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Find Out Which Teach Abroad Program is Meant for You!

Thinking of teaching abroad in Asia, but don’t know where?

We’ve got the quiz for you. With teach abroad programs in countries like Thailand, South Korea, China, Myanmar, and Vietnam, it can be hard to choose where you’d like to start your new adventure abroad. That’s why you should take this quiz to find out which teach abroad program is meant for you! Take your first step into your new career change by exploring your options. Take the quiz now!

What You Need to Know Before Moving to Asia

So you hold a passport from either the US, UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Ireland, and you’ve decided you want to spend a couple of months abroad teaching English in Asia. That’s great! That’s what XploreAsia is here for. We facilitate and support your adventures abroad. However, you can’t just embark on your journey without knowing the differences between individualist and collectivist cultures. 

Why?

If you come from an English speaking country, there’s a high chance you’ve been accustomed to individualist culture. To name a few, US, UK, Canada, and Australia are well-known countries that have an individualistic culture. Collectivism is far different than individualism, and depending on which culture you have grown accustomed to can determine your general outlook on life. It can determine how you perceive relationships, how you evaluate yourself, and what you may prioritize more: yourself or your community. Knowing the differences between the two cultures can help you grasp a deeper understanding of collectivism. 

What is Individualism?

It is the social theory of favoring independence and self-reliance. The right of an individual precedes the group. In addition, there’s an emphasis on being unique and standing out from others. Because independence is highly revered in individualistic cultures, many people believe that you should be able to solve your own problems. It can be seen as embarrassing if you are too dependent on others for help. People from these cultures also tend to hold self-concepts that are distinctive. 

What is Collectivism?

It is the social theory of favoring the benefit of the group over the individual. It is common knowledge to sacrifice your comfort for the greater good. Because collectivistic cultures place a big importance on their community, it’s common to find people reach out to family and friends for support, and rely on each other during difficult times. Social-cooperation is also very important. People prioritize harmonious relationships and avoid confrontation to maintain relationships. Different from individualism, people from collectivist cultures hold self-concepts that are centered around interdependence and their roles in groups.

What Can You Expect?

Upon moving to Asia, you will come to interact with the locals. At first, you might not notice it, but you will gradually come to understand what it means to hold collectivistic views. This can be an eye-opening change for someone who has only had experience with individualistic culture. In many Asian countries, people are more attentive to other people’s needs and opinions. They are focused on maintaining a good image of themselves and fulfilling a social role within their community. Therefore, you might meet people who value social gatherings to a great degree.

Social gatherings are known to strengthen bonds between colleagues or friends, as they are seen as important events that can help build a stronger community. Community is a big part in the collectivist culture and it comes as no surprise that people feel obligated to fulfill a social role in their community. Whether it is to be a good daughter to your parents, or a loyal friend. 

You can see the clash between individualism and collectivism play out in a work setting. In an individualistic work setting, creativity and individual achievements are valued, and a lot of times, people are awarded bonuses based on their performance. However, in a collectivistic work setting, teamwork is valued. It is frowned upon if someone were to disrupt group harmony. More importantly, hierarchy is very prominent in a collectivist work setting. A lot of people try and read the atmosphere to avoid upsetting anyone, especially their superiors. So when you get placed in a new work setting in Asia, you may find it hard to understand the significance placed on group work and how a lot of people may tiptoe around their employers.

Enjoy Your Adventure in Asia!

Moving to Asia will surely be quite the adventure! Understanding the collectivistic values in many Asian countries will save you the confusion you might experience during your time abroad. Don’t get too caught up on thinking like a collectivist, though! This post is just meant to help you become aware of the differences between each culture. Keep in mind to respect the social etiquette in the country you are staying in and enjoy your adventure in Asia!

5 Things No One Tells You About South Korea

Picture This:

You’ve come to South Korea to teach English, and the first week you’re here, everything seems fascinating. You’re trying out new food and visiting new cities. However, a month goes by and you’re starting to miss home. It’s harder to communicate with the locals and understand why they act the way they do. Feelings of frustration are rising. What’s happened?

 

 

This is a perfect example of a “honeymoon phase” ending. It’s something that people experience when they live in a different country for an extended period. Of course, this is no exception to teachers who move to South Korea to teach English. This post isn’t meant to scare you off, though! It’s meant to teach you about the hidden facets of South Korean culture in today’s modern society. Knowing this beforehand will help you combat the culture shock you will experience living in Korea. 

1. Age Importance

First on our list is the importance of your age.

South Koreans place great importance on your age, especially in an office setting. When you enter a new workplace and meet your colleagues, you will bow and exchange formal words. As time pass, some of your colleagues will start talking to you informally, but this doesn’t mean you can too. You are allowed to speak informally to a colleague who is the same age as you. However, when interacting with a colleague that is either at a higher position than you or is older than you, you must remind yourself to use formal words.

2. Drinking Culture

Drinking alcohol is a big part of South Korean corporate culture. It is a stress reliever for many overworked employees and also plays a big part in building business relationships. Being invited to go out for a drink with your office superior is seen as a compliment, making it hard for people to turn it down. Therefore, people who have office jobs often feel obligated to attend after-work dinners with their employers. Unfortunately, at these dinners, people are pressured to drink. In South Korean drinking etiquette, offering a drink to another person is a sign of generosity. As a result, refusing this drink could come off as a rude gesture. The extent of how much South Koreans drink isn’t a concern that Koreans seem to understand. Drinking is seen as a normal activity that can strengthen bonds between friends or colleagues.

