July has been a whirlwind of adventure and education here at XploreAsia, and with the end of the month already here, we just wanted to take a second to say thank you to everyone who got involved with one of our programs, and helped us make the endless stream of amazing new memories we have.
This August we are proud to present the new and improved XploreAsia.org! To celebrate the launch of our new site, we decided to take a look back at some of the amazing experiences we took part in during July.
Firstly, we’d like to congratulate all the graduates of our July, 2016 internationally recognized Thailand in-class TESOL Course. This determined and diligent group of students were not afraid to put in the work and dedication necessary to learn the craft of lesson planning, effective instruction, classroom management, and overall successful practices for teaching ESL students.
We rounded off this July in-class TESOL course with a two-day non-profit English camp at the local Tedsaban School, here in Hua Hin.
Congratulations TESOL graduates! Good luck at your new teaching positions all around Thailand. We know you have what it takes to be great teachers!
Training and welcoming new teachers to Thailand isn’t the only thing we’ve been up to though, we’ve also been catching up with some past XploreAsia graduate teachers, who have been busy teaching in their placements around Thailand.
This July, XploreAsia hosted a teacher’s meet-up dinner along the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. We wanted to give our extended XA family a chance to catch up with one another, talk about the daily joys and struggles of being a foreign English teacher in Thailand, and of course, have some fun!
We just wanted to extend another thank you to everyone who attended, and left us with such great memories. We hope to see you again at the next meet-up!
But no trip to a local Thai school would be complete without some actual teaching practice, which is why our Thai My Way participants hit the classroom for some good old fashion international teaching experience.
Thanks for the amazing memories, ladies!
Even though the Project Thailand participants joined us at Tedsaban to enjoy the whirlwind of cultural experiences, they also had their own special assignment to work on…
Project Thailand participants also worked closely with non-profit organization Rescue Paws, and the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation, to research solutions to current animal welfare issues happening in Thailand.
Balancing time between research and adventure, the Project Thailand participants left us some with amazing memories, and some valuable insights into the current animal welfare situation in Thailand.
July was truly an amazing month for us here at XploreAsia! We are ecstatic to have made so many new great memories, to have welcomed new people into the XploreAsia family, and to have been such a positive force in the community.
And so, to celebrate such a remarkable month, we are excited to present our new website! From all of us at XploreAsia, thank you to everyone who helped contribute to the unforgettable collection of memories from this month. We look forward to making many new memories with all of you.
Meet Michael Volpe, founding director of XploreAsia. Michael has years of experience working and living in Thailand, and he has studied Thai culture for over a decade. Michael wants to welcome you to XploreAsia, an organization dedicated to helping others achieve a life-changing adventure abroad.
XploreAsia is dedicated to being a positive force in the local community by providing educational opportunities, volunteer work, and animal welfare programs.
Every member of our western staff has experience working and living abroad, and all of our TESOL course instructors have plentiful experience teaching internationally.
We understand the challenges and rewards of teaching and volunteering abroad. We want participants of our programs to be successful in their cross-cultural adventures, and that is why we go to great lengths to provide extensive support and guidance before, during, and after our courses and programs.
If you have ever found yourself researching TESOL companies, you know that there are numerous ones to choose from all over the world. How can you possibly make a decision? What makes XploreAsia stand out?
Here at XploreAsia, we do many things that set us apart, but our community outreach is what we really pride ourselves in. We love Southeast Asia; it’s full of beautiful landscapes, delicious food, and the friendliest people on the planet. After all it’s given us; we’re doing as much as we can to begin repaying our debt to this amazing place.
At the beginning of every TESOL course, our participants spend a week learning about Thai culture, Thai politics, and several other immersion activities. A few of these activities include touring a pineapple plantation, feeding rescued elephants, participating in a trash pick-up at a local temple, and volunteering with rescued street dogs.
Thailand is home to the sweetest pineapples on the planet. Naturally they hold themselves to extremely high standards to keep producing such great fruit, so many “perfectly good” pineapples don’t make the cut if they’re deemed unfit for human consumption. Normally these pineapples go to waste, and the farmers lose out on the money from them. In order to help the farmers and to reduce waste, XploreAsia steps in and buys many of these pineapples from the local plantation…now if only we knew someone who loved to eat pineapples…that’s where the rescued elephants come in!
