fbpx
TESOL Course Orientation Week: What to Expect When Living in Thailand

TESOL Course Orientation Week: What to Expect When Living in Thailand

We are so glad to welcome the newest members of the Xplore Asia family and share their stories from their first few weeks living in Thailand. Our new interns just came back from their weekend trip from Koh Pha Ngan and are back in the office, working away and preparing to welcome our next TESOL course intake. They have been in Hua Hin for just over two weeks now and would love to offer some advice on what to expect during orientation week and adjusting to life in Thailand.

Thailand Life: New interns, Xplore Asia

Our new interns: Marti, Julia, Jane, and Isabelle!

What was your first impression of Thailand and how did it compare to your expectations?

Boat Trip in Bangkok

Boat Trip in Bangkok

JaneI was surprised by the Western influence and how much of it there was. Coming from New York City, I am used to the hustle and bustle of a busy city that is not exactly clean.  However, Bangkok was a whole different ball game.  I also thought that Hua Hin would be a quaint little beach town getaway, but it feels much more urban. The city has grown on me quite a lot, and it offers so many wonderful things.

Isabelle: Here in Hua Hin, the busyness of the roads continue to surprise me, but I love the difference between night and day in the city. At night-time, the city is far less hot, which is reflected in the atmosphere: people come out to relax, eat, and drink at the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants.  It’s so lovely.

Is this your first time traveling in Southeast Asia, and did you do any research before you arrived?

Jane: This is my first time in South East Asia.  I did a bit of research but nothing too extensive.  For example, I googled pictures of Thailand and Hua Hin and read a few travel books about Thailand life.  I also talked to my friend a lot about Thailand because she studied in Chang Mai in Spring 2015. I do like to keep things a surprise and I knew that Hua Hin would be different from where my friend was and from what people think of when they think of Thailand.                                                                                                                     

Marti: Yes, I’ve been to both Vietnam and Myanmar. I didn’t do much research because I assumed it would be somewhat similar to those other countries.

What was your biggest concern about living and working in Thailand?

Life in Thailand

Sunrise in Hua Hin

Isabelle: I was mainly concerned about safety as a female traveler, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I feel much safer here than I did traveling in other places (sometimes even in the States).

Julia: I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew it would still be an interesting experience no matter what happened.

What advice would give to someone who has the same concern?

Jane: For someone who is sort of “afraid of the unknown” and unsure about coming to Thailand, I would tell them this: everyone has fears and anxieties of the unknown.  You are excited but nervous. I think if you even have a slight desire to go and see somewhere, just go.  Otherwise, you’re always going to wonder, “What if I’d done that? What if I’d gone?” 

Marti: Embrace it! Everything in this country is amazing, from the people to the food to the scenic landscapes.

Julia: It will all work out and even at times when things get frustrating at work, remember that you are still living in Thailand. Stay optimistic and positive about the experience and embrace it.

Thailand Life: Discover new foods, sights and sounds living abroad!

Local market where we ordered ingredients in Thai to cook Pad Thai and papaya salad!

Isabelle: There are dangers everywhere, of course, but I have found that I feel very safe here in Hua Hin. It’s important to use common sense, but that’s similar to any other place. As my dad always states, “Make good choices,” and I think that goes for a lot of things – not just personal safety, but in looking out for others as well.

What was your favourite part of the TESOL Course Orientation week?

Thailand Life: Elephant Hug

Hugging an elephant at the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation!

Jane: My favorite part was going to Hutsadin Elephant Foundation and learning about the elephants.  They are truly amazing animals. 

Marti: I thought it was interesting to hear the backgrounds of other people involved in the program to see what made them decide to come to Thailand. It was a great way to get to know everyone very fast. Feeding elephants is always a plus! 

Isabelle: The Thai politics and culture class taught by the director Michael Volpe was a highlight for me; I learned so much in just those few lectures, and his enthusiasm and clear love for Thailand made me all the more excited to experience living in the country.

What was the most surprising part about orientation week and life in Thailand? 

Thailand Life: Hua Hin Beach

The beach down the street from where we live!

Isabelle: Thailand is truly a study of contrasts and some aspects of the culture can sometimes contradict one another. The fact that cars and motorbikes will not stop for pedestrians was surprising to me, but as long as you’re vigilant and patient, it’s not too much of a problem.

Julia: I was surprised by how busy Hua Hin is. I expected it to be more of a relaxed beach town.

Marti: I was surprised to learn about the background of the recent King that passed and discover the level of adoration he received from the Thai people.

What was the most challenging part about adjusting to Thailand life?

Isabelle: How hot it is here in Thailand. It really does drain your strength, so drink lots of water, wear good shoes, and don’t forget to put on bug spray. There are so many bugs in Thailand! 

Jane: The most challenging part was being jet lagged.  I was so tired and went to bed at 9:30 pm every night.

What do you love about life in Hua Hin?

Jane: I love being by the beach and the abundance of seafood.  The food here is really tasty and super cheap.

Isabelle: Recently, we went to the Grand Night Market for dinner, and I enjoyed it much more than the regular night market. It was far less touristy, the food was delicious, and in the back of the market, a gathering of bars with bright, colourful lights overhead was so inviting and peaceful.

Hua Hin Beach

Hua Hin Beach

What do you wish you would’ve brought with you to Thailand?

Isabelle: More bug spray! And long, flowy black pants for the office. Comfortable slip-on and slip-off shoes (flats) are awesome to have here because you’re constantly taking your shoes off and on when you go into any businesses or the office.  

Jane: I wish I had more room in my suitcase to bring home some of the amazing things you can find in Thailand.  The clothes here are so bright and pretty. There is a lot of color here, and everything is vibrant and cheery… I would LOVE to bring that home. 

MartiMost of my clothes aren’t fit for office life. I wish I had packed less so I could take advantage of the cheaper, more suitable options here.

Thank you to our new interns! We’re so happy that you had a wonderful TESOL Course Orientation experience and we’re excited that you’re here at Xplore Asia. We can’t wait to hear about the new adventures and experiences you’ll have while living in Thailand! 

