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What to Pack for Thailand: Packing Tips for ESL Teachers

What to Pack for Thailand: Packing Tips for ESL Teachers

Preparing to take your TESOL course and teach English in Thailand is not a one-step process by any means, but it can be simpler than you might realize. For chronic over-packers, there is the 3-pile process: one of necessities, one of maybes, and one of wants. What to pack for Thailand? One suggestion is to pack only the first pile and scrap the rest. 

I never abided by that rule because I could never decide what would go in which pile. So instead, here are some my packing tips (and tips from others!) on how to prepare for your adventure abroad teaching English in Thailand:  

 

1. Don’t forget these important items:

  • Passport, License, and Visa (and copies), teaching documents (official degree certificate and transcripts), and extra passport photos
  • ATM/Debit/Credit Cards (let your bank know you’ll be in Thailand!)
  • Cash to exchange (roughly $200-600)
  • Any daily medication (with copies of prescriptions), bug spray, sunscreen, and lotion
  • Laptop and chargers (with converters/adaptors –Thailand uses 220V, and the plug-in style is the same type you would bring to Europe and North America)
what to pack for Thailand

2. For teachers, bring at least two formal outfits.

Here are more teacher suggestions on what to pack for Thailand:  

Women:

  • 2-3 longer skirts that cover the knee
  • 2-3 blouses that cover the shoulders and chest
  • 1-2 dresses that cover the knees, shoulders, and chest
  • Closed toe shoes

Men:

  • 2-3 dress shirts
  • 3-4 pairs of dress pants/trousers
  • 1-2 ties
  • 5-7 dress socks
  • 2 pairs of shoes (1 brown, 1 black)
Teaching Tip

When teaching English in Thailand, presenting a small gift from your home country to the school makes a fantastic first impression and can help you create some lasting friendships right away. Consider these gift ideas:

  • Treat: chocolate, maple syrup, or cookies
  • A travel book with pictures of where you’re from
  • School supplies: children’s books, magazines, colored pencils, construction paper

3. Bring a small duffel bag or backpack for weekend trips

This was a definite necessity when I studied abroad, and one of the first things I put in my suitcase. It’s so helpful for shorter weekend trips, and I guarantee you’ll be making at least one or two trips while teaching in Thailand! 

Culture Tip

Sizes in Thailand tend to run on the smaller size, and finding larger Western sizes can be challenging in small towns. Regardless, it is still possible to find these larger sizes at bigger shopping malls in cities. Also it’s important to recognize that Thai culture values modesty, so remember that when packing clothes. 

what to pack for Thailand
what to pack for Thailand

4. Bring a rain jacket, sweatshirt, and good walking shoes

These items were not forefront on my mind when I was wondering what to pack for Thailand, but you’ll definitely be grateful for them once you’re in the country. Bus rides and airplanes can get chilly, and broadly speaking, Thailand’s rainy season can run from May/June to October.     

There are some gorgeous national parks all around Thailand, and you’ll want to bring some comfortable walking shoes for hiking and exploring.  

Culture Tip

For women, a long scarf to cover your shoulders or knees can be useful when visiting a temple or the Grand Palace.  The one I brought became one of my most essential items: I used it at the beach, as a cover-up, and also as a blanket on some very chilly bus rides.

What to pack for Thailand: Helpful Items

  • A Kindle: English books aren’t as easy to come by, so if you’re a big reader, having a Kindle is wonderful for traveling.
  • Consider bringing an extra inexpensive, unlocked phone with you to Thailand to function as your Thai phone. It’s simple to buy one once you’re in Thailand, but it’s sometimes nice to know that you already have one you can use.
  • A small coin purse for loose change, and a money belt for weekend trips.

______________________________________________

I had the chance to sit down with Tara, one of our TESOL Course participants, and chat about how she prepared for taking the TESOL course and for her adventure teaching in Thailand:

What are some things that you didn’t think to pack first but are grateful for now?

Photos from home. It’s not something that I thought I’d want once here in Thailand, but just having a few photos from home can be so comforting. I also brought a travel journal that I’m looking forward to filling with thoughts and memories from my experience.

What is one item that you wish you’d brought to prepare you for teaching in Thailand?

More skirts! I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find longer black skirts that are light and breathable. Most of the skirts I’ve found here in Thailand are made of heavy material and are pretty expensive. I also wish I’d brought more breathable, light blouses for teaching.

You only brought one backpack on this trip. That’s pretty impressive! What advice do you have for anybody that’s worried about over-packing?

Roll all of your clothes. It saves so much room. And invest in some zip-up cubes. I swear by them. It makes my bag so organized, and it helps me keep track of what I have. Another tip I’ve learned is to bring a separate bag of dryer sheets to keep your clothes smelling fresh!

Generally, just remember to bring what’s necessary and don’t worry too much about bringing duplicates.

What is one thing you wish packed more of?

Bug spray! I use it so much here. I’m almost out. It’s not too easy to find great bug spray here, so I definitely wish I’d brought a couple more bottles. Another important thing I brought was electrolytes. They’ve been super useful here because it’s so hot, and you’re constantly sweating. I’m almost out of them too – it would’ve been nice to have more.

