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What Are Teaching Jobs in Korea Outside of Seoul Like?

What Are Teaching Jobs in Korea Outside of Seoul Like?

What is it like working teaching jobs in Korea... outside of Seoul? Read on to hear Roxie's experience!

“Korea is also a rapidly expanding country and new neighbourhoods are being built all the time. This means there are lots of opportunities and options in where you can live. There aren’t many chances in life to dive straight into the unknown, but people who travel get this all the time; don’t stick to places like Seoul that have lots of things that are familiar. Push yourself our of your comfort zone, as it’s the only way you can grow.”

In this recent series on our blog, we’re hearing from our teachers who have accepted jobs away from the hustle and bustle of tourist destinations. This time, Roxie, one of our former Marketing Coordinators shares their experience of teaching in Gimpo, South Korea.

Did you have a first choice of placement?

I was hoping to be in the capital, Seoul, or in another big city such as Busan or Daegu. However, I know that teaching jobs in Korea are highly competitive and it is very difficult to get your first position in these locations.

A picture of a meetup I found on social media for foreign coffee lovers. Social media is a great place to discover other foreigners living near you!
Many foreigners search for teaching jobs in Korea so it's easy to find people who speak your language to hang out with! Here we are in Itaewon

When you found out where you were going to be teaching, how did you feel about it?

I was happy to be in Gyeonggi-do as it’s so close to Incheon and Seoul, which are both great cities. I had only heard of the airport before, so I had no idea of what the place was like. I didn’t do too much research and went in with fresh eyes.

It wasn’t too challenging adjusting to life there. Having lived in different countries, I would say South Korea- unless you are right in the countryside- has quite a western-influenced lifestyle and it isn’t hard to find all the creature comforts of home. Gimpo perhaps isn’t the most exciting place, but it has all the shops and restaurants (and even a few bars) you need for weekly life. The location is great, so you can use your weekends to travel to different parts of the country.

What connections have you made in the local community?

It was difficult to make close friendships with Korean people due to the language barrier, but I did make friends through the other teachers at my school. One of my Korean co-workers even took me hiking one weekend. I also became familiar with staff at my favourite restaurants and cafes who remembered my orders and stuff. Little things like that can make you feel noticed in a country where it is easy to feel lost in a crowd.

The view from hiking on Gyeyang mountain in nearby Incheon
Hongdae is a popular hangout for young people- Koreans and foreigners- in Seoul
The cherry blossom season is really pretty in Korea! This photo courtesy of the Korea XA team

What challenges did you face living in this location?

To be honest, the location wasn’t a hindrance. There were lots of challenges related to teaching in a new country that I would’ve faced even if I’d lived in the centre of Seoul.

A common issue everywhere is that often teachers in Korea are placed into tiny studio apartments or offictels (tiny office spaces that are rented out as apartments) and it can be quite hard to make essentially a bedroom feel like an entire home. However, a few trips to the nearby Daiso can work wonders.

What’s your favourite thing about your placement town now?

Although I’ve now left Korea, I think I was lucky to live in such a comfortable place like Gimpo, and I wonder if the hecticness of Seoul might have got too much after a while. Sometimes it’s nice to have a simpler, more quiet place to call home than a large city. There were also lots of places to take a walk and you could easily get to the airport shopping mall which also has a big garden area. I’ve also heard tey also added a subway link fairly recently- thanks for waiting until I left, guys!- which means no more wobbling around on overpacked buses for Gimpo dwellers!

A street in Gimpo featuring beautiful fall colours. When people look for teaching jobs in Korea, they normally think of Seoul, but smaller towns have a lot to offer.
Another beautiful shot of cherry blossoms- I loved this season so much!

What would you tell people about the place you were living?

I would tell other people not to be too disappointed living outside of Seoul. Seoul is not the only place in South Korea, and neither is Busan. There are many places such as Suwon in Gyeonggi-do that are known for being cultural hubs and many smaller satellites of Seoul that offer lots of interesting things to do. As a new foreigner, you will likely find even the smallest details interesting and you can experience the culture everywhere, not only in the capital. Korea is also a rapidly expanding country and new neighbourhoods are being built all the time. This means there are lots of opportunities and options in where you can live. There aren’t many chances in life to dive straight into the unknown, but people who travel get this all the time; don’t stick to places like Seoul that have lots of things that are familiar. Push yourself our of your comfort zone, as it’s the only way you can grow.

What advice would you give to a teacher going to a town where there aren’t many foreigners?

I would recommend trying to bond with the teachers at your school- both foreign and native. I also joined a free language class (many Korean universities offer these for free as it’s good experience for their trainee teachers) and also a social group I found on Facebook. Social media and networking apps such as Bumble BFF can also be a good way to figure out who is in your area. Many people set off to teaching jobs in Korea without having previous experience living in the country, so there are lots of foreigners looking for friends. If you put yourself out there, you will find friends and connections wherever in the world you go!

Want to start your own journey teaching in South Korea? Check out our TESOL course that will give you all the skills you need to start your new chapter with confidence! For alumni and TESOL qualified teachers, we also offer placement support services in Korea, so contact us to find out more about teaching jobs in Korea- in big cities and otherwise. Catch up with our teachers across our network here:

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And if you want to check out Roxie’s adventures, you can find her here.

Blog by Roxie Wong

Small Town Stories: Casey in Tak | Teaching in Thailand

Small Town Stories: Casey in Tak | Teaching in Thailand

Casey shares her story of teaching in Thailand, in the northern province, Tak!

“I think you definitely have to be prepared for what you signed up for. Teaching in Thailand is a rewarding and amazing experience. You have to reach out- don’t stay in your room and shelter yourself just because you feel uncomfortable. Reach out of your limits and you will find a community and a home wherever you are.”

Teaching in Thailand can be a great way to explore the culture and live like a local. In this series, some of our teachers tell us about the challenges and rewards of living in a town previously unknown to them. As much as going somewhere unknown can be daunting, we hope their experience and advice will help you settle into your teaching placement more easily.

TESOL alumn Casey shares her story teaching in Northern Thailand!

After completing her TESOL course in Hua Hin, Casey found herself moving north to teach in Tak. In this blog, Casey describes how she was able to build a community of other foreign teachers and Thai teachers alike. Keep reading to hear more about Casey’s Thai adventure and check out our TESOL courses if it makes you feel inspired to take the leap yourself!

When you found out you were going to Tak, how did you feel about your placement?

“I had never heard of this town before. I’d asked for the north, so I was excited to be up here. I’d asked for Chiang Rai, but I had been told that wasn’t likely, so I was open to anything in the area. I also really wanted kindergarten. Getting kindergarten in the north, I was really happy.”

Did you have a first choice of placement in your mind before you started teaching in Thailand?

“Before I came here, I wanted a city, but when we landed in Bangkok I realised that wasn’t what I wanted. So, I spoke with my placement coordinator and asked to switch it to a smaller town in the North.”