3. Herd Mentality

South Korea is a collectivistic country, often placing a lot of importance on the group or community rather than the individual. Therefore, the herd mentality in this country is present and particularly strong, and this can be seen especially in fashion trends. Once something starts to trend, everyone seems to hop on the new fad. Whether it is hairstyles, clothes, or makeup, you will see a lot of people in Korea who have strikingly similar styles. It is almost to the point where they look alike. Wanting to conform to social norms and to be seen as a part of a group is normal in any country for most people, however, in South Korea, people take collectivism very seriously. Eating alone at a restaurant or school can be seen a bit weird and people oftentimes assume you’ve been ostracized by your peers if you do so.

South Korea is a collectivistic country, often placing a lot of importance on the group or community rather than the individual.

Speaking of being ostracized by your peers, there’s a particular way of bullying in Korea that is quite severe. It is called ‘wangtta’ where a group of people collectively ignore a person as a form of bullying. A lot of times people don’t speak to this person and associates them negative qualities. Sometimes, people who are labeled as ‘wangtta’ continue to be a ‘wangtta’ throughout most of their school year. As a collectivistic country, making a person a ‘wangtta’ would be the harshest form of bullying. Of course, once someone starts bullying, everyone collectively does it as well. This makes it hard for someone who is a ‘wangtta’ to break out of their isolation.

4. Humor & Sarcasm

Humor in each country is different and can be confusing to understand, and this is no exception for the humor in South Korea. In this tiny Asian country, making a fool out of yourself or dissing others is a common way to make others laugh. South Korean humor also includes a lot of hitting. For instance, physically hitting your friends as a joke can be seen to be humorous. It implies that you have a close relationship with your friends. Although it looks painful, it’s a lot different than bullying. If you see both parties laughing while the joke plays out, then it’s most likely that it’s just a friendly hitting! 

Sarcasm does exist in South Korea, but it is usually used between friends. Sarcasm is usually used to make fun of a person in a snarky matter. For example, one might say, “You seem to be working hard,” in an exaggerated tone that makes it quite obvious that they are making a sarcastic joke. So, if you were to throw a sarcastic comment in a monotone, Koreans will have a hard time understanding that you are joking and might take it literally.

5. Lookism

You will be surprised how much Korean people, care about looks and weight. Korea is known as the world’s plastic surgery capital with an estimate of 1 million surgeries conducted in a year alone. This prevalence allows a lot of female teenagers to be gifted a blepharoplasty as a normal middle or high school graduation present. A blepharoplasty is also called a double eyelid surgery, which allows a person with monolids to attain a bigger eye shape. This is a sought out facial feature in Asian beauty standards.

The prevalence of plastic surgery can be correlated to lookism. Lookism is discriminatory treatment toward people who are deemed physically unattractive. This includes fat shaming, which is normalized in Korea. It’s so normalized to the point that the media often portrays TV personalities who have “bigger” bodies to be ridiculed by referring to them as ‘pigs’. Often, this type of name-calling is seen as humorous. This kind of social pressure keeps Korean women thin. So thin actually, that two in ten women suffer from undernourishment according to a 2009 report by the Ministry of Health. 

Experience South Korea For What It Is

We understand that moving to a new country will be a significant transition. And while this blog post might provide you with useful information, it’s a different story when you arrive on new land. That’s why XploreAsia provides our soon-to-be teachers with a cultural immersion orientation course. Provided online and in-class, this course strives to help you understand multiple aspects of South Korean culture. We touch on subjects such as politics, society, life in South Korea as well as the South Korean school system. 

We also arrange in-country cultural excursions outside of the classroom so you can experience interacting with the locals and culture. These excursions are accompanied with in-class Korean language lessons so you can build your basic understanding of the Korean language. All these efforts are to ensure you experience a seamless transition into your new life in South Korea. So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, XploreAsia is here to provide you with the support and guidance you need.

How to Choose Your Optimal Time to Teach Abroad

Deciding to teach abroad is already a big leap, but if you’ve gotten this far and are now determining when to go, that in itself can be another big decision. To help alleviate some of the stress, here is a breakdown of how we like to filter our favorite places to go and when.

Semester Dates

One of the largest factors to consider when coming over to teach: semester dates. Whether you’re on a strict schedule or flexible timeline, here are some dates to consider:

South Korea

The academic year in Korea runs from February to March with breaks in July and August for summer and January and December for winter, similar to that of Western countries. 

Unlike the United States however, Koreans generally spend 220 days in school compared to the 180 days in the States. The contract length for the South Korea program is one year, so you can spend this time getting fully immersed in Korean culture and making friends that will last a lifetime.

Vietnam:

The school year in Vietnam typically lasts from September to May and the school week is six days, with children usually only attending school for half the day. If you are unsure if the decision to teach abroad is right for you, Vietnam is a great place to start because the shortest contract is 4 months.

China

In China, the school year runs from the beginning of September to mid-July, and a school day typically goes from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a two-hour lunch break. 

Like the Vietnam program, this program is perfect for if you would like some flexibility with your time abroad, because the contract length can be anywhere from 4.5 months to 9 months.

Thailand

The best times to take your TEFL or TESOL course in Thailand are October and April as they take place during school breaks. Throughout the country, schools have their break months in March and April for summer and September or October for winter break, so after your course is over, you can start teaching right when everyone else starts back up at school.