Thank you so much, Tara! You gave us great input on what to pack for Thailand. We’re so excited for your adventure teaching English abroad, and we can’t wait to congratulate you on finishing your TESOL Course!

I’d love to hear from you: What to pack for Thailand? What are some of your packing tips? Have any of you traveled to Thailand before? What are some essential items you always bring with you when traveling abroad?

Ready to start your adventure living and teaching abroad? Sign up for one of our amazing TESOL Course and teaching programs today! 

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Life in Hua Hin: Top 5 Markets

Life in Hua Hin: Top 5 Markets

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

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

The Night Market

Teaching in Thailand; The Night Market Hua Hin

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

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

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

The Grand Night Market

Grand Night Market entrance

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

The Grand Night Market

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

Cicada

Teaching in Thailand; Cicada, Hua Hin, Thailand

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

Teaching in Thailand; the stalls at Cicada, Hua Hin

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

The Tuesday Night Market

Teaching in Thailand; the Tuesday market, Hua Hin

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

Teaching in Thailand; the Tuesday market at Hua Hin

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

Plearn Wan

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

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

Ready to Start Teaching in Thailand?

Teaching in Thailand; the market at Plearn Wan

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

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

My First Week Teaching in Thailand: Elizabeth Collins

My First Week Teaching in Thailand: Elizabeth Collins

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

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

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

Elizabeth exploring Lat Krabang.

Elizabeth out exploring her new town.

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth receiving her TESOL certificate at XploreAsia.

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth teaching in Thailand.
Teaching in Thailand

Elizabeth making connections with her class.

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

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

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

Elizabeth's class graduating from XploreAsia.

Elizabeth’s TESOL class graduating in July, 2017.

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

First Month Teaching in Thailand: XA Alumni Hannah Church

Hannah graduated from our in-class TESOL program in Hua Hin in July and has already been teaching for a month in Minburi, a district of Bangkok about 45 minutes from the dynamic city’s center. Hannah teaches a mixture of ages, having kindergarten, first grade and fifth grade classes, and was more than happy to share her experiences teaching in Thailand with us. Check out the interview below to hear about how she’s doing after graduating:

How was your experience with XploreAsia? Did it prepare you to move away on your own to begin teaching in Thailand?

Hannah getting her first taste of teaching in Thailand at the English camp in Hua Hin.

Hannah getting her first taste of teaching in Thailand at the Hua Hin English camp as part of her TESOL course.

I LOVED every single day with XA! Orientation week was a blast, all of the people in my group were funny, brave and kind; we just had a great time together! The TESOL training was difficult but we all learned a lot, especially teaching at camp.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to feel fully prepared going out on your own to a city where you don’t know anyone, but I had the confidence that I could give it my best shot. XA gave us multiple pep talks about how difficult it would be, which I think helped prepare us mentally.

What was your first day arriving at your placement like?

Oh goodness! Someone picked me up from the bus station and we went to my apartment to sign all the papers which were completely in Thai. There were some kinks where I was paying more than I’d thought but I was so tired from the early morning van ride that I just went with it. It was still less than $125 a month! Then he took me to the nearest supermarket so I could get things like bedding and toilet paper and he helped me bring it all the way up to my 7th floor apartment room! It was an awkward first day; he even asked if he could use my bathroom. So, a total stranger was just pooping as I was putting the sheets on my bed! But again, I just rolled with it. In the end I was thankful for his help!

I did get lost getting to and from school on day one, but if you just embrace it and don’t freak out and know you can always ask for help, you will get home eventually!

What have your first few weeks of teaching been like? What has been your favorite moment?

They are long days for me. 7:30am to 4pm with only an hour or maybe two hour breaks a day. I’m teaching between 7 and 9 classes a day so it’s a lot of energy.

I arrived in time to be here for their Mother and Father’s Day celebrations where they dressed us all in traditional Thai outfits and it was absolutely amazing! The teachers are always very nice to me, the kids are very sweet, and I just dove right in and I feel like part of the school already!

My favorite moment was during the Mother’s Day celebration. I got to sing You Raise Me Up with 300 three-to-five-year-olds on stage for their moms! It was a moment I will never forget and I am so happy it’s on video! All those little voices singing with me is the cutest!

Hannah with her students during their Mother's Day celebration

Hannah dressed up with her students for their Mother’s Day celebration.

What were your biggest fears about teaching and/or living abroad and how did you overcome them?

Just being brave enough to go outside my comfort zone has been the most challenging. When you’re here, it’s just you. No one can fix the problem for you and that’s hard to fully comprehend until you’re in a situation. I’ll get lost, or get food poisoning, or get thrown into teaching a class I wasn’t scheduled for, and I have to just take a deep breath and figure it out. But every time I try something new and overcome a challenge I feel my comfort zone expand, so I can keep pushing it further and further which is really awesome!

Have you traveled to anywhere else in Thailand yet whilst you’ve been here?

Playing with elephants in Chiang Mai.
Relaxing in Phuket.

Yes, I’ve been to Chang Mai with some TESOL classmates and we played with elephants (no riding!). We got to play in a mud pit and bathe them in a lake and it was incredible! We also took a cooking class there which was delicious and fun.

