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Sabina Qader: Teaching in South Korea

Before joining the XploreAsia staff as the South Korea Program Manager, Sabina Qader was a teaching in South Korea, in a province called Bullo Dong. Recently, Sabina was able to clear her demanding schedule and sit down with us to shed some light on what it is like to live in South Korea. Sabina shares some insight on the culture of Korea, her experience as a teacher, and her hobbies during her downtime.

What inspired you to make the decision to teach in South Korea?

I wasn’t using my teaching qualifications in Australia, so I wanted to get back into the classroom. Teaching in South Korea gave me the opportunity to revitalize my teaching skills and experience a new culture at the same time.

What are some of the challenges you experienced teaching in South Korea?

The main challenge that I experienced while living in South Korea was shifting my mind into the Korean way of doing things. Koreans have a very intense work ethic about the way that they do things. Initially, it can seem intimidating and overly-disciplined. But the more that I immersed myself into the culture, I gained a huge respect for the discipline the Koreans executed on their daily lives.

Sabina: Teaching in South Korea

What were your accommodations like?

I had a lovely one bedroom apartment in Bullo Dong, Daegu. Main furniture and appliances were included. It was only a ten minute walk away from my school and a 15 minute bus ride from the nearest train station, which made it easy to travel through South Korea.

What did you do in your spare time?

To recharge, I would walk around the lake after work and on weekends, go hiking some weekends, and climb the ancient tombs two minutes from my house. I would often sit in one of Korea’s numerous cafes, reading and occasionally glancing up to watch the world go past. Dinner and drinks with my friends who taught at nearby schools on weekends became a fun ritual. There was also the occasional swing dance lesson and travel to different provinces around South Korea.

Sabina: Teaching in South Korea

What was the most fulfilling part of your experience?

Teaching those gorgeous children who would always take the time to run across the playground and say hi. I miss the daily hugs! Meeting the lovely Korean teachers I worked with was also a fulfilling experience. I am still in touch with them, they are such wonderful people. I always felt very well taken care of.

What did you like most about South Korean culture?

It’s a very communal culture, family is so important to Koreans. This is what makes the separation from North Korea even more heartbreaking. Koreans also truly value education.

Temple: Teaching in South Korea

If you had to make a recommendation to someone considering teaching in South Korea, what would it be?

Don’t hesitate! Come live in South Korea. You get paid really well to do a fun job!

Get in touch to begin your adventure teaching in South Korea

Living in Vietnam: Small Town Experience

Living in Vietnam: Small Town Experience

Jace moved to Vietnam in May,  from Australia. Teaching in the southern province of Binh Duong, Jace located about an hour away from Saigon,  Jace teaches a wide variety of ages at his private language center. On a recent trip to Vietnam, we met up with Jace to hear firsthand about his amazing life in Vietnam. Check out the interview below to learn more about what it’s like to teach and live in a smaller city in Vietnam.

To find out how you can begin your life in Vietnam click here

 Life in Vietnam

Jace's Life in Vietnam

What was the sequence of events that led you to come and teach English in Vietnam?

I was looking to come and teach as an adventure and to go somewhere different from Australia; working with kids has always been an interest of mine as well.

Why did you choose Vietnam?

I liked the look and feel of Vietnam, and that it had all modern amenities. You have to brush up on Vietnamese, but it’s still quite rewarding living in Vietnam with all of the shops, cuisines and people.

Where did you live in Vietnam?

I lived in Binh Duong which is about 25 kilometers from the center of Saigon, the capital city of South Vietnam. That makes for a 50 minute ride in a cab or motorbike ride given the traffic. It is north along Saigon River, which flows right past Binh Duong. It is considered a satellite town of Saigon. It’s close enough to Saigon that you can travel there and back in a day if you need to for work.  A lot of people and facilities are still based in Saigon, but we have a lot of new hospitals and facilities here too.

What were your impressions of Vietnam?

The people are very friendly and eager to practice their English with you. I have had many experiences with people being very friendly and wanting to take me out to dinner.  Saigon itself has pretty much met every expectation:  crazy traffic, hectic, but that’s what makes it really fun.  There are many interesting things to see for particularly the markets and food. Binh Duong has a little bit of the provincial flavor I was looking for. You do have to make little effort to get out into the countryside, but there are plenty of places to see.

In terms of where you stay and friends you can make how has that been?

It’s been great living in Vietnam, especially in the expat communities, but more so I love the local communities.  That’s where you get the real Vietnamese flavor hanging out with the locals. A lot of the staff- the managers, receptionist, teaching assistants are all Vietnamese. They are all young, energetic, and love to show you around. The Vietnamese locals are proud of their culture, so that’s been one of the highlights of living here. Binh Duong is a flourishing and developing city, where I live are great new apartments. There are also great food including, international food, Japanese, American BBQ and Indian. It’s quite comfortable and not a major culture shock here like I was expecting. We even have Australian beef so I can’t ask for more.

How often do you get to go into the city?

I have the opportunity to train in the city at least once a month with my school. Otherwise, I go there at least every two weeks to have dinner, meet friends, take photos, and to be a tourists and see the sights.

