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Volunteer in Thailand whilst Teaching: Ané’s Story

Volunteer in Thailand whilst Teaching: Ané’s Story

Read Ané's Story on Volunteering at a Meditation Center in Thailand

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world”- Mahatma Gandhi.

Our motto is “embracing adventure, changing lives”. We were thrilled to hear that one of our teachers, Ané, embodied this by seeking out ways to give back to the community in her spare time. Find out more about her experience as a volunteer in Thailand  in this blog.

Every year before the New Year starts I write down a list of things I want to experience, places I want to see or just things I would like to achieve.  On that list going into 2019, I wrote down that I wanted to do volunteering work as it’s something that I have never done before, so I started to do some research.  

I love living abroad. It excites me because we all have different stories to tell.  You might go to the same country or you might do the same Thai cooking course or even hike to the top of a mountain but we all see and experience life differently and that is what makes it really interesting. I’ve been living in Thailand for about 2 and half years now and it’s been an exciting but challenging journey; there is just something magical about Asia.

I finally found the perfect place to volunteer in Thailand. I headed off to Dhutanga Insight Meditation Center based in Samut Prakan, which is run by female monks (bhikkhuni in Thai). So here is my story I would love to share with you all.

I wanted to volunteer in Thailand because I wanted to give back to the community and have an experience that I will never forget. The property isn’t so big but they can accommodate about 10 volunteers at a time. The owner is Punnya Pannya who has a passion for sharing her knowledge about the culture of Thailand and Buddhism. She has the kindest heart! She is really open about any questions you might have. They require that you stay at least 10 days and they work it out for about 100 baht a day to cover electricity , water and food- and it’s all for a good cause so why not?

The room was pretty basic, thin mattress on the floor with linen provided, fans and a light.  At first I thought, “wow what did I let myself in for?” I’d never done something like this before but I like to give things a chance and embrace experiences. If you have an open mind, you might learn something new and that is exactly what I did!

Everyone that I have met there was extremely welcoming. I was a few years older than the rest of the others who volunteer in Thailand but it didn’t bother me. They all were extremely helpful. We spent a lot of time together- we had meals together, we did chanting and meditation together, we helped each other with our daily duties and some days we would sit outside or fall asleep in the hammock and just have deep conversations. I felt like I got 2 new sisters and 3 new brothers.

We did a lot of work outside to help maintain the property and to help the environment. I enjoyed being outside, painting and getting in the river to remove the trash that builds up there. Getting dirty in mud reminded me of my days as a kid growing up on a farm- it’s a good feeling. It was cleansing- I didn’t wear any makeup, I tried to spend less time on my phone, I read more- that was a phenomenal feeling.

After mediation in the evenings, the owner would give Dhamma talks and that was really interesting and an amazing experience to actually talk and ask questions about Buddhism. There is so much to learn.  She felt like a real mom to me, she taught us a lot; she taught the volunteers as we were her own kids and that was really special.  She said we are all connected and that’s so true. 

We did a lot of work outside to help maintain the property and to help the environment. I enjoyed being outside, painting and getting in the river to remove the trash that builds up there. Getting dirty in mud reminded me of my days as a kid growing up on a farm- it’s a good feeling. It was cleansing- I didn’t wear any makeup, I tried to spend less time on my phone, I read more- that was a phenomenal feeling.

After mediation in the evenings, the owner would give Dhamma talks and that was really interesting and an amazing experience to actually talk and ask questions about Buddhism. There is so much to learn.  She felt like a real mom to me, she taught us a lot; she taught the volunteers as we were her own kids and that was really special.  She said we are all connected and that’s so true. 

Ané getting ready for her daily chores wile volunteering in Thailand
Ané and one of the Bhikkhuni at the meditation center in Thailand

But as a monk there are about 300 rules or more that they need to follow but it’s inspiring.  There is a guy that I follow on Instagram, most of you know him.  His name is Jay Shetty, he used to be a monk for 3 years and he even said in one of his videos that it was the most rewarding and best years of his life.  Monks give up a lot of things to be able to live that lifestyle but it’s inspiring.

Honestly, meditation during those first 2 days was really hard. I’m not used to meditating for that long. The first 2 sessions were 15 minutes long, and thereafter 30 minutes at a time. My mind is usually busy and feels all over the place, but meditation is really powerful and I can feel the difference from when I’ve just arrived at the meditation and when I’ve left.

I felt I grew a lot. It felt rewarding to do volunteer in Thailand and give back to the community. It was also amazing to live with the locals and learn from the female monks. I gained a deeper insight into the culture and about Buddhism in general. I think you just need to be open minded to have an experience like this- you don’t have to be a Buddhist to be a volunteer.  When I arrived, I had a lot of things on my mind and things I had to deal with, and now I feel I’ve let go a lot of a lot of things and I feel lighter. It’s a really rewarding feeling, there are no words to describe it!  It was one of the best experiences and I would recommend that others seek these chances to give back and learn more about Thai culture when they are teaching in Thailand.

If you want to experience Thai culture, consider taking our TESOL course which will give you all the skills to be a confident English teacher and make a huge difference in the Thai community by helping kids broaden their future. Complete with a cultural orientation, you can be experiencing Thai culture from day one and use your weekends to explore even more ways to make a difference.

Be sure to check out our Instagram and Facebook pages to see all the updates from our other teachers. Join and explore with us now!