Want to experience Thailand life? Ready to start your own adventure living in a different country? Are you interested in teaching or working abroad? Check out our amazing program experiences here.

Discovering the Art Scene in Thailand

Discovering the Art Scene in Thailand

A Guide to Arts and Culture in Thailand

A First Look at the Art in Thailand 

Last Sunday afternoon found me wandering the Chatuchak market in Bangkok, weaving my way through crowded stalls brimming with wares: everything from vintage sneakers to baskets of mangoes, cheap sunglasses and old porcelain dishware. Amid the hubbub, a narrow corridor led deeper into the covered market area, and I soon realized that an entire community of artists and small galleries flourished in the tiny and often hidden corners of the market.

The art scene in Thailand is a mixture of traditional artists, unconventional artists, and crafters who make unique artisan products.

One of the many stalls in the Chatuchak Market 

Golden walkways at the Grand Palace 

There, nestled between large vendors selling purses of all shapes and sizes and bustling restaurants, lay an entire network of small stalls showcasing art pieces and handmade jewelry, portraiture, and modern art.

When one envisions Bangkok, artwork – street art, galleries, and the like – is not generally what first comes to mind. But as I continue to learn more about this multi-faceted culture and country, Thailand offers one of the richest and most diverse art scenes around the world.

In addition to the stunning temples that adorn the cityscape of Bangkok, contemporary galleries and eclectic art spaces open regularly around the city, creating a mosaic-like art scene that honors traditional Buddhist art and handmade craftsmanship.

Rounding the corner of one stall, I caught a glimpse of a vastly intricate painted scroll depicting a battle at sea. It was done in ancient art form, the boats replete with dragon-heads and sailors fighting with spears, and as I looked a little closer, the plaque in the corner read the artist’s name and then the date: February 2017. It had been painted just the week before.

So this is Thailand then too: a blend of contemporary and traditional, a study of contrasts, and always, always surprising.

Street Art and So Much More in Hua Hin

I have found this to be the case in Hua Hin as well, where I am currently living for the next few months. There is a different flavor to the art in this city. A former fishing town that sits right along the beach, Hua Hin offers a significantly more laid-back atmosphere than in Bangkok, and as a popular tourist destination, the art scene is catered perhaps more directly towards this crowd.

The art scene in Thailand is entrenched in culture and many find inspiration in the traditional and sometimes ancient Buddhist sculptures and stunning temples around the country.

Golden Buddha statue at the Khao Takiab Temple, Hua Hin

In Hua Hin, there is the Baan Sillapin Artists Village and 3D museum. The original arts center in Hua Hin, the village holds large galleries of arts and antiques and offers walk-throughs of artist studios. In the winter months, the village hosts an Art & Jazz collective, bringing musicians in from around the world to perform at the center. The village a slight trek away from the city center of Hua Hin, around 5 km on the road to Pala-U, but transportation is easy here – you can rent a taxi or a tuk-tuk for a fairly reasonable price to bring you there and back.

For more art galleries within the city itself, you can also check out the Aourd Art Gallery on Poon Suk road, Art My Home Gallery on Chomsin Road, and Cicada Market for beautiful handmade pieces.

But I have found art in so many unexpected places too: on the corner where I run every morning, there is a little monster painted on the wall of a restaurant with the word “Gallery” colorfully inscribed above. I love it. I look for it every day.

There is art to be found everywhere, and in all cliché form, sometimes you just have to look for it in the unexpected places. I find that through art, you can discover so much about a culture and a country, trace its history and values, its path through conflict and harmony.

As you begin your adventure traveling to Southeast Asia to teach or volunteer, be sure to keep your eye out for the unexpected artwork all around you.

Street art is surprisingly prominent in many parts of Thailand and many stores and cafés support the art scene in Thailand by promoting local artists. (Gallery Drip)

My favorite mural in Hua Hin! 

I’m curious to know: what kind of art are you interested in? Do you love street art, contemporary art, or historical pieces? What amazing artwork have you found in your travels? When you think of art in Thailand, what images came to mind?

Meeting Locals and Making New Friends in Thailand

Meeting Locals and Making New Friends in Thailand

written by Tarah Mason

One of the scariest parts of packing up and moving across the world is the anxiety of meeting new people.  I’d like to consider myself a fairly outgoing person, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about making friends when I chose to move to Thailand alone.  What if my roommate didn’t like me? What if I just didn’t click with anybody? What if all of the locals in my town hated me? What if…the list could go on and on and I’m sure some of you have felt the same way. Here are a few ways to get in with the locals and make the most of your time abroad!

 1. Find a few restaurants you like and go there again and again…and again.

meeting locals in ThailandThe first few weeks of being in my town I tried out a bunch of different restaurants and eventually found myself frequenting just a few. Being one of the few foreigners in town, the restaurant owners started to notice my constant appearance in their restaurant and we began to form a bond.  Now, they help me with my Thai (and think it’s incredibly funny to listen to me attempt to order in Thai) and I think I’ll miss them equally as much as I’ll miss my students when I leave.

2. Be Yourself.
I know, I know, this is so cliché. I really tried to come up with a less cheesy way to say this, but nothing came to mind.  When you arrive in Chiang Mai or Hua Hin for your TESOL course, be yourself and I promise you will make friends.  Everyone else arriving is going through the same thing you are and it’s easy to bond over that.  The relationships I formed during this first month are some of the strongest friendships I have at the moment and I have no doubt they’ll be in my life far past my time in Thailand.

My new friend in Thailand

 

5. Get Involved at Your School
One of the best lessons I’ve learned since being in Thailand is that you don’t have to speak the same language as someone to have a relationship with them. Most of the Thai teachers at my school speak little to no English, yet I consider them friends. I’ve been on trips with them, gone to a funeral with them, and they even share their curry with me at lunch (a true sign of love in Thailand, in my opinion).

3. Make Friends with Your Tour Guides. 
In my personal opinion, a tour guide can really make or break an experience.  I’ve been lucky to have some really great guides, and actually stay in touch with a couple of them. Casey, my tour guide from a hike in Malaysia, sends me emails every once in a while to see how I’m doing and has even offered to help me train for my first half marathon!