Myanmar

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is great for those with the most flexible and adventurous schedule. Because Myanmar has experienced so many tumultuous changes within the last century, it is in dire need of all forms of education in order to keep up with the ever growing wave of globalization. So although the academic year generally runs from September through April, the steadily-developing country welcomes teachers at all times.

Weather

Depending on where you’re from, the notoriously hot and humid weather can seem like a breeze and the same can be said for the brisk cold found in China and South Korea during the winter months. But if you’re unsure, here’s a fast and easy cheat sheet for our placements:

China

According to China Highlights, Beijing (where we do the majority of our China placements) is suitable for travel all year round. In terms of season, September to November are the best months to visit. Summer in Beijing is hot and humid, while winter is cold and dry. Spring and autumn are short and cool. 

Seventy-five percent of the annual precipitation is concentrated in summer from June to August, with frequent showers in July and August. The coldest month is January at an average of -4 °C (25 °F), and the hottest month is July at an average of 26 °C (79 °F).

South Korea

Unlike many other Asian destinations, South Korean weather is fairly straightforward and easy to understand for travelers used to living with seasons. There are only minimal regional variations throughout the country, and the year divides neatly into four distinct seasons. 

There is a delightful spring (April to June), a muggy and wet summer (July to August), a refreshing autumn (September to November) and a freezing cold, snowy, but dry winter (December to March). From summer highs of 30°C (86°F), the temperatures in winter can plummet to as low as -20°C (-4°F) on occasion in the northern regions of the Gangwon-do Province, although it can be significantly milder along the southern coast and on the holiday island of Jeju in the far south.

Myanmar & Thailand

Myanmar and Thailand both have tropical climates with three main seasons: hot (March through April), rainy (May through October) and cool (November through February). While southern temperature never drops below 16 °C (61 °F) northern mountains in Myanmar can be covered with ice-caps. 

Conversely, the hot season can reach temperatures of 38 °C (101 °F) followed by heavy rainfall in late June through September and getting as much as 225 mm (8.9″) of rainfall.

Vietnam

As a country that has more than 2,000 miles of coastline, the weather in Vietnam cannot be categorized as easily as the others. Depending on where you are in the country, you will have fairly differing experiences with the weather.  In Hanoi and the north, May to October is hot and humid with high rainfall; November to April is cooler and dry. 

In the far north, December and January can be particularly cold. Central Vietnam experiences hot, dry weather between January and August when temperatures can hit the mid-30°C’s; whilst high levels of rainfall can occur in September, October and November. Southern Vietnam is generally dry and hot from November to April, and warm and wet between May and October, with the highest rainfall in June, July, and August.

Holidays

Another aspect to take into consideration, especially if you’re a Westerner, is which holidays you are willing to miss, if any. For example, although autumn in China and South Korea and the cool season in Thailand and Myanmar are notoriously the best months to visit for climate reasons, they also run over holidays such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s. 

While stepping outside of one’s comfort zone is certainly encouraged, for some, the prospect of celebrating a traditional holiday away from home may heighten homesickness when not around family and close friends.

Alternatively, it’s also an incredible experience to celebrate your native or even local holidays while overseas such as Songkran (the Thai New Year), the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, or the Hung Kings’ Festival in Vietnam.

Songkran Water Fight

Although there are many things to consider when making the life-changing decision to teach abroad, we hope this information will help you feel all the more prepared for flying overseas. Whenever you choose to embark on your overseas adventure, know that your options are limitless and you can mix-and-match as your heart desires.

 

Celebrating Women in the XploreAsia Community

This March, we celebrated International Women’s History Month by highlighting some incredible women who became teachers through our programs! At XploreAsia, over 75 percent of our participants are solo female travelers and some of them have shared with us some words of wisdom that they’ve gathered throughout their journeys abroad: 

Allison Scott

Allison Scott is an American who has been teaching English in Thailand since Nov. 2018.

“Say yes to everything.” Saying yes to opportunities has led Allison to have some amazing experiences in Thailand. Some other advice she has for incoming teachers is to learn to go with the flow, because nothing ever goes as planned as a teacher!⠀

Kate McNaughton

Kate McNaughton is from South Africa and has been teaching in South Korea since Aug. 2018. She teaches elementary and middle school students, and also has one Adult class!

“Don’t be afraid to take risks. Sometimes moving to a different country seems daunting but life is what you make of it. Enjoy every moment of your new city, your new life. Explore. Try new things, new food, make new friends from all over the world and make the most of the opportunities you’ve been given.”

Shauna Dunkley

Shauna Dunkley is a Canadian who moved to Thailand in Oct. 2015 and hasn’t left since! She teaches kindergarten at a private school in Nonthaburi, Thailand and loves it.

“Never be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Tamryn Iyer

Tamryn Iyer is from South Africa and has been teaching in Vietnam since Sep. 2018. She teaches students from kindergarten all the way up to sixth grade!

No matter your salary, no matter your apartment, no matter the tax you pay… happiness starts with you! In any experience you choose, working abroad, packing shelves at the grocery down your road, it’s totally up to you to make it the best experience of your life!”

Lindsey Gall

Lindsey Gall is an American who originally came to Thailand in Nov. 2014. She initially taught for two years, then taught in another country and after traveling for a bit, came back to Thailand in Oct. 2018 because she missed it so much!