“I Conquered My Travel Fears to Complete an Internship Abroad!” Ashia’s Story

“I Conquered My Travel Fears to Complete an Internship Abroad!” Ashia’s Story

Conquering my fear: traveling alone for the first time.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

An internship abroad is an amaing opportunity, but can be a huge step outside your comofrt zone. For many of us, fear of the unknown can prevent us from fulfilling our goals. One of our Marketing Interns Ashia talks about how she overcame her fear of flying and took her first trip across the world, all by herself! Check out how she kicked down the wall and started an amazing adventure with us!

Have you ever wished you could conquer your fears? I’ve wanted conquer my fear of flying my entire life. I lived by my motto “if I can’t drive there, I won’t go”, but I had all of these places in my mind that I wanted to travel to. I had this elaborate plan to visit all these different countries before I hit my mid-thirties, so I could focus on building the foundation for my future. Well, here I was at the tender age of 25, experiencing my very first domestic flight across the US. I did it! Did the fear stop there? Of course not- it was very much still intact and, if I’m being honest with myself, I did not see it leaving.

Ashia conquering her fear by letting it go during our trip to the beach as part of orientation week.

Soon, I decided to take another step and go on my first international trip: a one-hour flight to the Bahamas with my friends. Still, fear lingered in the back of my mind and I couldn’t see myself ever traveling on my  own. I had this dream to fulfill, but it was blocked by my many reservations.

Shortly after, I ran across the chance to participate in a marketing internship abroad with the company XploreAsia- in Thailand of all places. When I found out about this opportunity a strange phenomenon happened. Not an inch of doubt. Not a moment of fear. The thought of traveling across the world, all by myself, suddenly brought up no red flags in my head.  This was such a change for me.

This time, I didn’t let my fears overtake my desires. I booked a flight and traveled 22 hours and 58 minutes to the other side of the world. Not in the comfort of friends or family. Not knowing any of the language. Not knowing what was in store for me. I would be living here in Thailand for three months for this internship and living my dream whilst working in a field I’ve always dreamed of working in. Only if I conquer my fears, would I get to see parts of the world I’ve only pictured in my head.

“My visit to the cave temple was very uplifting. The hike to the cave was intense but worth it!”

Ashia headed from Georgia, USA, to Hua Hin, Thailand to complete her internship abroad.
Conquer your fear of traveling alone and experience incredible places!

From the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a shift. Such an ease come over me and although this was my first time ever doing something like this, I just knew that I could do it. Doing an internship abroad can be a huge step outside of your comfort zone, but I implore you to follow my example and push yourself outside the box.

Ashia also got to learn about Buddhism during her internship abroad in Thailand.

During the orientation week with XploreAsia, we did so many activities like muay thai, which is one of the oldest forms of boxing in the world. I also got to experience meditating with one of the monks in the village, which was probably the purest and most serene experience I’ve ever had. At Rescue P.A.W.S., we were able to take the rescued stray dogs out to the beach for some much needed exercise. We also learned how to cook the Thai dishes som tum (papaya salad) and pad Thai. It was a great introduction to the culture.

I have been living in Thailand for just over one month now, and it has been a complete dream. I have been living in the city of Hua Hin, which has a very beachy feel and a very warm welcome.

“The temple visit was thoroughly insightful.”

I’ve even come out of my laziness and have been walking long distances, riding bikes around town and hiking up mountains. All of which I would have opted out of if I was still at home. I am completely out of my comfort zone, and being in this new environment has put me in a new headspace to do the unthinkable. There is no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision. I faced my fear head on and just did it.

Whilst in Thailand, I have also traveled to Malaysia all by myself. The locals were also really welcoming and showed me all the best places to eat! I spent only a few days in Malaysia and without a doubt will be returning for another adventure.

There is no longer any fear in my heart when it comes to traveling. I am already planning trips to nearby countries that I now have the confidence to travel to. Those dreams can finally become a reality.

Conquer your fear and explore the world!
Starting an internship abroad lets you get a real feel for local culture. Ashia got a chance to experience the ancient sport Muay Thai during her time with us!

If you have a fear of traveling alone, take that leap and get rid of any doubt or fear you may have. Don’t let your fear keep you hostage. There is so much to see, so much to experience and so much to take in. Thousands of people every year, get on a plane and fly unimaginable miles from destination to destination. They just get up and go. They don’t let fear get in the way and you shouldn’t either. Doing an internship abroad has been one of the best decisions I ever made. It has been not only a chance to gain international work experience to count towards my postgraduate applications, it has also given me the chance ti immerse myself in a new culture and meet lots of new people.

To learn more about how you start a new adventure and join XploreAsia as an English teacher or an intern, visit our website to find out more about our adventures. We offer an internship abroad in Marketing, Management, Teacher Placement, Education Development, and NGO Management and our programs are open to a wide range of nationalities and skill levels. We also offer a Marketing and Communications internship at our partner organisation Rescue P.A.W.S. Send us a message to find out more! Also be sure to check out our  Instagram and Facebook to see pictures, videos and updates from our teachers, interns and staff.

XploreAsia Alumni Meet Up in Bangkok

XploreAsia Alumni Meet Up in Bangkok

Let's Meet Up with our teachers in Bangkok!

On December 14th, our placement team headed out to meet 27 XploreAsia teachers, who now teach in and around Bangkok after graduating their TESOL course. We all met up at Bangna pier before crossing the river to Bangkrachao. Nicknamed “the lungs of Bangkok”, this green island is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and provided a perfect place for our teachers to relax and get to know each other better.

Teach in Thailand and Explore Bangkok!

First, we grabbed some bikes and cycled over the elevated walkways to Baan Toob where teachers chose between making some unique tie-dye outfits and accessories or crafting their own incense sticks. Guided by XploreAsia staff, most of the teachers opted to embrace their inner fashion designer and created intricate patterns on white linen dresses, jumpsuits, bags and scarves. After working together to tie the fabric, the teachers were thrilled to return after lunch to see how their garments turned out after dye was added!