How did you find your accommodation and what is it like?

When I first came here my school set me up for a week.  I found my accommodation just by speaking with people at my center, and they showed me around.  My apartment is a fully furnished studio with a bedroom, kitchen, and a balcony. I can see Saigon on a clear day. There are 3 convenience stores on the bottom of the building and a massage parlor. My building has a gym and there are local pools that are quite good.

What do you do when you are not working?

That depends, sometimes I visit Saigon as it is quite close, and cinemas here are also quite good.  It’s quite easy to make friends with the TAs here so often we are eating out for lunch, dinner and after class. What else do I do here? Be a little bit of a tourists visit pagodas, temples, walk along the river, drink caphe su da of course (Vietnamese coffee) and lots of pho.

What type of food do you eat in Vietnam?

I really love a dish with Chinese pork and noodles.  That is my absolute favorite, so I go any chance I get. I also eat the staples which are pho, beef noodles or, beef stew, or bahn mi the baguette style sandwiches you find on every corner.

Life in Vietnam: Food

What are some day trips from Binh Dong?

The Cu Chi Tunnels are 20kms away, I really enjoy just driving along the countryside seeing nature, and walking along the river. Saigon is really the main destination. Dalat, Da Nang, and even the Mekong delta are quite easy day trips.

Life in Vietnam: Cu Chi Tunnels
Life in Vietnam: Trap

Have you experienced culture shock in your town?

My first culture shock came when I was in Saigon during my first week of training.  It was the pace of the city and how people are sort of attracted to you as a westerner. It is still quite common for me to walk in and order a coffee and everyone turns around and looks at you.  Unfortunately everyone thinks I am American but I won’t hold that against them (Jace is from Australia). It is quite pleasant for everyone to be interested in you and want to practice their English, everyone is quite friendly.

Do you save money living in your town?

It’s very financially comfortable living in Vietnam; things are definitely a bit cheaper than in Saigon. You can certainly save a lot of money especially being a foreign English teacher.  You are paid quite well for the job that you do. There is also the opportunity to do over time and take on extra classes to earn extra money. It is quite easy to save whether that is for travel or other personal reasons.

South Korea: Places To Go In Seoul

South Korea: Places To Go In Seoul

Seoul is an exuberant city in South Korea. It is jampacked with ancient historical landmarks conjoined with the offerings of an established megacity. When traveling in Seoul, you will have the opportunity to visit palaces, temples, historical museums, markets, shopping malls, unique eateries, and a lively nightlife. These wonderful places to go in Seoul not only make it a great place to live, but also a great place to teach. XploreAsia offers its TESOL training in a province near Seoul. With that thought in mind, we have compiled a list of places to go visit in Seoul.

Gyeongbukgung Palace

places to go in Seoul - Gyeongbukgung Palace

Built in 1395, Gyeongbukgung still stands as one of the most popular places to go in Seoul. The grand palace was built during the Joseon Dynasty. It is known to be one the largest palace of the five in South Korea. Gyeongbukgung is also home to the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea.

Jogyesa Buddhist Temple

places to go in Seoul - Jogyesa Buddhist Temple

Jogyesa Temple is the symbolic emblem of Zen Buddism, and the most important temple in all of Korea. The marvelous place was also originally built in 1395 by the Joseon Dynasty, but rebuilt some 150 years ago. One of the most spectacular attractions in the temple is the kaleidoscopic ambience. Equally lovely is the courtyard, which is filled with vibrant lanterns and trees more than 500 years old.

War Memorial and Museum

places to go in Seoul - War Memorial and Museum

Stunning exhibits, war recollections, art works, and military equipment make this a perfect place to learn about Korea’s history of war, most notably with North Korea. Actual airplanes and tanks used during war can be seen at the museum. Admission to the museum is just around 3 US dollars, making it a ubiquitous destination. Tourist are frequently emotionally stunned by the military history of Korea.

Namdaemun Market

Places to go in Seoul - Namdaemun Market

This is the largest market in the entire province of Seoul. Almost anything imaginable can be found at the market including purses, shoes, clothes, souvenirs, food ingredients, food vendors, electronics and many idiosyncrasies. The hub of consumerism is open nearly all hours of the day, which makes it a popular night-time destination.

Han River

places to go in Seoul - Han River

The Han River is one of the largest of all of Korea and it goes right through the center of Seoul, making it a very attractiveSoS place to go in Seoul. It is located away from the boisterous highway which make it safe to rent a bike cycle and ride up on the lengthy river. Nighttime boat tours are an exciting way to get acquainted with the scenic river. A tranquil walk is also a nice tour of the river.

After providing free airfare into South Korea, XploreAsia offers 120-hour onsite and offsite training to prepare for school placement. Accommodations are provided during the TESOL course as well free furnished housing in placement location. The program also includes Korean language class and cultural excursion. Not to mention, holidays are paid and health insurance is covered. Come visit the many unique places to go in Seoul while simultaneously changing lives through education. 

https://www.xploreasia.org/teach-in-south-korea/

Living in Thailand, Self Discovery and Adventure: Chelsea Cullen

Living in Thailand, Self Discovery and Adventure: Chelsea Cullen

Meet Chelsea Cullen, a recent TESOL graduate from XploreAsia’s Teach in Thailand program. She tells us how she left her everyday routine living in New York city to living in Thailand; a rewarding and self discovering experience. 