“Go for it! I know it can seem scary at first, but the kindness that you encounter on a daily basis from the locals everywhere, from total strangers, is both remarkable and humbling.”

Erin Jamieson

Erin Jamieson is from Canada and has been teaching in Thailand since Nov. 2018. She teaches grades M 1 and 2 (children aged 13 and 14) students in Chanthaburi.

She has had some amazing experiences while living in Thailand, and one of her favorite things about living there has been making true connections with Thai people. In her time there, she has found Thai people to be the most kind and genuine people she has ever met.

“Always expect the unexpected, and just go with whatever presents itself because it always turns out how it is meant to.”

Pearl Simelane

Pearl Simelane is from South Africa and has been teaching in South Korea since Aug. 2018. She teaches elementary and middle school students in Suncheon, a small city in the southern region of the country.

“It’s been such a beautiful journey. It’s scary at first but the little humans with genuine, heartwarming smiles make it so easy. A smile and a little encouragement every other day goes a long way and it’s so rewarding to watch them bloom with newfound confidence.”

Caroline Byerly

Caroline Byerly is an American who arrived in Thailand during Oct. 2018. She teaches English, Math and Computer to students in grades P1-P4 (first graders to fourth graders) in Chaiya, Surat Thani.

“Don’t be afraid to take a position that isn’t your ‘dream placement!’ You learn the most about yourself when you’re outside of your comfort zone. Be up for the challenge and embrace your new community!”

Jade Kelly

Jade Kelly is from South Africa and taught in Thailand from Aug. 2018 until Feb. 2019.

“Embrace the whole experience and especially the unexpected! Immerse yourself in the culture! Don’t give up and remember when things get tough that you chose to put yourself in this situation so that you would grow and learn new things! Be positive and just enjoy it all, it’s amazing!”

Amber Rondeau

Amber Rondeau is an American who teaches children ages 2.5-7. She has been teaching in Thailand since July 2018 in Surat Thani!

Travel with an open heart and accept everyone you meet. Keep your guard up, but don’t make judgements about others. Your instincts will tell you what kind of person they are.

We’d like to thank these courageous women and countless others who have taken their TESOL courses with us and who are changing lives all around the world. They inspire us each and every day!

The Twelve Days of Christmas (at Rescue P.A.W.S.)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (at Rescue P.A.W.S.)

Rescue P.A.W.S. landscape logo

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a cat curled under the tree!

Saba is one of three cats we found tied up in a bag and thrown over the wall of the temple where our clinic is based. We took her and her siblings in and now they are happy, healthy and ready for adoption. If you are interested in adopting, contact us here!

Rescue Paws volunteer walking towards kennel
Rescue Paws volunteer with cow

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Whenever we are unable to return a dog to its pack, we try to find it a forever home. Pictured are two dogs we took in to sterilize and care for that were adopted by two families.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Our volunteer program is the backbone of Rescue P.A.W.S. Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to help nearly as many dogs as we do. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit our website to apply!

Rescue Paws volunteer with dog
Rescue Paws volunteer training dog

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

At Rescue P.A.W.S., not only do we look after dogs but we also look after cats. All of our rescued animals are like siblings here!

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Rescue Paws volunteer holding dog on the beach in Hua Hin, Thailand

Stray dog overpopulation is a massive issue throughout all of Thailand. In the span of six years, one male and female pair can produce up to 67,000 offspring. Here at Rescue P.A.W.S. we help to reduce the number of strays by sterilizing dogs, which in turn helps increase their quality of life.

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

While on a feeding run one day, we noticed one of the puppies, Snooze, had swelling in her paw. We took her back to the clinic to sterilize her and treat the wound. She will be returned to her to her pack as soon as she heals.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Rescue Paws volunteer holding dog on the beach in Hua Hin, Thailand

Our volunteers partake in daily feeding runs to local packs around the area making sure the dogs are properly nourished. We feed the pups both dry and wet dog food, all thanks to donations. If you want to help us feed the street dogs in Thailand, donate here today!

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

For the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

One of the most crucial parts of being a volunteer is socializing with the dogs. We give each dog extra love and care so that they grow up friendly and properly socialized.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine dogs a-learning, eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Rescue Paws volunteer holding dog on the beach in Hua Hin, Thailand

Not only do we socialize the dogs, but for those that are with us for longer, we also train them. Pictured here is Cloud, who is up for adoption! If you are interested in adopting, please message us here.

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten clean kennels, nine dogs a-learning, eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Our volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that our dogs are happy. Part of their daily tasks is cleaning the kennels so that all the dogs staying with us are comfortable and happy.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven toys donated, ten clean kennels, nine dogs a-learning, eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

One of our lovely volunteers, Nikita, was generous to donate some much-needed toys, leashes and collars for our dogs. This year, we have been lucky to receive donations from so many kind individuals. But unfortunately, we still need more help. With one sterilization costing around 2,000 baht ($60 USD), any amount goes a long way! To donate, click here. All of us at Rescue P.A.W.S. and XploreAsia appreciate the donations that have and are being made that enable us to continue helping the community.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve strays transformed, eleven toys donated, ten clean kennels, nine dogs a-learning, eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

It warms our hearts to see so many lives of animals transformed after they come through our doors. It’s truly incredible what a little love and care can do to better the lives of these precious animals. Thank you to all of our donors, volunteers, and to our amazing team for helping make Rescue P.A.W.S. the organization that it is. 