Casey's school had a mixture of foreign and Thai teachers who made it much easier for her to adjust to life abroad.
What was it like adjusting to life at your placement?

“It was a little more difficult than I thought it would be. I thought the hardest part would be leaving my friends and family in the states, but when I got to Hua Hin, I felt like I made friends and family and I didn’t expect leaving that month to be that hard. I think my first real culture shock came later than I expected it to.”

Now that you’re more settled in, what kind of connections have you made in the local community?

“There’s not a lot of foreigners aside from the handful of teachers. I don’t think anyone really comes to this town for travel. My co-teachers have been really helpful throughout the whole process. We’ve been able to communicate on a daily basis and have been very welcoming into the school community; so them and the teachers I live with do dinners and stuff like that together sometimes. It’s nice to have someone to show you around.”

What is your favourite thing about the town you’re teaching in?

“So, my town is pretty small and a lot of people would say there’s not much to do, and I agree with that, but in the week, it’s nice to have that place that’s calm and collected. When I travel at the weekends, I’m thankful on Sunday night that I’m coming back here instead of a bustling city that never stops.”

Teaching in Thailand is a great way to enrich your students' lives by providing them with English lessons, and have amazing experiences yourself.
Teachers often form strong bonds with their students and make great memories with them.
What would you tell people about living in a small town in Tak?

“I think you definitely have to be prepared for what you signed up for. It’s a rewarding and amazing experience. I don’t think it’s for everyone though. You have to reach out- don’t stay in your room and shelter yourself just because you feel uncomfortable. Reach out of your limits and you will find a community and a home wherever you are.”

Related to your last answer, is there any advice you would give to teachers who are going to a town without many other foreigners?

“I would say the most important thing is staying connected. Sometimes it can be hard to reach out to friends and family as it makes you miss them more, but it is helpful to keep that open line of communication. I think both overseas, and with the people in your community; even if you don’t have many English speaking people around you. You should have teachers at your school that can help you so make sure to reach out.”

We love hearing our teachers’ stories. If you’re an alumn and would like to share your experience, please get in touch. If you’re looking to start a new adventure teaching overseas, check out our TESOL courses and international placement services. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more updates!

Improve Classroom Management in ESL: Build Student Relationships

Improve Classroom Management in ESL: Build Student Relationships

Classroom Management in ESL Through Student Well Being

“It’s important to make your students feel welcome, to make them feel connected and included within the school environment. Teachers have the power to do that every single day. In turn, that really builds their resilience, so when they do face challenges in life, outside of school, you played a part in helping them overcome them, just by listening and showing care.”

Teaching ESL can be challenging, especially for those who have never taught before. Classroom management in ESL can be one of the hardest things for new teachers to master. In this interview, Kaitlyn, who taught in Thailand before gaining an Graduate Degree in Education, details how the little things that even experienced teachers often forget to do can make a huge difference in your classroom.

What made you interested in researching student well being?

“I wasn’t actually aware of the term ‘student wellbeing’ before I went back to study for my Masters degree, but it was something I found that was really important. When I was teaching here in Thailand, I saw that there was a very high turnover of teachers and I was really curious as to why, but what I found most interesting was the impact that this had on students and how important the roles of teachers are. Student wellbeing is about asking, “how can we create a better community within the school so that students feel welcomed and connected to the school?” It can be the smallest things we do as educators that contributes to creating this environment. Everything can play a part in improving your classroom management in ESL or any other class. It can result in greater student achievement as well.”

What little things can teachers do in their classrooms to make their students feel included?

“I think it’s just in the everyday relationships teachers build with their students. That comes in a myriad of different forms, such as just getting to know your students names once you begin a new year with them. When you’re coming into a new class, make sure you’re getting to know their names, getting to know them more in depth. Not just as a student, but as a person. Have those daily interactions. Ask them what they’re doing and what they like to do; learn their passions and interests. It’s also, you know, showing empathy. Listening to students when they want to talk. Try to become someone your students can trust, that they can confide in.

Even the small actions you take in your classroom can make the biggest difference. Kaitlyn talks about how having an awareness of student well being can lead to better classroom management in ESL.

“It starts to build the trust and opens lines of communication and the better you know them, the easier it is to plan lessons, create activities; it will help boost engagement as well [as well being].”

Getting active with your stduents can be great for classroom management in ESL.

How can the seating arrangement and the space in the classroom contribute to children’s learning?

“I think a lot of western countries are moving past the teacher centered classrooms- where the teacher is at the front and the students are all sitting in rows. Now, a lot of schools are pushing for students to gain critical thinking skills and be more collaborative in their learning. So, one of the ways of changing the classroom seating arrangement is by putting them in clusters, putting them in pairs or putting them in groups of four, so they’re not in those straight rows. What that says when the students walk in is that this environment is collaborative, we’re going to be doing more group work. It kind of allows them to get a more group-orientated learning environment and feel, and it changes the dynamic of the classroom. Sometimes if you have classes that maybe you struggle with classroom management, changing the seating arrangement can change the dynamic of the class itself.”

Related to that, what would you advise someone who has a class that are very difficult to control?

“That’s a hard question as everyone is different and classroom management is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching. I think it comes down to- if you have the time, resources, and support- getting to know your students. Get to the root of the problem and find out why the class is so rambunctious, looking at the bigger picture. Is it because they are sitting for 3 hours in a row and they need to get out and release some energy? Is it because the activities aren’t very engaging? If so, how can we make them more engaging and design activities around what they like? How can we take what we’re learning and put it in a different context? How can we take the students out of the classroom, do something more interactive, and then get them back in? So, I think it’s about really getting to know your students, taking that time, and of course that can get in the way of teaching the content of the lesson, but I think in the end it helps.”

How do you think the language the teacher uses in the classroom impacts the students?

“So, one thing is that it’s really easy to praise students based on their intelligence or innate characteristics, like “you’re very smart! You’re such a bright student!” That can relay into a fixed mindset, so they think they can never improve. As teachers, you want to promote a growth mindset because learning is dynamic and it’s always moving. When you only praise students on how smart they are, you’re essentially telling them that it’s all that they are.

The way that you praise students can really have an impact on how they learn.

“So, when they do face challenges, they become really discouraged because they think ‘I’m really smart, but I’m not getting this, so I can’t do any better’. It’s really important to encourage students that ‘you will get better and you will get it’.”

Do you think it’s more difficult to apply this kind of classroom management in ESL classrooms?

Kaitlyn's research into student well being showed that learning about your students can be the key to discipling them and implementing management strategies.

“No, whatever you’re teaching, it’s important to make your students feel welcome, to make them feel connected and included within the school environment. Teachers have the power to do that every single day. In turn, that really builds the students’ resilience, so when they do face challenges in life, outside of school, you played a part in helping them overcome them, just by listening and showing care.”

Thank you to Kaitlyn for sharing her classroom management in ESL advice with us! Want to try teaching and make connections with your students? Consider becoming an ESL teacher in Thailand, where you can uplift students and communities by sharing your English skills. Teaching is also a great way to learn and gain transferable skills that can also impact YOUR future. Contact us today to find out more!

