.
Who would have thought that this seemingly simple job would be so impactful to my students and me, and to top it off, that I would make new friends along the way?!
Life never ceases to amaze me, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!
I’m not the only Cambly tutor to experience a big life change, read about my colleague, Tamarah’s journey from CEO to Cambly tutor.
Does Cambly sound like the right fit for you to start teaching English online? We’re always looking for passionate and dedicated tutors to join our team.
About the Writer
Natascha has been working in marketing operations for the past 13+ years and ditched her corporate career in Dubai to pursue a more relaxed and fulfilling lifestyle. She now lives in South East Asia, where she continues freelancing in marketing and tutoring on Cambly. A natural conversationalist and avid learner of new people and cultures, Natascha’s students enjoy her fun, casual, and engaging approach to teaching. Her classes cover any topic under the sun and are enjoyable and challenge students to expand their command of the English language.
Check out Natascha’s Cambly profile here.