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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.

ESL Teaching With No Experience- Declan’s Story

ESL Teaching With No Experience- Declan’s Story

Trying ESL Teaching in Thailand for the First Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lean on Your Peers with ESL Teaching Experience

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

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

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

Try New Activities in the Classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40 Days Working in Costa Rica

40 Days Working in Costa Rica

40 Days Working in Costa Rica

Learn How Faith Spent Her Time in Costa Rica

Have you heard about XploreAsia’s new program? We’re giving people the chance to live and teach in Costa Rica, as well as earning an internationally accredited TESOL certification and offering a cultural orientation week to get you ready to experience this welcoming culture.

In this blog read all about how Teacher Faith spent her time in Costa Rica, and how this experience left her with such a positive outlook on this country and its culture. 

Hi Faith! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and why you chose to travel to Costa Rica?

Well, I spent eighteen months living in Canada where I learned some Spanish. After, I really wanted to experience a Spanish-speaking culture and found an opportunity to teach in Costa Rica and live with a host family. I grew up on a farm so that led me to spend a lot of time helping out on my host family’s cattle ranch. I loved it so much, I hope to go back next year!

 

What Was Your Favorite Thing About the Culture in Costa Rica?

I was surprised at how nice people are. In Costa Rica, 80% of tourists are from America and the tourism industry is vital to their economy. However, in a lot of countries with a big tourist industry, people are just respectful, whereas Costa Ricans were genuinely very warm, welcoming and friendly towards me. I’ve never had a bad experience with any of the locals I met in Costa Rica.

My favorite thing was seeing the love they have for themselves and their culture. They’re very proud to be ‘Ticos’ and it was wonderful to them talking with such pride about their culture.

Faith

What was a typical day like for you in Costa Rica?

I was there volunteering so I spent a lot of time doing that. In the morning, the sun rises very early, but people usually don’t get up until later. I’m very used to waking up early with the sun, so I would usually wake up around 5am and use the time to study. At 7 a.m.  or 8 a.m., we would eat breakfast, before I would set off to teach my classes for the day. When I wasn’t teaching, I really enjoyed hiking in the hills; it’s a really good way to workout! I also did a lot of touristy stuff like going to the beaches.

In San Pedro, I also really enjoyed horseback riding. It can be a little expensive in the touristy and coastal areas, but it’s still good to do the touristy things whilst you’re there. In the smaller towns, it’s very cheap to drink and eat with friends and I’d recommend making an effort to get to know lots of local people. They can help you find hidden gems, and many of them are very eager to show tourists around their country. 

It’s very easy to find something to do here. With every step, it feels like you’re stepping into a new adventure. From the local excursions to the activities meant for tourists to enjoy, you’ll never be bored! 

How was your experience teaching in Costa Rica?

I was doing private tutoring with adults, although I also worked with some kids. The demand to learn English is high as it can help people get better jobs due to the large tourist industry. When I go back to Costa Rica, I’m going to tutor the same students again as I made an amazing bond with them. I can’t wait to hear how they have improved with their English.

Is it easy to find different kinds of food there?

In San Jose, the capital, it’s very easy to find international restaurants. The locals were curious about food from other cultures and my host family often asked me to cook American dishes for them to try. It might be harder to find international food outside the capital, such as my host family’s town, San Pedro, but groceries are very cheap so it’s easy to find ingredients if you want to make some dishes you’re used to making at home. It’s also easy to find options for people with dietary restrictions.

One of the most interesting dishes I tried was pargo fish. The locals eat the eyes of the fish, which was a new experience for me. The flavour was really good, but the texture was very weird!

One of the many delicacies, Pargo Fish, you can try while in Costa Rica
Try delicious food while working in Costa Rica
Delicious local Costa Rican food

What advice would you give to people coming to Costa Rica from abroad?

Don’t bring tight clothes. Joggers and loose, breathable clothing will be best suited to the humidity. I was there during the rainy season, which is from June to December. It’s still sunny and humid, but there is a lot of rain. Invest in a nice umbrella if you want to stay dry! The temperature never drops too low. One time, it was around 70 degrees and raining, and the host mother made hot chocolate, so the locals will think it’s cold sometimes.

If you learn some Spanish, it becomes easier to barter when buying goods and exchanging money. As said before, making friends with the locals will also help you get the most out of your time here, and Spanish knowledge will also help you to connect with them.

 Work in Costa Rica and collect your own memories on this experience. Get in touch to start your next adventure now! Make sure to visit our Instagram and Facebook pages to see pictures, videos and updates from our teachers.

 

Chad’s Story: Teacher in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Chad’s Story: Teacher in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Bang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chad- TESOL graduate

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

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

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

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

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

Olivia’s Story: Teachers in Thailand Making Local Friendships

Olivia’s Story: Teachers in Thailand Making Local Friendships

The Banksy of Hua Hin

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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