 

“XploreAsia has been incredibly helpful. Whenever I needed guidance the placement team came to the rescue.”

Bronwynne Calitz, teacher in Bangkok.

Let’s Get Creative Whilst We Teach in Thailand 

Some teachers opted to learn how to make hand-twisted incense sticks. Although creating this ribbon effect was harder than the artisan made it look, our teachers had a lot of fun getting their hands dirty and helping each other to perfect the technique.

Next, we headed over to Bang Nam Phueng floating market to let the teachers buy some souvenirs, some much needed coffee, and to grab some lunch. The market had a lot of options to suit the tastes and dietary requirements of the group. It was great to see our teachers spending quality time with each other. Some reunited with people they hadn’t seen since their TESOL course and others made new friends who are living in their area.

Refuelled, we got back on the bikes and headed over to Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park. Here, our teachers got to explore the green space and share their stories of what it is like to teach Thailand and live here. We were thrilled to have such a large group of people from various intakes and from different walks of life. Many of them shared similar struggles and successes and it was wonderful to see them bonding with each other.

Participant learns how to hand twist incense while at the teacher meet up in Bangkok
Teach in Thailand and show off your tie-dye masterpieces at the teacher meet up in Bangkok

The Gift That Keeps on Giving 

The last stop on our journey around the island was Pobrak, a restaurant with a porch overlooking the water. As well as eating lots of Thai food, the teachers also got into the festive spirit by joining in with our gift exchange game.

It can be hard being away from family at this time of year and for some of the teachers this was to be their first holiday season away from home. We hope that this meetup helped reinforce that they have a family and a network to support them and enrich their experience.

“I’ve never lived in a city before I started to teach in Bangkok, but I’ve been able to make friends through the network. The city is much less intimidating if you have a friend.”

Annie Wilkinson, teacher in Bangkok.

If you want to experience making a difference in a community and embracing your adventure, then check out our website for more information on our four week accredited TESOL program. After the program you will have the opportunity to teach in Thailand and join our alumni meet up in your respective city and meet teachers from other intake dates while enjoying the beauty of the city around you. No matter how long ago you’ve finished the course you will always be apart of the XploreAsia family.

Check out this video of the meetup made by our marketing intern Ashia:

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see what our teachers are up to.  We look forward to hearing from you soon!

January 2020 Tet Teacher Meetup! | TESOL in Vietnam

January 2020 Tet Teacher Meetup! | TESOL in Vietnam

Experience Tet in Vietnam!

Our TESOL graduates recently met up to celebrate Vietnam's biggest holiday together!

Lucy, and XploreAsia teacher in Vietnam, writes about her experiences at a meetup with fellow TESOL in Vietnam alumni.

Some people worry about missing holidays back home when they come to live and teach abroad. Holidays can be wonderful occasional to spend with family but, as our TESOL in Vietnam graduate Teacher Lucy describes, you often find your own international family to share these special times with. Last January, XploreAsia’s Lan invited our teachers in Vietnam to share in the Tet festivities in her family home. Read on to find out how they celebrated and check out our website if you want to be a part of our international network!

A few days before the Tet holiday officially began in Vietnam, our TESOL instructor hosted us for a traditional and delicious Tet meal in her family home outside of Hanoi. We all started teaching with XploreAsia and have been lucky enough to continue spending time together and gaining new experiences since graduating from our TESOL course. I have been living in the North of Vietnam for two months and have really valued my time here. The lead up to the New Year celebrations has been incredibly exciting, with lots of fireworks to be seen around the city and amazing food to be eaten.

Earning a TESOL in Vietnam means that you can experience the culture from day one AND do it with a group of people who are also learning to teach, just like you!
During the festivities, many Vietnamese people choose to spend time with their families and the streets can be a little quiet. Our teachers didn't miss out on this holiday through the connections they made with XploreAsia.

The guests at Lan’s house all joined in the food preparations; cooking, cleaning and, of course, eating this mouth-watering dinner. We had abundant amounts of food, including some great vegetarian dishes for people like me who don’t eat meat in their diet. The feast included spring rolls, fried chicken, fried and boiled tofu, steamed vegetables and rice as well as some tasty soy sauce and chili dip for extra flavour.

What is the Tet Holiday?

Tet holiday is important to the Vietnamese people and it’s the biggest holiday in Vietnam. The celebration marks the beginning of the New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year since the calendar system here is different to the Western calendar. During Tet, schools and businesses close down and many people spend the holiday together with family and close friends. This Tet holiday was special for me since it was the first time I experienced a Tet celebration; I always celebrate the New Year on the 31 st December but this was the first time I had observed the Lunar New Year. Spending the start of this annual holiday with friends made me feel welcome to celebrate this significant event, and made me feel a part of the festivities and celebrations which have been happening in Vietnam.

A Chance to Meet Fellow Teachers!

Another reason to enjoy this occasion was the opportunity to meet new people and visit somewhere new. I have been teaching in Hanoi for two months since earning my TESOL in Vietnam, but there are many other expat teachers who have been here a lot longer. Going out for the day and enjoying a meal together gave us the opportunity to speak with some more experienced teachers living in Vietnam and enabled us to find out more about what they have learned so far. Each member of the teaching community in Vietnam seems to genuinely value and relish their time here; many are hoping to stay far into the future. Some have plans of moving elsewhere but everyone agrees on how rewarding the experience has been so far.

During Tet, XploreAsia teachers enjoyed cooking and eating lots of traditional Vietnamese dishes.