4. Be Open.
Be open to making friends with people you think you might not otherwise be friends with.  Don’t close yourself off to making friends with someone because you don’t think you’d click with them.  You never know what someone has to offer until you actually talk to them, and I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the people you meet.

My new friend in Thailand

6. Live in the Moment.
I think this might be one of the most important tips I can give you. We all have friends, family, and people we are leaving behind in order to live in Thailand, but don’t dwell on that.  You made the decision to move to Thailand, so embrace it. Of course, make time to stay in touch with and FaceTime the people that are important to you, but don’t let it consume you.  The people who love you will always be there, but your time in Thailand will end eventually.  Enjoy it while you’re here and you’ll have some great stories to tell them when you get back.

My new friends in Thailand

Don’t let the fear of making friends stop you from moving to Thailand to teach English.  The hardest part will be pulling the trigger and making the move; after that everything will fall into place.  Teaching English in Thailand is an experience that simply cannot be replicated and I promise you won’t regret it!

Are you worried about meeting new friends abroad? Or did you find it really easy and have other good suggestions? Comment below, as we would love to hear from you!

To find out more about Tarah and her adventures in Thailand, check out her blog www.travelwithtarah.com

Giving Back to the Community in Thailand

Giving Back to the Community in Thailand

At XploreAsia we believe that small changes make a big difference, and giving back to the community should be the cornerstone of every successful organization. Giving back always feels good. XploreAsia proudly supports several non-profit organizations. We actively encourage our employees and participants to take part in various volunteer opportunities close to their hearts and make a positive difference wherever they are.

Here, one of staff talks about how they have begun giving back to the community through animal rescue work. If you feel inspired by this story we will be happy to give you more information and suggestions on volunteering in South East Asia.

Making a Difference In The Lives Of Street Dogs

RESCUE PAWS has been the centre of XploreAsia volunteering activity for years, as stray dogs are a huge concern not only in Hua Hin, but in Thailand in general. This is an issue that needs a lot of attention and is close to the hearts of many of our team. Our Senior TESOL Instructor, Jaco, is one of the founders of Rescue Paws. We are grateful for all of his work and dedication towards making a difference in the lives of street dogs in Hua Hin.

By giving back to the community, you can help a soi dog find their smile again!

 

How and why did you get involved with Rescue Paws?

I arrived in Thailand in 2010 on Koh Samui. There I saw the plight of dogs in Thailand, and rescued my first dog. When I moved to the town of Hua Hin, I realized the extent of the problem was much larger. I had many stray dogs in my immediate area that I started to feed. In October 2013, The Global Work and Travel company owners came out and they also saw the huge problem we were faced with. Hundreds of street, and beach dogs. Together, both organizations started a fund to feed these dogs. We went out with XploreAsia students and found even more packs to feed. Almost immediately we noticed the difference that was being made, and they along with XploreAsia donated money to build 12 kennels and equip a very basic clinic. 

What are the main activities/operations of Rescue Paws?

The mission for Rescue Paws is to over time get the beach, temple, and street dog population under control. We hope that in time we will see a decline in the stray dog population. Our motto is sterilization, vaccination, and education. It does not matter how many sterilizations we do, we need to educate the nation before we will see a real decline in numbers. Apart from all the wound care, parasite treatment, vaccinations, cancer treatments, and deworming we do, we also go to schools and into the community to educate the locals on proper animal welfare and the importance thereof.

What difference has Rescue Paws made to the lives of street dogs in Hua Hin?

Even though the decrease in street dog population and improvement in their health is a slow process, Rescue Paws has made a dramatic impact in the last 4 years. Since opening their doors, they have given over 3500 vaccinations to prevent future sickness, provided over 766 sterilizations to prevent future street dogs, and performed over 14,000 other medical treatments that have saved lives of many street dogs. Additionally, Rescue Paws is feeding an average of 750 dogs a week, and have given 129 rescued dogs new homes.

Could you share one of the most memorable moments while working with Rescue P.A.W.S?

There are countless heart warming, and breaking stories I could share, but 2 of my favorite ones involve Milo and Katinka, 2 street dogs that I adopted while living in Hua Hin. Milo was a poisoned and paralysed dog that suffered from major neurological issues. He was with us for 6 months in the kennel and got healthy through continuous massages, assisted walking and aqua training in the ocean. Katinka was found upside down in a drain. She was also poisoned. She was fully paralyzed and blind. Also, through the continued efforts of Rescue Paws she has recovered and is living with me.

You can start giving back to the community by volunteering at animal shelters!
walking the dogs on the beach in Thailand
XploreAsia volunteers

How can others help and make a difference?

There are so many ways people can help and start giving back to the community. It could be anything from liking and sharing our RescuePaws Facebook page, to adopting a dog and donating money. Every little donation helps and makes a big difference in the lives of street dogs in Hua Hin. To get more information and ideas how to help, have a look at Rescue Paws’ home page.

Rescue P.A.W.S. are always giving back to the community by working hard to treat all the animals in their neighbourhood.

Additionally, there are countless volunteer opportunities in all different parts of Asia. If you are interested in giving back to the community, wherever you are based, XploreAsia can help you find just the right one for you. Get in contact with us and we would love to chat with you more.

Making a Difference as an English Teacher in Thailand

Making a Difference as an English Teacher in Thailand

Have you ever wondered if you can actually make a positive difference as an English teacher abroad? We are so proud to bring you the story of Jazz McClure, an XploreAsia alumni who truly embraced an opportunity to make a change in her students lives, and took getting involved in a community to another level by planning, rehearsing, and performing a musical with her students!

I got my TESOL certification this past October in Chiang Mai. Currently, I’m teaching at a secondary school in Isaan, in Sakhon Nakon province. My semester has been rigorous, but I’ve loved it. This is exactly what I was looking for in coming to Thailand. I hold a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, and hope to pursue graduate studies, but I find myself teetering on my options (a career in ESL being one of them). I wanted to get a feel for this line of work before jumping into my masters. Yet after this experience, it feels right to continue teaching abroad for a while. I’m leaving Thailand after this semester though, and am going to look for work in Korea.