Hutsadin Elephant Foundation is a non-profit elephant rescue center, based in Hua Hin, that has spent the last few years rescuing elephants with abusive pasts. They are working hard every day to give these elephants a comfortable remainder of their life, and to date they are now 80% ride-free!
The pineapples are loaded up and driven over to the Hutsadin Foundation. The participants then partake in the rewarding experience of feeding these majestic creatures, and let me tell you, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget!
No Thai cultural immersion week would be complete without a visit to a Buddhist temple! Through learning about Buddhism, meditation, and talking with the Monks, our participants receive a one-of-a-kind cultural temple experience. The participants also spend time picking up trash to pay respect to the Monks, Buddhism, and the temple grounds themselves.
Speaking of picking up trash, XploreAsia now volunteers with Trash Hero. Trash Hero’s mission is to create sustainable, community-based projects that remove existing waste, and reduce future waste by inspiring long-term behavior change. One way they do this is through weekly beach cleanups. Anyone can be a hero with Trash Hero, all it takes is some ambition and spending a few hours each week cleaning up our beaches. We live in paradise, and we want to keep it that way.
If you’ve ever been to Thailand you know that the street dog problem has gotten way out of hand. Luckily Hua Hin is home to Rescue Paws, a non-profit organization aiming to first stabilize and then reduce the stray animal population in Thailand over time through vaccinations, sterilization, adoptions, and education to get it to a manageable level. At Rescue Paws the participants volunteer by washing the dogs, taking them on walks on the beach, and giving them lots of love and affection. Many of our participants go on to volunteer multiple times at Rescue Paws, sometimes months and years after their initial TESOL course. Through hard work and many of volunteer hours, Rescue Paws has improved the lives of thousands of dogs all across Thailand.
As the world becomes more and more interconnected, the need to know English grows as well. At XploreAsia, not only do our participants go on to teach English across the country, but they also give back by conducting English camps in both Chiang Mai and Hua Hin. Our participants spend two days providing several hundred Thai students with fun and engaging English lessons. It is a great opportunity for the Thai students to learn English, but also for these future teachers to get a chance to teach in the country they will be living in.
Here at XploreAsia, we have been given so much by Southeast Asia. She has welcomed us in with open arms, cheered us up when we were sad, smiled with us when we were happy, and best of all, given us a chance to help change the world one student at a time. This is why we do everything we can to give back to this wonderful place, and we’d love for you to come join us!
I’ve been in Thailand for just about a month now, and I have finally moved to my placement in Trang City and found an apartment! But let me back up just a second real quick.
The past month in Chiang Mai has been the longest shortest time of my life. I feel like I’ve been here forever and I’ve known my TESOL friends forever, but at the same time the month of April flew by just as I was warned it would. Let me first say, I feel so fortunate for the group that I had the pleasure of taking my TESOL course with, as well as the wonderful XploreAsia staff that made transitioning into life in Thailand so welcoming and smooth. Having a group of only 22 people made it easy to become close quickly and develop significant relationships with every single person in my group. I’m already becoming homesick for Chiang Mai and missing my friends, but it’s good to know that I have people all over the country and I’m confident that we will all see each other again soon.
Without going into a crazy amount of detail, I want to try and briefly touch on some of the highlights of the past month:
Week one was orientation…if you haven’t already seen it, I posted a video compilation of a lot of what we did in just that week. We went to a rice plantation and planted rice, we took a muay thai lesson (Thai boxing), we got to visit Doi Suthep (a temple high up in the mountains of Chiang Mai), as well as a Tunnel Temple in Chiang Mai, and we took both Thai language and culture classes. The orientation activities began to ease us into realizing, yes we are actually in Thailand.