As an ordinary woman residing outside of New York City, I religiously fulfilled the patterned ordained upon me. Monday through Friday I woke up at 5:30 a.m., drove to my job with resentful eyes, worked 7:30a.m.-2:30p.m., coached 3:00p.m.-5:00p.m., and finally exercised 7:30p.m.-10:30p.m. Everyday. On the weekends, I attempted to maintain a social life with defeated exhaustion. Sound familiar? This ritual is something many people engage in year after year. The bombardment of advertisements and hollow discussions served as excuses for me to continue living a predictable life. The false grin I displayed at public outings began to expose the deep routed wrinkles of dissatisfaction. Mortified at my contentment and unhappiness, I realized a change needed to occur.

 

Living in Thailand
Living in Thailand
Living in Thailand

As a child, I expected adult-life to be full of adventure and freedom, but these false commercials only sold pipe dreams. Refusing to accept dissatisfaction at the age of 24, I began researching careers that bred expression of individuality. After months of wondering what I wanted out of life, I realized on a boat in Portugal that I was a wanderer; I did not fit in with any societal job description. Acknowledging my black sheep desires, I questioned where to go from this epiphany. I searched for fellow explorers to fuel my step of aberration from conventionality. I discovered a program called XploreAsia from a long lost friend in college. She exposed the same inner turmoil that I was experiencing. Convincing myself that I was not alone, I applied for the blind journey of self-discovery and abandoned the knowing regiment of hypnotic living.

One year later, I kissed my tearful younger brothers, mourning mother, and apprehensive father goodbye. I would be lying if I said it was an emotionless process because it’s not. It is hard. I had second thoughts, struggles, confusion, anger, and sadness. Amidst the roller coaster of self-critique, I discovered how strong, powerful, fearless, inspiring, and beautiful I am. The difficulties listed above are temporary emotions.

The unearthing of individuality remained and continues to remain a permanent component of my life. While living in Thailand, I learned a different language, culture, acceptance, love, determination, selflessness, and happiness. Do not be afraid of the unknown, greatness blossoms through undetected storms… so why can’t you?

For more from Chelsea, read her blog here

XploreAsia offer a 120-hour combination of onsite and off-site training to prepare teachers for school placement, a unique cultural immersion orientation week, and lifelong memories. Our placements allow teachers to see & experience Thailand and Southeast Asia to the fullest. Click here to begin your adventure!

Teaching In Vietnam: A Small Town Experience

Teaching In Vietnam: A Small Town Experience

Jace moved to Vietnam in May,  from Australia. Teaching in the southern province of Binh Duong, Jace located about an hour away from Saigon,  Jace teaches a wide variety of ages at his private language center. On a recent trip to Vietnam, we met up with Jace to hear firsthand about his amazing experience teaching English in Vietnam. Check out the interview below to learn more about what it’s like to teach and live in a smaller city in Vietnam.

To find out how you can begin to teach English in Vietnam click here

Do you think there is a need and demand for people to teach English in Vietnam?

There is definitely a demand for teaching English in Vietnam, as people recognize it is the global language. I am quite surprised actually how many people want to learn English and at all different levels. It is also quite good in Binh Duong, because a lot of parents come from Saigon and have an expectation of quality English. They can tell when a language center is teaching substandard English so there is a need for westerners to come teach in Vietnam.

Teaching English in Vietnam

Tell us a bit about your school?

My school is the newest branch and also the smallest. We still need new teachers to grow the center. Class sizes range from 6 – 15 students. I also have a teaching assistant or two in each class. There is a lot of room to get to know the students. Parents are here before and after every class. Getting to talk with them is very rewarding.

Teach English in Vietnam School

Why do parents send their children to your school?

They come here because they see it as a place where their students can be global citizens and have that sort of formal higher end language training. We work hard to deliver that to the students. The kids are fun, energetic crazy, really sweet and genuine. When you give them the attention it is extremely rewarding. One of the best things that has happened only in three months is seeing my students pass exams, have fun, and use a bit more English.

Teaching and living in Vietnam

Do you have same kids for long period of time?

At the moment classes are 108 hour semesters, 36 hour chunks. Teachers teach 2 classes a week for entire time.  You have the potential to stay with your students for years if they stay with you.

One of my favorite classes is the teens class because you can have very natural human interactions with them; ask them about their lives and their culture. That’s one of the best things about being from a foreign country. Showing interest and asking the students what their lives are like, because I can learn lots from them too.

Teach in Vietnam Program

Why is it important for people to go to new countries and learn about new cultures and immerse themselves?

