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Top Things to Know About Teaching in Thailand: Teaching at a Thai Government School

Top Things to Know About Teaching in Thailand: Teaching at a Thai Government School

One of the questions you might have about teaching in Thailand is “What kind of school will I be placed in?” Here at XploreAsia, our talented team places our participants in some of the most amazing schools in cities and towns all over Thailand. We work with government and private schools across the country to provide the best placements for incredible people like you, who have come to Thailand to make a difference as English teachers.

We had the chance to chat with one of our wonderful participants Elise Griffiths who just finished a semester of teaching English at a government school in Thailand. As a teacher, Elise inspired significant change in the lives of her students each day, but beyond that, we were struck with how she truly embraced living and learning in her local community in Thailand. Here, she talks about her greatest joys and challenges in the classroom and her experience teaching at a government school in Thailand!


Where in Thailand do you teach?

I teach in Nonthaburi. It’s about 30 minutes outside of the Northwest province of Bangkok.

What kind of school do you teach in – government or private, boarding school or other?  How long have you been teaching at this school?

I teach in a government school. I teach math and science to advanced students in a Mini English Programme (MEP) to M1 and M2 (seventh and eighth grade). I also teach English to P5, M1, and M3 (5th, 7th, and 9th grades respectively). I taught there for one semester, but I am returning to America.

Elise Classroom Students

My craziest P.5 (5th Grade) class!

How many students do you have?

My MEP classes are smaller: M2 is 17 students and M1 is 24. I see them the most often (3-5 times per week). My other classes are about 30-35 students.

What are your working hours? Are you a part of extracurricular activities or after-school programs?   
English Camp Elise Griffiths Government School

Math Camp!

I work from 07:30 to 16:30 every day. During those hours though, I teach 3-6 hours depending on the day. Usually it’s about four hours.

I wasn’t a part of any regular after-school activities, but I did practice some songs with a handful of MEP students for Christmas.

I played guitar and they sang Christmas carols in English. They even made some dance moves to “Jingle Bell Rock.” It was precious.

Do you teach with any other foreigners?

There are two other foreigner teachers at my school. One is a goofy British man, and the other teacher grew up about 30 minutes away from me, studied the same thing in university, and ended up at my same school only a few months before, but we didn’t meet until we began this job in Thailand. Small world, eh?

How quickly did you get to know the other Thai teachers at the school?

This is difficult because I work mostly in the Matthayum (secondary) wing, but we also have Pratthom (elementary) and Annuban (kindergarten) in our school. My guess is that there are about 40-60 teachers total.

In my office, there are two Thai teachers who we all call “Phi Ta” and “Phi Jo,” which means older sister Ta and older sister Jo. I brought in fruit for them and would ask them questions about speaking Thai, so that bolstered our relationship. It took about a week to warm up to Ta and Jo, and about two months for the other teachers.

What is the community around the school like? How well do you get to know your students and their families?

There are no other foreigners in my area, so it forced me to speak Thai, which I loved. One of my M.2 MEP students lived in my apartment, so we’d occasionally talk in a common area in the building. She ended up feeling like my little sister overtime. Her father was also very kind and would “wave” my food in his microwave because I didn’t have one.

MEP students photobooth government school

My MEP M.2 students playing with Photo-booth.

I also made friends with a wonderful woman named Noi, which means “little.” She ran a small restaurant just down the road from me and didn’t speak a lick of English. We’d converse about everything from our plans for Songkran to where to buy the best Tam Kha Gai to our sore throats we both got the same day.

Though we couldn’t always understand each other, she cried when I told her I was leaving Nonthaburi. It was unbelievably moving. In my opinion, attempting to speak Thai is the key to building relationships in the community.

What are some of your greatest challenges you face in the classroom?

Getting my students to focus was like pulling teeth some days.

Since you can’t send them to a principal’s office or give them detention, the discipline is entirely the teacher’s responsibility.

Especially in the non-MEP classes where I spoke more Thai than they spoke English, it’s difficult to earn the respect of the students who just don’t care to learn.

Being swift and consistent with repercussions that are universally understood was key to combating that challenge.

Cute Student Annuban Government School
What are some of your greatest joys as a teacher in Thailand?

Some of the best moments are when my students finally understand a difficult topic, when I can tell they’re having fun, or even just watching them interact with each other. They are so full of life; it’s really refreshing to see.

Saying Goodbye Government School

My favourite photo: saying goodbye to my student Jigsaw.

My favorite moments though were when students would individually slip into the office and have conversations with me.