Personally, I am enjoying my time here more and more the longer I stay. I have continued to speak with and learn from interesting people from all over the world, as well as discovering new experiences I had never heard of or planned on experiencing.

Our teachers who earned their TESOL in Vietnam are now enjoying being immersed in the culture.

Our Wonderful Hosts!

Spring rolls, chicken, and plenty of vegetarian options!

Meeting Lan’s family was also very humbling. Their warmth and generosity made the experience similar to Christmas and New Year with my own family, and their kindness is a reflection of the kindness shown by the local people all over Vietnam. Escaping the hustle and bustle of Hanoi to spend some time in a more peaceful setting, surrounded by nature, reminded me of where I grew up and again made the experience more rewarding as I was able to reflect on past celebrations with my own family and friends. Despite the quiet and solitude of the more rural area, there was plenty to keep us busy and plenty of us to make sure we had a good time socialising with old and new friends.

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Once the food was cooked and prepared, we toasted the meal with some rice wine (although some of us abstained since we were teaching later that day). We ate until the food had gone and we could eat no more. For desert we ate some traditional Vietnamese treats and fruit, as well as enjoying some home brewed tea. The experience gave us insight into Vietnamese culture and traditions, as well as giving us the opportunity to relax and socialise in a comfortable setting of someone who we know. We were sad to leave behind Lan’s family and her adorable dog Simba but the experience was unforgettable and one we were very thankful to be a part of. I am already looking forward to Tet celebrations next Lunar year – Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Gain Your TESOL in Vietnam and Start an Amazing Adventure!

If you want to start a new adventure abroad and get immersed in Vietnamese culture, check out our TESOL course in Vietnam! Our course provides teachers with the chance to gain teaching experience before graduation meaning that when you step into the classroom for real, you will be ready to deliver engaging and life-changing lessons to your students. And our support doesn’t end there- as you found out, we host regular meetups for our teachers and are also only a click or phone call away, no matter how long ago you graduated! Contact us to find out more, and check out our Instagram and Facebook pages to see what our other teachers are up to!

Our TESOL in Vietnam students also got a chance to take a Vietnamese cooking lesson previously during their orientation week.
Many people find that the chance to dedvelop lifelong friendships is a valuable element of the in-country TESOL course.

ESL Teaching With No Experience- Declan’s Story

ESL Teaching With No Experience- Declan’s Story

Trying ESL Teaching in Thailand for the First Time

"ESL teaching has encouraged me to constantly look for ways to improve myself and taught me how to learn from experiences. Teaching has forced me to grow, adapt and improve."

Coming into ESL teaching from a completely different field can be a huge challenge. In a very raw and honest blog post, one of our recent TESOL graduates shares his struggles and how he overcame them. With a background in Finance, Declan was thrown into a completely different working environment which made him learn how to approach problems in a new way. ESL teaching can be tough at first, but, as Declan explains, there are lots of ways to help yourself and your students if you take it step by step. Sometimes the most important lessons you learn from teaching abroad have nothing to do with what’s on the TESOL syllabus.

I graduated university in December of 2018.  It took way longer to get my degree than it could’ve, but there I was, degree in Finance firmly in hand. As much as I’d also earned a sense of accomplishment that I’d achieved something that began as an idea years ago, I only had to scratch just a little bit below the surface before I started asking myself: “What the hell am I going to do for a career?”

XploreAsia offers training in ESL teaching in a group setting so that you can support each toher through your individual journeys.

I quickly realised that maybe I wasn’t ready for a “career”-type job yet. If I rushed into something without being certain of what I wanted, I may come to regret it.  So, I decided to take a gap year.  Teaching had always appealed to me, and it was something I’d always thought I would be able to do well, so when I discovered the opportunity to teach in Thailand, I quickly jumped onboard.

Fast forward a few months of saving like crazy and trying (and failing) to plan everything, I had landed in Thailand.  The month in Hua Hin with XploreAsia, was amazing; I had a fantastic time and truly didn’t want it to end. I’d made lots of new friends, had built up confidence, and felt that I could live in Thailand. I felt reasonably settled. I was feeling very excited for what the next chapter had in store. I’d gained a couple of days of teaching experience through XploreAsia that went particularly well. I enjoyed them immensely and felt like I’d delivered great lessons. However, this success only added to my misplaced arrogance and naïvety as to how I thought I’d be as a teacher.

ESL teaching offers opportunities to truly bond with your students, but it can be a learning curve.

Walking into my new school, ready to teach maths to 13-year-olds, reality quickly came to smack me in the face.  For the first few weeks, I constantly had this feeling of being overwhelmed, lost and entirely hopeless as to where to begin.  I remember walking into my first few classes, looking around the room to see who was going to be in charge, only to have it dawn on me that I was to be in charge. My lesson plans didn’t go as well as I’d envisioned, and I started to lose faith in them. It felt as though I was drowning. I thought I was failing at a career I thought I would so naturally and effortlessly thrive in. I knew I needed to change my approach to things.

Lean on Your Peers with ESL Teaching Experience

Teaching can be a big adjustment, but an amazing adventure. Remember to breathe, and try to remember what you learning during your TESOL course.
ESL teaching is made much easier by asking for support from your colleagues. Chances are, all new teachers are feel a little unsure at first.

One of the things that got me through those first few months, was turning to my new international support group. I didn’t want to tell my family that I was having problems in case I worried them. Luckily, I’d made friends through XploreAsia and sharing my problems with them set my mind at ease. To hear from them about similar struggles and feelings normalized what I was going through and instilled me with a great deal of comfort. I’d encourage madly that you should remain in contact with your good friends you will make whilst completing your TESOL. The new ESL teaching experience may throw the world at you- and it certianly was a very new experience for me- so to have someone to talk to openly and honestly, someone who could potentially be in the same boat as you, will help soothe your troubles and be very therapeutic.