For me personally the sense of adventure, although it sounds a bit trite is a real one.  I think people do have a keen interest in what’s going on in the world, and the only way you can do it is to live in another country and work there. It has a completely different feel then just backpacking. To be grounded somewhere and sort of set down some roots for a period of time is really important. You learn so much about yourself. Also, escaping your usual confines and seeing things with new eyes is really important on a personal level as well. I think For me South East Asia, as it is quite close to Australia, was a key interest of mine sort of just being in the region too.

Teach English in Vietnam - Students

What would you tell someone who will soon be teaching English in Vietnam?

First I would say keep an open mind and be open to the culture. If you are open, warm and friendly you will be rewarded likewise. That has been one of the most rewarding things here, to actually be a part of the community and feel like a bit of a local. Really driving around on a motorbike and eating pho.

 

Thank you to Jace for taking the time to meet with us and answer our questions. We had a wonderful time getting to explore your town and see your school.  Everyone we met were extremely kind, wanted to get to know us, as well as helped us try to find our way around town.  It also makes us happy to see our XploreAsia teachers doing great and really embracing their time teaching English in Vietnam.

Life in Hua Hin: Top 5 Markets

Life in Hua Hin: Top 5 Markets

Thailand is full of open-air markets, and Hua Hin is no exception. As well as being our main location for TESOL training, the sunny beach town will soon become your home from home and there are plenty of interesting places to explore here. Hua Hin is the introduction to the country before you begin your adventure teaching in Thailand.

Here in Hua Hin, markets can be your one stop for everything you need whilst you’re preparing to start teaching in Thailand and we’ve prepared our run down of the top five you should definitely check out during your stay here.

The Night Market

Teaching in Thailand; The Night Market Hua Hin

The Night Market is located in the center of the song theaw loop meaning it’s extremely easy to find. The market includes both indoor and outdoor areas and a huge selection of dining options. The stalls spread across two streets and sell a lot of clothes, shoes and accessories and is a great place to go to buy affordable gifts for friends and family back home.

Teaching in Thailand; inside the night market at Hua Hin, Thailand

There is also a plethora of Thai street food snacks and the surrounding area is filled with restaurants. We highly recommend the desert café located in the covered area which sells some of the best coconut ice cream and mango sticky rice you’ll find in the whole of Hua Hin.

The Grand Night Market

Grand Night Market entrance

Although smaller than it’s similarly named neighbor, The Grand Night Market also has a lot to offer. Located on the main road, the market appears to only consist of stalls, but if you journey deeper you will find a hidden covered area with small bars and eateries. The place also has a more traditional Thai feel than the other markets on the main streets and you’ll likely see fewer Westerners here. Insider tip: this is the place to go for the cheapest cocktails in the whole of Hua Hin.

The Grand Night Market

Although smaller than it’s similarly named neighbor, The Grand Night Market also has a lot to offer. Located on the main road, the market appears to only consist of stalls, but if you journey deeper you will find a hidden covered area with small bars and eateries. The place also has a more traditional Thai feel than the other markets on the main streets and you’ll likely see fewer Westerners here. Insider tip: this is the place to go for the cheapest cocktails in the whole of Hua Hin.

Cicada

Teaching in Thailand; Cicada, Hua Hin, Thailand

For a truly unique market experience, head over to Cicada on the weekends between 6 and 11. As well as offering clothes and shoes with a distinct artisan feel, there is also a wide mix of home goods to give your new home whilst you’re teaching in Thailand a more personal feel. There is also a big outdoor food court serving meals from many different regions of Thailand and traditional Thai and Western desserts. Depending on where you will be teaching in Thailand, Cicada is a great place to get a taste of the region you’ll be moving to after completing your TESOL course.

Teaching in Thailand; the stalls at Cicada, Hua Hin

There are also two outdoor performance venues: one large amphitheater offering free performances of traditional Thai plays and musicals; and an outdoor music stage complete with bean bags and its own bar serving cocktails and beers.

The Tuesday Night Market

Teaching in Thailand; the Tuesday market, Hua Hin

A little off the beaten track, but with the widest selection of clothes, shoes and accessories, if you’re looking for a market more focused on shopping than food, The Tuesday Market is for you. If you packed light, the market is an ideal place to go to replenish your wardrobe before you set off on your adventure teaching in Thailand.

Teaching in Thailand; the Tuesday market at Hua Hin

Despite not offering a whole lot in terms of main meals, there is an eclectic array of snacks and sweet treats to nibble on whilst you’re meandering around the stalls. This is another location with very few westerners making it feel like an authentic small town market, different to the ones in the bigger cities.

Plearn Wan

Teaching in Thailand; the stalls at Plearn Wan, Hua Hin

Although not strictly a market, the little hidden mock village definitely has a similar vibe with its open air cafes and shops. The prices are also a little lower than the other markets and admission is free so if you’re on a tighter budget before you get your first pay check teaching in Thailand this could be the perfect place for you. It is another place offering dining options that can’t be found anywhere else in the region and prices for a main course begin as low as 50 baht, with snacks starting at 10 baht.

Ready to Start Teaching in Thailand?

