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Life as an English Teacher in Myanmar

Life as an English Teacher in Myanmar

We caught up with Rachel and Amy, two of our teachers currently working in Myanmar. They share their experiences of living, working and teaching in Myanmar, sharing their advice and answering questions you might have about teaching opportunities in Myanmar.

How did you find out about the program and what made you decide that Myanmar was the right place for you to go teach?

I was initially attracted to Myanmar as a place to experience a culture that was relatively untouched by Western influences. After some research, I found a program that taught the TESOL course and paired teachers with schools in Myanmar.

In which city did you teach?

After completing the TESOL course in Yangon, I was placed at the Nelson International Education Center in Tachileik, Myanmar. Tachileik is a border town near the northern most point of Thailand in Shan State, Eastern Myanmar. For those who are interested in a completely immersive experience, Tachileik is the place for you. With a population of roughly 55,000, I was 1 of 10 foreigners. Almost no one speaks English in Tachileik besides those connected with the school and the only “comforts” of home are a semi-westernized coffee shop and a few restaurants with picture menus. This all makes for an intense, but fascinating learning experience.

How would you describe your typical day?

 As a teacher, a van would pick me and my fellow teachers up at around 8 am, and we would leave school around 5 pm. I was responsible for a group of students between the ages of 11-15 with almost no English experience. I taught them English and Math and did not follow a set curriculum. My single focus was to build up their confidence levels to be comfortable speaking in conversational English. While this is a generalization, I would say that students in Myanmar are among the best in the world in terms of their respect for teachers and willingness to learn. I was warned that I had some “trouble-makers” in my class, but every student I had was unbelievably sweet and unique.

What have been the highlights of your experience teaching in Tachileik?

 Observing the rapid changes in each students English ability was pretty amazing. NIEC Tachileik has only been open for a few years, but many students are already passably fluent. As a native English speaker, you will be frequently asked to take control of situations even if you are new and unsure of yourself. 

Besides wanting to travel, I came to Myanmar to test out teaching as a profession. I really fell in love with teaching here, and I am now back in Chicago pursuing a degree in secondary education. This was definitely a great experience to get my feet wet in the profession, and to meet a lot of incredible people in the process.

What do you do in your free time in or outside of Tachileik?

 When I wasn’t teaching, I spent a lot of time reading, wandering the streets, eating tea leaf salad, and wrangling feral cats. I also spent time perfecting my Burmese with phrases like “Don’t put peanuts in that” and “One fried rice to-go, thanks.” I also went to Bangkok every 70 days to renew my business visa.

Is there anything that you would like to tell prospective teachers thinking of coming over?

 My advice to prospective teachers would be to have an open mind about trying new things, to not take yourself too seriously, and to just go for it!

Amy:

How did you find out about the program and what made you decide that Myanmar was the right place for you to go teach?

 I found out about the program through Greenheart Travel.  I decided to choose Myanmar because its a fascinating country and is undergoing interesting times.  When I was an undergrad, I had the opportunity to some research projects about the country and the region, and from then on, I knew I wanted to go there at some point in time to experience and witness the changes.  Also the fact that the program offered the TESOL certification courses and also job placement afterwards was a plus.  I was actually selected to join Peace Corps to volunteer in Eastern Europe, but opted for this program because I wanted to go to Myanmar.  Though I’m an American, by roots, my parents are from Southeast Asia and going to Myanmar was my calling.

What made you decide that Myanmar was the right place for you to go teach?

I decided to choose Myanmar because its a fascinating country and is undergoing interesting times.  When I was an undergrad, I had the opportunity to some research projects about the country and the region, and from then on, I knew I wanted to go there at some point in time to experience and witness the changes.

Also the fact that the program offered the TESOL certification courses and also job placement afterwards was a plus.  I was actually selected to join Peace Corps to volunteer in Eastern Europe, but opted for this program because I wanted to go to Myanmar.  Though I’m an American, by roots, my parents are from Southeast Asia and going to Myanmar was my calling.
Also the fact that the program offered the TESOL certification courses and also job placement afterwards was a plus.  I was actually selected to join Peace Corps to volunteer in Eastern Europe, but opted for this program because I wanted to go to Myanmar.  Though I’m an American, by roots, my parents are from Southeast Asia and going to Myanmar was my calling.

Describe a typical day in your life as a teacher here…

 A typical day as a teacher in Myanmar, well, my experience was a little different compared to my cohorts.  I had the opportunity to teach in Lashio for one month, and then in Pyin Oo Lwin for about four months.  In terms of the daily routines as a teacher, I taught a wide range of students, from pre-schoolers, teens and adults.  It’s quite a unique teaching experience to have such a wide range of different age groups to teach.

In Lashio, things were a little more convenient because I actually lived at the school, so transportation was not an issue.  Maybe because I have an easy going personality, the accommodation was fine to me.  I had blocked schedule and breaks in between lessons, so that was nice.  The school’s staff and local teachers are phenomenal and always willing to help.  They literally fed me everyday with delicious home-cooked Myanmar food.  In the morning, I would go to the playground and play with the pre-school kids, during my breaks I would do a run-through with my lessons before I teach, then there’s grading papers/workbooks, and then plan for the next day or week ahead.

 In Pyin Oo Lwin, I lived with a family, but had a separate section of the house to myself.  I would ride a bicycle that the school provided from my house to school every morning.  Depending on the route I took, it would take me 15-20 minutes to get to school.  The routine is similar to the Lashio school, just the living accommodation was different and I needed a form of transportation to get to school.

How would you describe Lashio?

 Lashio is literally like a city in the clouds.  You’re so high up in the mountains.  Every morning, I would wake up around 5am just to see the sunrise, the clouds rolling and the fog carving around the tall mountains.  It’s breathtaking.  Lashio is located close to China, so you get a lot of great Chinese influences in the cuisines.  There are plenty of pagodas to visit, the famous large market and also the local hot spring.  Transportation, the form of taxis you’ll have access to are tri-wheeled motorbikes (kind of like Thailand’s tuk-tuk).

Pyin Oo Lwin is a nice quaint town.  It has an interesting history, being the summer capital during the colonial period when the British colonized Burma, so you can see a lot of the old British (Tudor style) houses and buildings scattered around town.  Transportation, you have the option of motorbike taxis or horse carriages.  It’s a beautiful town where east meets west, but in terms of centuries ago.  You won’t get many western amenities here like you would in Yangon.  This town is famous for its botanical garden and also its damson wine. Oh! And for coffee lovers, there’s great coffee here.

What do you do in your free time in or outside of Lashio?

 In Lashio, I think my short time-frame there was somewhat of a blessing. During my free time, I’d workout (sometime running back and forth on the school’s roof) or go hiking up to the 2500 year old pagoda trail (taking the steps route or the dirt route).  I was able to persuade some of the school’s staff and teachers to join me.  On occasions, the local teachers would invite me to go to the market with them or they’d take to visit a pagoda.  I’ve literally paid my respects to all the pagodas in Lashio.  I only did the hot spring once.  It rained a lot during the month I was there in Lashio.  I think the icing on the cake of the experience was when I was invited for lunch to one of the local teacher’s family’s home.  It was my first time ever being in a local Myanmar home and to see how they lived modestly and such.  The entire experience went by fast and definitely learned to make the most of everyday.

 In Pyin Oo Lwin, during my free time, typically, I just ride my bicycle around town and grab lunch or coffee with some of the school’s staff.  On my days off, I would sometime volunteer at the nunnery to teach English or help with art and crafts activities.  Sometimes, the school staffs would take me to visit pagodas or go to Ruby Mart (it’s the only supermarket in town that’s fairly new).  I’ve had the chance to watch some Myanmar films at the theater there, pretty interesting experience and I highly recommend it!  There are also some good hiking trails out there.  I haven’t done the popular one where you can hike to a waterfall yet, but I heard that one is well worth it.  There are two famous caves with pagodas there too.