They learned all their lines in English, 7 songs and dances, and helped make all the props. I’m mighty proud of them!”

Jazz McClure

English Teacher in Isaan, Thailand

What inspired you to do the musical? Have you done something similar before?

Yes! I was heavily involved in the theatre when I was in high school. So from the minute I got here I had been looking for ways to get involved with the students musically. But after failing to find any type of choir or music club, I started to feel like there just wasn’t an opportunity. Thank god for Fallon, though. Hailing from the UK, she’s another new teacher who also comes from a theatre background. One Friday night, over a few cold ones on our balcony, we hatched this hazy idea to do our own musical. The veteran teachers said the kids would love it, and suggestions began spilling from all of us faster than we could keep up with. I went to sleep that night with my brain swirling in ideas, hoping that we could somehow pull this off.

making a difference as an english teacher

 

The cheerleaders, who even choreographed their own cheer for the show!

How did your students and fellow teachers react to the activity? Where they excited straight away, or did it require some convincing first?

Oh, I’m laughing as I write this! Let’s just say that musicals are NOT a thing in Thailand. So yes, the idea required a lot of convincing! I think the concept of singing and dancing to songs that are a part of the story was strange to them. We actually had to go into our classrooms and pitch the show to the students, telling them they would get extra credit if they joined. At first, they seemed so unenthused, but after one or two students said they’d do it, more and more kept running to the office like, “Teacher! I want to do the musical too!” That went on for weeks!

Teacher Fallon with Best, who played Ms. Darbus

Can you elaborate on what the activity consisted in?

Who was involved in the planning and execution of the process?

After weighing our options, we decided to do a simplified version of High School Musical. The songs are easy, the English is reasonable, it appeals to a young audience, it teaches students about the culture of their American counterparts, and the kids could wear their own clothes for costumes (hands in the air for a $15 production!) Yet even with a simple story, getting it all together was not easy. We wrote a script, cut songs, added songs, played with harmonies, and held auditions. I made a proposal to my boss, who translated to the higher powers and asked if we could have stage time for rehearsals. I think he was cynical at first about being able to pull the show off, but once he saw how invested the students were, he was incredibly supportive, and even started coming to rehearsals to watch.  

How often and when did you do the rehearsals, and how did you manage to find extra time?

We started practicing at the end of November, and just performed the show on Valentine’s Day. When classes were cancelled for things like Sports Week, we’d have big group rehearsals. For the main characters, we practiced mostly during lunch, or whenever they had free time. Sometimes, it was when they came running to the office with lyrics in hand and only 10 minutes to spare! After we could run the whole show, we started rehearsing on the stage after school. We usually stayed for about an hour 3-4 nights a week.

How do you think this has made a difference in your students’ lives?

The three M6 students in the show. They were really glad to so something like this the year they graduated!

I think it’s made a huge difference in their lives. First off, it must be hard for them to build relationships with their foreign teachers. The Thai school system usually sees a new foreign teacher every semester and, since the students are shy, having a stranger in the classroom every six months must be challenging. The musical was a good way for them to shake their shyness and feel comfortable with us. It also was our way to show them that we cared enough to spend an extra ten hours a week with them!

Bonding aside, the show forced them to speak a lot of English. They were exposed to new vocabulary, both about American high schools and about the theatre, and got to dabble in expressions that young English speakers use all the time.

In what way did you see the difference and growth in your students throughout the rehearsals and after the performance?

There is one student who envelops this the most. The M4 boy we cast to play Ryan was hesitant to accept the role; he didn’t think he was good enough to play the part. Even during rehearsals, he was always doubting his capacity. Fallon and I were always encouraging him, and that combined with unwavering support from the other students helped him have some faith in himself. As we neared the end of rehearsals, he and the girl playing Sharpay were stealing the show! Every time we did a run-through, they would add some new pose or reaction to different scenes, and by the time we performed, some of the funniest things in the show were things Fallon and I didn’t even stage. Seeing our Ryan so uplifted by his friends and watching his development into this super awesome character filled me with unspeakable pride.

making a difference as an english teacher in Thailand

Check out this inspirational video that Teacher Jazz put together of High Thai School Musical!

Would you like to do this again? Would you encourage other teachers to do something similar?

Yes, I would. It was the unrivalled, absolute best part of my time here. And yes, I suggest other teachers do the same! I know it’s hard when there really isn’t a process to start your own activity at the school, but if you’re passionate about it, the Thai teachers will see that and they will help you. They want what’s best for the students, too. When we were finished with the show, they kept thanking us for taking time do to that with the kids. My advice is to find something you love and try to share it with them. There are so many things that would resonate with these kids: a sports club, an art club, a chess club, a theatre club, a glee club…even an anime club! If you can find your fit, you’ll amplify your relationships with your students and see how truly awesome they can be…and maybe even convince them of their own awesomeness, too!

What it Takes to be a Good Teacher Abroad

What it Takes to be a Good Teacher Abroad

Have you ever wanted to see the world, live in a different country, and feel like you’re really leaving a lasting impact in the lives of the people you interact with?

Backpacking is one thing, but feeling like part of a local community and getting the opportunity to leave your mark in what was once a “foreign and unknown” place, is an extremely rewarding cross-cultural experience with the potential to change your life and many others around you.

Teaching abroad provides this opportunity. Every day, more and more young professionals who are looking to start their careers, but also want to see the world, turn to teaching as a means to quench their thirst for adventure whilst doing something positive for the community and gaining valuable work experience. Of course, you can never be too old to embark on this journey. If you’re an experienced professional who is looking to get away from the routine and have an enriching experience abroad, teaching might also just be right for you!

If you have ever pondered this idea, or have asked yourself whether you would be a “good teacher” this guide will serve to outline some of the essential qualities a successful teacher should possess in order to have a fulfilling and positive time working and living abroad.

how to be a good teacher?