Teaching in Thailand; the market at Plearn Wan

There are so many more options for shopping, food and activities in Hua Hin that you’ll discover whilst you’re training with us and completing your orientation week.

Click here to find out more about our programs and see how you can start your amazing adventure teaching in Thailand.

My First Week Teaching in Thailand: Elizabeth Collins

My First Week Teaching in Thailand: Elizabeth Collins

Elizabeth Collins graduated from our accredited TESOL course in Hua Hin in July. Below, she writes about her experiences following graduation and adjusting to life in her placement town, Lat Krabang. To hear more about Elizabeth’s journey teaching in Thailand, make sure to head over to her personal blog.

When I first decided to start teaching in Thailand, I knew there would be a period of adjustment. Aside from the initial challenge of adapting to living on the other side of the world, I’ve also had to challenge of getting used to life in my placement town.

I live in an industrial area and there is not much close by in the ways of food; I remember initially feeling fairly isolated from everyone and everything. There is not a night market within walking distance and the closest food vendors seem to close before 5pm.  Those first couple of nights I survived off 7-11 grab-and-go food. This only compounded my feelings towards my new town and increased my feelings of homesickness. One thing that helped me feel more settled in Lat Krabang was establishing a routine.  My first task was conquering the transportation system around town.

Elizabeth exploring Lat Krabang.

Elizabeth out exploring her new town.

One thing about me, I am pretty directionally challenged. I grew up in San Diego and I still get lost going places. The idea of taking a songthaew (and there are three colors to choose from, all going in different directions, and instructions are only written in Thai), to the Airlink, and switching to the next train system, was daunting to say the least. Fortunately, another Teacher was kind enough to spend about an hour with me showing me the ropes. I spent my first weekend here taking different songthaew’s and trains in and out of the city. Not only did this build my confidence, but it also allowed me to see more that this little town has to offer- and there is actually quite a bit!  By Sunday I found myself slowly falling in love with my new home. I found a gym, a night market, and a nice area to eat every night. I still get pangs of homesickness but spending time getting to know my new area and some of the people in it was the best thing I could have done.

There are very few Westerners here, so hearing and speaking English is limited. But I walk by the same people every night and we smile, I buy food from them, and we share a laugh as I practice my Thai and they practice their English. There also happens to be an amazing coffee shop below my apartment where I spend a lot of time chatting with the owners. These are the moments I feel most at home; having a cup of coffee and chatting with new friends.

Making connections in Lat Krabang has helped Elizabeth feel more settled in Lat Krabang.

One of the most incredible things that I continue to be in awe about, is the kindness of complete strangers. There are times, especially when I first got here, where I had no idea how to order something, or I was clearly on the wrong songthaew, and a stranger stepped in to help. It can feel overwhelming in some moments to be surrounded by people who don’t speak your language, to not understand basic instructions, to have a bathroom situation that is nothing like home (side note, never leave home without toilet paper…you’ll thank me for that one day!), and in addition it is 90 plus degrees out with 88% humidity. All this whilst you are crammed on a vehicle, and the driving leaves you closing your eyes as you pass a bus with only inches to spare.  The random acts of kindness do not go unnoticed. They have brought me to tears at times with gratitude that someone who doesn’t know me is willing to let me know “hey, time to get off the bus!” It’s also great to hear a stranger striking up a conversation with me because they want to practice their English. Those are the moments, tough as they can be, that help you grow, and Lat Krabang has started to feel more and more like home. These moments also remind me that wherever I am in the world, engaging in random acts of kindness is always worth it.

Elizabeth receiving her TESOL certificate at XploreAsia.

Elizabeth receiving her TESOL qualification following completion of our in-class course held in Hua Hin, Thailand.

However, the biggest adjustment so far has been taking on the role of Teacher. My first week teaching was both nerve wracking and exhilarating. I had at that point, months of emotions built up about the first class. I had never taught before (with the exception of the two-day English Camp in Hua Hin) and this was a bit of a career change for me. I am a Therapist back home and will one day return to the field, but over the last several months I felt a tug on my heart to try something new.  I felt like I was not living life to the fullest.  I wanted to find another way to give back but I didn’t quite know how. The inspiration for this career change came after a lot of soul searching after the death of my best friend. I did some research one day and it feels like the rest is history. Everything seemed to fall into place perfectly.

My first week teaching was a whirlwind.  I teach 22 classes per week and about 20 of those classes have 50-55 students. I see all but one class, once a week for 50 minutes. And truth be told, 50 minutes is more like 40 minutes because there is no passing period.  The proficiency of my students varies greatly. Some can carry a small conversation, others struggle to understand what we might perceive as simple instructions. One of the benefits of not understanding Thai and living surrounded by it is that I now have such a greater understanding and appreciation of my students struggle with learning English.  How many times have I, like them, not understood a simple command or instruction, or not understood that something costs 20 baht when I hand over 40 baht…or even worse, I give 10 baht and they patiently try to explain I owe them more.

