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Teach in Asia: Becoming Part of the Local Community

Teach in Asia: Becoming Part of the Local Community

Teach in Asia and immerse yourself in the community!

Moving to a new continent can be a tricky transition. Despite different languages and cultures, kindness knows no barriers and we’re excited to share our TESOL students’ stories of their first interactions with locals.

Coming to teach in Asia can be daunting. Lots of people worry whether they will fit into their communities despite language and cultural barriers. In this blog post, our TESOL students in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam share their stories of heartwarming interactions in their communities.

1. Sam in Thailand: “Food unites people here”

Openness is not something we’re used to from strangers in America. However, humility and openness seem to be defining characteristics of many people in Thailand. Whether they are a street-food vendor or an employee at the local 7-11, a Buddhist Monk or a songthaew driver, I feel as though I’m constantly greeted with a smile from the person across from me, as if I am meeting eyes with a friend. And so went my first interaction with Daang. As I approached his humble restaurant, he hastily produced a menu for me and motioned to a table with a view of the street. Entirely unsure of the type of food offered at this eatery, I hesitated before taking a seat on the small stool he had chosen for me. I decided to put aside any predispositions and simply find something on the menu that I might like.

To make things more difficult, the entire menu at Daang’s restaurant was in Thai. Rather than choose to leave or simply ask for ‘pad thai?’ with hands raised akimbo in the position of a clueless tourist, I stumbled my way through a conversation that led to Daang preparing me whatever he selected. As I watched Daang shuffle seamlessly back and forth across the kitchen, I was immediately impressed by the skill and efficiency of every maneuver. Daang clearly gave each ingredient respect and care. Daang’s cooking represented poetry in motion.

Sam Daniels came to teach in Asia just after the new year and started a culinary adventure!

Not only did he genuinely care about the experience I had in his restaurant, he also seemed proud that I would choose to eat there. Afterwards, we shook hands with the agreement that I would be back the following day for dinner. As I walked home, belly full and a smile on my face, I was reminded of an Anthony Bourdain quote from his first book Kitchen Confidential, which reads: “Good food is very often, even most often, very simple.” Nothing could be more apt in describing this and the subsequent meals I would enjoy at Daang’s restaurant.

The next evening, the scene before me was different from the day before. Whereas I enjoyed a simple dish of noodles and pork then, this evening consisted of several large fish roasted over an open flame, and a table full of Daang’s relatives and friends. Daang introduced me around the table several times; it only validated what we’d learned during our Thai culture lessons during orientation week: food unites people here. If this experience has confirmed anything, it is my belief in the value of winging it. Letting these happy accidents occur is what so many over-organised tourist trips to other countries miss — I’m very grateful to have met Daang and enjoy his food as well as his company.

2. Cam B in South Korea: “The friendliness was contagious”

During my second week of my TESOL course in Korea, I met a man named JunHyuk, AKA Simon, at a gym. Back in New Zealand, I was a competitive power-lifter and I am very focused on maintaining my fitness whilst I teach in Asia. Typically in New Zealand, people don’t interact much while training. However, while I was bench pressing, Simon came up to me and asked me to give him advice and help to train him to get stronger.

Cameron came from New Zealand to teach in Asia and found a local gym buddy in Incheon, South Korea.

At first, I was hesitant so I politely told him when I would be back and assumed he wouldn’t follow up. To my surprise, the next day he was in the gym waiting and immediately came up to greet me with a friendly smile and was ready to begin training. I ran him through a beginner power-lifting routine and helped him practice the correct form whilst also helping him take notes to help him become stronger. He was so thankful and willing to learn; the friendliness was contagious and I was happy all day knowing that I will be able to integrate into and enjoy the culture while I’m in South Korea. After we had finished he asked if we could meet again the next Saturday and bring a couple of friends with him.

Although I didn’t feel comfortable training his friends, I have continued to meet up with Simon, helping him improve and work towards his strength goals.

Simon has also begun to help me understand Korean language and customs much better through frequent interactions. Recently, we went out as a small group for a meal and had a very fun time in a different setting and talking about life. When I do find myself back in Incheon or Seoul, I would like to make time to see Simon again. What I have enjoyed most about meeting and getting to know Simon is that I have been able to help a local achieve something rather than simply being part of a language exchange. I have loved learning about the culture through someone who has lived in it their entire life. I now understand that the best way to learn about Korean culture is through meeting new people and learning first hand. I’m looking forward to meeting more locals and learning from them whilst I teach in Asia.

3. Cameron H in Vietnam: “The quest for power”

I decided to go to a café with my laptop to hole myself away until my lesson planning was done. My laptop is ailing and decrepit and it always needs to be plugged in in order to work. I had heard tell of a local café that had plug sockets, free Wi-Fi and reasonably priced coffee. I went early in the morning and nested in the corner beside one of the few functioning sockets. Slowly but surely, I plodded through my assignments, under frequent glances of some amused locals at my makeshift study camp. I assumed they felt some pity as I was there for many hours sat alone forcing myself to wade through cheesy children’s music to find the right song for a lesson plan.