That’s when I really got to know them. They’re all so unique and have so much to them.

Seeing pictures won’t do it justice because it’s impossible to convey how each one is their own quirky, wonderful individual.


Thank you, Elise! We are incredibly touched by your experience in Thailand. You have clearly made a huge impact not only in the classroom, but in your community as well, and we love the stories that you’ve shared with us. We wish you all the best upon your return to the States, and we look forward to welcoming you into our valuable alumni network. 

Curious on how you can start your own adventure teaching and living abroad? Read more about our amazing programs here.

Top Things to Know About Teaching Abroad in Thailand

Top Things to Know About Teaching Abroad in Thailand

Teaching in Thailand

What are the main things to know about teaching abroad in Thailand? This month, our blog posts will be focusing on the different aspects of teaching in Thailand. We’ll cover everything from requirements for becoming an English teacher to how much money you’ll really need to come teach in Thailand. We’ll compare teaching in public vs. private schools in Thailand and showcase the differences between the TESOL and CELTA certifications. And these are just a few of the topics that we’re highlighting this month!

Here, we’ve provided a brief overview of top things to know about teaching abroad in Thailand. We’ll be following up over the next few weeks with more in-depth posts about each topic. As always, we’d love to hear from you on what you’d like to know about teaching in Thailand. So let’s get this discussion started!


Requirements for Teaching English Abroad in Thailand:

You will either need a TESOL certificate or an education degree to teach English abroad with XploreAsia. Even if you do not have any previous teaching experience, our TESOL course in Thailand will really prep you for the job. In addition, although it may be a bit more difficult, you can still teach in Thailand without a degree.

Most participants end up taking the TESOL course even if they already have a TESOL certificate as it gives them the hands-on experience they need through teaching children at a local Thai school.  The course is also a great way to meet friends with similar interests that you can then visit all around Thailand.

Listening Picture Teaching Classroom
Teachers TESOL Course Placement
Justin TESOL Course Certification

 

XploreAsia offers the TESOL course in various locations throughout the year including Hua Hin (Thailand), Chiang Mai (Thailand), and Yangon (Myanmar). Soon, we’ll also offer a TESOL course in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)!

Of course, the Online TESOL course is another great option if you aren’t able to travel just yet. Our TESOL course is internationally accredited so you can use it to teach all around the world!

 

Placement in Thailand:

Our placement team is constantly working to find our teachers the best possible place to work. There are both small town and big town placements, so you can be placed all throughout Thailand.  You can teach younger or older students, and sometimes even both.

Check out some of our teacher’s blogs about their towns and their own adventures of teaching English in Thailand! 

Average Salary for foreign English teachers in Thailand:

A TESOL teacher’s salary in Thailand on average is 30,000-40,000 baht per year for degree holders, and 25,000-35,000 baht per year for those with no degrees. 

This is great because the cost of living in Thailand is quite low. Typically you can find accommodation from 3,000 – 6,000 baht per month!  If you are interested in more information on budgeting and salary in Thailand check out these awesome articles!

Students Field Teaching Abroad
Typical Work Week for a TESOL teacher in Thailand:

The average school day is 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday. However, you will typically have several periods throughout the week to do all of your lesson prep. You will typically only teach 20 – 25 hours per week.

Picture classroom teaching abroad

One of our teacher’s, Stella, wrote all about her typical day teaching English abroad in Thailand here. You can also read more about a day in the life of an English teacher here!

                                                Thailand’s School Year:
Students school teaching abroad

The Thai School year typically starts at the end of April/ beginning of May. Most schools will get 1-3 weeks off for October and then schools will continue on through March, at which point most schools go on summer break for April.  Many of our teachers use their time off to travel, volunteer, or work at English camps throughout the country.

                                                       Types of Schools in Thailand:

The two main types of schools in Thailand are government and private schools. However, due to the large number of government schools, you will most likely work at this type of school.

Government School Teaching Abroad

Example of a Government School

Private School Teaching Abroad

Example of a Private School

And now, a couple FAQ’s!

Do I need to speak Thai?
No, you do not. Most schools actually prefer that you don’t speak Thai so students are fully immersed in English during their time with you in the classroom. However, it is still a great idea to learn some words for when you are out and about in town.

Solo Female Traveler Teaching Abroad
Lesson planning teaching abroad

Is it safe as a solo female traveler?
Thailand is generally a safe place for female travelers. In fact, majority of our teachers come as solo female travelers. However, even though Thailand is generally safe, like anywhere else in the world we expect everyone to be vigilant at all times regardless of where they are in the world!  Check out this blog written about solo female travel from one of our previous interns.