We also went to Krabi and Phuket and did some island excursions where we went snorkeling and canoeing in caves and lagoons and the views are breathtaking!

But Bangkok itself is actually really underrated! It’s an amazing city! Every weekend, I go and explore a new neighborhood and I am always surprised at the adventures I find myself in.

I’m hoping to go to Ayutthaya next weekend to see some ancient ruins.

What is the best thing about living and/or teaching in Thailand?

Just knowing that I am helping every day to give these kids their best chance and they don’t even know that, it is incredibly rewarding. They only think of you a teacher, but I know that every word they retain might help them as adults to have a better life.

Sometimes it is difficult meeting people that are just here on vacation, and you know you have to go back to work on Monday, but traveling for a purpose is the ultimate good feeling. And I get to travel everywhere on the weekends and get paid to do it, so there’s nothing to complain about!

What advice would you give to new teachers thinking of coming over to teach in Thailand?

I want to say “do it”, but be prepared: it can be scary. Try to save up before coming so that you don’t have to limit yourself. A lot of my friends ended up scrimping until their first pay-day so, even though I still had money saved, they couldn’t come with me on trips. I would also advise you to start preparing yourself at home. Go to new places, try new foods, and perhaps leave your phone at home so you can see what it’s like to not have google to solve a problem right away. It will give you confidence for challenges you face here.

Hannah getting her TESOL.

Hannah was happy to receive her TESOL certification from XploreAsia, Hua Hin!

Hannah high-fiving a student at English camp.

Thank you to Hannah for taking the time to answer our questions! At XploreAsia, we love to hear that our alumni are doing well and embracing life teaching in Thailand. If you’re interested in starting your own adventures in Asia, check out our in-class TESOL courses in Thailand and our brand new course in Vietnam.

Teach In Thailand: The Spider Chronicles

Teach In Thailand: The Spider Chronicles

Former XploreAsia participant, program coordinator and current teacher Simone Salerno describes her experience moving into her placement town, in Northern Thailand. Settling in to your new home and adapting to life in a new town can be a challenging experience but one full of opportunities to grow and become part of a community. 

I share my shower with about five spiders. I say “about five” because one of the spiders is a master at hide and seek. The spiders really used to freak me out. I’ll never forget my first shower experience in my teaching town. I was in the midst of shampooing my hair, when I turned around, opened my eyes, and saw a huge, spindly spider staring back at me. Let’s just say that shower ended quickly and I never finished washing my hair that day.

Over time the spiders and I reached an agreement. They ate the unfriendly bugs, and I left them alone. I never thought I’d share a shower with spiders, especially spiders as big as my palm, yet here I am. You may be sitting in your seat, shuddering to yourself and thinking, “NOPE! That will NEVER be me…” Well friend, allow me let you in on a little secret; living abroad has a beautiful way of changing the rules you live your life by.

Before moving to Thailand, I had set a strict list of rules for myself. After everyone had shared their extensive “Do’s and Don’ts” for traveling, along with their personal horror stories, I thought I knew what I could and could not do in Thailand.

Based on their stories and advice, I could not ride a motor scooter, walk around at night by myself, walk around during the day by myself, walk around at all by myself, eat ANYTHING that I couldn’t peel myself, eat anything I couldn’t see prepared, eat anything that didn’t come out of a pre-packaged container, go ANYWHERE that was a malaria zone, go into the ocean alone, go into the ocean at all…. And the list went on.

 I’m sure in reading that list, you can remember being told at least one of those “precautionary” bits of advice.  It’s hard for me to look back now and see how rigid I was about traveling to a new country; and how if I would have followed those rules at all times, I would never have truly experienced the country I have grown to love.

Living abroad has an incredible way of helping you understand preconceived notions are just unnecessary limits; created out of fear before having enough evidence to know if what you believe is true or even useful. You can’t live your life on preconceived notions. Prejudging a whole country based on advice from a few weary travelers was the biggest mistake I made before embarking on my adventure.

Teach in Thailand Pad Thai

It only took a short time after arriving in Thailand to realize how off my judgments were, and how quickly I would change my set of “strict” rules. Within a day of arriving in Hua Hin, I was already eating fresh cut fruit from a local fruit stand, swimming in the ocean, enjoying fresh Pad Thai on the side of the street, and walking around alone to explore new places. Putting an end to my preconceived notions is the best choice I have made in my travels.

Teach in Thailand

After living in Thailand for many months, I can say that I really enjoy 7/11 sushi (don’t knock it until you try it), sharing my home with a few lizard roommates is actually a plus, the best fresh fruit comes from a stand, a freezing cold shower is actually something to look forward to, strangers can easily become family, and every situation has a silver lining.

Don’t let precautionary tales of travel keep you away from living abroad. “If you listen to people, and if you allow people to project their fears onto you, you’ll never live” (Taraji P. Henson).  If I had listened to everyone who told me no, in some form or another, I never would have truly experienced the place I now call home.

Simone Salerno

Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand

To begin your adventure in Thailand, follow this link:

https://www.xploreasia.org/teach-in-thailand/

Teach in Thailand

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?

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