Suddenly the power cut out – and my laptop switched off. My stomach dropped. I prayed to the technology overlords that my work had been saved. Other people may have taken this as a sign I should move, see some sunlight, and take a break… I felt more motivation than ever to stay until my work was done. I packed up my bags, stood up from my chair, and began to seek a new socket. The quest for power had begun.

Many countries in Asia have a big coffee culture and you're sure to find lots of places to relax whilst preparing for your classes.

I scanned the entire café trying to find a new socket. There were some sockets on the floor, but they were too loose to function. There were some multi-use sockets being shared by others, but there was not enough room for my comically large travel adaptor. I stretched above other peoples’ tables to try and use a couple of spare ones, but the lead was too short to reach the nearest free table. The entire time I was getting in everyone’s way, carrying a bag, books and an open laptop around, and moving chairs to see if there were more sockets on the floor. It’s safe to say the locals’ glances had turned into some outright stares, some giggling and some straight-up laughter.

Eventually, I deemed my mission a failure. I sat at an empty table and began to gather my things to leave. At this moment, a pair of Vietnamese men came over and plucked my laptop out of my hands. For a second I thought I may be the victim of the most brazen robbery in history. They spoke very little English so we combined languages with a lot of mime.

The pair split off, one heading in search for any sockets that I may have missed. In the meantime, his friend inquired about what I was doing by pointing at my books. I was able to respond in Vietnamese that I am a teacher, and his face lit up. I then said that I had moved from the UK to teach in Asia and proceeded to use up the few Vietnamese sentences I knew before I ran dry and we resorted back to mime. At this point, his friend returned and gave me a shrug as if to say he had done what he could.

The guy I had been speaking to then went over to where a group of people were sharing a multi-use socket and started asking other locals if anyone had enough charge to let me take one of their places.

Teach in Asia and explore the ecclectic city of Hanoi!

My British sensibilities caused me to be consumed with embarrassment at being the centre of attention and putting out a stranger at the same time. Yet this caused a ripple of conversation where other locals started chatting both to the two men and to me. Not only did someone give up a socket for me, but I was then sat at a table where I had inadvertently caused strangers to talk like old friends. There was a local woman who spoke English and we were able to have more of a chat about Vietnam. I inquired about where she was from – Ho Chi Minh City – and asked about her life. In the end, fate had forced me to take a break away from my work. My quest for power was successful due to the abounding friendliness and helpfulness of the locals. Now my work is finished, I just need to improve my Vietnamese – and get a better computer!

Teach in Asia with XploreAsia!

Do you want to start your own adventure and teach in Asia? We have in-country TESOL courses in Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Myanmar. We also offer teacher placement in China and are excited to soon be opening a TESOL and placement package in Costa Rica, Central America!

Catch up with our global family of teachers through Instagram and Facebook and share your stories of cultural immersion in the comments!

Volunteer in Thailand whilst Teaching: Ané’s Story

Volunteer in Thailand whilst Teaching: Ané’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conquering my fear: traveling alone for the first time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The temple visit was thoroughly insightful.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

XploreAsia Alumni Meet Up in Bangkok

XploreAsia Alumni Meet Up in Bangkok

Let's Meet Up with our teachers in Bangkok!

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

Teach in Thailand and Explore Bangkok!

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

 

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

Bronwynne Calitz, teacher in Bangkok.

Let’s Get Creative Whilst We Teach in Thailand 

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

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

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

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

The Gift That Keeps on Giving 

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

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

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

Annie Wilkinson, teacher in Bangkok.

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

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

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

ESL Teaching With No Experience- Declan’s Story

ESL Teaching With No Experience- Declan’s Story

Trying ESL Teaching in Thailand for the First Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lean on Your Peers with ESL Teaching Experience

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

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

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

Try New Activities in the Classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Teachers Working Abroad for the First Time

Tips for Teachers Working Abroad for the First Time

Do's and Don'ts for New ESL Teachers

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

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

First, the Do's!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next, the Don'ts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chad’s Story: Teacher in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Chad’s Story: Teacher in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Bang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chad- TESOL graduate

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

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

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

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

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

Olivia’s Story: Teachers in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Olivia’s Story: Teachers in Thailand Making Local Friendships

The Banksy of Hua Hin

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Kyle’s Story: Teachers in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Kyle’s Story: Teachers in Thailand Making Local Friendships

The Jersey Boys

"He wanted to know about my home as much as I wanted to know about his."