For more insight into teaching abroad, follow us on Instagram or Facebook, too!

Blog contributors: Kaitlyn DeLuca interviewed by Roxie Wong.

I was Teaching in Thailand During a Pandemic

I was Teaching in Thailand During a Pandemic

Teaching in Thailand: How 6 Months Became 1 Year!

“If you would have asked 18 year old Hayley, “where will you be in 5 years?”  I know for certain she would have never said “living alone in a small, Northern Thai town”. I fell in love with this country,  the people, and my students long before COVID-19. If anything positive came out of the pandemic, it was the fact that the temporary life I have teaching in Thailand has become more permanent and became home.”

In this blog post, Hayley shares how teaching in Thailand changed her life and describes why she decided not to leave during the coronavirus pandemic. Many of our TESOL / TEFL graduates end up staying much longer than they originally expected. Read on to find out more about how Hayley’s 6 month adventure has turned into an almost year long lifestyle… and counting!

Hayley decided to seek new possibilities in Thailand!

Just over a year ago, I decided to leave my first “adult” job, my family and my friends behind, and move to another continent. When I first made the decision, I desperately needed a change in my life. I was stuck between feeling “too comfortable”- being so close to my childhood home and memories- whilst also feeling really uncomfortable with how the beginning of my adult life was playing out. So after an eye opening series of events leading up to my 23rd birthday, I decided it was time to pack my bags and escape my problems by teaching in Thailand.

It sounded like a dream! All of the websites, programs, and blog posts advertised that I could teach for 6 months, live in a beautiful place, eat delicious food, and make some memories along the way. But what ended up happening was so much more than the “short-term escape” I had originally planned. 11 months later: this is my home. A home that I have no intentions or interest in leaving for a while.

Teaching in Thailand is better with friends

I started my cliche-sounding “journey” in Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand surrounded by mountains and forests. Through XploreAsia’s 120-hour TESOL / TEFL certification, my classmates and I stayed in a hotel in a part of town that allowed for a culturally immersive experience, but close enough to the “fun and comfortably westernized” area. I can remember the first night like it was yesterday as we set out to a large night bazaar with curious eyes— strolling along as we checked out the piles of low priced clothing, exquisite art on display and for sale, and countless sizzling skewers of various meats and scorpions.

Hayley and her international friends enjoyng a meal together in Thailand

XploreAsia’s TESOL program was a jam packed 4 weeks of learning how to teach in Thailand, whilst also gaining cultural insights during orientation week. My favorite highlights include visiting a Buddhist monastery where we learned from a traditional monk, going to teach kindergarteners at an English camp, and even all of the hours spent squished into a red songthaew with my classmates who became like family. All of the XploreAsia staff were extremely kind and experienced in helping us adjust to Thai life and culture, but I’m exceptionally thankful for our amazing teacher and role-model, Mariam.

The adventure in Mae Sot starts here!

After completing the course and XploreAsia’s placement process, I was excited to get a job teaching in the Northern province of Tak. My agents were thoughtful about my placement and kept my preferences close in mind ( although when considering teaching abroad, I HIGHLY recommend coming with very few preferences). Following a night of anxious goodbyes, I was on my 6 hour bus to Mae Sot, Thailand with a couple of my TESOL classmates.

"What I didn’t know was how much I would fall in love with this town and more importantly MY SCHOOL."

I could write a novel about the laughs, learning, and sights of each day. Every single day at school was a new experience that has made me into the English teacher and curious farang I am today.

Hayley Feldman, XA Alumn

Mae Sot is a small yet bustling town on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. Due to its close proximity to neighboring Myanmar, Mae Sot draws a diverse group of people from Thailand, Myanmar, China, and many western countries. It seems quite isolated by mountains and forests, but has many “western amenities” such as comfortable (and affordable) housing, a Robinson’s (essentially a small shopping mall), an airport and other easily available transportation, as well as an active English-speaking community. Almost immediately, I felt confident that I would be comfortable for my short-term, one semester stay. What I didn’t know was how much I would fall in love with this town and more importantly MY SCHOOL.

First days teaching in Thailand!

Hayley having fun with her students in the classroom
Teaching in Thailand gives you a unique window into Thai culture!
Many of our teachers fall in love with parts of Thailand they'd never heard of before. In Hayley's case, she fell for the Northwestern city, Mae Sot

Our first stop in town was our school, Ratwittaya School. After a long night of travel, I was exhausted and terrified, but the nerves settled almost instantly when our new principal Ajarn Oye gave us a tour of the school and insisted that we call her Mom. We were scheduled to start working the following Monday (1.5 days later) and would only have one working week to settle in before being tossed in the classroom with 700 students eager to meet us. The teaching in Thailand adventure was about to begin!

At school, I was assigned to work with primary grades 1, 2, and 3 which consisted of 700 students aged from 5-9 years old. Although there were plenty of bumps in figuring out lesson planning and classroom management, I quickly learned to love my time in the classroom. At Ratwittaya, a Kindergarten to Grade 12 private school in Mae Sot, the students learn all core subjects along with a heavy focus on Chinese language. Due to their tight schedule, I only taught each of my 18 classes of about 40 students once a week for one hour. Have you ever tried to remember the faces and nicknames of 700 students? Let me tell you from experience that it’s NOT easy!

Did you know that Thailand has a day dedicated to teachers?

Nonetheless, the semester flew by and by half-way, I had decided to extend for at least another semester. I was eager to improve my students’ language abilities and to assist in the development of the English Department. Some personal highlights include Sports Day, the Christmas Festival, Teachers Sports day, and the Chinese New Year festivities!! I could write a novel about the laughs, learning, and sights of each day. Every single day at school was a new experience that has made me into the English teacher and curious farang (term for westerners used by many Thais) I am today.

How the pandemic changed my teaching experience

Around mid-January, I became aware of the coronavirus- later named COVID-19- and watched it evolve into the ever-looming news that it is today. Thailand was actually one of the first countries to have cases of the coronavirus outside of China, but the government provided consistent, ongoing information about the number of cases, new regulations, and protocols. Of course, there was a time when I questioned my plans to stay in the country and worried about whether I would be safe here, but, ultimately, I decided to stay. For me, it was about considering where I would be happiest in times of uncertainty, and where I consider to be “home”. This decision was extremely difficult. Staying meant being unsure of when I would be able to physically see my family and friends back in Los Angeles. But, at the same time, it was obvious to me: I had my own small house and lived near to a close friend, had a reliable income, savings for an emergency, and soon I would adopt the cutest grandma cat in town. The new pandemic was not going to prevent me enjoying my new life teaching in Thailand.