 In terms of doing the more touristy experience, I’ve been fortunate to go on trips with the schools that I’ve taught at.  The school staffs pretty much organize the trips and I just tag along.  So far, I’ve been to Mandalay, Monywar, Sagaing, Goteik Bridge, Bagan and Yangon.  Most of these trips entail paying homage to pagodas.  I also enjoy ancient architecture and how beautifully Myanmar has been able to preserve its traditions and culture, so it’s great being able to witness it.

What have been the highlights of your experience teaching in Lashio?

 For both Lashio and Pyin Oo Lwin, the highlights would be to be able to experience life at the local level and immersing oneslef in the customs and culture.

Is there anything that you would like to tell prospective teachers thinking of coming over?

 Be open minded, flexible and willing to help/learn.

Thank you Rachel and Amy for sharing your amazing experiences teaching in Myanmar and sharing your wonderful experiences with the XploreAsia family. Read more about teaching abroad in our blog posts and teaching programs!
A huge thank you to Rachel and Amy for sharing their experiences as teachers in Myanmar with us! For more information on the teaching opportunities in Myanmar click here. The TESOL course is taught in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar and the perfect place to immerse yourself in the culture of your new home. You can also experience Myanmar as a volunteer with XploreAsia

Why Teach English in Thailand?

Why Teach English in Thailand?

Have you ever considered a different career path? Always wanted to do something that gives your job a meaning, a sense of adventure and freedom at the same time? One of our alumni, Shanoira, had the exact same thoughts! Read her encouraging and heart warming story of her adventures and experiences teaching English in Thailand.

I have been in Thailand for about 7 months now and if you’re reading this, then you are probably interested in teaching abroad. You might be wondering what it is like and if it’s something you can really do.

Well, no need to fear! I will let you in on everything there is to know about life in Thailand.  

So first off, the hardest part is taking a leap of faith and truly committing to coming to Thailand! At one point, Thailand was just a dream. I was reading blogs but I didn’t have an active plan to move to Thailand. Then one day as I sat at my office desk (hating my job), staring at a picture of Loi Krathong, I thought, “What am I waiting for?”.

That night I filled out an application which led me to Thailand. So if this is something that has been on your mind for awhile: DO IT! In life you only regret the chances you did not take.

TESOL Certificate 

In order to teach in most Asian countries, having a TESOL or TEFL certificate furthers your chances of getting hired as well as getting better pay (especially if you do not have a degree). I decided to get my TESOL certification with XploreAsia. XploreAsia is a well-run organization that has taught me in a short amount of time (3 weeks) to be a well-equipped teacher. For people who have never taught before or people who are new to a foreign country, I highly recommend going through a program like XploreAsia. In my view, not doing so would’ve been like jumping into the deep end of a pool and not knowing how to swim.

Their are numerous benefits to this program, such as you will instantly have a network of friends that can help you if you ever have a question about anything: visa runs, lesson plans, places to visit, etc. Also they will be living all over the country, so if you ever want to travel anywhere in Thailand you have a place to crash. When it comes to XploreAsia, they provided me with Thai lessons, cultural lessons, and fun excursions, all on top of the intensive training to be an ESL teacher. They set up my bank account, found me a job, and even helped me arrange transportation to my new town. I would never in a millions years have been able to do any of those things without the guidance of XploreAsia. Honestly, XploreAsia? You da bomb.

Teaching English in Thailand

Officially Certified!
Call me Teacher Shanoira

TESOL graduation in Chiang Mai, teaching english in Thailand

TESOL graduation in Chiang Mai with Benz, XploreAsia Senior Placement Co-ordinator.

Teaching English in a Thai School

 If you’re like me, you may have visions of these well-mannered Thai children eager to learn English, engaged in all your activities, and hanging on to your every word because you’re that awesome of a teacher. Well, it’s about time to wake up because all that, simply put, is a dream, not a reality. My students are hyper and talkative; there have been many times that they couldn’t care less that I want to teach them English. When I just began teaching, I wanted to rip my hair out of my head because I couldn’t get them to stay quiet, nor could I hold their focus for longer than 30 seconds.

teaching english in Thailand

However, please don’t let these things scare you! I honestly love being a teacher and I have never felt more fulfilled from a job in my entire life. Once I mastered classroom management and became inventive with the activities I used in class, this satisfaction from my job only increased. Every day (well, maybe not every day, but most of the days I’ve had teaching), I knew my students left class and learned new words or concepts. I’ve realized that English is a crucial skill to have, and the ability to speak and understand the language really does provide new opportunities to students for their futures. By being a good teacher, I’ve aided in their English knowledge and that makes me super happy.

Also, just so you know, Thailand schools tend to function by disorganized chaos. Classes get cancelled or moved around all the time. The students are constantly missing class since they are studying for some big Thai test that you know nothing about or it’s sport week, which is treated like the mini Olympics. You just have to learn quickly to go with the flow and your life will be so much easier. Do not get worked up when things do not go as planned because believe me – they won’t go to plan.  

Teaching English in Thailand

When kids do behave, they are adorable and all the misbehaving is forgotten. 

Stares

As a foreigner with braids in my hair, I sometimes feel like a painting in an art gallery. Thai people will stare at me, whisper to their friends, and some even pull out their phones to snap a picture. One thing you’ll have to get use to is the amount of stares you will encounter being a foreigner in Thailand. We look different, and we act different, and especially in smaller towns, you can stand out like a sore thumb. At times, it can be annoying when all you want to do is eat dinner at the market but everyone has stopped what they are doing and are intently staring at you. But in time, this becomes normal, and you’ll instead feel odd when you go to places like Bangkok and no one cares that you are not Thai.

english teacher life in Thailand, elephant sanctuary


My Town

I got my placement in the Chaiyapum province which is located in Isaan. I am approximately 6 hours north of Bangkok. If you have ever visited Thailand, there is a 99% chance that you have never visited my town. Google has stated that less than 1% of tourists pass through Chaiyaphum each year. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a fantastic little town, and it has truly become my home away from home.

Some of the things I enjoy doing in Chaiyapum include eating breakfast by the lake, hanging out at the one bar, checking out the markets, and going for a swim at one of the local resort’s outdoor pool. However, I also love going for rides to one of the highest viewpoints in the province (like on the picture below) and just relaxing; we’ll check out the waterfalls and visit the stone hedges. Chaiyapum is a cute little town, and I have honestly met some of the most amazing people there.

Accommodation

Thailand is not really big on kitchens. Therefore, most apartments are “dorm styled” and are big enough for only one person. However, you will never hear me complain about this because the rent here is BEYOND cheap! I live by a lake in a quiet part of town next door to mansions that the house governor generals inhabit, and I still only pay 3500 baht a month in rent (Approx $120 CDN). And this also includes Wi-Fi! I am from Toronto, and I pay more rent living with my mom there than I do here for my own spot. I also love being the queen of my castle and being able to decorate my place how I wish to, clean my apartment when I want to, and come in and out as I please without having to talk to anyone. You really can’t put a price on freedom.

Food

When you are new to Thailand and you don’t speak the language, ordering food can be a pain, especially if you have dietary restrictions. I don’t have any dietary restrictions, and it was still stressful to figure out how to order food when I first got here. You will go to a restaurant and the menu will be in Thai, so you’re pretty much playing Russian roulette by ordering something based on the picture or the one with the minimal Thai words that you’ve recently learned. You will hope it will be delicious or at least edible, and sometimes when I did do this, the food was amazing. Other times, I didn’t get so lucky.

Western food is a lot more expensive in Thailand, but it is still a nice treat once in a while.

Thailand food selection was something I had to adjust to a lot! In Canada I did not eat much Thai food besides the occasional Pad Thai, so everything here in Thailand was very new to me. At first, I was very reluctant to try new cuisines because at times I can be very picky about food. Also, Thai people love spice, and I hate it. It was definitely a sharp learning curve for me, getting to know all the Thai cuisines, but now there are so many new dishes I love.

Another thing: Thai people also LOVE sugar so if you’re like me and thought you would get to Thailand and lose weight without dieting or exercising, then give up the dream now. It might not be like that.