professional rice planters
Our first weekend, and our only real full weekend (we had some class on the weekends because of our songkran break), about 11 of us decided to go up North to Chiang Rai for the weekend. My friend, Aida, had been to this place called the Bamboo Nest before and highly recommended we go, even handling all the booking which made it really easy. We took the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and then had a couple hours to walk around Chiang Rai city and check out the White Temple before getting picked up to go to the Bamboo Nest. The Bamboo Nest is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. It was up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains. We had the place at capacity with the 11 of us and three other travelers that were there. There were 2 people to each small bamboo ‘nest’ – they were made entirely of bamboo, each with a balcony and a bamboo hammock. It was just peaceful and serene and unlike anywhere I’ve ever been in my life. We decided to go on a hike with Noi, the man that works at Bamboo Nest and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He spoke perfect English which he learned solely through speaking with guests over the years. Noi led us through the jungle and showed us how to cook rice, chicken, and eggs simply using bamboo. After our hike we took a boat to a small village and got to walk around and see their very minimal way of living. After everything we said our goodbyes and headed back to Chiang Mai.
if only pictures could do it justice…
Later that following week was Songkran. I also posted a video compilation in my last post from Songkran because I can’t even begin to explain in words how much fun this holiday is. We got two days off of class for Songkran, the Thai new year, which we spent on the streets of Chiang Mai engaging in water gun fights with every man, woman, and child we came in contact with. It was even more fun than it sounds.
greatest people, greatest holiday
In our second to last week, we had three days set aside where we got to actually teach! Because that is why I’m here, isn’t it! I got paired up with my friend Alex and we came up with a lesson plan on superheroes and a lesson plan on snacks. We went to two different schools, one very small school where we had a class of about 5 boys, and then one massive school where we had around 40 kids per class. It was crazy to finally get in the classroom, and although it definitely proved tough I think that everyone did a really great job. We got to spend some classes teaching, and others observing which was helpful because I’m definitely stealing great ideas from everyone else’s lessons! I entirely lost my voice, and then developed a cough which I still have two weeks later, but it got me even more excited for what’s to come once I start teaching.
strong like hulk
The last major thing we got to do, which I planned literally week one, was to go to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Almost everyone in our group came, about 14 of us, and we got to feed, bathe, pet, and walk with rescued elephants at the park. This park in particular is really special in that they make their visitors aware of the maltreatment of elephants all over Thailand. People should not ride elephants, elephants are badly broken and beaten in order to use to make money and entertain tourists, as well as carry out manual labor. All of the elephants at the park are rescue elephants, some have missing ears, broken bones, holes in their ears from hooks, and many are blind. It was really horrible to see, but also amazing because the elephants at the park are free to roam wherever they like and are treated as they should be, with kindness and respect. They are such gentle and smart creatures and it was surreal getting to actually meet so many of them. The park also has many other rescue animals – dogs, cats, water buffalo, goats, etc. Everyone had an inspiring and incredible day and I highly recommend this particular place if anyone is in Thailand and wants to get a chance to really interact with elephants.
note her broken foot from being beaten by her previous owner
Finally, in our last week we had our exam and graduation (and a screening of the season premiere of Game of Thrones on our classroom projector – obviously equally important). I’m really excited about my placement, and I got incredibly lucky because my best friend Baylee got placed in the same school as me! I’ll give a full description of my placement city, my apartment, and my school in the next post!
We are all so very unique, and every traveler has their own style.
Maybe you’re the type to plan everything out to a T, or maybe you just pack the essentials and see where the wind takes you! I am most certainly the latter, if an opportunity comes knocking I will take it, throw what I can in a small bag and hope for the best.
A lot of the travelers that I know are similar in this respect, though I have met a few who are rather meticulous. Planning weeks/months in advance, sorting out itineraries, putting together to do lists. Each to their own… as long as you’re not wasting your days wishing, I’m with you all the way!
Find out what kind of traveler you are with our short quiz and get started planning your next great adventure!
If you’ve ever thought about teaching English abroad in Thailand, then you may have heard of Xploreasia. Xploreasia is a company that helps people achieve their dreams of teaching English abroad by equipping them with the necessary skills to effectively educate ESL learners, giving them practical hands-on experience teaching in a Thai school, facilitating cultural excursions to help immerse new-comers into the Thai world, and even placing program participants in paying teaching positions throughout Thailand.
But XploreAsia doesn’t stop there!
Meet Michael Volpe, the CEO of XploreAsia, and the rest of the staff at XploreAsia, who let us know how they go above and beyond to make sure everyone who comes through the program has a successful experience.