Something that helped me a lot during that first week of teaching, was to check my expectations at the door. With the large class sizes and the variability of proficiency levels, as well as my own fears and doubts about being successful as a teacher, I took a moment to myself before every class. I reminded myself why I was here, I took a deep breath, and focused on making connections with my students. Whether that was through sharing a smile, a short conversation, or laughing with students about any number of things that I didn’t yet understand yet. For example, where do you turn on the AC? Don’t worry, the kids will let you know.  Why do some white boards require special chalk and others a pen…and which is which? Again, the kids will let you know.   Remembering to tell the kids they can sit down after they greet you in the morning… yes, I forgot and yes, they will certainly remind you!

Elizabeth teaching in Thailand.
Teaching in Thailand

Elizabeth making connections with her class.

I reminded myself to keep my sense of humor. It is so true, if you don’t laugh you might just end up crying, so when the choice is yours, laughter is always the best medicine. There were times- there still are times (every day, actually)- when the students are talking in Thai, and no one is listening to the lesson plan I’ve worked so hard on, and someone appears to be looking at me and possibly laughing (is there something on my face??!) and that is when I take a deep breath, remember my goals, and focus on connecting with the kids. I use those tough moments, because they will come, to remember why I’m here, what my goal is, and I channel that energy into practicing English with the students that are engaged (don’t worry there are plenty of students who are very eager to learn). I do my best to reign in the students that are off task, and then I remind myself to smile and laugh with the kids.

I won’t say that the first week of teaching or living here was easy, because it wasn’t. There were moments where I doubted myself, moments I had to throw what I learned out the window and just experiment with what worked best for me and my students. But there were also countless moments where I can’t remember the last time I had laughed that hard, moments I felt such intense joy that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and excitement over being on this journey and truly feeling how this experience is changing me from the inside out.

So, if you are thinking of coming and teaching in Thailand, take the leap. It’s not perfect, and there are difficult moments, but those are the moments in which we grow. When we don’t shy away from the fear, when we face our insecurities and then prove to ourselves we can do it, that is where the growth happens. And at least for me, that is why I am here. To grow as a person, to discover a little more about myself, and to build trust with my students to ensure they can learn as much as possible from me. It can all start with just sharing a smile.

Elizabeth's class graduating from XploreAsia.

Elizabeth’s TESOL class graduating in July, 2017.

If you’re interested in starting a new adventure teaching in Thailand, check out our accredited TESOL course.

Teach in Vietnam: Our First Orientation Week!

Teach in Vietnam: Our First Orientation Week!

Teach in Vietnam: Cultural Immersion

This month XploreAsia hosted its first ever TESOL course in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Our participants were able to partake in a fun-filled orientation week with cultural, historic, and tasty(!) excursions followed by an internationally accredited 120 hour in-class TESOL. 

The opportunity to teach in Vietnam is a great experience; Vietnamese people have such a strong friendly spirit, and are excited to better their English. The country itself is such a unique place full of historic sites, distinctive culture, and amazing food.

Lisa Dershowitz gives her insights from our very first cultural orientation week in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Vietnam.  In a week of incredible experiences, find out what we got up to!

Teaching in Vietnam

Vietnam has so much to enjoy, and it’s not just the food!

War Museum: Here we were able to learn about the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietnamese. The museum is a great opportunity for people to visit, and can be quite emotional. As an American, this museum definitely had a huge impact on me. However, even after our long history with Vietnam, I have found the Vietnamese people to be very welcoming to me, even after they learn where I am from. Learning about the history here in Vietnam and seeing it from a different perspective is a very important part of living in Vietnam; by understanding the history we can better understand the people and its culture.

Vietnam War Museum - Tank
Vietnam War Museum - Plane

Night Market Food Tour: Our first teach in Vietnam group went out to learn more about Vietnamese food, and to eat where the locals eat. We all traveled to one of the local markets where we were able to walk around and sample foods like fresh dumplings and dried chicken. The dumplings were quite the hit, and I am pretty sure we bought out the entire market. Afterwards, we all sat down at a few food stands where we could have dinner and fresh smoothies, including an avocado smoothie!  We ended the night sampling some sweet treats that consisted of a variety of sticky rice dishes. This was a great experience as it opened everyone up to new foods that they could eat here in Vietnam.

Night Market: Vietnamese Food

Martial Arts: We all got to test our Kung Fu skills at Nam Huỳnh Đạ, a training gym in Ho Chi Minh City. The head master there was able to give us a background in the art’s history and how it came to be. He was also able to show us around the beautiful temple that the classes are held in. This class encouraged everyone to really push themselves to try a new sport that people have practiced for years in Vietnam. I don’t think myself or anyone else has ever sweated so much.

Teach in Vietnam: Kung Fu

Language classes: Throughout the week we were able to take part in Vietnamese language lessons from our very own program coordinator, Jenny. The language can be a bit difficult as it has many tones. Jenny did a wonderful job at making it fun, interactive, and the language seem easy. Learning the language a little will make immersing yourself in a new culture far easier, while you won’t need much Vietnamese to teach in Vietnam, embracing the other aspects of life here will be made much easier. Even if it is only the very basics!