I also began to keep a daily journal to write down how each class went. Writing in the journal was great, it gave me an outlet for my emotions, and provided tangible evidence of the improvements I was making in my teaching ability.  I began to try to include at least one successful and positive thing that I had achieved in each class.

Try New Activities in the Classroom

I was also lucky that my parents had raised me to become relentlessly optimistic and determined.  If my classes were going horrible, I wanted to change that.  First off, I had to shelve my pride, and embrace my failures to be able to see what wasn’t working. This gave me the confidence to experiment with new techniques and strategies in class. I worked hard to research and improve my management skills and to also keep my lessons interesting by adding new activities. If something didn’t work, I would switch to a new idea to find what my students responded best to.

Sometimes it really pays off to be creative and silly in the classroom.

I embodied the expression ‘anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly.’ If a new activity I implemented in class didn’t go so well, it was still better than not trying new things at all.

Ask for Feedback (Even if it’s Hard to Hear)

Asking for feedback from my peers after my lessons took some courage; it was challenging having my lessons dissected and critically analysed by other teachers. However, I’d made a promise earlier to be open and honest with myself, so hearing some negative feedback wasn’t too soul crushing. As it was such a new career path, I was still learning about ESL teaching and the advice turned out to be invaluable.

Having a fellow teacher observe can really help you build your teaching knowledge.

The advice I was given was hugely beneficial and implementing it in the following lessons returned huge successes: my lessons were running smoother, I had the students under some control, and I was able to keep the children more engaged throughout the class.

To wrap up my first few months of ESL teaching in Thailand, I would say it was much more of a rollercoaster than I was anticipating. Although I’ve had some low moments, I’ve also had some adorable and warm highs and learned more about ymself than I have done during any other time in my life.

ESL teaching has encouraged me to constantly look for ways to improve myself and has taught me how to learn from experiences. Teaching has forced me to grow, adapt and improve. It has also taught me to accept that there are some things I can’t do well from the get-go, and that’s fine. I believe that if we are honest with ourselves, we can handle any situation thrown at us. We can’t be anything more than our best, and we should be comfortable with that, even if our best isn’t always perfect.

If you want to take on a new challenge, why not check out our TESOL courses? ESL teaching abroad can give you a chance to improve not only your own confidence and problem-solving skills, but also to make a huge impact on your students and the local community.

Catch up with our staff and teachers on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

Why I Decided to Teach in South Korea: Beth’s Story

Why I Decided to Teach in South Korea: Beth’s Story

Why I Started Teaching in South Korea

Like many students, Beth struggled with financing her university life. During studying for her degree in education, she had gained some teaching experience and decided to dive into teaching abroad. After completing her TESOL course in Korea, Beth started teaching at a hagwon in Gongju. Today, Beth shares with us what it is like to teach in South Korea and why she got started.

Why did I come to Korea? 

Hello my name is Beth and I am currently a teacher in a small city called Gongju in Korea. I thought I would tell you why I started to teach and also why I am so glad that I was brave enough to come here and stay in this country! Hopefully this article might help you if you are trying to decide if you should come to this country or not. 

Meet Beth, as she starts her journey to teach in South Korea

Why did I choose to teach in South Korea? 

I knew that I needed to do something that made me feel excited about life again. I needed a job as university had put me into a lot of debt but I also wanted to travel and have an adventure. I looked at so many different options and countries and it was a little overwhelming. I just knew that I didn’t want to be bored anymore.

I did a lot of research and decided that to teach in South Korea was the best option for me. It’s a safe country with so many fantastic things to see and do. Did you know there are 14 UNESCO world heritage sites in Korea? They also hold the world’s oldest Buddhist scriptures. I thought it would be great to teach somewhere which offered a chance to gain so much cultural insight. From a financial standpoint, teaching in South Korea also offers the chance to save a lot of money, which would really help me fund my travel and save some cash.

XploreAsia teacher having fun with her students in Korea

 I had made my decision and promptly applied to be a teacher in Korea. Over a year later and here I am, writing this article from my paid for apartment in Gongju!

What is it like to teach in Korea? 

Everybody’s experience will be different. I work in a hagwon which is a privately run English school that children go to after they have finished their normal school day. My hagwon is very small. There are only 4 teachers including myself and my director and I’m the only foreign teacher.

XploreAsia teacher posing with her students

On a side note, my students are very amused by my accent as Koreans are so used to hearing American accents. When we are doing spelling tests, my pronunciation never fails to cause a little confusion which is always funny. My working week is as follows; Monday to Friday 1:30pm-10pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30pm-9pm. I primarily use textbooks in my lessons, which means my lesson planning is very short. This allows me to complete other tasks like help students who are struggling or have missed lessons. The students I teach in South Korea are aged from about 8-16 years old so my day is always varied and there is never a chance to get bored.

What is it like living in Korea? 

Life in Korea is so different from living in the UK! At first, I had culture shock, but now I’m getting used to life here. I would highly recommend to do your homework and do some research into the culture before you arrive as things are so very different to the West.

When I’m not at work, I like to explore the country as there really is so much to do. So far, I’ve visited beautiful Buddhist temples hidden in the mountains, I’ve been a proper tourist in Seoul walking around museums and bustling markets in the city centre, and I have also spent a few nights in noraebang– karaoke rooms- which is an absolute must do! I’ve made some wonderful friends in this country- both Koreans and Foreigners from all over the world- and we go for drinks, try Korean food together, take day trips, and we have even been to the theatre in Seoul together. One of my favourite experiences was when a friend who has lived in Gongju for many years took us to a tiny pottery studio for the day and we painted pots together. The owner was playing Korean versions of traditional Christmas carols and it was just so cute!