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws
If you or anyone you know is interested in donating, volunteering, or interning with Rescue P.A.W.S. contact XploreAsia or Rescue P.A.W.S. today!
Do you love animals? Want to give back to the community? Come join us in beautiful Thailand and get involved with Rescue P.A.W.S. You can also make a positive impact by visiting Wagging Tales Cafe, our non-profitable coffee shop where all proceeds go towards Rescue P.A.W.S. itself. Learn more about the Rescue P.A.W.S. volunteer program here

How to Reduce Your Environmental Impact In Thailand

How to Reduce Your Environmental Impact In Thailand

How to Reduce Your Environmental Impact in Thailand

Picture this: I’m walking down the street in sunny San Diego with an iced almond latte in one hand, proudly sporting my stainless steel tumbler and straw. I feel as though I’m saving the world with my farmers market tote in the other hand. Fast forward one month and I’m ordering a Thai coffee in broken Thai for 30 baht from a street vendor. My stomach churns as I watch the smiling woman hand me a plastic cup with a plastic lid and a plastic straw. Then, my heart sinks further as I consider my environmental impact as she places the drink in some sort of plastic bag handle device.

Plastic cup with plastic lid and plastic straw in a plastic bag in Thailand

From the day I was born my parents engrained reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, or refuse into my mind. However, I never really considered how my habits back home would translate abroad.

My First Impression of Thailand

Having only spent one week here in Thailand I am constantly amazed by the prevalence of single-use plastic. There are plastic water bottles everywhere. At 7-Eleven they’ll give you a plastic straw in a plastic wrapper for your plastic drink bottle all held together in a plastic shopping bag. Or at a local market they’ll wrap your dried fruit in a plastic sheet, tie it with a rubber band, and place it inside another plastic bag. Even bananas come in plastic bags. And to think I was annoyed by the shrink-wrapped cucumbers at Trader Joe’s back home.

XploreAsia teacher visits elephant sanctuary in Thailand
Rescue Paws volunteer in Hua Hin, Thailand

Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries in the worldknown for its tropical beaches, lush forests, high mountains, and glittering Buddhist temples. The various street vendors and markets on every corner allow visitors to support the local economy. They also have an amazing ecotourism industry where visitors can participate in sustainable travel.  Visitors can opt for a homestay, support a humane elephant sanctuary, or volunteer with a nonprofit organization, such as our very own Rescue Paws. While Thailand has exceeded my expectations with its sheer beauty, pollution is still a very real issue.  

My first visit to the beach was quite a humbling experience. This particular beach was absolutely gorgeous with white sand and calm waves, but there were hundreds of tiny pieces of plastic stuck in the seaweed that washed onto shore. Yes, plastic is convenient. Yes, it is a low-cost option. Yes, there are other pressing issues besides the environment. But I think as both guests and educators in this country we can do something!

Progress Towards Sustainability in Thailand

By no means are things all gloom and doom here in Thailand. The country has definitely made some significant strides towards sustainability. Tesco sells reusable bags, local coffee shops provide discounts for bringing a reusable cup, most busy locations have recycling bins, and national parks recently placed a ban on plastic.

Plastic Ban in National Parks

This large sign appears at the entrance of the Sam Roi Yot National Park near Hua Hin
Plastic ban sign in Sam Roi Yot National Park in Thailand
In 2013, a group of environmental activists in Thailand formed a nonprofit organization called Trash Hero with the mission to bring communities together by reducing waste through action and awareness.  As of June 2018, more than 104,000 volunteers have removed almost 597 tons of garbage from beaches and cities across Thailand and ten other countries. There’s a chapter right here in Hua Hin that holds weekly beach cleanups every Sunday. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with the local community for a greater cause!
Trash Hero volunteer educating youth about plastic and sustainability in Thailand

Read Blog

We interviewed one of XploreAsia’s very own program coordinators about her experience with Trash Hero

Whether we are teachers, interns, volunteers, or just tourists in Thailand there are some small changes we can make in our new everyday lives here to help make a difference and lower our environmental impact. The first thing on everyone’s to-do list after arriving in Thailand should be to buy a reusable water bottle. I bought a large water jug and have been refilling it with clean drinking water at many locations around Hua Hin for 5 baht.  Furthermore, we can purchase reusable shopping bags and take-away containers to use at local markets and street vendors.

Watch Video

Adorable kids from Trash Hero teach us how to say no to plastic bags in Thai

Helpful Thai Phrases

Mai sai tung ka/krap = don’t need a bag
Mai ao lawd ka/ krap = don’t want a straw
Mai = no
Sai = need
Ao = want
Tung = bag
Lawd = straw
*make sure to add ka (if you’re a female) or krap (if you’re a male) at the end to be polite*

Our Role as Educators

Most importantly, we can educate our students about how to reduce our environmental impact and the importance of minimizing single-use plastic. This global issue will affect their future unless we do something about it now! Many of our teachers have set up recycling bins and demonstrated to the students how to appropriately sort waste. We can and should incorporate sustainability into our lesson plans. For example, when learning the English words for animals we can teach students about marine life and what we can do to protect them. In addition, during a lesson about household items we could play fun games that teach them about saving water and energy.