ADAPTABILITY

Different countries operate in different ways. Each culture has their own standards on education which more than likely differ than those of your own country.

You must always present yourself in a professional manner. However, it is important to keep in mind when you are working abroad, things may not always run on time. Last minute changes are not uncommon and you may be required to think on your feet more than you’re accustomed to.

Always have extra lessons on hand and remember not to let the little things get to you. As long as you keep a positive attitude and focus on the task that is at hand, you will be more than ready to confront anything that may be thrown at you.

CREATIVITY

This is perhaps one of the most important skills a successful teacher should possess. It is vital to use different methods of teaching, as different students learn in different ways. You can have some fun with your students by incorporating games in your lessons and breaking out of the daily structure to teach a lesson in a new, dynamic and playful manner.

By getting creative in the classroom you not only encourage your students to explore different ways of learning but also break out of the daily routine to share some laughs together.

would I be a good teacher?

You may find these are the most valuable moments you will experience as an educator. Seeing the kids respond to your ideas with enthusiasm and energy is one of the great joys of this job.

what it takes to be a good teacher


PASSION

Sometimes, you may find it useful to do some self reflection and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Not everyone has the opportunity to change someone’s life, especially not the lives of young children who live half way across the world from you. On days that are hard, long or just tiring, if your intentions are in the right place, you may find the energy you need in the passion you have to truly make a difference. You have the power to make any situation into a lesson not only for your students but also for you. Both as a teacher and as a human.

If you’re ready to learn, this experience will teach you a lot about yourself and perhaps help you find that balance you’ve been searching for elsewhere.

COMMITMENT

Living in a new country can be very exciting, it is very easy to get caught up in the novelty of it all but a “good teacher” should always have the best interest of their students in mind. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun, or go out on weekends, but as an educator, you hold a great responsibility to shape the lives of the new generation to be better people and eventually become contributing members of their society. Not to mention you are also acting as an ambassador to your country in the eyes of your kids.

would I be a good teacher?

Be mindful about your priorities and remember to dedicate some time for planning outside of school and you should have plenty of time to balance both your personal and professional lives abroad.

So, if you think you’ve got what it takes.. what are you waiting for?

***Having a TESOL certificate is a huge advantage for any potential teacher looking to get work abroad. A TESOL will provide you with the skills necessary to run a lesson effectively and maintain discipline in your classroom. This is perhaps the most invaluable and practical certification any teacher should have before arriving to any school.

Five Surprising Things about Life in Thailand

Five Surprising Things about Life in Thailand

                                                                                                                                              By Chelsey Dunham
I did tons of research before moving to Thailand so my husband Cole and I came prepared for all the big stuff: the fabulously low cost of the living, the “mai pen rai” attitude, the students being extra naughty during English class, the extreme heat, the delicious food, etc. Yet, Life in Thailand still managed to catch me off guard in a number of ways. The following are five things that may surprise you, as they did me, about Thai culture and life as a teacher in Thailand.

1. Any temperature below 70°F (21°C) is unbearably cold

One evening in December, four of us American English teachers went to our city’s weekend market to eat and shop. We arrived dressed in long pants and long sleeves yet found ourselves shivering as we ate. By the end of dinner we felt so cold that we decided to skip shopping at the market entirely. I checked the temperature and laughed out loud when I saw that it was 68°F (20°C)! What would have been a comfortable temperature to us at home sent us running back to our apartments now that our bodies had acclimatized to Thailand’s hot weather.

life in Thailand, teaching in Thailand
On cooler days our students come to school in cute little jackets and sometimes full-on winter coats complete with gloves and earmuffs

“Thailand’s slow-paced life means you’ll always have time to sit and watch the sunset”

life in Thailand, teaching in Thailand

2. You will have copious amounts of free time

When I pictured life in Thailand, I imagined my days being action-packed and full of adventure. But after settling into my teaching job, I actually found the opposite to be true in the most wonderful way.  My life here is very relaxed and stress free.  You can easily get all planning and grading done within the school day while you are not teaching.  This leaves you with evenings and weekends completely free to travel, exercise, explore your town, spend time with friends, or just binge watch shows on Netflix.  The relaxed pace is completely opposite of how I lived my life in the United States.  I have enjoyed researching topics that interest me, writing a blog, going for long walks at a local park, and chatting with my Thai landlord in my new-found free time.

3.  Many students suffer from rotten and decaying teeth

When I first arrived at my school, I was shocked to see so many of my students with black and toothless grins.   We teach at a private school where most families can easily afford dental care, so why are these kids suffering from tooth decay at such a young age?  The initial shock of seeing this problem wore off but I am still perplexed by the issue.  The students brush their teeth everyday at after lunch at school but this is apparently not enough to combat the problem.  I have tried to include lessons about dental hygiene, avoiding sugar, and the importance of eating fruits and vegetables for each of my classes.

It obviouls doesn’t make them any less adorable
life in Thailand, Thai food

I had some delicious shrimp pad Thai courtesy of this boat for less than $1 US

4.  You may shed a few excess pounds

After living in Thailand for three months, Cole and I were pleasantly surprised when we stepped on the scale and realized we had both lost weight.  Now after seven months in Thailand, most of the clothes we packed are too big. Many Thai dishes consist of freshly cooked ingredients and are served in small portions, which is a welcome change from the processed food and gigantic meals we were eating back home.  The produce we buy at a local market is also fresher and much cheaper than in the United States. If you stick to a mostly Thai-food diet combined with other healthy habits (exercising daily, avoiding sugar, eating fruits and vegetables, etc.) you may be flying home a little lighter than you came!

5.  Your comfort zone will expand immensely

Before moving to Thailand the thought of being stranded in an unfamiliar place, where no one speaks your language, praying for the right bus to drive by would have given me a minor panic attack; now that’s just a typical Friday night.  Living in Thailand has put me in all kinds of situations that would have made me uncomfortable before—being lost and unable to ask anyone for help, eating unfamiliar foods, communicating with people whose language you can’t understand, performing a traditional Thai dance at your boss’s retirement party, the list goes on and on. Looking back I’m astonished at how quickly my comfort zone grew to include these situations. Living in Thailand has helped me be okay with no knowing and not being in control. After a few months in Thailand you may find that you’ll feel comfortable and at ease anywhere and with anyone.

life in Thailand, teaching in Thailand

 

As apprehensive as a I was at first, I had a great time learning traditional Thai dance and performing at our school director’s retirement party.