I try my best to do as much as possible and make the most of living in this fantastic country, but when I do become overwhelmed and home sick I make sure to look after myself. Self care is incredibly important when you live abroad and there is no shame in getting a Korean facemask on, eating some crazy snacks and just taking a time out! 

Why I am glad I applied 

The process of applying to be a teacher in Korea is long, exhausting and frustrating. There is so much to do and in my case there were some paperwork complications. There were times where my friends and family thought I wouldn’t be able to get here and that I was actually a little crazy for trying to do this. Sometimes, I secretly thought that I was a little crazy too. Despite the stress, I am so glad I was brave enough to apply and patient enough to go through the process and get my job. Moving to Korea was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I am clearing my debts back home which is really important for my future and is such a huge weight off my shoulders. I am also growing as a person and I am learning so much. When you live in a foreign country, you have to really rely on yourself and your own intuition. This opportunity in Korea is just the first step on my new journey and career and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

If you’re interested in starting your journey in South Korea, check out the full program page on our website As well as offering an internationally accredited TESOL teaching certificate, we offer lifetime support in finding placements in six different countries. Additionally, our support network doesn’t close when the certificate is handed over to you. XploreAsia supports clients for life, meaning that if you are struggling with anything, a member of the team will always be there to help you out. Teach English in South Korea with XploreAsia now and start the adventure of a lifetime!

 

Catch up with Beth and her fascinating journey as an English teach in Korea via her Instagram!

40 Days Working in Costa Rica

40 Days Working in Costa Rica

40 Days Working in Costa Rica

Learn How Faith Spent Her Time in Costa Rica

Have you heard about XploreAsia’s new program? We’re giving people the chance to live and teach in Costa Rica, as well as earning an internationally accredited TESOL certification and offering a cultural orientation week to get you ready to experience this welcoming culture.

In this blog read all about how Teacher Faith spent her time in Costa Rica, and how this experience left her with such a positive outlook on this country and its culture. 

Hi Faith! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and why you chose to travel to Costa Rica?

Well, I spent eighteen months living in Canada where I learned some Spanish. After, I really wanted to experience a Spanish-speaking culture and found an opportunity to teach in Costa Rica and live with a host family. I grew up on a farm so that led me to spend a lot of time helping out on my host family’s cattle ranch. I loved it so much, I hope to go back next year!

 

What Was Your Favorite Thing About the Culture in Costa Rica?

I was surprised at how nice people are. In Costa Rica, 80% of tourists are from America and the tourism industry is vital to their economy. However, in a lot of countries with a big tourist industry, people are just respectful, whereas Costa Ricans were genuinely very warm, welcoming and friendly towards me. I’ve never had a bad experience with any of the locals I met in Costa Rica.

My favorite thing was seeing the love they have for themselves and their culture. They’re very proud to be ‘Ticos’ and it was wonderful to them talking with such pride about their culture.

Faith

What was a typical day like for you in Costa Rica?

I was there volunteering so I spent a lot of time doing that. In the morning, the sun rises very early, but people usually don’t get up until later. I’m very used to waking up early with the sun, so I would usually wake up around 5am and use the time to study. At 7 a.m.  or 8 a.m., we would eat breakfast, before I would set off to teach my classes for the day. When I wasn’t teaching, I really enjoyed hiking in the hills; it’s a really good way to workout! I also did a lot of touristy stuff like going to the beaches.

In San Pedro, I also really enjoyed horseback riding. It can be a little expensive in the touristy and coastal areas, but it’s still good to do the touristy things whilst you’re there. In the smaller towns, it’s very cheap to drink and eat with friends and I’d recommend making an effort to get to know lots of local people. They can help you find hidden gems, and many of them are very eager to show tourists around their country. 

It’s very easy to find something to do here. With every step, it feels like you’re stepping into a new adventure. From the local excursions to the activities meant for tourists to enjoy, you’ll never be bored! 

How was your experience teaching in Costa Rica?

I was doing private tutoring with adults, although I also worked with some kids. The demand to learn English is high as it can help people get better jobs due to the large tourist industry. When I go back to Costa Rica, I’m going to tutor the same students again as I made an amazing bond with them. I can’t wait to hear how they have improved with their English.

Is it easy to find different kinds of food there?

In San Jose, the capital, it’s very easy to find international restaurants. The locals were curious about food from other cultures and my host family often asked me to cook American dishes for them to try. It might be harder to find international food outside the capital, such as my host family’s town, San Pedro, but groceries are very cheap so it’s easy to find ingredients if you want to make some dishes you’re used to making at home. It’s also easy to find options for people with dietary restrictions.

One of the most interesting dishes I tried was pargo fish. The locals eat the eyes of the fish, which was a new experience for me. The flavour was really good, but the texture was very weird!

One of the many delicacies, Pargo Fish, you can try while in Costa Rica
Try delicious food while working in Costa Rica
Delicious local Costa Rican food

What advice would you give to people coming to Costa Rica from abroad?

Don’t bring tight clothes. Joggers and loose, breathable clothing will be best suited to the humidity. I was there during the rainy season, which is from June to December. It’s still sunny and humid, but there is a lot of rain. Invest in a nice umbrella if you want to stay dry! The temperature never drops too low. One time, it was around 70 degrees and raining, and the host mother made hot chocolate, so the locals will think it’s cold sometimes.