Teacher from XploreAsia teaching Thai class about the beach
XploreAsia Teacher in front of class in Thailand

By teaching in Thailand, we have the ability to encourage our students to discover other ways to protect the planet. During XploreAsia’s overseas in-class TESOL training participants will learn different activities and lesson plans to encourage conservation. Since this is a cross-cultural experience, your students may even come up with some ideas that you haven’t considered. Let’s work together to make a difference and preserve Thailand’s natural beauty!

Written by: Maya Vrechek

Best Cafes in Hua Hin for Productivity & Good WiFi

Best Cafes in Hua Hin for Productivity & Good WiFi

Best Cafes in Hua Hin for Productivity & Good WiFi

(All in walking distance from the XploreAsia office too!)

Whether you’re interning, teaching, or working abroad (like at XploreAsia), Hua Hin offers an array of highly productive, adorable cafes located on almost every corner. I love finding a nice, cozy, cafe or coffee shop to write, read, or work at for the day. A change of scenery is my best inspiration and productivity booster. Luckily, Hua Hin is filled with the best cafes all over the city. Work hard, play hard right?

best cafes in Hua Hin

For those of you searching for these hidden gems, I’ve created a short list of the best cafes in Hua Hin with reliable wifi, delicious snacks, & perfectly brewed coffee based on my own experiences here in Hua Hin–not to mention, they are all a short walk away from the XploreAsia office. I hope these cafes bring you as much productivity, inspiration, and yumminess as they did for me. Happy exploring!

Soi Hua Hin 43

Open: 7am-4pm

1.) Wagging Tales

Located right across from the XploreAsia office, Wagging Tales is XploreAsia’s local cafe supporting their NGO, Rescue Paws.

XA transformed this big house into a cafe serving delicious Thai and Western food and drinks. 100% of the profits from Wagging Tales go to helping the stray dog population in Thailand through XA’s NGO, Rescue Paws. Wagging Tales is committed to bringing all profits back into the community. Not only does this cafe offer amazing smoothies, breakfast muffins, etc. it’s also a great place to meet fellow dog lovers and support a good cause. The mango smoothie from Wagging Tales is a perfect start to my day!

Make a donation to Rescue Paws, here.

11/34 Hua-Hin Soi 45

Open: 8am-3pm

2.) Black Monster

Despite the name, this coffee shop is the farthest thing from a black monster. Located just a block over from XploreAsia, the Black Monster is one cafe you can’t miss. The speedy wifi and assortment of trendy drinks combined with their mod decor, makes this cafe a favorite in Hua Hin—mine included. Not to mention, ALL. DAY. BREAKFAST. The most important meal of the day, and one that is sure to give you a productivity boost. Black Monster offers a breakfast special for 275 TBH which includes a trendy drink of your choice, toast, and a hearty breakfast. It’s a win-win situation.

3.) Chub Cheeva

Described as “tasty food in a chillax environment” Chub Cheeva was one of my best random finds in Hua Hin. Just a few minutes away from the office, this place is a A+ choice for great food, drinks, and atmosphere. Whether you need to get some work done with their super reliable wifi or take a break, Chub Cheeva has it all. As they say, “Loosen up your day in our chilled garden”.

 

2/8 Soi Naeb Kehardt,

Tambon Hua Hin

Open: 11am-9pm

4.) Two Beds & Coffee Machine

Right down the street from my accommodation (which is also conveniently on the same street as the office), I spotted this adorably hidden cafe, Two Beds & Coffee Machine and had to check it out. Turns out, Two Beds is a small and cozy British espresso bar and tea lab. Although they don’t have food, they do have an assortment of espressos, tea, and matcha. Plus, if you’re hungry for a snack, head over to their close neighbor Wagging Tales Cafe! The icy cold A/C, reliable wifi, and caffeinated drinks make Two Beds a great location to hammer down and get some work done.

11/62 Hua Hin Soi 43

Open: 9am-6pm

5.) Hot Cappuccino

I spotted Hot Cappuccino walking home from dinner one evening. When I went back to check it out, I found a clean, quiet, coffee place conveniently located right next to the Pizza Company (I was really craving pizza that day). The staff was very friendly and the service was stellar. This open air cafe allows you to take in the streets of Hua Hin while also getting some work done. I tried their frozen cocoa smoothie and was not disappointed!

Hua Hin Soi 56 Phetchakasem Road (next to the Pizza Company)

Open: 8am-5pm

 

6.) Khang Wang 

Another random discovery in Hua Hin, Khang Wang Clean Food & Juice Bar, stole my heart. There’s a lot of hidden gems in this city. I find that the best places I’ve stumbled upon are by accident, and I haven’t been disappointed yet. Khang Wang is an inviting, slightly hidden clean food & juice bar. Both the WiFi and A/C are top notch too. But, the best part of it all is the service you receive. The gentleman that helped me was so genuinely nice and helpful that I couldn’t help but include him in this post. Not to mention, he just earned himself a new regular customer. I suggest trying the Rice Noodles & Green Curry entree and Honey Lemon drink! 

11/100 Petchkasem Road Tambon Hua Hin

Open: 8am-5pm

 

Written by: Leah Amich

Reasons to Volunteer: A Look into the Pala-U Orphanage

Reasons to Volunteer: A Look into the Pala-U Orphanage

XploreAsia camp counselors leading game at Pala-U orphange
At XploreAsia, we are dedicated to helping people discover the life-changing adventure of working and volunteering abroad. Our aim is to provide cross-cultural interaction that fosters greater empathy and wisdom. Furthermore, we believe there are countless reasons why you should volunteer your time to a worthy cause.