Teach in Vietnam: Language Lessons

Cooking Class: One of my favorite parts of the orientation week was our market tour and cooking class. We all traveled to a different district and visited one of the local day markets.  There we walked around picking out the freshest ingredients to cook with later in the week. We were able to try different tropical fruits like longans and mangosteens. In addition, we stopped for some delicious Vietnamese coffee and smoothies. After our tour of the market we headed off just outside of the city to Jenny’s grandmother’s house. Here we were able to relax and get a taste for the countryside here in Vietnam. Jenny’s grandmother was so sweet and happy to have us stop by her house. She had one of her sons fetch and cut open fresh coconuts from the large tree at the house. In addition, she insisted cutting up tons of fruit for us, and teaching us how to properly eat everything! Finally, on our way out she wished us all well and good luck in our futures. 

Next, we traveled to Jenny’s parent’s house where several members of her family were awaiting us. From the second we enteredwe were greeted with so many smiles, and the smells of fresh Vietnamese pancakes being cooked in the kitchen. Here, some of the women taught us how to roll fresh spring rolls.  Afterwards, we all took turns making our own scrumptious spring rolls. It was just a wonderful afternoon eating some of the freshest, tastiest Vietnamese food, relaxing, and talking with everyone.

Teach in Vietnam: Cooking Lesson
Teach in Vietnam: Vietnamese Cooking

Cu Chi Tunnels:

One of the last excursions we did during orientation week was visiting the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. Here we were able to explore and learn even more about the Vietnam War. We were able to experience some of the small tunnels that soldiers lived in and fought from. If you wanted you could even walk or basically crawl through the tunnels under ground. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels was an incredible and eye opening trip for me and the rest of the group about what life was like during the war.

Teach in Vietnam

Friday Night Dinner:

We ended the week with a large group dinner. We all gathered together on the rooftop of a local restaurant and were able to just relax and secure all of the strong friendships that everyone had made during the week. There was so much delicious food for us to try and several local beer options. A local teacher also came and joined us for dinner. It was great for all of us to hear what it is like to teach in Vietnam.

Teach in Vietnam: Group Dinner
Teach in Vietnam: Dinner

Overall, orientation week was packed with so many great activities and excursions. It let everyone get a taste for Vietnam; quite literally with all of the food we tried, and also get more insight on its culture and history. The perfect introduction to the Teach in Vietnam program!

To find out more about XploreAsia’s Teach in Vietnam program, click here

Teach in Thailand: Being Healthy in Thailand

Teach in Thailand: Being Healthy in Thailand

With tempting sugary deep-fried treats around every corner, staying healthy in Thailand can seem like an impossible task. However, keeping active and eating healthy isn’t as difficult as it looks. Check out our top tips below so you can stay in shape (or begin a healthier lifestyle) whilst you teach in Thailand with XploreAsia:

Healthy Food

Teach in Thailand: Orientation Week Papaya Salad

If you’ve come to teach in Thailand with no previous experience of the country, the food can look, taste and smell a lot different to the food you might be used to. It is all delicious, but it can be hard to tell which meals are better for your health.

The classic dish papaya salad is of course a healthy option and authentically, uniquely Thai. Despite being filled with vegetables (and occasionally shrimp), the dish does often contain some sugar and fish sauce (which can be very high in sodium). If you want to make it healthier by excluding these ingredients, just tell the seller that you would like “mai won” (“not sweet”) but be warned: without this sugary addition the spice levels make it not for the faint of heart. Another classic salad, yum ma-muang (green mango salad) is harder to find but comes without so much heat and is a great alternative for vegetarians.

Khao man gai

Khao man gai- chicken over rice

Morning glory

Stir-fried morning glory over rice- a healthy meal or side dish

Another option is to have stir-fried vegetables (pad pak) or single veggies such as morning glory which, when paired with rice, can be a full meal by themselves. Vegetarians (and vegans) living in Thailand can find themselves feeling limited, but almost every street stand will be able to whip up something like this and for dishes that do contain some fish or meat, you can use the phrases “mai sai blahblah” or just say “mai ao” (“don’t want”) whilst pointing to individual ingredients.

For those wanting to make sure they get some protein in, dishes such as cashew nut chicken, chicken soup or the straight-up chicken and rice (khao man gai) can make for affordable, clean meals to help build muscle and avoid excessive amounts of sugar and oils.

A visit to a Thai market during orientation week.
Rose apples at a local Thai market

For vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, Thai fruits are also great alternative to the salty and sugary 7/11 snacks and when you teach in Thailand can be great things to nibble on during break times. Fruit is never difficult to find and can be seen at most markets and supermarkets, sometimes in handy snack-sized portions, and can be very different to the fruit we see back home. Will you be brave enough to break open a durian?

Rice and curry shops (in Thai: ran khao kaeng) are also a great alternative as they offer a lot of variety. They are normally found as street stalls but can also be spotted in food courts. The idea is to choose one or more of the toppings to eat with rice. To find out more about rice and curry shops, check out this blog post.