Transportation

Thailand’s transportation is generally super easy and convenient. There is a train or bus that can get you to anywhere in Thailand for very cheap. If you are ever in Bangkok, the BTS system is years ahead of any transportation in Canada, and I love transportation here. It’s very easy to get around in Thailand, so if that was ever a stress of yours, I hope I put that to rest.

I should note that I have never ridden a motorbike before and neither do I have my driver’s license back home in Canada. However, getting a bike seemed like the most logical thing to do once I got to Thailand, so I got one. Getting a motorbike is super easy: all you need is a passport, cash and *boom* you can rent a bike virtually anywhere! I rented my bike for approximately $60 (Canadian dollars) a month and gas ran me around $4 a week. So overall, it is super affordable and easy to get a bike in Thailand, and remember to be safe (i.e wearing your helmet, not drinking and driving)! Navigating the streets of Thailand is really not a problem, except for in Bangkok. Driving in that city would be pure chaos. Just take the transit system there!

Reality

There is such a difference between reading about Thailand and actually living in Thailand. Facebook and Instagram can be super deceiving. You see posts of your friends feeding elephants, and drinking Pina Colada on the beach and you think, “Wow everyday in Thailand must be like paradise.” To an extent, living in Thailand is its own form of paradise, but people also forget that Thailand is a big country filled with more than just elephants and beaches. If you are coming to Thailand to teach English, you might be placed somewhere in the middle of the country, not just at the beach.

The best advice I can give to you is to be open-minded and to embrace the cultural experience you will undoubtedly have. There are plenty of opportunities to travel (like long weekends or school breaks). So don’t think you have to be on an island teaching in order to enjoy Thailand.  

Living abroad can get lonely and culture shock can be significant and real. But believe me, the pros will outweigh the cons, and you will get over culture shock no matter how bad it gets! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and when you embrace the good and the bad, you will reflect on this experience later in life, and you will be more than glad that you did it.

In Hua Hin, celebrating Songkran (Thai New Year) with my XploreAsia family

So now that you know everything there is to know about my life in Thailand. What are you waiting for? Book your flight now!  

You can also check out Shanoira’s Youtube channel where you can have a more detailed overview of her adventures in Thailand and additional tips for teaching english in abroad. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us in XploreAsia, we would love to hear from you! 

Life After Teaching Abroad

Life After Teaching Abroad

Teaching in Thailand is truly a life-changing experience that could shape and inspire you in so many ways. We love to hear stories from our participants: everything from why they chose to come to Thailand, their favourite teaching memories, their daily challenges and joys, and how the experience has changed their lives.

Making a living can sometimes feel separate from taking advantage of all life has to offer.  It can be difficult to find balance and fulfillment within a career path itself, and often, we find that this search for passion-driven work is exactly what draws our wonderful participants to come teach abroad. The lessons that are learned both in and out of the classroom, for the teacher and the students alike, hold incredible value.  As a teacher, you not only make a difference in the lives of your students and your community, but you also discover your own unique set of skills and strengths that you’ll carry with you for life.

We had the wonderful opportunity to talk with one of our incredible participants Jessica Melton. Jessica taught for one year in Pranburi and is now returning to Thailand to teach at a larger school in Chonburi. Here, she reflects upon her experiences in Pranburi and how teaching in Thailand has influenced her career path.  


Where in Thailand did you teach?

I taught for one year at TreamudomSuksaPattanakarn School in a small town 30 minutes south of Hua Hin, named Pranburi. The school has about 1,200 students.

What grades did you teach & how many students did you have?

I taught Matthayom 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and I had a little over 500 students.  Most of my students were between 12-18 years old.

Classroom Picture Jessica Melton
Jessica Melton students
 
What are some of your memorable teaching moments? 

Sometimes as a teacher, it is difficult to know how much information your students actually retain from your lessons. At the end of the school year, I was curious to see how much information my students truly understood.

To test them for their final exam, I decided to assign them a group video project. There were about 5 students in each group and the only directions I gave them was that each student must choose an emotion to act out throughout their whole video. I gave them 2 class periods to work on creating and editing their scripts with my help.

I was so impressed by how much effort they put into making these videos, how they incorporated my teaching material in their storylines, and how hard they made me laugh. I started crying out of happiness, and I felt a huge sense of fulfillment.The videos ranged from remakes of “Miss Universe” to “I Can See Your Voice” that include dialogue about fashion, exercise, directions, music, and various other topics.

Jessica Melton students

There are also all the small moments that I look forward to each day. Whenever my students walk into class I play music that we can all dance or sing to. Before class starts we have a dance party, or a singing session, or I have them show me the latest Thai dance trends, and I reciprocate by attempting to show the latest American dance trends. Usually when I’m finishing up my class, we try to talk about our lives outside of school.

Wai Jessica Melton

For me, it is important find every way I can to relate to my students in order to give them motivation to communicate with me. Before and after class is where the real cultural exchange happens. Looking forward to those small moments is a big reason why I am excited to go to work in the morning.

Why did you decide to teach in Thailand and how has the experience influenced your career path?

Prior to teaching in Thailand, I worked at a software company for about 2 years. Everyday I woke up, went to the office, sat in a chair, and didn’t see the sun for 8-9 hours. As the sun was going down, I’d leave the office and either head to my cross-fit class or go grab a beer with friends. Specifically for me, I felt like I wasn’t able to use my funny and quirky personality to make advancements in my career because I didn’t feel fulfilled with that type of work.

Jessica Jamming Band Hua Hin

At the end of the day I was drained. I knew I needed to be able to utilize my passion for really connecting with people and using humor to do so.

I knew I needed to make a drastic change to shock myself back into living a personally fulfilling lifestyle that I had back in college. I felt like I needed to take on responsibilities that I truly cared about and Thailand was that perfect shock! 

What has teaching in Thailand taught you about work-life balance and finding value in what you do?
Exploring friends Jessica Melton

In Thailand, I have really come to value living in open air spaces and how much the sun can influence my attitude and energy levels. Sure, I have my days where I just want to collapse on my bed after a hard day of teaching and find a new Netflix show to watch, but most days I feel that my students and the sun give me more energy to exert after-school.

While living here, I taught myself how to play the guitar, I attended Thai language lessons twice a week, and sometimes, I even had the energy to exercise after a day of working on my feet.

I also joined the Bangkok Women’s Rugby Team and have played in a couple on international tournaments against ASEAN teams. Basically being exposed to fresh air and the sun does wonders for your soul and well-being (and wearing sunscreen, of course). 

Jessica Melton rugby team

My environment gives me the energy to use my funny and loud teacher persona. The weirder and sillier I am in class, the more my students pay attention to the words coming out of my mouth.

I’ve started to understand that working in an environment that allows my personality to thrive gives me the energy to continue working on my personal goals after the work day ends.

Teaching can be very tough, and I’ve experienced several mental blocks and the “push and pull” of growing up in a western culture but loving a culture so different from my own.

At times, it can be hard to navigate what I want in the future because of this, but I am learning more about what I want and don’t want in my life to be with each coming day and experience.

Rugby Jessica Melton
Since teaching in Thailand, what do you currently do for work? How did your experience in Thailand shape this decision?  

Since starting my experience teaching in Thailand, I have never reached a point where I felt like my time here was done. Although I have finished up my 1 year contract with my school in Pranburi, I will continue teaching English at a new and much larger school in Chonburi, and then we’ll see what the future has in store for me!

Where is your favourite place to travel in Thailand?

Krabi was the first place I fell in love with because of how much it reminds me of Avatar. I went on the most beautiful hike that led to a breathtaking view of a dozen islands. Although I lived in Pranburi for a year, I will never get sick of driving around on my motorcycle and exploring the roads. I think Pranburi will always be my favorite place in Thailand.

Overlook Jessica Melton
Off a ledge Jessica Melton
And last, but not least, what advice would you offer prospective teachers or anyone considering taking this step?

Just do it. Take a chance on yourself! Being scared is a good thing because when you make it to the other side of that fear, you will respect yourself so much. Find yourself by getting lost and throwing yourself in new situations where you need to trust and rely on your own abilities.