XploreAsia has built a relationship with the Pala-U orphanage over the last four years. It is located in the remote village of Pa Den about an hour and 40 minutes west of Hua Hin, near the Myanmar border. The orphanage is home to 24 kind, caring, and energetic children ranging from age 6 to 17. Our leaders, Mike and Paang, generously donate money, supplies, and tools to the orphanage regularly so that they can live sustainably. The children at the orphanage depend on donors and sponsors to receive proper education, nutrition, and medical support.

Our visits to the Pala-U Orphanage embody six main reasons to volunteer: create lasting connections, improve social skills, build self-confidence, find a sense of purpose, practice valuable job skills, and feel a sense of fulfillment.
It is important to highlight that each of these aspects is a mere side-effect of volunteering. One should never expect anything in return but instead, approach each experience with an open heart and mind.

1. Lasting Connections

Every month a group of participants and staff members venture to the Pa Den village to play games, teach English, and connect with the children. It’s important to build consistent interactions so that the children have the opportunity to bond with new people while also seeing familiar faces.

Group photo of XploreAsia camp counselors and interns with children
Boys playing soccer in Pala-U

2. Social Skills

Volunteers work alongside both Thai and western XploreAsia staff members and other participants from all over the world. They collaborate to choose appropriate physical and mental games to play that the kids will enjoy. They also must adjust their conversations and games to accommodate the age level and English proficiency of each child at the orphanage.

3. Self-confidence 

Whether you’re a staff member, teacher, camp counselor, intern, or volunteer, you must step into a leadership role. You are the English expert and it is incredibly valuable! XploreAsia has the resources and experience to spread that knowledge with members of our local community. It’s up to us to share this skill with others and ensure that they have a positive, impactful experience.

XploreAsia camp counselor leading hokey pokey
Four smiling kids from Pala-U orphange

4. Sense of Purpose

Volunteers can directly impact the lives of these children. This interaction helps build the Thai children’s social skills and confidence in English. They get the chance to connect with native English speakers of all different ages and backgrounds which will help them in future education and occupations.

5. Valuable Job Skill

This is a cross-cultural experience. In exchange for your English expertise, you have the ability to learn and work in a culture that is completely different than your own. Volunteers will strengthen their leadership and communication skills. Future employers will take note of your philanthropic efforts as a reflection of your character. (Though this should not be the sole reason for your volunteer work)

XploreAsia intern thinking of animal for charades
Boys climbing on male XploreAsia camp counselor

6. Fulfillment

Many people visit Thailand and never explore outside of the tourist hotspots. On this lush farm, volunteers have the chance to play and laugh during duck duck goose, telephone, or street soccer with extraordinary kids. There’s a sense of pride and happiness that comes from taking time out of your day to service someone else, with nothing in return.  These children teach volunteers about the value of community, teamwork, and friendship.

Sharing snacks at Pala-U orphange
Community building at Pala-U Orphange
Two girls laughing during game

Volunteer Opportunities

Pala-U Orphanage – reach out to us if you’d like to volunteer, donate, or sponsor.
Camp Counselor Program – Travel across Thailand to help underserved students acquire the skills needed to improve their lives and communicate across cultures.
Rescue Paws – Make a huge difference to the lives of the stray animals in Thailand. There are many ways to get involved: volunteer, day program, flight volunteer, adopt, donate, sponsor, educate others, and more. 
Monastic Teaching Program:  Improve the lives of Myanmar by teaching English to a mixture of monks, novice monks, nuns, orphans, local adults, university students, and children from disadvantaged communities.

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Written by: Maya Vrechek

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam

English Teacher Living in Vietnam

Ellie graduated from XploreAsia‘s accredited TESOL course in August 2018. Learn more about her experience as an English teacher at an English Writing Center outside of Hanoi, Vietnam!

Over the last few months I have lived and worked in Hanoi as an English Teacher for a Private Language Centre. My day to day routine is very much dependent on the hours and responsibilities that come with my position at the centre. My schedule can switch and change depending on team meetings, training and teacher cover. Generally, however, it does stay the same. In just a few months I have managed to build a routine that allows me to pursue hobbies, travel and explore the vibrant city of Hanoi and beyond. As I work for a Private Language Centre, I’m required to teach 25 hours over the evenings and the weekends, with two days off during the week. Initially, I thought I might find this schedule hard to regulate. And as someone who’s been used to having weekends and evenings for quite some time, this schedule felt somewhat strange. However, I have grown to love it! I have found time that I never thought I would have.

Average Weekday Working Schedule

07:00 – Wake up, go to the gym (normally)

My alarm goes off. Slowly I’ll drag myself out of bed and to the gym. My local gym is just around the corner costs around $12 a month. Or (300,000 VND). At this point I appreciate the luxury of being able to snooze for another 30 minutes if needed. After my tiring 9-5 routine back home, time is for once on my side in the morning.

09:00 – Head back home

We arrive home and prepare a delicious and colourful plate of fruit for breakfast. Brew a coffee and watch the news. Once I’ve had a chilled breakfast I’ll get myself ready for the day. I’ll start thinking about any errands that need to be run and which of Hanoi’s many incredible coffee shops we’ll be heading to.

English Teacher Living In Vietnam
10:30 – Set out to our coffee shop of choice.

One of the most appealing things about Hanoi is its endless amounts of cafés and lunch spots. It would take you a very long time to discover Hanoi’s entire extensive coffee scene.