Exercise

When you teach in Thailand, especially if you have younger classes, you might find yourself running around the classroom on a daily basis so chances are you will be getting some exercise accidentally, but it’s always a good idea to get some more in. As much as the heat might seem like a deterrent, there are plenty of ways to get exercise here in Thailand without breaking too much of a sweat. For example, taking walks around your town or city is not only good for you, but can also let you notice places and sights that you might otherwise miss taking public transport (just stay away from those newfound fried chicken stands!)

If you want something more intensive, a good old-fashioned jog around the many parks and open spaces is always a great, free option. Due to the heat, it’s probably best to time your jogs into the evenings or early mornings. Remember to bring a water bottle and possibly a few of your new friends along to keep you motivated.

The natural beauty of Thailand

Exploring by foot is a good way to see the natural beauty of Thailand.

As you’ve come to teach in Thailand, why not try something quintessentially Thai? Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport and if you took our in-class TESOL you likely already had a taste of it during your orientation week. Muay Thai gyms normally offer personal training sessions which are around an hour long, but if you’re not feeling so brave you can always contact your local one and ask to arrange a group session perhaps with some fellow teachers.

Muay Thai classes are also held during orientation week at XploreAsia.

As well as Muay Thai gyms, there are also regular gyms and plenty of outdoor fitness activities such as yoga, aerobics and Zumba. These classes often happen in parks or even in shopping centres and can be a great way to meet new friends.

Meditation

Wat Khao Noi, Hua Hin

Health isn’t just about the body. Meditation helps to refocus the mind and alleviate stress and cluttered thinking patterns. As Buddhism is the main religion here in Thailand, there are plenty of temples to visit to take a moment of quiet reflection. Although temples in the center of Bangkok might not do the trick, those slightly off the beaten track can enjoy a bit of peace and tranquillity.

Meditation

Our TESOL students learning meditation during orientation week

As well as recharging your batteries, learning the ancient art of meditation is another great way to immerse yourself in another aspect of Thailand. It’s an ideal opportunity to learn more about the rituals within and the history of Buddhism, a religion that has a lot of influence on contemporary culture.

Want to teach in Thailand?

Teach in Thailand

It’s never too late to change up your routine. If you want to change your life and the lives of children around the World through teaching English, check out our accredited TESOL course to get started on your journey.

Teaching in Thailand: XploreAsia Teacher Meetups

Teaching in Thailand: XploreAsia Teacher Meetups

Moving abroad can be stressful, but when you come and train with XploreAsia, we provide a network of support formed of our staff, many of whom have experience teaching in Thailand and other destinations. Our team have also completed their TESOL certification through XploreAsia too! As part of our continuing effort to keep people connected, we hold regular teacher meetups for our placed teachers in Thailand so that they can meet people who are living and working in their area.

The main purpose of these meetups is to give our teachers the opportunity to meet other teachers working in the same region. Due to the TESOL training taking place in separate groups and in various locations, people usually haven’t met all the other teachers in their area and it can be difficult for them to find other westerners. We also use the meetups as an opportunity to talk to the teachers individually in person to see how they’re doing at their placement town and to find out how their experience has been with teaching in Thailand since our last contact.

A review from an alumni teaching in Thailand

Our most recent meetups were held in Thailand’s sprawling capital city Bangkok and Khon Kaen, a city in the North of Thailand.

A group photo of our Bangkok meetup

Some of our wonderful XploreAsia family members who came to our meetup in Bangkok in July!

In Bangkok earlier this month, teachers working in the city and the surrounding areas were able to meet up and have dinner together, along with the placement team on the Chao Phraya River. In addition to enjoying the food in an amazing location, the teachers also took part in a trivia quiz to test their knowledge about Thailand and were able to discuss the ups and downs of life teaching in Thailand.

Meditation in Khon Kaen

Through discussing their individual experiences of culture shock, the challenges they face whilst teaching in Thailand, and sharing funny stories about their students and schools, the teachers were able to leave the meetup with new friends and newfound confidence in their teaching abilities.

At the meetup in June in Khon Kaen, the placement team met with another group of XploreAsia alumni and were able to visit three local attractions. First, the alumni received a guided tour of the breath-taking nine-story Wat Nong Wang temple during which they learned more about Buddhism, and also found out about the history of the temple itself. Afterwards, the group took some time to wander around the park surrounding the nearby Ubonrat Dam to enjoy the sunshine, and get to know eachother better. The final attraction our XploreAsia teachers visited was the secluded Phra Bat Phupan temple which offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Meditating at one of the stunning temple excursions during the Khon Kaen meetup.

All good meetups end with a group meal, and in Khon Kaen the teachers were able to use this time together to really get into detail with each other about their experience teaching in Thailand. During all meetups, we hope that participants leave with both rekindled and brand new friendships with other teachers, as well as reassurance that they aren’t alone in their adventures.

Khon Kaen meetup group photo

Some of the XploreAsia family at your meetup in Khon Kaen!

At XploreAsia, we are still here for our TESOL students even after they graduate and our teacher meetups are only one of the ways in which we make sure that our alumni still feel like part of the family. Check out our website to find out more about our TESOL course and how you could start teaching in Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Vietnam or China.

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