We began feeling the full effects of the new health pandemic around late March, so we began self quarantining and social distancing. At this point, schools were already closed for vacation and were not set to open again until May 15. As Covid progressed in its world-wide showdown, things changed. My family would no longer be able to visit, borders were closing, Thailand’s national Songkran holiday was even postponed, and the new school term was pushed back to July 1st. April and May were long and HOT. I was thankful to have my aircon and the opportunity to tutor some of my students online from the comfort of my quaint Thai-style home. I cooked more than I have in years and I actively sought out social time with my family and friends around the world via video calls.

Although many experience some homesickness when teaching in Thailand, Hayley's international support network- and her students!- made staying in Thailand the right choice for Hayley

New normal? No Problem!

In June, our new normal began to blossom. Stores and restaurants began to re-open, the nationwide curfew was lifted, and mask wearing was essential to continue maintaining safety. Never in my life did I think that a mask would become one of my new favorite accessories. Temperature checkpoints and QR scanning were added to my daily routine. Teachers were allowed to begin prep for the year and bit by bit— life seemed to feel normal again! I prepared for the new school schedule which consisted of teaching 200 Primary 2 students for 3 hours a week— a huge development in the English program from the previous school year! Just before the end of the month, I was able to celebrate my birthday alongside friends and coworkers making for one of the best birthdays in my memory.

Around the world, teachers and students are adjusting to the new normal in order to keep themselves and their students safe during the pandemic

July 1st came and so did the students! What a uniquely, exciting day. Teachers and students arrived suited up in masks and face shields, waited in line to be temperature checked before entering campus, and were informed of social distancing protocol and guidelines. Although there were challenges in adjusting to new protocols and schedules, we were overjoyed to be teaching in Thailand with our co-workers and students again!

Still thriving in Thailand!

Today, I am happy, hopeful, and excited to be living and teaching in Mae Sot, Thailand. My students keep me on my toes everyday with their mask-muffled shouting “TEACHER HAYLEY/HARRY/HALRY/ HENRY”, ever-improving English skills, and caring hearts. My co-workers keep me entertained and constantly evolving in my knowledge and appreciation of Thai culture and language. My in-country friends keep me excited and full of laughter. My family and friends from home keep me grounded with their endless support and love from afar.

Hayley with her fellow teachers at her Thai school in Mae Sot!
As much as you're curious about Thai culture, the students are also curious about your home country!
Connections are important. Did you know XploreAsia host regular teacher meetups around the country for our teachers to meet new friends in their area? Of course, this hasn't been possible during the pandemic, but our teachers can use our online networks to access advice and support 24/7!

If you would have asked 18 year old Hayley, “where will you be in 5 years?”  I know for certain she would have never said “living alone in a small, Northern Thai town”. Even just a year ago, I would have never dreamed that I would be choosing to live 8,000 miles from my family and childhood home with no sight of return amidst a global health pandemic. I fell in love with this country,  the people, and my students long before COVID-19. If anything positive came out of the pandemic, it was the fact that the temporary life I have teaching in Thailand has become more permanent and became home. With uncertainty still looming, I find myself feeling more and more comfortable within my small bubble of Mae Sot, Thailand.

If you enjoyed reading about Hayley’s life in Mae Sot, why not try teaching in Thailand for yourself? We place teachers in towns and cities across the country, but all of our TESOL / TEFL graduates have our support for life– no matter how far! Contact us to find out how to join the international XploreAsia family today! You can also catch up with Hayley’s Thai adventure by checking out her Instagram here.

Get Steph to Korea! Surviving Quarantine in South Korea

Get Steph to Korea! Surviving Quarantine in South Korea

Quarantine in South Korea

An XploreAsia Teacher Experience

What is Quarantine in South Korea Like?

As we adjust to the ‘New Normal’, teachers from all over the world are beginning to return to their schools overseas, and new teachers can begin their life-changing overseas teaching experience with XploreAsia! However, there are a few hurdles that need to be navigated.  One of the most common questions we get asked is, ‘What is quarantine like?’ Well, we will present first-hand accounts over the coming days and weeks, detailing the planning, arrival, and quarantine processes in South Korea, Myanmar, and Thailand to show you that it’s not so bad and can be done with minimal discomfort!

Today, we hear from Steph, from the UK, who writes about her experiences with quarantine in South Korea, where she arrived to teach English with XploreAsia.

Which Program were you on, and how did COVID-19 Impact your Experience?

I had the pleasure of joining the March intake of the Seoul in-class TESOL / TEFL course, run by the remarkable Kim Le Roux and glamorously assisted by her South African comrade, Enzo Forgiarini. I spent some time researching the different routes available to achieving the TESOL / TEFL qualification. It seemed like a much more sensible idea to invest in an ‘all-inclusive’ package that included work placement, accommodation, visa assistance, and of course, the training program.

It is here in my ‘Get Steph to Korea’ timeline that I’ll note that COVID-19 wasn’t even a twinkle on the landscape of the global health agenda. Even when about to leave the UK for Korea in February 2020, it was still largely isolated in China, and despite the geographical closeness of the two countries, I wasn’t about to let my desire to make this move across the world be tainted by what was, at the time, media-hyped speculation.

Stephanie Dagg's Quarantine in South Korea Experience

It seemed like a much more sensible idea to invest in an ‘all-inclusive’ package that included work placement, accommodation, visa assistance, and of course, the training program.

The course itself was intense. The work schedule was pretty demanding, I guess given the content we needed to cover and the limited time that we had to do it in. But Kim was for want of better words, bloody amazing. She was personable, approachable and always available to answer any of our concerns – whether related to the course, an emotional grievance related to our new lives, or just a friendly chat that encouraged normality. She made everything that could have been grueling fun and as COVID-19 began rearing its ugly head, she assumed the position of ‘Course Confidence-inducer’ (yes, I teach English), and we could deal with the worrying times with greater efficacy.

South Korea was one of the first countries outside of China to experience a surge in COVID-19 cases, owing mainly to the church-related outbreak in Daegu, and quite inconveniently, it happened at the same time that I was on the TESOL / TEFL course.

As our course progressed throughout March, we were given almost daily updates on the state of affairs in neighboring countries, and with that, our list of prospective countries to visit for a visa trip was severely contracting. In fact, it got to the day of our graduation and final decisions had not yet been made. At this point Japan had closed its borders, along with Taiwan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Thailand. The only options we had were to either fly to Cambodia, or fly home. The rush of anxiety was debilitating, and after speaking to my sister in the UK, I felt the best choice was to do my visa trip to the UK and then fly back to quarantine in South Korea.

What Preparations did you Have to Make for Your Return?

I will skim quickly over the fortnight I spent back in the UK – but with the grace of whatever heavenly body, the Korean Embassy in London was able to turn my visa around in just one week, and I was able to quickly fly back to Korea. At the time, flights were rare, expensive, and stopping at more airports than a Chelsea girl on spring break. Maybe it was because I booked my flight with less than 24 hours to go before departure, but I rocked up at Heathrow Airport with a direct flight to Incheon and an extra-legroom seat with British Airways.