If you learn some Spanish, it becomes easier to barter when buying goods and exchanging money. As said before, making friends with the locals will also help you get the most out of your time here, and Spanish knowledge will also help you to connect with them.

 Work in Costa Rica and collect your own memories on this experience. Get in touch to start your next adventure now! Make sure to visit our Instagram and Facebook pages to see pictures, videos and updates from our teachers.

 

Tips for Teachers Working Abroad for the First Time

Tips for Teachers Working Abroad for the First Time

Do's and Don'ts for New ESL Teachers

Nervous about starting your first job as an ESL teacher? Read some top tips from our TESOL instructor.

Hello! My name is CJ Lewis, a TESOL Instructor with XploreAsia. As we welcome a new group of TESOL students to Hua Hin, I thought I would highlight some Do’s and Don’ts for new teachers heading abroad for the first time. Here are my top tips for teachers new to the field of ESL.

First, the Do's!

Here are some tips for teachers looking to make their new lives abroad much easier.
  1. DO arrive to school early. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Yes, that’s every day. It really shows the school staff that you take your job seriously and they will respect you for that.

2. DO dress for success. You know what they say, clothes make the man/woman. It will give you confidence, show the students that you are a professional teacher, and show the staff that you are ready to go. It’s a win-win for everyone.

3. DO bring a small gift for the principal of your school. It builds rapport, shows appreciation and its just fun to do.

Do you have any other tips for teachers? Let us know in the comments!
CJ's advice this month includes to dress for success.

I have given baseballs, fruit, energy drinks, even a Lebron James jersey (for a principal who REALLY liked Basketball) and it really made the year a smooth one from an administrative standpoint. Plus, some became friends for life.

One of CJ's tips for teachers is to try to learn the native language so you can bond with locals.
Explore the markets to find bargains and make new friends.

4. DO explore the day/night markets. You never know who you will meet, what you will buy, what you will eat, what music will play. Always a fun experience each and every time you go. No matter which country.

5. DO have an understanding of the native language. When out and about, if you try your best to speak their language, the locals will appreciate it. You don’t have to be fluent, but the if you know some vocab it will help locals to get to know you better. There’s a ton of apps out there to help you learn a new language in a fun way. Don’t be shy, give it a try!

Next, the Don'ts!

Here are some things to avoid if you want to make a good start teaching abroad.

1. DON’T be late. Ever. I mean it. Of course, things can happen. Everything is different and new in the country you have been placed. Buses are late, scooters run out of gas, routes get forgotten. Plan for it, make it a goal to always get to work on time and avoid distractions.

2. DON’T just stand in front of the class and give instructions. I like to tell students that the front of the room is “lava” and if they stay in one place for too long they will burn their feet. Move around! Get the students to talk, ask questions. Just don’t stay put. Be active

Do you have any more top tips for teachers? Share some advice in the comments!
Top tips for teachers: staying active can particularly help to keep the engagement of young learners.

3. DON’T speak too fast. This is one of the most important tips for teachers who are not used to teaching ESL. When we’re around our peers, friends, and family, we tend to speak pretty fast. They are native English speakers and they understand what we are saying. That is not the case when you are teaching ESL. You must pace yourself, enunciate, and take your time to convey understanding. It will take patience, practice and experience.

Another of CJ's tips for teachers is not to neglect your social life. Try to grasp every opportunity whilst teaching hing abroad.
You'll always have your XA family to lean on. Don't be afraid to contact us for advice.

4. DON’T say no to a wrong answer or an invite, DON’T say I cant to an opportunity. Be a Yes man! Get out there and see what opportunities your town can offer when given the chance! I never thought I would be into scuba diving and now I go almost every weekend, because of an invite.

5. DON’T become discouraged when things aren’t working. Lean on your new friends, vent to your family back home (Skype!), chat with your favorite street market vendor, and of course, the XploreAsia team are always here to help! Drop us a line if you ever need a helping hand.

To learn more about our programs, head over to our website. To see updates from teachers we’ve already helped find amazing new adventures, follow our Instagram and Facebook pages.

Chad’s Story: Teacher in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Chad’s Story: Teacher in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Bang

"It was probably the most emotional I have been during this whole experience and all I want for him is a happy, successful life and wish that he gets out of the life he is in now."

In our final installment of this month’s series, recent TESOL graduate Chad shares his heartfelt story. Chad met Bang during his stay in Hua Hin whilst studying to be an ESL teacher in Thailand, and the encounter had a profound affect on his worldview.

So since being here I have talked to so many people in the local community but none have had more of an effect on me than Bang. He is a little kid that was probably no older than 8 or 9. I met Bang in the worst possible way; he was selling roses on the street by himself at about 11pm at night when our TESOL group was heading out on the first of many Friday nights out in Hua Hin.

Chad met Bang during an evening in Hua Hin during studying for his TESOL course. Who will you meet when you teach in Thailand?

Since being told about the difficulties Thailand has with child trafficking, I was heavily against being a part of it and buying into any of it. To my understanding, kids in these situations do not lead the best lives, Matilda, a fellow student training to be a teacher in Thailand, agreed and we decided just wanted to make sure that he knew we cared for him and wanted him to have fun like children at his age should be doing. We chatted with him, danced in the street and played “silly buggers” for almost 2 hours instead of drinking with everyone. He spoke excellent English and knew that we just wanted him to be okay.

He told us that we can visit him around the same area again during the weekends. As I was training to be a teacher in Thailand, I really hoped I’d see him again before leaving to my placement. He was such an amazing and caring little child; it was very upsetting to me that he was stuck in this type of lifestyle. I really wanted to do everything I could while I was here to give him the most fun time as I could manage.