Thank you so much, Jessica! We loved what you said about working in an environment that allows your personality to grow. While we know more than anything that teaching is hard work, we also know that the experience provides so many valuable opportunities and incredible experiences that open countless doors down the road. We are inspired by your spirit and passion for teaching, and we look forward to hearing about all of the amazing adventures and accomplishments ahead for you.

Curious on how you can start your own adventure abroad? Read all about our amazing programs here

Teach in Thailand: A Day in the Life of An English Teacher

Teach in Thailand: A Day in the Life of An English Teacher

Signing up to be an English teacher in Thailand requires courage, a sense of adventure, and the dedication to make a difference in the lives of your students. But actually living the experience goes even further than that! You might find that not only will you change the lives of those in your community and school, but the experience will also broaden your horizons and help to shape you as an individual.  

We had the chance to ask one of our participants Bronson Taiapa about his daily life as an English teacher in Thailand. Bronson was one of our TESOL course participants last April, and he started teaching in Isaan, Thailand, last May. Since then, he’s loved it so much that he is now in his second year as an English teacher in Thailand. Here, we chat with Bronson about his daily life in Isaan and how teaching in Thailand continues to inspire him!  


 

How did you decide to teach in Thailand?

I was a screen-printer for several years back in New Zealand, and I needed a change in my work. I wanted to try something that scares me and since I don’t like talking in public, I thought I’d try teaching. Thailand is an amazing place and luckily, it was the place I could go to learn to teach.

Where in Thailand do you teach English?

I teach in Sawang Daen Din, Sakon Nakhon, Isaan. It’s in the western part of a province of Northeast Thailand. 

How many students/grades do you teach?

I teach 2 grades: Mathayom 4 from 4/1 -16, and half of Mathayom 6 (High-school). I have about 960 students, give or take 10 or 20 students.

Teacher Bronson Student
Could you walk us through an average day in your life as a teacher?

An average day would begin with waking up at about 6:45am, getting ready and being at school by 7.40am. School always starts with assembly at 8am, but I’m not expected to be there, so most of the time I just go to my classroom and set up for the first lesson at 8:25am.

Teacher Bronson the Dab

I usually have 2 or 3 classes after lunch, my last class ending about 2:50pm, or I have one that ends at 3:40pm. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a few kids that come in and practice their English with me and with one another. It’s usually a pretty relaxed session – no stress, just practice, and on those days, we finish at around 5:30pm.

We usually have 2 classes, then a small 25 minute break, which I’ll usually use to eat some breakfast (usually fruit from the cafeteria). We have another 2 classes after that, and then lunch.

During lunch I occasionally like to walk around and talk to students or play sports (if it’s not too hot, and if I’m not sweating too much by that stage).

On other days, I get lunch and go to my classroom to eat. I’ll usually find some students sitting there for the next class, but mostly they’re there to escape the heat outside, so I generally put on a movie, and we’ll sit and chill while I eat.

Teacher Bronson Students

On the other days, however, I’m usually home, out of my work gear, and relaxing by 4:30pm. Sometimes I’ll play basketball with my students around 5pm when it has cooled down.

What do you enjoy most about teaching English in Thailand?

Having fun with the kids definitely. They’re awesome! 

Conversely, what are some challenges you face as a teacher?

 Holidays. As great as they are, they made the second semester very difficult to test my students and get grades for them. 

Teacher Bronson with his students

Classroom management is also always a challenge for me. If you give them an inch, most times they’ll take a mile; this is a challenge for me because I don’t like raise my voice to my kids or even punish them. It’s a lesson I’m still learning.

How has teaching in Thailand influenced your career path and shaped you as a person?  

I’ve become a more confident person in social situations. I’ve found that if I am 100 percent committed to something, I can do the things I used to doubt I could do. I think I’ve become more inspired to travel and teach and learn about other interesting cultures.

Teacher Bronson Student

Thank you so much, Bronson! We loved learning about your daily life as an English teacher in Isaan, Thailand. You are so clearly passionate about making a difference in the lives of your students and in the community. We are impressed and inspired by the work that you do!

I’m curious to know: what are some of your questions about teaching in Thailand? What would you like to know about life in Thailand as an English teacher? In what ways do you think that teaching in Thailand will challenge and inspire you?

Ready to start your own adventure living and teaching abroad? Check out some of our incredible programs here.

Tips for Lesson Planning and Classroom Management

Tips for Lesson Planning and Classroom Management

Teach in Thailand

So you’ve finished your TESOL course and you’re ready to start your placement teaching English at a school in Thailand! Armed with lesson plans and engaging activities, you feel ready to tackle any challenge in the classroom. But what happens when your lessons don’t go as planned? Or you’re faced with an unexpected number of students? What are some of the ways to quickly adapt and change in a new environment? 

Recently, we had the chance to talk to David and Khensi, who are both teachers at a school here in Hua Hin. Here, we chat with them about the individual challenges and joys they have in the classroom, tips and strategies for classroom management, and advice they have for incoming teachers!

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David:

Could you walk us through what you do in your TESOL teaching placement?

My situation is an interesting one, as I am my school’s EP (English Program)  computer teacher. However, I was trained as an English teacher with XploreAsia, and before that, I had no teaching experience. Some schools will provide a curriculum, textbooks, and lesson plans for their teachers. For my school, there’s nothing for the computer program: no curriculum or a desired end goal. So it was my responsibility to create the curriculum, the topics, and the overall course goals. 

How many classes do you teach?

My school has only one computer teacher, meaning I was responsible for every student enrolled in the EP program. The semester I started, the EP program consisted of M1 to M5, and in the current year (2017), it will include M6. It was a challenge coming up with what to teach each grade, as I had no real insight into what the students learned the previous semester, other than from a few midterms, exams, and tasks that I was able to find from the previous computer teacher.

Students English Camps

Students at our English immersion camps, where our TESOL course participants gain hands-on teaching experience!

How did you tackle the particular challenges of your teaching job in Thailand?

I was able to create a curriculum, consisting of Java programming language, Photoshop, basic networking, html/css, JavaScript, and After Effects. At least that was the initial plan. The biggest challenge was the language barrier. Teaching students about concepts relating to the programming world in a foreign language was difficult. The best way to deal with it is to take it slow. Be willing to slow down even more than you think is necessary. I didn’t at first, but after a while, my lessons became slower. I covered less in each lesson, and they were able to follow along a little easier. So the training [in your TESOL course] to have you speak slower, verbalize through emotion and actions, is incredibly useful and applicable. 

How do you create structure in a rowdier classroom or when students misbehave?

When students misbehave, I call out their name, and sometimes ask them to stop. When they don’t, I’ll close my gap between myself and them. Looking into their eyes for a period of time can win you a victory, simply through awkwardness. In some of your classes, that may not be effective at all, so you may have to find other tactics.

I’ve found that keeping a strong presence in the classroom, such as being ‘everywhere’ in the room and having your voice projected around the room, can be effective. A lot of the tactics for classroom management that you learn in XploreAsia are great: tapping on a student’s desk, calling their names, standing next them, asking the students questions, etc. 

Honestly, have fun. That’s the best thing you can do. 

David's Teaching Tips
What are some of your teaching tips that you can offer prospective and incoming teachers?

Tip #1

Teach slowly. Some individuals will be teaching at private schools, so you’ll have incredibly bright students whose possession of the English language is strong. Teaching slowly would not apply in this case.

Teaching slowly is good as it allows the students to follow along, although you do have to keep track of the stronger students who do not benefit from slow teaching. Have them help the others, possibly through translating (this is more towards teaching non-English classes), or by writing on the board for you. 

Tip #2

Get to know your students. This is personally my favourite part of teaching, as they will appreciate you more if you see them as people and not as simply teenagers (or children).

You’ll also get a good grasp of where each student’s issues may lie and where their strengths can be found. This goes a long way in helping them learn.

Be patient. Take a breath when things irk you. Remember that they are young and you were in their shoes once. It’s not about you, it’s about them. 

