Sydney (left) and her friend Emily (right) in Vietnam.

Travelling the world and teaching combined the best of both worlds for St. Mary’s University alumna, Sydney Deighton. Graduating in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in History, Sydney then went on to receive her Bachelor of Education in our esteemed BEd program.

After graduating from our education program, Sydney dove straight into teaching internationally after accepting a position at a school in Vietnam. This incredible opportunity gave Sydney the opportunity to appreciate and emerge herself in a different culture – something she already had plenty of experience with!

When Sydney was twelve, her parents decided to do a teaching exchange, because a passion for teaching runs in the family. Sydney’s father is also a teacher, and as part of this exchange, her family essentially swapped lives with another family in a different country, including jobs, houses and cars, Her family lived in a small town called Renmark in South Australia. During their swap, she travelled to Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand.

Sydney and her cycling group in Northern Vietnam.

“It was such an amazing and eye-opening experience.  I was able to go to school, make lifelong friends and see parts of the world at such a young age,” explains Sydney. “That experience helped me realize I wanted to be a teacher. I loved that I could see and live in different parts of the world while I got to teach!”

History repeated itself after a friend of Sydney’s told her about a hiring fair at Queen’s University called Teachers Overseas Recruiting Fair (TORF) in January of 2020.  Sydney signed up for four interviews in different places around the world: Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Taiwan.  The next day she was offered three contracts!  “This definitely gave me more confidence in my interviewing abilities that I learned in the BEd program at StMU,” says Sydney.

Sydney originally accepted a job in Shanghai, China, however, due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, she was not able to enter China.  Luckily, the principal who offered me her contract at the Canadian International School (CIS) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam remembered Sydney from her interview at TORF.  She was reoffered a contact to CIS.

“Being able to teach, meet new people, travel the world and experience new cultures inspired me to teach internationally.  I wanted to go out and see the world at an older age and I truly have fallen in love with it.” adds Sydney. She knows that Calgary would not have been able to offer her this excitement and fulfillment she has now living in Vietnam.

Sydney recently accepted a job in Bangkok, Thailand.  She is ecstatic to start at a new school and in a new city.  As hard as the decision was to leave CIS and Vietnam, she is happy to create new experiences and the opportunity to meet new people in an equally exciting country.

Sydney considers her experiences teaching internationally to be an amazing opportunity that she would recommend to other education graduates.

Sydney and her cycling group in Northern Vietnam.

“The students are dedicated and determined to make good grades and connect with their teachers. Most of the students are fluent in English and are from different countries.  I have been teaching Ontario curriculum at CIS, which is a little bit of a shift compared to the Alberta curriculum, but most of these students have grown up learning the Canadian curriculum,” she explains.

Sydney says at times teaching can be difficult and things can happen that are out of her control. However, what gets her through those days are the people she surrounds herself with and doing things that make her happy when she needs a mental health rest.

Sydney’s favourite part about teaching is the bond she forms with her classes.  “In both of my years, my grade eight students have been an absolute blast. They are quick with the humour and sarcasm which can make the day full of laughs,” she adds. Once Sydney was able to establish a connection with her students, she found teaching to be less stressful and more enjoyable.

Due to pandemic challenges, it was difficult to travel. However, Sydney got to see most of Vietnam with her fellow teachers during their holiday time. Sydney’s favourite adventure was exploring Northern Vietnam. In Vietnam, they celebrated TET, which is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

She started the trip on a four-day cycling excursion through the Northern/mountainous region.  By the time she had finished, Sydney cycled 217km!  She then continued to the Ha Giang Loop, which is the furthest north one can go. She rode her own motorbike for 5 days and saw breathtaking mountain passes.

Sydney and her motorbike.

“To end this trip we went to Cat Ba island where we did outdoor rock climbing on the limestone islands.  It is so hard to describe the love I have for the beauty of the landscape and the people in Vietnam,” remarked Sydney.

Sydney takes in the breathtaking mountain pass view in northern Vietnam.

Reflecting on her time at St. Mary’s, Sydney’s most memorable moment at StMU was when her team won gold in her fourth year of basketball. “It was such an exciting time because all of our hard work and dedication to the team and the school paid off.  It was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and happiness.  That feeling is one that I will never forget,” she adds.

“I loved being a student-athlete at StMU.  It was long days and nights but, the people I spent those days with made it amazing. I think I brought a team-like mentality from being a student-athlete into my classroom,” she explains.

Sydney addresses her class as a “family”. Since Sydney spends five out of the seven days of the week with her students, she knows how important it is to build relationships within her classroom to succeed.  “I believe that working on our communication will lead to stronger collaboration. This is a transferable skill from the basketball court to the classroom,” says Sydney.

“I think that StMU prepared me well for being a classroom teacher. I am very grateful for my time at St. Mary’s University,” adds Sydney.

Sydney’s Grade eight classroom in Vietnam.

We are very proud at St. Mary’s University to hear and share stories such as these about our alumni. We would like to thank Sydney for allowing us to share her exciting journey in education. If you would like to share your story please reach out to Our campus community wants to hear what you’ve been up to since graduating from StMU!