To read more stories about living and teaching in Thailand, check out our previous participant, Chelsey Dunham, blog through the following link https://candcoverseas.wordpress.com/

Living and Teaching Abroad as a Couple

Living and Teaching Abroad as a Couple

 

 

Obviously, any pair that embarks on a journey together, from friends to couples will grow a bond that is undeniably stronger from when you began. The things you encounter in Thailand alone, are just sometimes unexplainable to the western world. These memories and moments are things you will share with your partner for life. 

 

Living and teaching abroad as a couple can be a unique and rewarding experience that is sure to bring you both closer together and teach you things about each other you never knew you needed to know.

That being said, an adventure of this sort definitely comes with a set of challenges that may test your relationship in ways you never anticipated. However, the rewards can be great when you learn how to roll with the punches and find creative ways to deal with the different issues you may be faced with as you begin life with your partner in a new country.

This blog will feature stories from the perspective of three different couples who decided to embark on this journey and take the leap towards a life changing adventure that shaped their lives forever.

Beth and Mike
Mike and I met each other in Nelson, New Zealand. We were both staying at the same hostel and our friendship just never stopped growing! That was almost 9 years ago.

After returning to Canada, we battled a long-distance relationship for a while, all whilst knowing we wanted to be together but didn’t want the cookie cutter lifestyle that we were feeling pressured to follow at home. I had explored the idea of teaching overseas for sometime and once I shared this with Mike, he was sold.

We quickly realized after being placed in Amphawa, Thailand, the lack of English speaking connections was causing a lot of pressure at home to “entertain” each other. We really needed to find things that we could do on our own that the other could support yet not necessarily take part in. We had to be mindful of each other’s journey…

It took a month or two for us to find the roles we needed to play in each other’s lives here, as they differ greatly from the norms of home. Living with your partner is one thing, but adding in school and after hours with the same person everyday brings forth new challenges.

Obviously, any pair that embarks on a journey together, from friends to couples will grow a bond that is undeniably stronger from when you began. The things you encounter in Thailand alone, are just sometimes unexplainable to the western world. These memories and moments are things you will share with your partner for life. 

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

Mike and I have grown tremendously as a couple. We are both so much more aware of our own, and each other’s needs. Being secluded with someone you love in an unfamiliar land brings a sense of terrifying adventure. It can go either way – crash and burn or hit some turbulence and keep going. There isn’t a smooth sail and we know that. We are both so proud of one another for overcoming so much already and are excited to continue growing as teachers and as individuals! We love XploreAsia and all the opportunities it has provided us!

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

Enrico and Philippa
We both attended the same farewell back in 2012. I went there with another girl, one of Philippa’s close friends actually and had no idea whose bash I was attending. We sat across from each other and spoke every now and again.

A couple of days later, I found her on Twitter and sent her a private message. We chatted during a hectic exam period and then met up after that for a drink and the rest is history.

We had hit a rough patch and felt like things were stagnating on both an individual and collective basis. We were both unhappy with life in South-Africa and after successfully travelling together the year before, we were unsettled in our birthplace. We spoke about moving abroad from the moment we got home the previous year and the topic simply did not fade away.

After this feeling continued for well over a year, we knew we needed a change, but something completely different. Not the typical move to London like every other 20-something South-African does, something and somewhere that was uncharted by our circle of friends and colleagues in order for it to be just the two of us. After some initial discussion, we settled on Thailand.

If I had to offer any advice to a couple considering moving abroad I would say….  It is so cliché, but take the plunge. It doesn’t matter what state your relationship currently is in; happy or going through a rough patch, this experience is unbelievably refreshing for one’s soul and sharing it with the person you love makes it even more special. The love you’ll receive from the Thai people -your students especially- is so overwhelmingly amazing. It’s unconditional nature is like nothing you’ve ever likely to have experienced before. Your relationship will also reach new heights, it’s almost as if you’re reliving that honeymoon phase when you were new lovebirds.

You’re likely to face the same issues as those who come here on their own such as the initial steps in making the decision to move abroad, homesickness and tough days at the office. From my experience being here with a partner makes each problem significantly smaller and easier to deal with.

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

This path we have taken with XploreAsia has helped us get back to where we were before, when our relationship was healthy. From the airport pickup to the activities during the orientation week to eventually becoming actual teachers and living life to its full potential, have all been part of a process that has helped us find more meaning to life. It hasn’t been about discovering ourselves, but rather a path of rediscovery.

This experience has made us unconditionally happy with the beauty that comes from living a simple life outside your comfort zone. We’re so grateful that XploreAsia held our hand back onto this path and are always a little behind us for a nudge in the right direction should we need one.

Emilie and Melvin
We met each other in college at a mutual friend’s birthday dinner. We hit it off the night we met and have been inseparable ever since!

Our community has been very supportive of our relationship. Both our friends and family were very excited when we first started seeing each other, and I believe their support and love have been growing ever since.

But as for Thailand, it has been an interesting experience. Not to say that it is a norm, but it is more common to find a farang (foreign) male and a Thai female. We happen to resemble the opposite. Since I look Thai, many Thailand natives give us strange looks or stare when they see us together.

We have definitely learned a lot of new things about each other. When you get two people moving across the world completely out of their comfort zone, there are going to be uncomfortable moments and we learn what really makes each of us feel uncomfortable and how to help each other through it to become a stronger person. Melvin definitely has too much energy in the mornings when getting ready for school.

The biggest challenge is not always knowing what to say to the other when they are feeling down or  or just homesick. You want to comfort the other but sometimes just being sad or feeling a little down is just part of life and it means you’re human. And we know that those negative feelings will pass. Normally, one of us just needs food or a nap.