What advice do you have for anyone coming to teach English in Thailand? 

Be prepared to potentially be in a position with big responsibilities and with a big say in the students’ education. It’s a big challenge, but a rewarding one. My advice, at least if you’re in a similar situation, is to teach something you know about or have an interest in. You’ll be able to learn on the go, even if you don’t feel confident with your knowledge.

Decide what you ultimately want the students to do (if it’s a big task at the end of the semester, like design their own website). After that, it’ll be a lot easier to figure out the general course path. You’ll be able to envision what your semester will look like, week to week, lesson to lesson, task to task. 

If you’re in a similar situation, take advantage of the fact that you’re teaching in Thailand, as their relaxed nature allows you to make mistakes, and improve at a pace that’s not rushed. 

________________________________________________________________________

Khensi: 

Teaching Tip #1: At the beginning of some of my (difficult) classes, I usually write down the time that I am prepared to end the class – be it 5, 7 or (rarely) 10 minutes early. And if the kids don’t behave or make noise, I add minutes to the time and that way not only do the students behave, but they also police or scold the students who are disrupting the class because ultimately everyone’s behaviour affects the fate of the class.

So if they become noisy 11:05, I’ll shift the time to 11:07, and so forth. If they end up leaving at a normal or later time, they have only each other to blame. The goal for the students then becomes getting through the lesson as best as possible with the reward of an early release. 

Teaching Tip #2: Another classroom management tactic is threatening the kids with point/score deductions. Usually the disruptive kids are the ones who can’t afford any sort of drop in their grades, and so by making this threat, the students are likely to take it seriously.

Sometimes, I’ll even walk around the class with the class list and if a student misbehaves I make eye contact with them and pretend as though I’m deducting points off of their scores.

Unbeknownst to them, I’m simply just making a dot next to their name. Once I do it with the first or second student, the rest of the class sees that I mean business, and I end up with a rather well-behaved class. 

Khensi's Teaching Tips

Teaching Tip #3: As a means of keeping the students on their toes and not letting the structure of the class be predictable, every once in a while I swap the front row students with those in the back row. Usually where a student decides to sit in every class influences how involved they want to be in the lesson.

Once I become familiar with a class in the sense that I can tell who wants to participate and who doesn’t, I start shifting kids around and breaking up familiar patterns and groups.

Khensi and her students

Khensi with a few of her students!

This usually involves instructing the shy and/or disruptive students to sit in the front rows just so that they are more inclined to listen and participate. 

I do this every now and then at the beginning of the lesson. Even if the naughty ones are likely to be late, I make sure I have a few empty seats in the front row waiting for their arrival.


Thank you so much for all your advice, David and Khensi! We are so inspired by the work that you do, and we know that you are changing lives through your commitment to your students. 

I’d love to hear from you! Have you taught before? What are some of your tips for classroom management? What have you always been interested in teaching but haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet? 

Are you ready to take that first step into teaching abroad? Check out our amazing TESOL course options and programs here.

Survival Tips for New English Teachers in Thailand

Survival Tips for New English Teachers in Thailand

Moving to a new country to teach is vastly exciting, but it can also be a little scary, simply because it is hard to know what to expect. Here are a few tips to help make the adjustment to living and working here in Thailand as an English teacher a bit easier!

 

Written by Stella Saintis


1. Keep an open mind

Try and remember that you are living in a different country that may have customs and ways of doing things that are the complete opposite of what you are used to. This can make adjusting to life in Thailand hard at times but ultimately very rewarding. Instead of wishing for the life you had back home, look at everyday as a new adventure. In Thailand, you can really experience wonderful and new things that make this country amazing. Many of the small quirks of Thai people or life in Thailand that may initially really bother you could turn out to be the very things you miss the most once you leave!

 

2. Be Flexible

When you first start out at your school, you may be used to how things operate in your home country. I was previously a teacher in Chicago before moving to Thailand, and therefore, I had some expectations about the way a school works. I had to learn pretty quickly to throw all of my previous experiences out of the window and accept that things would just be different. If you get a job in a Thai school, let go of your expectations for learning about events in a timely manner, having your schedule be the same from day to day, or even the expectation of knowing what you may be doing later that day. I would regularly show up to school only to find out that all my classes were cancelled for the day, or I would go to one of my scheduled classes only to be asked to go and teach a whole different set of students. Now that I work at an International School in Bangkok, things operate in a way more in line with what I would expect in the States, but I still have to be super flexible since I work with a large Thai staff that is just used to doing things a certain way. And that’s ok! If you let go of those expectations, you won’t be stressed when things change suddenly.

children in Thai school

 Lay Krathong is a festival that is celebrated in a month of November and translates “to float a basket”. Kids in school made their own Krathong and floated them down the river for good luck and fortune.

children in Thai school

3. Embrace the Thai language

Knowing a little bit of Thai goes a long way in the Land of Smiles. Even if you are living and working in a part of Thailand that has a larger expat community (and therefore, more people speak your language), the locals might not have the same level of English. Make an effort to at least learn greetings, numbers (this makes shopping and bargaining a lot easier), names of food, and phrases to help you get around (such as directions and how to get home in a taxi). While you can get by on hand gestures, miming or Google Translate for a time, your life will be much, much easier if you take the time to learn a little Thai – you are in Thailand after all! XploreAsia does provide some instruction in Thai when you first arrive, and I encourage you to really pay attention; it really is quite helpful in leading a happier life here.

5. Eat the street food

Some people are quite reluctant when they arrive in Thailand to eat the street food since they fear it will get them sick. I have been living in Thailand for about a year and a half, and I eat street food most days out of the week and have only gotten sick one time. If you do the math on that, the odds of getting sick from street food are very low. Once you get over that fear, you will learn to love the delicious local street food that is not only yummy but also so affordable! Knowing some Thai helps when ordering food as well because you can inquire about certain ingredients that make up dishes (especially good if you have any allergies!).

English Teachers in Thailand

Even if you hear a constant giggle every time you try to speak in Thai to your students, they appreciate it more than you will ever know! 

6. Know what helps you de-stress

Having worked as a teacher in the US and now as a teacher in both a Thai school and an International school in Thailand, I can confidently say that the jobs I have had here are a lot more stress free than the one I had in Chicago. That being said, adjusting to a new country and starting a new job at the same time is something that is bound to be stressful in the beginning. Before coming to Thailand, take some time to think about the things that help you de-stress. Maybe it is talking to a friend, exploring your new surroundings, reading a book, listening to music, or meditating. Whatever it is that helps you when you get stressed out, make sure to turn to that person or thing when your life in Thailand becomes overwhelming.


I hope these tips are helpful for those thinking of moving to teach in Thailand or those who have just made the leap. Thailand is an incredible country that has so much to offer if you just open your mind and your heart to the experience!

To get more advice about travelling and teaching in Thailand, check out Stella`s blog www.stellasout.com.

Are you working as an English Teacher in Thailand? How did your first week go in your new school and what kind of advice you would give? Comment below, as we would love to hear from you!

Making a Difference as an English Teacher in Thailand

Making a Difference as an English Teacher in Thailand

Have you ever wondered if you can actually make a positive difference as an English teacher abroad? We are so proud to bring you the story of Jazz McClure, an XploreAsia alumni who truly embraced an opportunity to make a change in her students lives, and took getting involved in a community to another level by planning, rehearsing, and performing a musical with her students!

I got my TESOL certification this past October in Chiang Mai. Currently, I’m teaching at a secondary school in Isaan, in Sakhon Nakon province. My semester has been rigorous, but I’ve loved it. This is exactly what I was looking for in coming to Thailand. I hold a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, and hope to pursue graduate studies, but I find myself teetering on my options (a career in ESL being one of them). I wanted to get a feel for this line of work before jumping into my masters. Yet after this experience, it feels right to continue teaching abroad for a while. I’m leaving Thailand after this semester though, and am going to look for work in Korea.

They learned all their lines in English, 7 songs and dances, and helped make all the props. I’m mighty proud of them!”