Once we’ve found our spot, we will spend a couple of hours enjoying one of Vietnam’s many delicious coffees. My favorite being the coconut coffee and Eddie’s a traditional egg coffee. Here we will work on various different things. Generally I will write about our experiences in Vietnam, travel plans and teaching for our blog.  

Eddie uses this time to write for a second income. As an experienced content writer he is able to earn money by writing for others online and for his own websites. We try to be productive as we can!

Most of our friends also use this time to pursue various different hobbies and side jobs. Some teach in the mornings, others learn to play guitar and a couple even rock climb. It’s precious time most of us are not used to having, and something that is greatly appreciated by most teachers here.

12:30 – Lunch time

Decide what we fancy for lunch. Again, the choices are endless.

Eating out in Vietnam can be as cheap as $1 for a delicious meal. It is arguably cheaper than buying and cooking in. Depending on how we are feeling, we could go for a western brunch or a street side Pho.

Western food is much more expensive, but cheaper than home. It’s generally a treat we allow ourselves once a week.

14:00 – Naptime

With full bellies from lunch, we head home to get an hour of chill time before we set off for work.

During this time we usually take the opportunity to have a nap like the locals or to watch some TV.

15:00 – Commute time

Set off on our 30km commute to work. Don’t worry, a 30km commute isn’t the norm for most teachers in Hanoi.

Eddie and I were placed in a center 30km outside of Hanoi. We made the decision to continue living in Hanoi and to commute by bike to work. It usually takes us about 40 minutes depending on the traffic.

Most teachers can expect up to a 30 minute commute, sometimes even longer if traffic is bad. Generally a job in a private language center will require you to travel during rush hour, which means commute times can vary greatly.

16:00  – Arrive at our English Language Centre

Lessons in our center don’t start until 17:30 during the week, which allows us plenty of time to review lesson plans and prepare for the evenings two lessons. Each lesson at our center consists of two blocks of 45 minutes, with a 5 minute break in between. Every teacher is different. Some teachers like to carry out all of their planning and printing on one day, others prefer to arrive early to prepare before their lessons. I personally prefer arriving an hour before class begins each day to prepare lessons. This is mainly because it keeps things fresh in my mind and I don’t end up with brain fog in class.

17:00 – ‘They’ arrive

The evening starts to get into full swing.

I start to hear feet pattering in the corridors and the squeals of excited children ringing in the air.

At this stage I find it very difficult to actually get anything done. The kids seem to know few boundaries and I find them running in and out of my classroom as they please. As I teach the younger ages, it is very hard to ignore them.

I quite enjoy this period of madness. As I teach the younger ages I use this time to try and tire them out as much as possible before they have to stay relatively calm during my class.

English Teacher Living in Vietnam
English Teacher Living in Vietnam
17:30 – First class

We do our best to calm our students and line them up for class before teaching begins.

At this stage every day is different. Some days classes are a dream, others are a nightmare. It all really depends on how prepared you are for lesson, what sort of mood your students are in and what sort of mood you’re in.

“Teacher fit” is a term I have heard used to describe a certain fitness level that can only be obtained through teaching. At first I didn’t really understand what it meant, but now I certainly do.

Teaching has you running around, dancing, singing, jumping up and down, shouting words and generally pacing. It is a term that is particularly appropriate for kindergarten teachers.

Two classes in a row can really take it out of you.

20:45 – Home time!

The bell rings for the end of the day’s final lesson.  We say goodbyes to our students and send them on their way home. Once all of our admin is completed, we aren’t far behind them. It’s time for us to reflect on the evening’s lessons and think about what we might do differently in the future. As teachers I believe we learn something new from each and every lesson. I always leave the classroom feeling as though I have gained something.

21:45 – Arrive home

We throw together a simple meal, such as a stir-fry or omelet and appreciate some well deserved peace and quiet. Depending on how we are feeling, we may stop in at one of the street food stands for dinner.

During this time we will wind down with a book or some TV. It’s often quite hard to shut off after being so active for the last few hours, so allowing ourselves this time is necessary.

Weekend Workday Schedule

As I mentioned before, if you work in a Language Centre it’s likely you’ll be working long hours over the weekend. For us we teach 3 lessons on Saturday mornings and 3 lessons on Sunday afternoon/evening.

It can be a challenge sometimes getting in for 8am on a Saturday morning, but I quite like it. I don’t know whether it’s the time or whether the kids haven’t been at school all day, but I find they are somewhat more chilled.

Around those hours we stick to a similar routine, with a few beers with friends thrown in on a Saturday evening.

Days Off

Days off in the city are my favourite. Simply hopping on a bike with no plan and no particular place to go is a great feeling. Hanoi is full of interesting things to do and some wonderful things to see. If we’re feeling more adventurous, we might even hop on our bike and head to Ba Vi National Park or Tam Coc. Both a straightforward 2 hour drive from Hanoi.

In the evenings we will normally meet up with our pals from work and go to an open mic night or to a karaoke bar. We definitely work hard, but the reward is so worth it. 

English Teacher Living in Vietnam
You can follow Ellie and Eddie’s journey over at www.idiotsteachabroad.com!

Ever considered teaching English in Vietnam? With XploreAsia, you could be living and working in this diverse country, gaining a deeper insight into the culture, interacting with local people and making a real difference in the community through teaching English. For more information on this program, visit Teach in Vietnam!   

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