The journey to the airport, the flight back to Korea, and my arrival at Incheon to quarantine in South Korea are all part of one journey that I will never forget. The roads to Heathrow were empty. The M25 is notoriously a car park, but COVID had diminished the need for anyone to drive its highways. My dad was my on-duty chauffeur. Even this was a point of contention – no one wanted to be anywhere near the airport, let alone collect/drop off a person who had been on a flight in the past two weeks, or in a country with such (comparatively) close proximity to China. Nevertheless, father dearest took the job and I got to the airport. With no element of exaggeration, as far as I could see in terminal 2 was emptiness. All shops were closed, with the exception of Boots and WH Smith, where social distancing was implored. The only other people seemed to be the few who had held onto their jobs and those boarding my flight.

The flight was shockingly full – it felt almost as if that flight was part of the last-chance exodus out of the UK into Korea. I was placed in a middle seat between two people, though physical contact was avoided and my personal sanitizer was constantly within reach should our hands touch. 

Stephanie Dagg's Quarantine in South Korea Experience

The journey to the airport, the flight back to Korea, and my arrival at Incheon are all part of one journey that I will never forget.

Stephanie Dagg's Quarantine in South Korea Experience

What was Your Arrival Experience?

Arrival at Incheon was an endurance event. The different queues that we were guided through were endless. I had my phone number tested (luckily I had a Korean number from the course), and my ‘guardian’ as it were, was contacted to ensure that the address provided was legitimate I had been told prior to my arrival back to quarantine in South Korea that I would need to get tested at the airport, though I strolled through arrival area with no issue or guidance towards a testing facility. Here the games began.

I contacted the Korean speaking representative from the XploreAsia team, and within moments, my assigned sticker had changed color three times. When coming through customs, you were assigned a sticker based on country of origin, or whether you were a Korean Native. I was passed around among airport workers, the Korean Army, and men dressed head to toe in hazmat suits, before being escorted to the testing center. 

I was told to stand in the car park at Incheon Airport, armed with three brimming suitcases and suffering from severe sleep deprivation. To further challenge my sanity, I had a swab shoved in my mouth and so far up my nose, it was knocking on the door to my brain. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I was escorted by four more soldiers to the transfer bus headed to a quarantine facility.

I was moody, miserable, and extremely tired. At this point, I had been awake for around 22 hours and was ready to pass out any place I was left for more than ten minutes. After a few other people got on the bus, we headed off on a 90-minute bus ride. Once we arrived at the quarantine facility, I was met again by men in hazmat suits and armed with clipboards. I started to feel incredibly overwhelmed. As I waited for my turn to register, I noticed that the guys were handing out packages to those ahead of me. To my surprise, we were provided with a hot TGI Friday’s lunch, a box of towels, toiletries, and complete guidance in English as to what to expect over the next 24 hours. I got to my room and found that, though basic, it was perfect. Warm, clean, and with enough space for my entourage of luggage. I showered almost immediately, unraveled the Korean ‘mattress’, and curled up to rest. We were provided with another hot meal of fried chicken in the evening and breakfast time was announced in English over the speakerphone the next morning. At 11 AM, a woman came to my door and told me my COVID results were negative, and to expect to leave in an hour and a half. With that, I packed my things, organized my airport transportation, and headed to the transfer. Again, we were provided with food, from Lotteria nonetheless, and taken directly to the airport for our onward journey, which for me was to  Gyeonggi-do province, where I had a 14-day quarantine in South Korea, in my apartment provided by my school. The experience was emotional, but honestly, the Korean government was outstanding in their organization of the whole ordeal. It was comforting, safe, and quite importantly – free, so I know that despite the personal inconvenience, it could have been so much worse. 

Stephanie Dagg's Quarantine in South Korea Experience

When coming through customs, you were assigned a sticker based on country of origin, or whether you were a Korean Native. I was passed around among airport workers, the Korean Army, and men dressed head to toe in hazmat suits, before being escorted to the testing center. 

Stephanie Dagg's Quarantine in South Korea Experience

At 11AM, a woman came to my door and told me my COVID results were negative, and to expect to leave in an hour and a half. With that, I packed my things, organized my airport transportation, and headed to the transfer.

How About Quarantine in South Korea, What are the Conditions Like?

Stephanie Dagg's Quarantine in South Korea Experience

We were supported by a very accommodating school principal who was willing to get anything we needed in terms of food, crockery and anything that would make our experience more comfortable.

Mmm… so quarantine in South Korea. Quarantine…A three-syllable word that still makes my eyebrow twitch and skin turn an unhealthy shade of ashen-white. Firstly, it is fair to say that I was blessed to have secured a teaching position in Suwon, in the Gyeonggi-do province, so the transit from the airport wasn’t too long, and no public transport was required. This was a huge relief, given that those arriving at Incheon, who need for public transport, were siphoned into regional categories and held until there was available space to board the ‘foreign arrival’ carts.

I was also incredibly lucky to have been placed at a school with a girl (now a very good friend of mine) with whom I trained in Incheon. She had opted for the Cambodian visa trip and returned to Korea a few days earlier, and so was able to give me valuable insight into what was waiting for me at my apartment, and more importantly, what was not. (Bedding; bedding was not waiting for me.) 

We were supported by a very accommodating school principal who was willing to get anything we needed in terms of food, crockery, and anything that would make our experience more comfortable. I expected that there would be an absence of a lot of things and so brought with me my home comforts, however, I wasn’t about to pack a saucepan and bring it to Korea with me.

What are you Doing to Keep Yourself Busy During Your Quarantine in South Korea?

Stephanie Dagg's Quarantine in South Korea Experience

I was able to prepare slightly when I was back in the UK, bringing with me puzzle books, a yoga mat and resistance bands in the over-optimistic belief that the two weeks would see the renaissance of Stephanie as a fitness goddess and lean machine…

Stephanie Dagg's Quarantine in South Korea Experience

Once settled into my new surroundings, I was ready to accept the fate that was a fortnight of the same four walls. I was able to prepare slightly when I was back in the UK, bringing with me puzzle books, a yoga mat and resistance bands in the over-optimistic belief that the two weeks would see the renaissance of Stephanie as a fitness goddess and lean machine… The reality was that I managed one HIIT workout, nearly threw up, and decided it’d be best to hang up my resistance bands.

The side effects of quarantine in South Korea (twitch) included a disturbed sleeping pattern, over-reliance on social media, and a Netflix binge to end all others. The Netflix binge played into the disturbed sleeping pattern, where the concept of time was governed by the length of an episode, not the position of the sun – though the position of the sun made me realise I had stayed up for far too long or woken up far too late. The over-reliance on social media made the reality of how far from home I was even more real. Despite incessant scrolling, I missed my loved ones and I guess I started to feel a little bit lonely. 

Within the first week, the Suwon government dropped over a food kit, thermometers and sanitising spray/hand gel – all left at the door with a fleeting knock to avoid any interaction with the potentially virus-infected foreigner living inside. The schedule for twice daily temperature checks was strict, and if I missed a timeslot, my Director would politely remind me. If my temperature varied too much above 36.5, I’d be questioned.