Lisa Dershowitz is one of our program coordinators here at XploreAsia. She has taught all over Thailand and holds a wealth of travel and teaching experience.

I’m curious to know: what are your questions about teaching abroad? What are some of the factors holding you back from coming to teach English overseas? What would you like to know about life as an English teacher abroad? We’d love to hear from you!

Ready to start your own adventure living and working abroad? Check out our amazing programs here.

We Had A (Water) Blast at the XploreAsia Songkran Party!

We Had A (Water) Blast at the XploreAsia Songkran Party!

Our XploreAsia office held a wonderful and water-filled Songkran party that was truly a blast! But the actual holiday of Songkran started even earlier the night before. Music, dancing, and of course, so much water filled the streets from the evening on, and everywhere you looked, the energy and excitement was palpable in the air. We sat down to chat with some of our interns about their very first Songkran experience and what they loved most about the holiday!


Did you have any prior knowledge or expectations about Songkran? 

Krish: I didn’t know too much about the holiday. I’d heard a lot about it from friends, but I didn’t really know what to expect.

Isabelle: So many people kept telling me that it was “one of the best days of their life,” but I really had no idea what to expect. A giant water fight? It sounded like fun, but not THAT much fun. But when the day of Songkran rolled around, I was proven wrong; the holiday is truly is one of the best days of the year, and I’ve never seen that much excitement and joy in the air. It infuses the whole city.

Jane: Yes, I’d had heard it was a lot of fun and that you’re not dry the whole day! 

How would you describe the holiday to someone that’s never experienced Songkran before?

Marti: Pure joy!

Krish: The greatest water fight in the history of man-kind. 

Jane: The best day of your life. I would give up the 4th of July for Songkran. The holiday just unites the country. 

XA Songkran Party
Do you have a crazy story or funny memory from the day? 

Marti: One of our placement coordinators Nat getting inside the water bin on the side of the street. 

Krish: Our office mom “Meh” with the water gun just having a blast trying to hit as many people with water as possible. 

Jane Marti Songkran
What was your favourite part of Songkran?

Krish: Dousing everyone with water! 

Jane: Going into town and being with all the Thai people. I loved being immersed in the local culture and seeing how they celebrate Songkran. 

Meh P Ae Songkran

XploreAsia held a short blessing ceremony after the festivities where the older generation (the mothers) gave a blessing to each of us there. It was such a beautiful moment for everyone there.
 
Have you ever been a part of a ceremony like that before? What were some of your favourite memories from that special ceremony?

Krish: I had been to a monk blessing ceremony before, but this particular ceremony was different in that it really highlighted the importance of family to me. Through the experience, I felt like a welcomed member of the XploreAsia team. 

Marti: Our office mom “Meh” crying through the ceremony. It was so touching to see the love and care she gave to every person.

Jane: I’ve never experienced anything like the ceremony before. It felt very sentimental and was centered around family; even though it was in a company setting, I could certainly sense the family air. 

Marti Blessing Ceremony
Let’s play a game of Songkran lightning round!

Most important item to wear on Songkran:

Krish & Jane: Hawaiian shirt! 

Marti: Water-proof bag (don’t get a cheap one; it’ll break down!) 

Water weapon of choice:

Krish & Jane: Mini Bucket

Marti: Water gun

Marti XA Songkran Party

Sounds of Songkran:  

Marti: Children laughing and yelling, or the sounds of someone yelling as they got doused with cold water! 

Isabelle: Splashing of water, live music from stages around Hua Hin on the night before Songkran, people yelling and shouting, the sound of people saying Happy New Year to you when they put paste on your face. 

XA Songkran Party
Mike XA Songkran Party

Best moment of Songkran:

Marti: Street festivities. We were shuffling an inch at a time down the street on the night before Songkran. 

Krish: Definitely soaking my boss with water! 

Jane: When the water fights first start and everyone goes from being dry to wet. 

Favourite Hawaiian shirt colour:

Krish: Blue 

Jane: I don’t have a favourite colour; I mostly just loved all the bright colours everywhere! 

Krish Nat Erica at XA Songkran Party

Unexpected sight at Songkran:

Isabelle: Bags of chalk being sold on the sides of the road, and all the colourful Hawaiian shirts. 

Krish: I remember seeing a guy jumping out of a bucket of water. 

Jane: There wasn’t one person unhappy in the crowd. And I was surprised by getting the chalky paste put on my face. At first, I thought it wasn’t a good thing, but then I realized that it’s meant to ward off bad spirits and is a sign of affection or good luck. 