Jazz McClure

English Teacher in Isaan, Thailand

What inspired you to do the musical? Have you done something similar before?

Yes! I was heavily involved in the theatre when I was in high school. So from the minute I got here I had been looking for ways to get involved with the students musically. But after failing to find any type of choir or music club, I started to feel like there just wasn’t an opportunity. Thank god for Fallon, though. Hailing from the UK, she’s another new teacher who also comes from a theatre background. One Friday night, over a few cold ones on our balcony, we hatched this hazy idea to do our own musical. The veteran teachers said the kids would love it, and suggestions began spilling from all of us faster than we could keep up with. I went to sleep that night with my brain swirling in ideas, hoping that we could somehow pull this off.

making a difference as an english teacher

 

The cheerleaders, who even choreographed their own cheer for the show!

How did your students and fellow teachers react to the activity? Where they excited straight away, or did it require some convincing first?

Oh, I’m laughing as I write this! Let’s just say that musicals are NOT a thing in Thailand. So yes, the idea required a lot of convincing! I think the concept of singing and dancing to songs that are a part of the story was strange to them. We actually had to go into our classrooms and pitch the show to the students, telling them they would get extra credit if they joined. At first, they seemed so unenthused, but after one or two students said they’d do it, more and more kept running to the office like, “Teacher! I want to do the musical too!” That went on for weeks!

Teacher Fallon with Best, who played Ms. Darbus

Can you elaborate on what the activity consisted in?

Who was involved in the planning and execution of the process?

After weighing our options, we decided to do a simplified version of High School Musical. The songs are easy, the English is reasonable, it appeals to a young audience, it teaches students about the culture of their American counterparts, and the kids could wear their own clothes for costumes (hands in the air for a $15 production!) Yet even with a simple story, getting it all together was not easy. We wrote a script, cut songs, added songs, played with harmonies, and held auditions. I made a proposal to my boss, who translated to the higher powers and asked if we could have stage time for rehearsals. I think he was cynical at first about being able to pull the show off, but once he saw how invested the students were, he was incredibly supportive, and even started coming to rehearsals to watch.  

How often and when did you do the rehearsals, and how did you manage to find extra time?

We started practicing at the end of November, and just performed the show on Valentine’s Day. When classes were cancelled for things like Sports Week, we’d have big group rehearsals. For the main characters, we practiced mostly during lunch, or whenever they had free time. Sometimes, it was when they came running to the office with lyrics in hand and only 10 minutes to spare! After we could run the whole show, we started rehearsing on the stage after school. We usually stayed for about an hour 3-4 nights a week.

How do you think this has made a difference in your students’ lives?

The three M6 students in the show. They were really glad to so something like this the year they graduated!

I think it’s made a huge difference in their lives. First off, it must be hard for them to build relationships with their foreign teachers. The Thai school system usually sees a new foreign teacher every semester and, since the students are shy, having a stranger in the classroom every six months must be challenging. The musical was a good way for them to shake their shyness and feel comfortable with us. It also was our way to show them that we cared enough to spend an extra ten hours a week with them!

Bonding aside, the show forced them to speak a lot of English. They were exposed to new vocabulary, both about American high schools and about the theatre, and got to dabble in expressions that young English speakers use all the time.

In what way did you see the difference and growth in your students throughout the rehearsals and after the performance?

There is one student who envelops this the most. The M4 boy we cast to play Ryan was hesitant to accept the role; he didn’t think he was good enough to play the part. Even during rehearsals, he was always doubting his capacity. Fallon and I were always encouraging him, and that combined with unwavering support from the other students helped him have some faith in himself. As we neared the end of rehearsals, he and the girl playing Sharpay were stealing the show! Every time we did a run-through, they would add some new pose or reaction to different scenes, and by the time we performed, some of the funniest things in the show were things Fallon and I didn’t even stage. Seeing our Ryan so uplifted by his friends and watching his development into this super awesome character filled me with unspeakable pride.

making a difference as an english teacher in Thailand

Check out this inspirational video that Teacher Jazz put together of High Thai School Musical!

Would you like to do this again? Would you encourage other teachers to do something similar?

Yes, I would. It was the unrivalled, absolute best part of my time here. And yes, I suggest other teachers do the same! I know it’s hard when there really isn’t a process to start your own activity at the school, but if you’re passionate about it, the Thai teachers will see that and they will help you. They want what’s best for the students, too. When we were finished with the show, they kept thanking us for taking time do to that with the kids. My advice is to find something you love and try to share it with them. There are so many things that would resonate with these kids: a sports club, an art club, a chess club, a theatre club, a glee club…even an anime club! If you can find your fit, you’ll amplify your relationships with your students and see how truly awesome they can be…and maybe even convince them of their own awesomeness, too!

Living and Teaching Abroad as a Couple

Living and Teaching Abroad as a Couple

 

 

Obviously, any pair that embarks on a journey together, from friends to couples will grow a bond that is undeniably stronger from when you began. The things you encounter in Thailand alone, are just sometimes unexplainable to the western world. These memories and moments are things you will share with your partner for life. 

 

Living and teaching abroad as a couple can be a unique and rewarding experience that is sure to bring you both closer together and teach you things about each other you never knew you needed to know.

That being said, an adventure of this sort definitely comes with a set of challenges that may test your relationship in ways you never anticipated. However, the rewards can be great when you learn how to roll with the punches and find creative ways to deal with the different issues you may be faced with as you begin life with your partner in a new country.

This blog will feature stories from the perspective of three different couples who decided to embark on this journey and take the leap towards a life changing adventure that shaped their lives forever.

Beth and Mike
Mike and I met each other in Nelson, New Zealand. We were both staying at the same hostel and our friendship just never stopped growing! That was almost 9 years ago.

After returning to Canada, we battled a long-distance relationship for a while, all whilst knowing we wanted to be together but didn’t want the cookie cutter lifestyle that we were feeling pressured to follow at home. I had explored the idea of teaching overseas for sometime and once I shared this with Mike, he was sold.

We quickly realized after being placed in Amphawa, Thailand, the lack of English speaking connections was causing a lot of pressure at home to “entertain” each other. We really needed to find things that we could do on our own that the other could support yet not necessarily take part in. We had to be mindful of each other’s journey…

It took a month or two for us to find the roles we needed to play in each other’s lives here, as they differ greatly from the norms of home. Living with your partner is one thing, but adding in school and after hours with the same person everyday brings forth new challenges.

Obviously, any pair that embarks on a journey together, from friends to couples will grow a bond that is undeniably stronger from when you began. The things you encounter in Thailand alone, are just sometimes unexplainable to the western world. These memories and moments are things you will share with your partner for life. 

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

Mike and I have grown tremendously as a couple. We are both so much more aware of our own, and each other’s needs. Being secluded with someone you love in an unfamiliar land brings a sense of terrifying adventure. It can go either way – crash and burn or hit some turbulence and keep going. There isn’t a smooth sail and we know that. We are both so proud of one another for overcoming so much already and are excited to continue growing as teachers and as individuals! We love XploreAsia and all the opportunities it has provided us!

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

Enrico and Philippa
We both attended the same farewell back in 2012. I went there with another girl, one of Philippa’s close friends actually and had no idea whose bash I was attending. We sat across from each other and spoke every now and again.

A couple of days later, I found her on Twitter and sent her a private message. We chatted during a hectic exam period and then met up after that for a drink and the rest is history.

We had hit a rough patch and felt like things were stagnating on both an individual and collective basis. We were both unhappy with life in South-Africa and after successfully travelling together the year before, we were unsettled in our birthplace. We spoke about moving abroad from the moment we got home the previous year and the topic simply did not fade away.

After this feeling continued for well over a year, we knew we needed a change, but something completely different. Not the typical move to London like every other 20-something South-African does, something and somewhere that was uncharted by our circle of friends and colleagues in order for it to be just the two of us. After some initial discussion, we settled on Thailand.