After about ten days, I could feel the light at the end of the tunnel getting closer, I was getting excited again to leave the apartment and explore the city of which I was now a resident. I’d spent some of my time watching people out the window to remind myself that I was actually in Korea and shamelessly attracted to Korean guys. As the fortnight rolled to a close, I had already decided that I was going to spend the last few days readjusting my sleep schedule so that work wouldn’t be a complete nightmare (given my quarantine in South Korea ended at midnight on a Saturday night), and eat something more nutritious than spam and rice.

Looking Back on the Experience so far, have you Learned Anything From it?

My life in Korea is going very well! I have developed emotionally and psychologically in a way that I would never have been able to if I had stayed in my rat-race life back in London. My school is brilliant on the whole and I am really enjoying working for the first time in my life. There was a new outbreak of coronavirus in the Itaewon area of Seoul and foreigner-fear meant that we were not allowed to work until we were tested (my second experience was probably worse than the first), but our Director paid for the test and even took us personally. There are horror stories about other hagwons’ treatment of foreigners during this time, but I feel pretty lucky with how my school handled it (despite the INCREDIBLE annoyance at how prejudiced the fact we even had to get tested was).

I intend on being here long term, learning the language and exploring other options in education and elsewhere whilst I am here. I’ll never forget my experience with, and the memories made on, my XploreAsia course, or the wisdom imparted by Kim during that time. I hope that with time I will turn out to be half the influencer that she is. 

Lucy Frobisher's Quarantine in Thailand Experience - Looking Forward to Seeing These Guys!

Written by Stephanie Dagg. 

What is it Like to Quarantine in Thailand?

What is it Like to Quarantine in Thailand?

Quarantine in Thailand

An XploreAsia Teacher Experience

What is Quarantine in Thailand Like?

As we adjust to the ‘New Normal’, teachers from all over the world are now able to return to their schools overseas, as well as new teachers can begin their life-changing overseas teaching experience with XploreAsia! However, there are a few hurdles and processes that need to be navigated in order to return.  One of the most common questions we are asked is, ‘What is quarantine in Thailand like?’. Well, we have first-hand accounts that we will be presenting to you over the coming days and weeks, detailing the planning, arrival, and quarantine processes both in Thailand and South Korea!

First, we hear from Lucy, 24, originally from Wiltshire in the UK but has been living and teaching in Thailand since December 2018. After returning home, and now back in Thailand, Lucy writes to us from quarantine in Bangkok, Thailand.

Which Program were you on, and how did COVID-19 Impact your Experience?

I did my TESOL course with XploreAsia in Hua Hin, January 2019. After traveling around and falling in love with Southeast Asia in 2017, I knew as soon as I finished university, I needed to get back out for a longer amount of time, and teaching seemed like the perfect way. I initially only intended to stay out here for around 6 months, but that quickly changed as I got settled into my new Thai life. Having not seen loved ones for over a year, I had planned to go back to the UK in the March/April school break to see my friends and family. I arrived home on the March 21. 3 days later, the UK went into lockdown, followed by Thailand about a week later. The international flight ban was originally until the end of April, then May, then June and with no definite end date, I had no idea when I could get back. I can’t explain how stressful this time was as there was so much uncertainty, yet so much speculation and false hope online. I was checking the news every day for if and when I would be allowed in, and as soon as they said work permit holders could apply to return on repatriation flights, I began the process, and prepared myself for my quarantine in Thailand experience.

Lucy Frobisher's Quarantine in Thailand Experience - TESOL Course in Hua Hin!

I was checking the news every day for if and when I would be allowed in, and as soon as they said work permit holders could apply to return on repatriation flights, I began the process.  

What Preparations did you Have to Make for Your Return?

For me, the process was a lot more stressful and confusing than it is now, as when I started to apply the system was very new and no one seemed to really know the proper procedures. There was however a clear list of documents that you needed to provide to the embassy to be considered for a certificate of entry. These are:

  • Copy of work permit
  • Copy of passport and visa pages
  • A letter from your employer stating they wish you to return
  • Health Insurance policy covering you for over $100,000 and any COVID costs
  • Fully completed declaration form that the embassy will send to you

Once you have all the required documents you have to send them to the embassy. When I applied the process was that the embassy would forward your documents to people who in Bangkok who would make the decision. Despite emails from the embassy that said it would take about 2 weeks, it actually seemed to be taking 4 weeks until people heard back with confirmation of a place on a flight. However, the night before the 4-week mark for me I received an email to say that the process had changed and the embassies were now able to issue a certificate of entry. It also said that to be considered for a repatriation flight that month, to reply to the email. So I responded to the email as soon as I saw it on Thursday evening, I didn’t find out I had a place on the flight until the following Monday and the flight was that coming Sunday. So once you find out you are able to fly there are more documents to prepare:

  • Flight booking – through the embassy
  • Quarantine in Thailand – ASQ Booking (all non-Thai nationals must book alternative state quarantine, prices ranging from 28,000 baht to 144,000)
  • Negative COVID test with a result within 72 hours of flight departure and with a full lab report

For the COVID test, I ordered a home testing kit from Randox the week before in case I got a place on the flight. The test costs £120 and is delivered the next day if ordered between Monday and Thursday, but they don’t deliver on weekends. I then had to arrange a collection through Polar Speed a UPS company, which costs an additional £16.99. The test takes 2 days to arrive at the test facility, but once it arrived I got the results within 8 hours, less than 24 hours before my flight.

  • ‘Fit to Fly’ Certificate from a doctor to say you are free from COVID symptoms

For the ‘Fit to Fly’, I used Freedom Health who do a virtual consultation over Zoom and it was super easy and cost £55. It took about 10 minutes max for the consultation. Once I had my negative COVID-19 test results, I forwarded them over and then they sent me my Fit to Fly Certificate. 

  • T8 form from the embassy you must fill out
  • I also had a form from EVA airlines to fill out

It’s a bit of a logistical challenge trying to get everything done in the right time frames, but once you have all these things will you be able to get on the flight.

What was Your Arrival Experience?

Arriving in Thailand now feels like something out of a movie. As you walk from the plane into the airport you’re met with people wearing full-body PPE who ask you where you are staying. They then direct you to a row of chairs where people come along and check your documents. Once they have done this they send you off to wait in line to get your temperature checked, documents checked again and temperature checked again, the second time in your ear. If your temperature is too high for their liking (like mine was on the second test) then they give you water and make you sit down in a separate area for 10 mins before checking again. After all these points you are then able to go through to the waiting area to be taken to your ASQ transport. All the ASQ hotels will have a specially arranged van and you will be taken out to meet the driver who then takes your straight to your hotel to begin your quarantine in Thailand.

Lucy Frobisher's Quarantine in Thailand Experience - Waiting for Testing at the Airport

Arriving in Thailand now feels like something out of a movie.