Cultivating a relationship in a “safe” or normal environment where everyone is just comfortable is, in my opinion, not the best way to build a relationship. Life has a way of throwing curve balls and making things difficult. Working together to get through rough patches and challenging situations really becomes a testament to the strength of the relationship. We didn’t embark on this journey to test our relationship, but as a way to strengthen our bond, knowing that after this, we can make it through anything. But we didn’t get into this to be in seclusion from everyone else! My suggestion is don’t just always spend time with just your significant other. Still go out there together and make friends! The friends we have made during this experience have been one of the best parts of this whole journey.

Although this journey has had its challenges, it has all been worth it. Irreplaceable memories created on the other side of the globe in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

How We Found Love While Teaching in Thailand

How We Found Love While Teaching in Thailand

All You Need is Love..

 

But a Little Help From XploreAsia Doesn’t Hurt!

Connections can form quickly when embarking on an unknown adventure, spending hours lesson planning and learning to be teachers. Other times bonds form during long bus rides, spontaneous adventures or even just at a local bar. Meet just some of our couples who happened to do just that and fall in love while teaching in Thailand.

Avery and Cole teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand 
Cole and I met outside of the Hua Hin mall on the first day of our XploreAsia TESOL course in June, 2015. I had just graduated and he had recently decided that there was more to life than a desk job. Our conversations throughout the course made me feel like home wasn’t halfway around the world and we kept in touch once we moved to our respective placements. We traded stories and words of encouragement with each other. After traveling to Cambodia with mutual friends, we decided to be placed together for the next semester. Fast forward through our teaching adventures in Nakhon Nayok, volunteering in Nepal, and romping around Asia to this fall when we moved to Spain. Here, we’re continuing to teach English, navigate the wonders of a new culture, and yearn for more khao soi together. Thank you, XploreAsia for all your help and support!

teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

Amy and Sean teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

In September 2015, I arrived in Thailand with one of my best friends to do the XploreAsia TESOL course. The plan was to teach for a semester or two and travel as much as we could in that time before heading back home to Canada. Turns out, things don’t always go the way you expect.  I met Sean a couple of weeks into the TESOL course in Hua Hin, and we got to know each other talking in the halls on the course, on beach days, and nights out. On the day that I was leaving for my placement, we went on our first “date” and then had to say goodbye.

Sean was placed in Ang Thong Province, about an hour drive North of Bangkok, and I was placed in Hat Yai, in the far South. With the distance, I don’t think either of us expected that we would end up talking everyday. Like, all day…everyday.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in ThailandAfter being apart for almost two months, we met up in Phuket with a group of friends. And that was it! We then did everything we could to see each other at least every two weeks. We met up in Hat Yai, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Ang Thong and Malaysia throughout our placements. Once the semester came to an end, my parents came to visit, met my new, mysterious boyfriend, Sean, and we all travelled together for almost three weeks. We went back to Phuket, then to Koh Lanta, Krabi, and ended in Chiang Mai where Sean and I stayed for a while.

Fast-forward eight months, and we now live together in Newcastle in England, (Sean is British) and will be moving to Canada (I’m Canadian) in the summer later this year. I think I speak for both Sean and myself when I say Thailand, and the last year and a half, has not been what we expected. Lucky for us, it was more than we could have ever asked for. 

Morgan and Darren  teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
My name is Morgan. I’m 25 years old from Nova Scotia, Canada. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl so when I came to Thailand in April of 2016 to start the TESOL course through Xploreasia, I was beyond excited. Throughout the duration I was able to meet incredible souls from all over the world. I made great friendships with many other students in the program and made some especially close bonds with a smaller group. One of the people who made my experience truly special was a student from another group. His name was Darren and he was from Ireland.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in ThailandOur two groups of friends often overlapped and so Darren and I became pretty close. We were busy with the course and had our own agendas but anytime we happened to be together we always had a really great connection. When the course finished, I left for my position in Lampang (Northern Thailand) and he went off to his position in Bangkok. We kept in touch and usually heard from each other a few times a week to check in on one another. From that, a few times a week became nearly every day. That quickly turned into every day, and soon we messaged back and forth every day for most of the day. For our first long weekend I went to Bangkok to meet my group of girlfriends from the course and ended up seeing Darren just as much as I saw everyone else. Soon I was going to Bangkok to visit him for the weekend and after a time, he came up to Lampang to visit. We now often talk about his first visit to Lampang. We went to dinner and talked for hours at a small local Riverside Restaurant.
We have said since then that visit is when things really blossomed into more than we ever thought or expected it would. A relationship was something both of us were actually quite against when we first came to Thailand. But at this point, we both knew this was something a lot bigger.

That was in August. It is now almost 6 months later and he is the first person I message in the morning and the last person I talk to at night. Though we are 8 hours away, he never fails to make me feel loved, supported and helps me stay positive when the distance drives me crazy. We laugh and go on ridiculous adventures. We support and encourage each other and challenge each other to always be our best as teachers.

It has been so amazing to me how two people from opposite corners of the world could have such an incredible bond. I feel so lucky to have been able to find a person I call my best friend and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us and what adventures we will go on next.

Cameron and Janie teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand 
Cameron and I were both in the Hua Hin TESOL course for October 2015. Throughout the course, we became good friends: we lived across from each other, sat next to each other in class, and even worked as partners on the English camp day of the course.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

Cameron was always optimistic and lighthearted, so he was a great person to have around during such a crazy time. We were disappointed when we were placed so far away from each other; I was moving down south to Songkhla and he was headed East to Trat province. Luckily though, our TESOL group remained close, and we were able to meet up several times throughout the next semester. Fast forward a few months, we both decided that while we weren’t ready to leave Thailand, we needed a change, and we individually decided to move to Phuket. Over the March/April break from school, we ended up traveling through Vietnam and northern Thailand together and some friends and the rest is history! 10 months later, we are both still teaching in Phuket and we are now planning our next adventure together in Canada.