Why TESOL is necessary for Teaching English in Thailand
9-5 got you down and dreaming of a new adventure? Thinking about teaching abroad? Thailand is becoming a main destination for people who want to teach English abroad. Teaching English abroad through XploreAsia is a great way to embark on an exciting adventure, and experience a new culture. If you are considering going abroad to teach, then there is no denying that it behooves you to get a TESOL or TEFL. It will greatly improve your chances of getting a steady job, and in fact, many schools in Thailand are now requiring a language certification.
But what is a TESOL? What’s a TEFL? And is one better than the other for a career in Thailand?
Well, get ready to find out – Michael Volpe from XploreAsia explains the difference between the two language certifications and answers the questions above.
Michael Volpe is the CEO of XploreAsia. He has an extensive educational background in international business and political science. He is a Fulbright-Hays Scholar with a PhD in International Public Policy from George Mason University.
Traveling and working abroad has been surprisingly transformative for me. I have to admit, I did not expect the change that took place simply from moving to another location, but this experience has been medicine for my soul.
If I had to have a conversation with my previous self from about a year ago, I might not recognize the person I was. My inner landscape has changed so dramatically that I can feel the difference every day. I dove into the cleansing waters of change and this country washed away the parts of my being that were doing me no good.
It’s weird to think that something so powerful can come from just living abroad, but it is that very act of diving into the unfamiliar and unknown that is so cleansing to the psyche. You can no longer hang on to habits or preconceived notions when you are presented with such a novel experience. You can no longer be in a comfortably sedated haze when everything is so bright, new, and present. Yes, that’s the word I’m looking for. Everything therapeutic about traveling condensed into one word: Presence.
Travel forces you to come to the surface of life and intimately connects you to the present moment. You forget about any heavy mental baggage and become as light as the air kissing your skin. You become the jagged mountain steps you’re climbing or the salty sea water you’re swimming through or the lights of Bangkok dazzling your eyes. You become the moment. And with that constant exposure to presence, your soul settles and becomes more grounded. It is like developing a habit of presence and seeing the sparkling beauty of every moment in life. There is no more room for heavy rumination. My spirit feels lighter as a result. Through exposing myself to the people and nature of Thailand I feel like I’ve cleared myself of those mental habits that pull me away from the moment. My sight has become clearer and now the present moment is always in view.
In Buddhism they make the claim that the doorway to enlightenment is in the moment. According to the Buddha, the roots of pristine happiness grow from presence. After being exposed to living abroad I can say this is true for me. In my home in the United States I was stuck in, what seemed to be, a fog of habitual thinking and ruminating. Similar to the feeling you get when you’re trying to sleep and you can’t stop thinking. Being lost in constant brain-chatter. Television static played over the symphony of your life. And you know what? I was not happy. I felt a dissonance, a weird sense of misalignment in life, like the tuning of my soul was slightly off and every time I tried to play it the music came out sour and left me wondering “What’s wrong?”. I was lost in time. Thinking about the past, worrying about the future, and never seeing the present. It’s a sort of illness, really. An illness who’s primary symptom is a deep sense of dissatisfaction.
The medicine for that which ailed me has been travel. Living abroad has washed away that diluted sense of presence with the dazzling brightness of the unknown and new experiences. I feel awakened to the beauty of life and I look back on my days of familiar and automatic routines as a time when I was kind of asleep and in a haze. But how can I convey this to you, dear reader, when it is something that can only be experienced firsthand. I implore you to dive into the unfamiliar. Travel, meet new people, and encounter new cultures and ways of thinking. See the world in all its stunning beauty. Walk the path less traveled and then forge a new one. I can guarantee this with all my heart, travel can be the medicine to heal the discontent in your soul.
07:00: Rise and Shine Open your eyes to another glorious day of LIVING IN THAILAND! Take a nice, cold shower (because there’s no hot water, but also because you’ll be sticky with sweat). Slip into some professional and modest work attire (so as not to offend your Thai co-workers), grab your bags, and head outside to slip on your shoes.