If I had to offer any advice to a couple considering moving abroad I would say….  It is so cliché, but take the plunge. It doesn’t matter what state your relationship currently is in; happy or going through a rough patch, this experience is unbelievably refreshing for one’s soul and sharing it with the person you love makes it even more special. The love you’ll receive from the Thai people -your students especially- is so overwhelmingly amazing. It’s unconditional nature is like nothing you’ve ever likely to have experienced before. Your relationship will also reach new heights, it’s almost as if you’re reliving that honeymoon phase when you were new lovebirds.

You’re likely to face the same issues as those who come here on their own such as the initial steps in making the decision to move abroad, homesickness and tough days at the office. From my experience being here with a partner makes each problem significantly smaller and easier to deal with.

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

This path we have taken with XploreAsia has helped us get back to where we were before, when our relationship was healthy. From the airport pickup to the activities during the orientation week to eventually becoming actual teachers and living life to its full potential, have all been part of a process that has helped us find more meaning to life. It hasn’t been about discovering ourselves, but rather a path of rediscovery.

This experience has made us unconditionally happy with the beauty that comes from living a simple life outside your comfort zone. We’re so grateful that XploreAsia held our hand back onto this path and are always a little behind us for a nudge in the right direction should we need one.

Emilie and Melvin
We met each other in college at a mutual friend’s birthday dinner. We hit it off the night we met and have been inseparable ever since!

Our community has been very supportive of our relationship. Both our friends and family were very excited when we first started seeing each other, and I believe their support and love have been growing ever since.

But as for Thailand, it has been an interesting experience. Not to say that it is a norm, but it is more common to find a farang (foreign) male and a Thai female. We happen to resemble the opposite. Since I look Thai, many Thailand natives give us strange looks or stare when they see us together.

We have definitely learned a lot of new things about each other. When you get two people moving across the world completely out of their comfort zone, there are going to be uncomfortable moments and we learn what really makes each of us feel uncomfortable and how to help each other through it to become a stronger person. Melvin definitely has too much energy in the mornings when getting ready for school.

The biggest challenge is not always knowing what to say to the other when they are feeling down or  or just homesick. You want to comfort the other but sometimes just being sad or feeling a little down is just part of life and it means you’re human. And we know that those negative feelings will pass. Normally, one of us just needs food or a nap.

Cultivating a relationship in a “safe” or normal environment where everyone is just comfortable is, in my opinion, not the best way to build a relationship. Life has a way of throwing curve balls and making things difficult. Working together to get through rough patches and challenging situations really becomes a testament to the strength of the relationship. We didn’t embark on this journey to test our relationship, but as a way to strengthen our bond, knowing that after this, we can make it through anything. But we didn’t get into this to be in seclusion from everyone else! My suggestion is don’t just always spend time with just your significant other. Still go out there together and make friends! The friends we have made during this experience have been one of the best parts of this whole journey.

Although this journey has had its challenges, it has all been worth it. Irreplaceable memories created on the other side of the globe in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

How We Found Love While Teaching in Thailand

How We Found Love While Teaching in Thailand

All You Need is Love..

 

But a Little Help From XploreAsia Doesn’t Hurt!

Connections can form quickly when embarking on an unknown adventure, spending hours lesson planning and learning to be teachers. Other times bonds form during long bus rides, spontaneous adventures or even just at a local bar. Meet just some of our couples who happened to do just that and fall in love while teaching in Thailand.

Avery and Cole teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand 
Cole and I met outside of the Hua Hin mall on the first day of our XploreAsia TESOL course in June, 2015. I had just graduated and he had recently decided that there was more to life than a desk job. Our conversations throughout the course made me feel like home wasn’t halfway around the world and we kept in touch once we moved to our respective placements. We traded stories and words of encouragement with each other. After traveling to Cambodia with mutual friends, we decided to be placed together for the next semester. Fast forward through our teaching adventures in Nakhon Nayok, volunteering in Nepal, and romping around Asia to this fall when we moved to Spain. Here, we’re continuing to teach English, navigate the wonders of a new culture, and yearn for more khao soi together. Thank you, XploreAsia for all your help and support!

teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

Amy and Sean teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

In September 2015, I arrived in Thailand with one of my best friends to do the XploreAsia TESOL course. The plan was to teach for a semester or two and travel as much as we could in that time before heading back home to Canada. Turns out, things don’t always go the way you expect.  I met Sean a couple of weeks into the TESOL course in Hua Hin, and we got to know each other talking in the halls on the course, on beach days, and nights out. On the day that I was leaving for my placement, we went on our first “date” and then had to say goodbye.

Sean was placed in Ang Thong Province, about an hour drive North of Bangkok, and I was placed in Hat Yai, in the far South. With the distance, I don’t think either of us expected that we would end up talking everyday. Like, all day…everyday.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in ThailandAfter being apart for almost two months, we met up in Phuket with a group of friends. And that was it! We then did everything we could to see each other at least every two weeks. We met up in Hat Yai, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Ang Thong and Malaysia throughout our placements. Once the semester came to an end, my parents came to visit, met my new, mysterious boyfriend, Sean, and we all travelled together for almost three weeks. We went back to Phuket, then to Koh Lanta, Krabi, and ended in Chiang Mai where Sean and I stayed for a while.

Fast-forward eight months, and we now live together in Newcastle in England, (Sean is British) and will be moving to Canada (I’m Canadian) in the summer later this year. I think I speak for both Sean and myself when I say Thailand, and the last year and a half, has not been what we expected. Lucky for us, it was more than we could have ever asked for. 

Morgan and Darren  teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
My name is Morgan. I’m 25 years old from Nova Scotia, Canada. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl so when I came to Thailand in April of 2016 to start the TESOL course through Xploreasia, I was beyond excited. Throughout the duration I was able to meet incredible souls from all over the world. I made great friendships with many other students in the program and made some especially close bonds with a smaller group. One of the people who made my experience truly special was a student from another group. His name was Darren and he was from Ireland.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in ThailandOur two groups of friends often overlapped and so Darren and I became pretty close. We were busy with the course and had our own agendas but anytime we happened to be together we always had a really great connection. When the course finished, I left for my position in Lampang (Northern Thailand) and he went off to his position in Bangkok. We kept in touch and usually heard from each other a few times a week to check in on one another. From that, a few times a week became nearly every day. That quickly turned into every day, and soon we messaged back and forth every day for most of the day. For our first long weekend I went to Bangkok to meet my group of girlfriends from the course and ended up seeing Darren just as much as I saw everyone else. Soon I was going to Bangkok to visit him for the weekend and after a time, he came up to Lampang to visit. We now often talk about his first visit to Lampang. We went to dinner and talked for hours at a small local Riverside Restaurant.
We have said since then that visit is when things really blossomed into more than we ever thought or expected it would. A relationship was something both of us were actually quite against when we first came to Thailand. But at this point, we both knew this was something a lot bigger.

That was in August. It is now almost 6 months later and he is the first person I message in the morning and the last person I talk to at night. Though we are 8 hours away, he never fails to make me feel loved, supported and helps me stay positive when the distance drives me crazy. We laugh and go on ridiculous adventures. We support and encourage each other and challenge each other to always be our best as teachers.

It has been so amazing to me how two people from opposite corners of the world could have such an incredible bond. I feel so lucky to have been able to find a person I call my best friend and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us and what adventures we will go on next.

Cameron and Janie teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand 
Cameron and I were both in the Hua Hin TESOL course for October 2015. Throughout the course, we became good friends: we lived across from each other, sat next to each other in class, and even worked as partners on the English camp day of the course.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

Cameron was always optimistic and lighthearted, so he was a great person to have around during such a crazy time. We were disappointed when we were placed so far away from each other; I was moving down south to Songkhla and he was headed East to Trat province. Luckily though, our TESOL group remained close, and we were able to meet up several times throughout the next semester. Fast forward a few months, we both decided that while we weren’t ready to leave Thailand, we needed a change, and we individually decided to move to Phuket. Over the March/April break from school, we ended up traveling through Vietnam and northern Thailand together and some friends and the rest is history! 10 months later, we are both still teaching in Phuket and we are now planning our next adventure together in Canada.