Jamie and Amien  teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand 
Amien and I met in Thailand and both participated in Xplore Asia but during different years. Amien had already been teaching in Phang Nga a full year before I arrived in 2013. Like all the classiest of love stories, we met at the only bar in our town (we taught at different schools).  We started to spend every afternoon together and before you know it, every afternoon turned into a year.  We had so much fun exploring Thailand from the islands in the South to the Mountains in the north. We also survived many visa runs together to Malaysia. Sitting next to someone on a bus for 16 hours and not wanting to kill them is a sign of true love.

After a little over a year, I returned back to the U.S (Austin, Texas) and Amien took a teaching job in China but we continued to Skype everyday. Amien came to Austin for awhile and then I met him in South Africa. However, we basically went months without seeing each other in person and it was hard (but worth it!). Finally in early 2016, Amien came to Austin and never left. Months later, Jamie and Amien tied the knot  and are now married! Thailand completely changed our lives. It not only allowed us to find each other, but allowed us to focus on ourselves. I now work in People Operations at Google, and Amien is pursuing his dream of personal training (All that Muay Thai!) in Austin, Texas. 

Our adventure continues beyond Thailand and I am forever grateful for this experience.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

And Sometimes, Your Perfect Match is Just Your Best Friend!

teaching in Thailand, making new friends in Thailand

 Samantha and Lauren,  Best Friends

The first month was pretty much a blur. We became extremely close very quickly. I held her hand while she sobbed into a burger at Burger King. She carried me across a street that was flooded (for her own benefit because she wanted fries that badly and didn’t want to go alone). But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. We would bicker. We both had strong accents (Londoner, and Welsh) and we’d both get frustrated with each other when we couldn’t understand each other. But the bickering always turned into laughter and that’s how I knew she was special.

 

The day came when we found out where we would be placed. We were apart. My heart broke. Lauren is placed in Phuket, and I’m in Krabi! Well that perked us both up and we were only 3 hours apart by bus. I wanted her 3 minutes apart from me. We had spent so much time together that first month, I couldn’t imagine life without her frizzy hair bobbing along by my side.

The time came for us to part. There were tears, promises and a slideshow of photographs of our time together. One month later, we reunited in Bangkok and I have never felt excitement like it. Waiting for her to come through those doors. I started to freak whenever I saw someone with a mop of curly afro hair. Finally, she came through those doors. Of course, she filmed it. Never gets off social media but I’m glad she did. The cheesy smile on her face, and my screams whilst I jumped on her was priceless.

I spent Christmas with her in Phuket and we celebrated New Year together on the island of Koh Tao. She is yet to visit me in Krabi. We can see who wear the trousers in this relationship and who does all the running around! Even though we aren’t together, we speak on the phone nearly every day and she was there for me 100% when I had a bad time at the start of the course.

James and Thomas, Best Friends

teaching in Thailand, making friends in ThailandWe got roomed together in H2 in Bangkok and just hit off from there really. We unfortunately didn’t get placed together in Hua Hin…but thanks to the wonderful and handsome, Jon Harman favors were exchanged and strings were pulled which ultimately led me and Tom sharing a room together in BSP in Hua Hin. Things just escalated so quickly… Now he’s in Trang and I’m in Bangkok, but we’re trying to make the most of it. They say it’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all… I don’t regret any of my time with him.

What Living and Volunteering in Myanmar is Really Like

What Living and Volunteering in Myanmar is Really Like

Our Volunteer in Myanmar program offers the unique opportunity to truly feel immersed in a wonderful culture whilst making a difference in a local community that will embrace you as one of their own.

Angella Busacker is a XploreAsia alumni who spent a few months as a volunteer in Myanmar as an English teacher. The following interview was conducted earlier this year and tells of her experience whilst on the program.

 

Why did you want to volunteer in Myanmar?

I wanted to go to Myanmar particularly because it had been closed-off to the rest of the world until relatively recently and it’s still quite untouched and wild in many places.  I wanted to go there before it becomes overrun by commercialism, western food, and hotel chains. 

Having recently emerged from their hermitic existence, the Burmese people are very eager to catch-up with the rest of the world.  I felt compelled to help them in this endeavor and teaching English was an ideal option for me given I already had a Master’s Degree in TESOL.

Volunteer in Myanmar
Volunteer in Myanmar
Volunteer in Myanmar

Do you feel your time there had an impact on the people?

Absolutely.  I am very proud to say that there are now several Burmese children who can speak a few words of English, can sing a couple of English songs, and have wonderful memories of having a lot of fun learning English through music and movement.  (Even my driver, with whom I bonded during our several hours in the car, just sent me an email yesterday saying, “Hello Teacher, we miss you very much” 🙂 🙂 🙂 So yes, there’s no question I had an impact there.

Would you recommend anyone else to do this  program and why?

Teaching English to Burmese people (particularly to the little monks, nuns, and children in the countryside) was exceptionally rewarding.  They live in extremely basic conditions, have little resources and rarely have the opportunity to be taught be a Western native English speaker so they are extremely appreciative when they have one. 

In addition, in general, teachers are extremely highly respected in Myanmar (as in most Asian countries); for a Western teacher, this is a rare experience (unfortunately).  It was wonderful to walk into a classroom and already know that I would be automatically accorded this level of respect and therefore, could concentrate my time and energy on actual teaching and most importantly, having fun together

What is so great about teaching in Myanmar?

There were two things that made my teaching experience particularly special. Firstly, the children were absolutely wonderful. They were extremely respectful and well-behaved so I was able to focus my energy on teaching rather than disciplining or maintaining order.  They were very eager to learn English and found my presence as a Western teacher such a special event, that they listened to my every word, watched my every movement and engaged fully in every activity.

Secondly, teaching in monasteries and nunneries exposed me to a very special, very important part of Burmese culture which no ordinary tourist is normally privileged to see.  I felt honored to have been so welcomed in such culturally and spiritually important places, places far off the beaten path in the countryside while providing a service to the community.

Volunteer in Myanmar
Volunteer in Myanmar

For more fun photos of Angella’s time in Myanmar check out her instagram. If you want to catch up with us, check out our Facebook and Instagram accounts too to find out what all of our wonderful teachers are doing.

Pin It on Pinterest