It wasn’t until the next Friday, when we went out again, that I got to meet Bang for a second time. The whole group was walking to the bar district and he was standing on the stairs by a 7/11 with a few of his rose selling friends. Matilda and I saw him and said a big hello and ran towards him- Bang nearly dived off the stairs into both mine and Matilda arms!

The best thing about meeting and getting to know Bang was the true heartfelt hug he gave me after I told him that I would never forget him and hope to see him in again in the future.

Chad- TESOL graduate

We both were so happy that he remembered us and we made sure that he was okay and wasn’t hungry, thirsty or needed anything. We had another muck around with him and his friends and just generally chatted and chilled with him for a bit. Once again it didn’t take me long to realize that he was such an intelligent, funny and just all round amazing kid. He was constantly cracking jokes and showing so much compassion from both Matilda and I which was obviously because he could sense how much we actually cared for him and just wanted him to be happy. 

Matilda, Chad's fellow teacher in Thailand, was also very touched by Bang's situation.

Once again, I had the opportunity the following Friday to try and make his night just the little bit better. Knowing that it may be the last time I’d get to see him, it was harder to want to leave. He was very upset that Matilda was not with me this time and he told me (after our quick game of tag on the streets, a bit a dance together (because he has the coolest dance moves ever) and a shoulder ride) to make sure that I give her a big hug from him and to tell her that he loves her because she is beautiful and kind. It was probably the most emotional I have been during my time in Thailand so far. All I want for him is a happy, successful life and I wish that he gets out of the life he is in now. The best thing about meeting and getting to know Bang was the true heartfelt hug he gave me after I told him that I would never forget him and hope to see him in again in the future.

What did you think of Chad’s story? Being a teacher in Thailand lets you see all sides of the culture, but also puts you in a position to make a huge difference to the community. If you’re interested in teaching in Thailand, check out our programs. Follow our Instagram and Facebook accounts to keep up with our current TESOL teachers.

Chad graduating from our Hua Hin TESOL program and becoming a fully-fledged teacher in Thailand.

Olivia’s Story: Teachers in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Olivia’s Story: Teachers in Thailand Making Local Friendships

The Banksy of Hua Hin

"I couldn't help noticing the beautiful street art and I was intrigued by the mysterious person behind these works."

Moving to a new country can be a huge challenge. Here at XploreAsia, we believe that challenges are what make people grow and that moving abroad can open up a wealth of opportunities. In this series on our blog, our recent TESOL graduates are sharing their stories of the international frienships they made even before they became fully-fledged teachers in Thailand. This week, Olivia tells us about her discovery of one of Hua Hin’s most prolific street artists who she ran into during her time studying in Hua Hin.

 

Since arriving to Hua Hin, I couldn’t help noticing the unique street art, particularly the giant eye that seems to be watching me everywhere I go. As an artist myself, I was intrigued and keen to find the mysterious person behind these works. I’d labeled the artist, in my head, as the “Banksy of Hua Hin”. In our first week here, I’d noticed an alley that had walls decorated with paintings on the road to the night market. A few Sundays in, I was feeling restless and decided to go to exploring. During my walk, I passed the same colorful alleyway, and decided to venture down and check it out.

What I discovered was a space filled with art. Rap music blared as I wandered around the giant room trying to take it all in. Suddenly the volume was lowered,and a tall skinny Thai man with a ponytail and tattoos nodded at me coolly. He became the recipient of my millions of questions. “Did you make all this art?” “How long have you been an artist?” “Do you live here?”

He answered as best he could with limited English, but was quick to show me his sketchpad. When I told him I drew too, he told me that it’s important to do at least five drawings a day in order to really improve. He invited me to explore and take pictures if I wanted to. He even let me photograph him. We hung out and chatted about art. I learned that aside from art, he likes to skimboard every day with his girlfriend, who is also an artist. She makes clothes and bags- one of which I ended up buying. It was a collaboration of her stitching and his drawings, priced at 500 baht, but since I only had 400 on me, he gave it to me for 400. It had one of the mysterious eyes I had seen plastered all over the city. 

Teachers in Thailand get a chance to gain a real insight into the lives of the locals.

I was really fortunate to meet a Thai artist that seems to make his entire living that way, especially because I have struggled for a while to find my own path. His entire demeanor was refreshing, and it seemed like he had found the secret formula to happiness. He was very humble while also being breathtakingly talented.

Teachers in Thailand have the opportunity to explore the most incredible places!

 

From this interaction, but also from the interactions I’ve had with Thai people in general, I felt very welcome. This is a new thing to me as someone who comes from icy New Hampshire, where people are much less ready to chat to strangers. The genuine kindness of Thai people is definitely something I can get used to. I’ve had Thai people help me fit groceries into my backpack when they saw I was struggling, run up to me with a bottle of vinegar when I got stung by a jellyfish, and cram ten donuts into a box for me because I had dropped the ones I originally bought on the street. Creativity also appears to be a common thread through my experience in Thailand so far, and I am looking forward to meeting more creative people in my new community.

What do you think of Olivia’s story meeting a fellow artist? Teachers in Thailand are often surprised by how welcoming the locals are and it’s easy for Thailand to feel like a home from home. If you enjoyed this blog, why not check out Olivia’s classmate Kyle’s experience bonding with a local?

You can also see updates on Olivia’s journey through her blog and Instagram page. If you want to be finding new friends and learning new things yourself, all whilst making a huge difference to a Thai community, check out our TESOL course which will give you all the skills you need to be a great English teacher. Make sure to follow XploreAsia on Instagram and Facebook to see what else our teachers in Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Vietnam and China are up to.

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