Lucy Frobisher's Quarantine in Thailand Experience - Testing Area at the Airport

How About Quarantine in Thailand, What are the Conditions Like?

Lucy Frobisher's Quarantine in Thailand Experience - Quarantine Hotel in Bangkok

Minus the plastic screens on the check-in desk, and checking in with the nurse, it was a pretty normal check-in experience where I am staying

Arriving at the hotel, they check your temperature before you are allowed to enter. Minus the plastic screens on the check-in desk, and checking in with the nurse, it was a pretty normal check-in experience where I am staying – Three Sukhumvit Hotel. The quarantine in Thailand package at this hotel costs 40,000 baht and provides you with 3 meals every day, 2 COVID-19 tests, transport to the hotel, and 24/7 nurse contact. They also allow you to order food delivery services which is amazing, as the hotel menu options daily are pretty limited, so if you fancy something different it’s nice to have the option! Each room has a little table outside the door where they will place any food or orders you have or any rubbish you have to be taken away.

On one of the first few days you have a COVID test, which, if negative, you are then allowed to book 1 x 30-minute slot outside your room per day in a designated area. You are also given a bag of masks, hand sanitizer, and a thermometer on arrival. Whenever opening the door you are required to wear a mask, as well as having to take your temperature morning and evening each day to send to the nurse.

What are you Doing to Keep Yourself Busy During Your Quarantine in Thailand?

Lucy Frobisher's Quarantine in Thailand Experience - Keeping Busy During Quarantine

I was obviously aware I would have a lot of spare time during my quarantine in Thailand, so I tried to get some things to help kill the time. I bought a scrapbook and printed off a whole bunch of photos from my Thailand experience so far which has been really nice to put together and reminisce some amazing times I’ve had in Thailand from the comfort of my quarantine home. I also bought a couple of books and magazines to read and I’ve been reliving my childhood playing The Sims. If you can’t go about your normal life, at least you can live vicariously through an animated Sim!

Looking Back on the Experience so far, have you Learned Anything From it?

I would say there are two main things I learned from this journey; patience and persistence. Being stuck somewhere and not knowing when or how you can get back to where you live is stressful to say the least, especially when everything is so unpredictable right now. I had to learn to be more patient with things as there was absolutely nothing I or anyone else could do about it, and stressing out wasn’t doing me or my family (sorry mum and dad) any favors.

Secondly, I had to learn to be more persistent. I’m the type of person to feel guilty if I have to ask about something more than once or send a second email out of fear of annoying someone. However, I am sure there are several people out there who never want to hear my name again due to the number of emails and calls I made to try and get everything sorted in time. But, had I not done all that, I doubt I would be sitting here in quarantine in Thailand writing all this now!

What are you Most Looking Forward to?

I am most looking forward to seeing my friends with who I work and spend most waking hours together, as well as getting back to work! I have missed all my students and colleagues so so much, and I am beyond excited to get back in the classroom and start teaching again! A lot of people in England were asking me if all the stress and money was worth it, but sitting in quarantine in Thailand looking forward to getting out, I can safely say it was definitely worth it.

Lucy Frobisher's Quarantine in Thailand Experience - Looking Forward to Seeing These Guys!

If you want to learn more about how you can get started teaching overseas, contact us for more information! We are always on hand to help.

Written by Lucy Frobisher. Follow her on Instagram – @theadventuresofanexpat

Teach in Asia: Becoming Part of the Local Community

Teach in Asia: Becoming Part of the Local Community

Teach in Asia and immerse yourself in the community!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teach in Asia and explore the ecclectic city of Hanoi!

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

Teach in Asia with XploreAsia!

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

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

What I Discovered Teaching in Vietnam

What I Discovered Teaching in Vietnam

What to Expect when You're Expecting... to Move Overseas

"I cannot recommend this experience enough, if you want to push yourself in every way possible all while making amazing memories and even better friends then teaching abroad is the thing for you!"

Teaching abroad can be a big challenge, especially to those who have never taught before. However, it can also offer more chances to grow than any other career and you may find yourself learning just as much as your students. In this blog, Eugenie shares her story of how she overcame her challenges teaching abroad after completing her TESOL course in Vietnam.

Looking back, my decision to move overseas to teach in Vietnam made no sense whatsoever. My lack of natural ability in English in school caused me to dislike English class. I thought about teaching before, but never teaching English as a second language. However, signing up to my work abroad programme all seemed so easy and I thought I had nothing to lose. My original enrollment date gave me three months to get my life in order before I made the leap of faith and disappeared into the chaos that is South East Asia. However the forces that be were at work, and I had to delay my trip by few months which turned out to be the first (of many) blessings in disguise along this journey.

With her TESOL certificate in hand, Eugenie, along with her friends in her TESOL group, was ready to begin teaching in Vietnam!

Getting off the plane, I was quickly swept up into the hustle and bustle that was Ho Chi Minh City. I hadn’t traveled much before this so I had no idea what to expect, but was pretty overwhelmed  Starting the TESOL course did not help calm my nerves; with no teaching experience under my belt, to compare me to a fish riding a bicycle wouldn’t be out of line.

The second week of my TESOL course in Vietnam gave me my first experience of what it is like to teach in Vietnam. Me and my fellow student teachers got the chance to go to a language centre and teach several classes as part of our teaching practicum.

It was a disaster

I had no control of the class, it was 38 degrees, and I had no idea what I was doing. The only thing I had left was “baby shark”. By the third time it was playing I couldn’t stop the tears; I stood in the corner and cried. On the bus ride home I barely said a word. My first time in an actual classroom and it was a train wreck. I had signed up for a year, was two weeks in and felt like I already failed. A lot went through my mind for the next two weeks of the TESOL course, but I made a conscious decision to stick it out.

You need to remember you are working with kids, they get tired and moody (just like you) they have bad days too and believe me, the bad days are bad, but the good days.., they are incredible!

Eugenie, TESOL in Vietnam graduate

Looking back, the best decision I could have ever made was to teach in Vietnam.

The main thing that I learnt on my course was how truly resilient I could be. Which is a skill I never really knew I had until I travelled halfway across the world.

The teaching assistants can be a great source of support in the classroom and are a great perk of teaching in Vietnam.

While the first teaching practicum was a struggle, once I started teaching it gradually got a lot easier.. The first month was a little shaky- remembering names, running a lesson from start to finish, ensuring you are covering all the material, all while keeping sixteen children engaged. It’s important to remember you are not doing this alone; you have your teaching assistants (TA’s) in the room who are an absolute godsend! They are the single best thing to have in your classroom and I owe them all so much!

I would be lying if I said it was all sunshine and rainbows. You need to remember you are working with kids, they get tired and moody (just like you) they have bad days too and believe me, the bad days are bad, but the good days? They are incredible!

Before I started, in my interview they asked me which age group I would prefer to teach in Vietnam. I instantly answered teens. I was thinking, they are older, more developed, you can have a joke with them and they would be more interested to learn. I looked at teaching young kids as glorified babysitting.