07:30: Catching the Songtao
Depending where you are housed, you may have the luxury of walking to work every day; but here on Soi 94 we prefer to sleep in and take the songtao (taxi bus). A green one or a white one will do (I prefer the white ones, as they will take you all the way for just 10 baht; whereas the green ones stop at the market, and will cost you 20 baht to go the full route). You can ask them to stop right at Soi 43, but if you take my advice, you’ll keep going till you hit Soi 39 for
08:00: Breakfast at the Baguette The Baguette is a popular Thai-European Bakery located just a few blocks down from the office, and is a staff favorite. Why get your morning dose of carbs, milk, and sugar from a bowl of over-priced Frosted Flakes when you can enjoy a delicious pastry and sweet creamy beverage for a fraction of what you’d pay at Starbucks? I was going to list my recommendations here, but I don’t need you judging me for the amount of food I’ve managed to consume from this restaurant alone in the last two months (and I’ve yet to order something from the Baguette I wouldn’t recommend).
08:30: Work Day Begins To recap:XploreAsia is an NGO which offers a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course here in Hua Hin (and another in Chiang Mai), and places teachers with their TESOL certification in schools across Asia (including Thailand, China, Myanmar, South Korea, and Vietnam).
Work in the Programs office can vary immensely. Basic responsibilities of the job include administrative work such as drafting emails, formatting documents, creating presentations, inputting data into spreadsheets, organizing and coordinating participants and events, administering surveys, gossiping by the water cooler, taking photographs, posting on social media, and acting as a liaison between XA, its partner agencies (like Greenheart), and the TESOL program participants.
12:00: Break for Lunch There are so many great options for grabbing lunch near Soi 43, but perhaps the greatest of them all is “The Corner Lady,” so-called because her eatery sits on a corner, around the corner, (make that three corners,) from the office. Here you will find some of the best (and cheapest) Thai food around. Lunch will cost you an average of 40 baht, and my favorite dish by far has to be the pad see ew.
13:00: Resume Work Okay, so it sounds like a pretty typical office job so far…but working in Thailand is not without its benefits! Every month, a new group of TESOL participants fly in from all over the world to participate in XA’s Teach in Thailand Program. That makes for plenty of time spent out of the office coordinating participants and helping to ensure things run smoothly – a great opportunity to share your acquired wisdom and learn from fellow travelers!
The program kicks off with a week of cultural excursions, which include activities such as kicking-ass in Muay Thai class, visiting a local pineapple Farm, feeding the elephants at Hutsadin Elephant Foundation, shopping and exploring a local Thai market, learning how to cook your own somtam and pad Thai, meditating with a Buddhist monk, hiking up the Khao Tao temple, and running with the pack at Rescue Paws. As an intern, you have the opportunity to join in all the fun!
17:30: End of Work Day Which is really just the beginning.
You live in Thailand; the possibilities are endless! Grab a beer with your new friends, or watch the sun set from a rooftop. Walk to the beach. Take a kite-surfing lesson. Enjoy a Thai massage. Go shopping for clothes and goodies at the mall, or practice your language skills at the night market. Watch a movie at the Cineplex. Hop the bento bars on Soi 55. Go dancing at the club. Try a new restaurant. Explore a new neighborhood. Make a new friend. Play with your local street dog(s) or cat(s). Relish the moment. Take pictures of everything. Write a blog post about how awesome your life is.
It was a scorching Sunday morning in Hua Hin Thailand when four of us XA staff members set out to Khao Takiab to volunteer with Rescue Paws, a non-profit institution that’s been fighting the good fight for street dogs in Thailand since 2013 If you’ve ever been in Thailand during the hot season you’ll know what I mean when I tell you it was utterly boiling and this particular Sunday was, the kind of day that burned you within 5 minutes, would leave you drenched in sweat, and strips you of all your energy.
We had mission though, our goal today was to volunteer at Rescue Paws, a non-profit institution that’s been fighting the good fight for street dogs in Thailand since 2013. They’re doing an amazing job providing vaccinations, surgery, adoptions, food, and affection to these beautiful creatures. Their main goal is to reduce the ever growing population in Thailand, as well as educate locals on how to adequately care for dogs in their possession or area. They are an incredible organization and having the opportunity to assist them in any way, as well as spend a day caring for and learning about the dogs in their care, is worth dealing with much more discomfort than we had to endure on that sweltering day.
Brian, Kristine, Brittany and I ventured out there on this particular day, and man did it kick off from the moment we got there. As we arrived all of the dogs came trampling towards us in a not so harmonious greeting. We were smothered with licks, rubs, barks, and yelps all at the same time, each dog demanding your undivided attention despite the fact that you’re supposed to be cleaning everything up and ensuring that the conditions are spic and span.