Making the move to a new country can be difficult. It’s daunting to leave friends and family so far behind to start a new adventure. However, moving abroad is just that- an adventure- and there are lots of new friends waiting to be found. In this blog series, some of our teachers in Thailand who’ve just graduated from our most recent TESOL course in Hua Hin are sharing the most memorable connections they’ve made with Thai locals during their training. Read on to find out about Teacher Kyle’s chance encounter with a musical couple.

Teachers in Thailand get the chance to make lasting international friendships.

One day, as I walked to explore Hua Hin and find a new place to eat, a friendly Thai man exclaimed “New Jersey”, the state I come from, as he passed me.  I was confused and turned around to see him looking at me and telling his wife something but I only understood “New Jersey” and “Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons”.  I didn’t even realize the shirt I had on that day was of the summer camp I worked at called Camp Nejeda.  I tried to start a conversation in Thai with him and they laughed with me before he started speaking above average English.  The man told me his name but said to call him “Ant” because I’d have trouble anyway, sure enough I forgot both him and his wife’s Thai names.  I am pretty sure the man was more eager to talk to me than I was to him.  He asked me question after question about my state and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, his favorite musical group.

I sat with him and his wife for a half hour over breakfast. He was ecstatic that people in my generation had a sense of adventure and an open mind to work in his country. Ant told me he spent a few months working in Washington DC but was never able to make it up to New Jersey which always disappointed him.  I tried to reassure him there was nothing special about it.

Ant, his wife and I were only together for about an hour and a half and I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time. I have never even felt so welcome, even in my own home. The generosity and curiosity was new to me and it was shocking in the best way.

Kyle- TESOL graduate

After sharing music from our home countries, we were heading in the same direction once we left breakfast and he asked if I had ever tried khanom khrok (a Thai dessert made with coconut milk).  I said no and he bought some for us to try. I loved it and tried to offer him money for the share he gave me. His wife and him both laughed at me as I insisted. Then I realized how American I was being. Local’s kindness can be a surprise for new teachers in Thailand.

Ant, his wife and I were only together for about an hour and a half and I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time. I have never felt so welcome, even in my own home. The generosity and curiosity was new to me and it was shocking in the best way. He wanted to know about my home as much as I wanted to know about his. However, what stuck out the most was that he’d drove four hours to Hua Hin that day to replace a car battery for someone in his family. My family care for each other too, but instead of making a 4 hour drive we would probably help them over the phone. Ant, on the other hand, was excited to make the journey to help his family. It was an excuse to come see them and have dinner. He also was fine taking time out of his day to hang out with a stranger from America. I truly could not see anyone doing that in the States. Unfortunately, I forgot to get any contact information and now that I’m writing this I wish I could stay in touch. He was my first Thai friend. At least I got a selfie, though!

What do you think of Kyle’s story? If experiencing a different culture sounds good to you, head over to our website to learn more about our TESOL course which we offer in six amazing locations. Teachers in Thailand can earn a living and make a huge difference in your community. Who will you meet during your time abroad?

Keep an eye on the XploreAsia blog to hear more stories from our teachers in Thailand and the cross-cultural friendships they have made. Also, head over to XploreAsia’s Instagram and Facebook pages to see what our teachers all over the world are getting up to after gaining their TESOL with us.

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Thailand at Rescue P.A.W.S.

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Thailand at Rescue P.A.W.S.

Rescue P.A.W.S. landscape logo

Celebrating Christmas in Thailand can feel strange for westerners who may be used to building snowmen and having snowball fights. Although you may not be able to ride a sleigh through the snow, there are many ways to celebrate the holiday in the sunshine instead. What more perfect way to ease your homesick blues than taking a look at some of the adorable animals our charity Rescue Paws is caring for?

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

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

Rescue Paws volunteer walking towards kennel
Rescue Paws volunteer with cow

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

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

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

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

Rescue Paws volunteer with dog
Rescue Paws volunteer training dog

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

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

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

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

Christmas in Thailand doesn’t only come once a year thanks to our lovely volunteers. Nikita, was generous to donate some much-needed toys, leashes and collars for our dogs. This year, we have been lucky to receive many donations from many kinds of individuals. But unfortunately, we still need more help. With one sterilization costing around 2,000 baht ($60 USD), any amount goes a long way! To donate, click here. All of us at Rescue P.A.W.S. and XploreAsia appreciate the donations that have and are being made that enable us to continue helping the community.

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

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

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

Do you love animals? Want to give back to the community? Ready to trade a cold crimbo for a warm Christmas in Thailand? Come join us in beautiful Thailand and get involved with Rescue P.A.W.S. You can also make a positive impact by visiting Wagging Tales Cafe, our non-profitable coffee shop where all proceeds go towards Rescue P.A.W.S. itself.

If you want to see more of our adorable pups and kittens, check our RP’s Instagram and Facebook pages too! Learn more about the Rescue P.A.W.S. volunteer program here

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