Thank you so much to our wonderful interns! We are so glad that you had a wonderful experience at your very first Songkran! We sure had an incredible time celebrating with over 100 people, new faces, locals, alumni, and our office dogs Nom Sod, Pudding, and Pumpkin.  Happy Thai New Year!

Friends XA Songkran Party

I’d love to hear from you: what is your favorite holiday? What are some of your treasured holiday traditions? Have you ever celebrated Songkran before?

Ready for your own adventure abroad? Check out some of our incredible programs here

Experience Thailand’s Songkran Festival

Experience Thailand’s Songkran Festival

A country-wide water-fight & the only holiday where you’ll be drenched 24/7

Songkran occurs during the hottest month of the year and while schools are on holiday. The whole country has the chance to relax and cool off, while people drench one another with water buckets, water guns, and any other water-spraying device. Songkran is a national holiday so banks and most businesses will be closed during the three-day period, so take that into consideration when planning for your trip.

A Look at Songkran Rituals

As a New Year’s tradition, Songkran is celebrated through purification rituals, water offerings to temples, and as a way to wash away the impurities accumulated over the past year. Over time, the yearly ritual has evolved into a country-wide water fight involving ice buckets and super-soakers. 

Traditional rituals include pouring water over Buddha statues for good luck and then sprinkling that water over loved ones as a blessing. Today many people still take this time to wash their personal Buddha statues and make offerings to monks in the form of food, clothing, and flowers.

The second day of the celebration is National Family Day. While most tourists head to the biggest cities for chaotic celebrations, many Thai people retreat back home to visit their families.

Songkran Water Fight

Songkran is the largest celebration in Thailand, and it occurs every spring during the passing of the sun into the Aries zodiac month. Unlike other calendars that are set according to the lunar year, Thailand’s calendar was originally set according to the sun and star alignment.

Before the New Year was moved to January 1st,  the Thai New Year took place on April 13th. Therefore, the Songkran festival now officially begins during the second week of April. Depending on which region you visit, this giant water fight can range from 1-2 days to nearly 10 days of constant water shenanigans.

What makes Songkran unique?

  • Anyone can participate; all ages, religions, and nationalities are welcome!
  • It’s FREE! (Other than the purchase of a water gun)
  • Tens of thousands of people crowd the streets to partake in drenching one another with water
  • Everyone is smiling and enjoying the festival while embracing a piece of Thailand’s unique culture. Who doesn’t love a friendly water fight?

 

Popular Cities Songkran
Songkran Water Fight

 

Where to go for Songkran

Our XploreAsia team will be hosting our own water fight party for previous teachers and students to reconnect at our office in Hua Hin. If you’re in the area, stop by to say hello and soak our team with water! We’d love to see you! 

If you’re interested in completing a TESOL course in Thailand but you aren’t sure about which date to choose, consider coming in April! Not only will you have the chance to complete the TESOL course in preparation for when school starts again in May, you’ll also be able celebrate Songkran with other TESOL course students and the XploreAsia team. It’s a holiday you won’t want to miss out on!

TAKE CAUTION: 

Driving during the Songkran celebration is not encouraged due to the high number of participants crowding the streets and drenching drivers with water.  Also note that there is an endless flow of alcohol during these four days, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and refrain from getting behind the wheel.

Also if you’re celebrating in Chiang Mai, be aware that moat water will most likely be used and it may contain bacteria, so protect your eyes and don’t swallow the water! Lastly, take extra precautions to stay safe while travelling to and from the popular Songkran sites. Public transportation is encouraged as traffic will be mostly at a standstill.

Things to Bring

Whether you are craving a chaotic mob of super soakers or dreaming of tranquil time with loved ones, Songkran offers the time for both. Just remember, when you find yourself inevitably drenched in water, to take a moment to embrace the beauty of Thailand’s unique culture. This holiday is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that won’t want to miss!  

With that said, gather your Rambo gear, collect your water weapon of choice, and get ready to celebrate the New Year as the Thais do!

Songkran Water Fight

Have you celebrated Songkran before? Do you prefer water guns, water balloons, or super-soakers? Do you have plans for the Songkran celebration this year? Come by our XploreAsia office to celebrate with us – we’d love to see you!  

Curious about how you can start your adventure abroad? Check out our amazing programs 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Guide to Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Thailand

Guide to Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Thailand

Eating vegetarian and vegan food in Thailand can be tricky at times as there is so much food that contains meat or fish products. However, there are ways around it and you do not have to miss out on the wonders of Thai cuisine just because you’ve got a few restrictions.