How quickly my mind changed.

It turns out teaching young kids is easily the most rewarding age group. Not only are you teaching them a new language (when they are still learning their first language, mind you), you are also teaching them to develop as a little human.

Teaching in Vietnam can involve teaching many different age groups. Eugenie found she loved teaching jumpstarts much more than she'd anticipated.

I’ve seen my students gain confidence, learning to read and speak in English. When you walk into a young learners class, you become a celebrity. They scream your name, run to hug you and always want to be next to you. Teenagers don’t even look up from their phones when you walk in.

 My proudest moment to date is when my TA reported back to me that one of my young students, who I have taught for seven months now, is a completely different student in my class compared with his other classes. At home he hardly talks, is quiet and often keeps to himself, yet when he walks into my classroom, he is talkative, helpful, friendly and always tries again, even if he gets it wrong the first time. Knowing I have that effect on a student is incredibly humbling.

Teaching is easily the hardest, most tiring, and most  rewarding and the most humbling thing I have ever done. I cannot recommend this experience enough. If you want to push yourself in every way possible all while making amazing memories and even better friends then teaching abroad is the thing for you!

If you want to challenge yourself and change your life, why not check out our internationally accredited TESOL programs? Offered in six different countries, we can help you kickstart your new adventures living and teaching abroad. For more of a glimpse into what our featured writer Eugenie is up to whilst teaching in Vietnam, check out her blog and her Instagram!

Volunteer in Thailand whilst Teaching: Ané’s Story

Volunteer in Thailand whilst Teaching: Ané’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 2020 Tet Teacher Meetup! | TESOL in Vietnam

January 2020 Tet Teacher Meetup! | TESOL in Vietnam

Experience Tet in Vietnam!

Our TESOL graduates recently met up to celebrate Vietnam's biggest holiday together!

Lucy, and XploreAsia teacher in Vietnam, writes about her experiences at a meetup with fellow TESOL in Vietnam alumni.

Some people worry about missing holidays back home when they come to live and teach abroad. Holidays can be wonderful occasional to spend with family but, as our TESOL in Vietnam graduate Teacher Lucy describes, you often find your own international family to share these special times with. Last January, XploreAsia’s Lan invited our teachers in Vietnam to share in the Tet festivities in her family home. Read on to find out how they celebrated and check out our website if you want to be a part of our international network!

A few days before the Tet holiday officially began in Vietnam, our TESOL instructor hosted us for a traditional and delicious Tet meal in her family home outside of Hanoi. We all started teaching with XploreAsia and have been lucky enough to continue spending time together and gaining new experiences since graduating from our TESOL course. I have been living in the North of Vietnam for two months and have really valued my time here. The lead up to the New Year celebrations has been incredibly exciting, with lots of fireworks to be seen around the city and amazing food to be eaten.

Earning a TESOL in Vietnam means that you can experience the culture from day one AND do it with a group of people who are also learning to teach, just like you!
During the festivities, many Vietnamese people choose to spend time with their families and the streets can be a little quiet. Our teachers didn't miss out on this holiday through the connections they made with XploreAsia.

The guests at Lan’s house all joined in the food preparations; cooking, cleaning and, of course, eating this mouth-watering dinner. We had abundant amounts of food, including some great vegetarian dishes for people like me who don’t eat meat in their diet. The feast included spring rolls, fried chicken, fried and boiled tofu, steamed vegetables and rice as well as some tasty soy sauce and chili dip for extra flavour.

What is the Tet Holiday?

Tet holiday is important to the Vietnamese people and it’s the biggest holiday in Vietnam. The celebration marks the beginning of the New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year since the calendar system here is different to the Western calendar. During Tet, schools and businesses close down and many people spend the holiday together with family and close friends. This Tet holiday was special for me since it was the first time I experienced a Tet celebration; I always celebrate the New Year on the 31 st December but this was the first time I had observed the Lunar New Year. Spending the start of this annual holiday with friends made me feel welcome to celebrate this significant event, and made me feel a part of the festivities and celebrations which have been happening in Vietnam.

A Chance to Meet Fellow Teachers!

Another reason to enjoy this occasion was the opportunity to meet new people and visit somewhere new. I have been teaching in Hanoi for two months since earning my TESOL in Vietnam, but there are many other expat teachers who have been here a lot longer. Going out for the day and enjoying a meal together gave us the opportunity to speak with some more experienced teachers living in Vietnam and enabled us to find out more about what they have learned so far. Each member of the teaching community in Vietnam seems to genuinely value and relish their time here; many are hoping to stay far into the future. Some have plans of moving elsewhere but everyone agrees on how rewarding the experience has been so far.

During Tet, XploreAsia teachers enjoyed cooking and eating lots of traditional Vietnamese dishes.

Personally, I am enjoying my time here more and more the longer I stay. I have continued to speak with and learn from interesting people from all over the world, as well as discovering new experiences I had never heard of or planned on experiencing.

Our teachers who earned their TESOL in Vietnam are now enjoying being immersed in the culture.

Our Wonderful Hosts!

Spring rolls, chicken, and plenty of vegetarian options!

Meeting Lan’s family was also very humbling. Their warmth and generosity made the experience similar to Christmas and New Year with my own family, and their kindness is a reflection of the kindness shown by the local people all over Vietnam. Escaping the hustle and bustle of Hanoi to spend some time in a more peaceful setting, surrounded by nature, reminded me of where I grew up and again made the experience more rewarding as I was able to reflect on past celebrations with my own family and friends. Despite the quiet and solitude of the more rural area, there was plenty to keep us busy and plenty of us to make sure we had a good time socialising with old and new friends.

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Once the food was cooked and prepared, we toasted the meal with some rice wine (although some of us abstained since we were teaching later that day). We ate until the food had gone and we could eat no more. For desert we ate some traditional Vietnamese treats and fruit, as well as enjoying some home brewed tea. The experience gave us insight into Vietnamese culture and traditions, as well as giving us the opportunity to relax and socialise in a comfortable setting of someone who we know. We were sad to leave behind Lan’s family and her adorable dog Simba but the experience was unforgettable and one we were very thankful to be a part of. I am already looking forward to Tet celebrations next Lunar year – Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Gain Your TESOL in Vietnam and Start an Amazing Adventure!

If you want to start a new adventure abroad and get immersed in Vietnamese culture, check out our TESOL course in Vietnam! Our course provides teachers with the chance to gain teaching experience before graduation meaning that when you step into the classroom for real, you will be ready to deliver engaging and life-changing lessons to your students. And our support doesn’t end there- as you found out, we host regular meetups for our teachers and are also only a click or phone call away, no matter how long ago you graduated! Contact us to find out more, and check out our Instagram and Facebook pages to see what our other teachers are up to!

Our TESOL in Vietnam students also got a chance to take a Vietnamese cooking lesson previously during their orientation week.
Many people find that the chance to dedvelop lifelong friendships is a valuable element of the in-country TESOL course.

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