Jamie and Amien  teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand 
Amien and I met in Thailand and both participated in Xplore Asia but during different years. Amien had already been teaching in Phang Nga a full year before I arrived in 2013. Like all the classiest of love stories, we met at the only bar in our town (we taught at different schools).  We started to spend every afternoon together and before you know it, every afternoon turned into a year.  We had so much fun exploring Thailand from the islands in the South to the Mountains in the north. We also survived many visa runs together to Malaysia. Sitting next to someone on a bus for 16 hours and not wanting to kill them is a sign of true love.

After a little over a year, I returned back to the U.S (Austin, Texas) and Amien took a teaching job in China but we continued to Skype everyday. Amien came to Austin for awhile and then I met him in South Africa. However, we basically went months without seeing each other in person and it was hard (but worth it!). Finally in early 2016, Amien came to Austin and never left. Months later, Jamie and Amien tied the knot  and are now married! Thailand completely changed our lives. It not only allowed us to find each other, but allowed us to focus on ourselves. I now work in People Operations at Google, and Amien is pursuing his dream of personal training (All that Muay Thai!) in Austin, Texas. 

Our adventure continues beyond Thailand and I am forever grateful for this experience.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

And Sometimes, Your Perfect Match is Just Your Best Friend!

teaching in Thailand, making new friends in Thailand

 Samantha and Lauren,  Best Friends

The first month was pretty much a blur. We became extremely close very quickly. I held her hand while she sobbed into a burger at Burger King. She carried me across a street that was flooded (for her own benefit because she wanted fries that badly and didn’t want to go alone). But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. We would bicker. We both had strong accents (Londoner, and Welsh) and we’d both get frustrated with each other when we couldn’t understand each other. But the bickering always turned into laughter and that’s how I knew she was special.

 

The day came when we found out where we would be placed. We were apart. My heart broke. Lauren is placed in Phuket, and I’m in Krabi! Well that perked us both up and we were only 3 hours apart by bus. I wanted her 3 minutes apart from me. We had spent so much time together that first month, I couldn’t imagine life without her frizzy hair bobbing along by my side.

The time came for us to part. There were tears, promises and a slideshow of photographs of our time together. One month later, we reunited in Bangkok and I have never felt excitement like it. Waiting for her to come through those doors. I started to freak whenever I saw someone with a mop of curly afro hair. Finally, she came through those doors. Of course, she filmed it. Never gets off social media but I’m glad she did. The cheesy smile on her face, and my screams whilst I jumped on her was priceless.

I spent Christmas with her in Phuket and we celebrated New Year together on the island of Koh Tao. She is yet to visit me in Krabi. We can see who wear the trousers in this relationship and who does all the running around! Even though we aren’t together, we speak on the phone nearly every day and she was there for me 100% when I had a bad time at the start of the course.

James and Thomas, Best Friends

teaching in Thailand, making friends in ThailandWe got roomed together in H2 in Bangkok and just hit off from there really. We unfortunately didn’t get placed together in Hua Hin…but thanks to the wonderful and handsome, Jon Harman favors were exchanged and strings were pulled which ultimately led me and Tom sharing a room together in BSP in Hua Hin. Things just escalated so quickly… Now he’s in Trang and I’m in Bangkok, but we’re trying to make the most of it. They say it’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all… I don’t regret any of my time with him.

An update, finally.

An update, finally.

I’ve been in Thailand for just about a month now, and I have finally moved to my placement in Trang City and found an apartment! But let me back up just a second real quick.

The past month in Chiang Mai has been the longest shortest time of my life. I feel like I’ve been here forever and I’ve known my TESOL friends forever, but at the same time the month of April flew by just as I was warned it would. Let me first say, I feel so fortunate for the group that I had the pleasure of taking my TESOL course with, as well as the wonderful XploreAsia staff that made transitioning into life in Thailand so welcoming and smooth. Having a group of only 22 people made it easy to become close quickly and develop significant relationships with every single person in my group. I’m already becoming homesick for Chiang Mai and missing my friends, but it’s good to know that I have people all over the country and I’m confident that we will all see each other again soon.


#puakgoals

Without going into a crazy amount of detail, I want to try and briefly touch on some of the highlights of the past month:

Week one was orientation…if you haven’t already seen it, I posted a video compilation of a lot of what we did in just that week. We went to a rice plantation and planted rice, we took a muay thai lesson (Thai boxing), we got to visit Doi Suthep (a temple high up in the mountains of Chiang Mai), as well as a Tunnel Temple in Chiang Mai, and we took both Thai language and culture classes. The orientation activities began to ease us into realizing, yes we are actually in Thailand.


professional rice planters

Our first weekend, and our only real full weekend (we had some class on the weekends because of our songkran break), about 11 of us decided to go up North to Chiang Rai for the weekend. My friend, Aida, had been to this place called the Bamboo Nest before and highly recommended we go, even handling all the booking which made it really easy. We took the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and then had a couple hours to walk around Chiang Rai city and check out the White Temple before getting picked up to go to the Bamboo Nest. The Bamboo Nest is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. It was up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains. We had the place at capacity with the 11 of us and three other travelers that were there. There were 2 people to each small bamboo ‘nest’ – they were made entirely of bamboo, each with a balcony and a bamboo hammock. It was just peaceful and serene and unlike anywhere I’ve ever been in my life. We decided to go on a hike with Noi, the man that works at Bamboo Nest and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He spoke perfect English which he learned solely through speaking with guests over the years. Noi led us through the jungle and showed us how to cook rice, chicken, and eggs simply using bamboo. After our hike we took a boat to a small village and got to walk around and see their very minimal way of living. After everything we said our goodbyes and headed back to Chiang Mai.


if only pictures could do it justice…

Later that following week was Songkran. I also posted a video compilation in my last post from Songkran because I can’t even begin to explain in words how much fun this holiday is. We got two days off of class for Songkran, the Thai new year, which we spent on the streets of Chiang Mai engaging in water gun fights with every man, woman, and child we came in contact with. It was even more fun than it sounds.


greatest people, greatest holiday

In our second to last week, we had three days set aside where we got to actually teach! Because that is why I’m here, isn’t it! I got paired up with my friend Alex and we came up with a lesson plan on superheroes and a lesson plan on snacks. We went to two different schools, one very small school where we had a class of about 5 boys, and then one massive school where we had around 40 kids per class. It was crazy to finally get in the classroom, and although it definitely proved tough I think that everyone did a really great job. We got to spend some classes teaching, and others observing which was helpful because I’m definitely stealing great ideas from everyone else’s lessons! I entirely lost my voice, and then developed a cough which I still have two weeks later, but it got me even more excited for what’s to come once I start teaching.


strong like hulk

The last major thing we got to do, which I planned literally week one, was to go to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Almost everyone in our group came, about 14 of us, and we got to feed, bathe, pet, and walk with rescued elephants at the park. This park in particular is really special in that they make their visitors aware of the maltreatment of elephants all over Thailand. People should not ride elephants, elephants are badly broken and beaten in order to use to make money and entertain tourists, as well as carry out manual labor. All of the elephants at the park are rescue elephants, some have missing ears, broken bones, holes in their ears from hooks, and many are blind. It was really horrible to see, but also amazing because the elephants at the park are free to roam wherever they like and are treated as they should be, with kindness and respect. They are such gentle and smart creatures and it was surreal getting to actually meet so many of them. The park also has many other rescue animals – dogs, cats, water buffalo, goats, etc. Everyone had an inspiring and incredible day and I highly recommend this particular place if anyone is in Thailand and wants to get a chance to really interact with elephants.


note her broken foot from being beaten by her previous owner

Finally, in our last week we had our exam and graduation (and a screening of the season premiere of Game of Thrones on our classroom projector – obviously equally important). I’m really excited about my placement, and I got incredibly lucky because my best friend Baylee got placed in the same school as me! I’ll give a full description of my placement city, my apartment, and my school in the next post!


watch out Trang, here we come!

Written by: Lauren Ellman

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