To start off, when in Thailand, you may be overwhelmed with the selection of tropical & tasty fruit that is available. Delicious dragon fruit, mangoes, papayas, guavas, coconuts, and countless other exotic fruits are easily available at every market, and fruit stalls along the streets. Just take your pick. Furthermore, occasionally you may find an interesting addition at many stalls, sweet potatoes. Surprisingly, you can also find the purple variety!

Mango Sticky Rice, Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Mango Sticky Rice

Vegetarian Food in Thailand, XploreAsia

Green Coconuts

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Fruit Selection

Sweet Potatoes, Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Sweet Potatoes

Additionally, there are quite a few options for all sorts of snacks, like tofu, spring rolls, rice cakes, corn, and vegetables.  This can often be found in a deep-fried variety (yum).

Papaya Salad, Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Som Tam

One of the  staple dishes in Thailand is Papaya Salad. This is widely available, just remember to order it without shrimp (mai sai koong) and without fish sauce (mai sai nam bplaa) to stay on the safe side. Or just order Som Tam Jay (papaya salad, vegan).

At first, when you try to order vegetarian or vegan food at a restaurant it might seem like a bit of challenge, and you may be faced with confused looks from the waiter or chef at the food stall, or restaurant. Don’t worry, this is mainly due to the language barrier and to combat this we have put together a list of our favourite vegetarian, and vegan foods, along with a guide on how to order them.

However, before we go into details, it is good to know the difference between ordering your food as VEGETARIAN, OR VEGAN:

I am vegetarian = “bpen mang sawirat ”. This means that you do not eat pieces of meat and fish, including seafood, but other animal products like fish sauce, eggs etc. are ok.

I am vegan = “gin jay”, this means you do not eat any animal products and also no garlic, onion and few other herbs and vegetable that have a certain type of strong flavour. With this knowledge it’s often better to ask for food without meat, and animal products instead of ‘jay’ as you may find the food bland for your tastes.

There are different specialities in various regions around in Thailand. To make it even easier for you, we have put together a list of basic phrases that you can print out or save so you can bring it along with you and order your favourite foods with ease.

 

Here is a guide to COMMON VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN FOOD in Thailand and how to order it:

Pad Pak Bung (Morning Glory) mai sai nam maan hoi (no oyster sauce)

Kow phad pak (fried rice with vegetables) / mai sai kai (do not put egg) / sai kai (put egg)

Phad pak luam (stir fried mixed vegetable) / mai sai nam maan hoi (no oyster sauce)
Pad pak ruam prik gaeng mixed vegetables, fried with chili paste and kaffir lime
(however, be aware that many of the curry pastes have shrimp paste in them)

Phad thai jay (fried noodles vegan),
Phad thai (fried noodles), mai sai kai (do not put egg), mai sai koong (no shrimp)

Phad Thai, Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Phad Thai

Fried Rice Noodles

Phad see ew phak (fried wide noodles with soy sauce vegetables)

Phad see ew (fried wide noodles) with eggs (sai khai)

Tom Yam Het (mixed mushroom soup, can have either with coconut milk or clear)

Pad Gra Pao Het Jay Most of the restaurants can make this. It includes fried mushrooms, or tofu, and it’s fried with chillies and basil.

Yam Tuo Poo (green beans with peanut sauce). This is a crispy and savoury side dish to accompany any type of noodle or plain steamed rice.

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Khao Soi Jay

 Rice noodle with sweet and sour peanut sauce. This dish may sometimes be hard to find, however, if you do, you’re in for a treat.

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Phad faktoong (stir-fried pumpkin)

It  includes egg, but it is something that we would definitely recommend to try, because it is absolutely delicious

Additionally, if you have a sweet tooth, Thailand`s cuisine offers a vast variety of desserts for you to enjoy. Some of our favourite classics are:

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

KaNom Thai

Box of various Thai sweets, made with steamed coconut, toddy palm, banana and corn.

 

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Kai Nokratha

Deep fried breaded banana and potato balls.

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Kanom Krog

Sweet and Savory Grilled Coconut-Rice Hotcakes

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

KaNom Beaung

Crispy Coconut Pancake, and the black ones in the middle are even made with bamboo charcoal.

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Sakuu Rad Num Kathi

Pandanus leaf pudding, topped with sweet coconut cream.

 

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Rotee

Even though Rotee, is not a traditional Thai dish, it is available in every market and in various flavours and toppings.

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