Sprite (formally known as Half-Pipe, who also happens to be my favourite), is outside, settled into his doggie wheelchair, barking, playing, and nestling up to me, trying to get as close as he can. Sprite’s hindquarters are paralyzed and he has been through quite the turmoil in his short time here. If you had seen this pup 6 months prior, you would not believe the change in him. At that point you could barely approach him. He was scared, over protective of everything around him, and he snatched at food like he’d quite possibly never eat again. Thanks to the breath-taking passion of the Rescue Paws staff, he’s been transformed. With his new name came a change in behavior; he’s friendly, playful, and you can feed him out of your hands without fear of losing a digit. I am in awe of the magic that happens at this place.
Soon the greetings had been done and it was time to get to work. The job for today was to ensure that all of the dogs from the kennels were given a run around. As a result of lack of funding, Rescue Paws are unable to build more spacious kennels, as well as a recovery section, which they are desperately trying to raise money for. The dogs are kept in smaller kennels, when there are enough volunteers they get to be taken to the beach. As you can imagine, they’re quite the excited bunch when they see you approaching. All dogs need exercise, and these pups love it as much as any other.
Kristine approached the kennel gate first, as she tried to open it a loud screech pierced the air and the gate fell right off its rusty hinges, clanged to the floor, and frightened everyone, humans and dogs alike. There’s barking and yelping as we desperately tried to put the gate back up and figure out whether we broke it or not. It turns out the gate had been broken a few days prior, if only these kinds of problems were avoidable huh?
Once the kennel gate scandal had passed, it was time to get the dogs out of the kennels, put collars and leads on them and start making our way through the exquisite temple grounds and down to the beach for a run, jump, swim, whatever they wish.
Forgetting the previously mentioned gate issue, we started opening kennel doors as usual so the dogs could mingle before we headed out, only this time their mingling included darting out the front gate and disappearing into the temple grounds. Take a second here to imagine the excitement of any dog you’ve had the privilege of seeing, discover that sweet taste of freedom and you get a small picture of the escapee madness we were now confronted with.
Needless to say it took us a good long while to track down the runaway pups, complete with lots of clapping, whistling, and shameless coaxing . The noise was endless, with shouts and barks being carried through the air and all of us frantically running after giddy dogs in the scorching heat. It was a sight to behold, I tell you.
Thirty minutes later, after gathered all the pups, we began our relatively paced meander towards the edge of the temple, where the ancient old steps meet the sandy beach front. The sun glistening off the water, barely a breeze in the air, and the ocean dead quiet – until we got there. We released the dogs, and they bolted down the steps, heading straight for the water, heads bobbing up and down as they bounded across the sand. You have never seen a bunch of happier dogs in your life.
We ran with them on the beach, through the water, back up the bank. We sat back and watched them play with each other in the sand, picking up fish that had washed up on the shore, teasing and goading one another before sprinting off again to devour their newfound morsel.
It was exhilarating to watch these dogs having the time of their lives, and knowing that without Rescue Paws, they may not have made it this far. They were happy, healthy, well-fed, loved, and looked after. Even if you are not an avid dog lover as I am, I promise that if you were in that moment, it would be impossible to escape the overwhelming appreciation that an organization like Rescue Paws exists.
The rest of the day ran smoothly. We ensured that all the dogs had their run on the beach, cleaned their kennels and hosed them off before putting them back in. They were utterly spent, which meant feeding time was a breeze. They quietly sat there while we gave them each their allotted amount of food, some medication disguised with a healthy portion of wet food (they were none the wiser) and made our way back to the main clinic. Here we got to play with a few puppies that were dropped off a week or so ago. Things don’t get much better than a litter of puppies swarming you as you sit near them, biting everything in sight, licking you, biting each other, barking rather pathetically, and with more energy than one could ever imagine. It was the perfect end to an incredible day.
At the end of it all, just another day at Rescue Paws. I know that some are harder than others, and some come with tears of sadness while others with tears of utter joy. Regardless of the events of the day, every volunteer walks away feeling hopeful and optimistic about the world, knowing they have made a difference in the life of at least one creature. There’s no better way to end a day than that.