fbpx
XploreAsia – Our Coronavirus Response

XploreAsia – Our Coronavirus Response

Are you teaching in Asia? Currently, looking at joining one of our programs? Coronavirus news making you anxious? Let us fill you in on how things are on the ground, and which options are still available to you. 

 As the safety of our teachers is our top priority, we would like to offer some advice for our current and prospective teachers.

 What We Know

Currently, there have been over 80,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, worldwide, with the vast majority of cases being in China where the infection is believed to have originated. COVID-19 is from the same family of viruses as the common flu and this new strain causes sufferers to display similar symptoms. It is unlikely to be deadly to those who are not elderly or do not have underlying health problems but it is important to stay vigilant to stop the spread to those who may be vulnerable.

Safety Advice

Across all locations, we want to share the safety measures that have been recommended by health organisations to stop the spread:

  • Wash hands regularly using warm water and soap, or sanitising gel, especially before eating. It is understood that the virus spreads through droplets coming into contact with mucus membranes, so avoid touching your face with unclean hands.
  • Cough and sneeze into elbows. This way, you will not dirty your hands, which can spread any germs to other people.
  • Seek medical attention if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. The UK and USA have issued advice to call a doctor rather than visit the emergency room to avoid possible infection of vulnerable people.
  • When traveling, cooperate with airport staff who may be implementing extra health checks to ensure the safety of all passengers.

For reliable health advice, we suggest keeping an eye on the CDC website and the WHO website.

Our Recommendations for Current Teachers

We recommend that our teachers follow the steps above and share this knowledge with their students. Bring hand sanitiser to your classroom to keep your children safe. Some schools, particularly in South Korea, are experiencing closures as a safety precaution due to the virus. Please cooperate with your school’s safety measures.

We are closely following all travel advisories and will keep our teachers and students updated on any changes to current or future programs.

Final Advice

Stay alert, not anxious. Make sure to follow the safety procedures and travel recommendations from reliable sources.

XploreAsia ensures that steps are taken to keep our global family safe and that they feel supported. We’ve just welcomed a new group of TESOL students to Thailand and Vietnam, and have recently graduated two groups of students from our courses in South Korea and Myanmar respectively. Many of our teachers are first-time solo travelers- and that’s always scary- but we hope that this current situation doesn’t hinder your enthusiasm for traveling, teaching and making a difference.

We understand that many current teachers and prospective TESOL students may be anxious and we encourage you to get in touch with us as soon as possible to address any concerns regarding your course. For enquiries, you can contact the programs team via programs@xploreasia.org

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!

Tips for A First Time International Traveler

Tips for A First Time International Traveler

XploreAsia Intern Shares a few Tips on Traveling Internationally

Boss your first time abroad by taking tome tips from our own first time traveler Ashia!

Joining XploreAsia is all about embracing adventure and changing lives. We know it can be scary for someone who has never traveled internationally before, so as a first time international traveler herself, our marketing intern Ashia shares a few tips on getting started in your new country. 

So you want to travel, eh? Do you know the first thing about traveling? You don’t? Well, the good news is, I’m here to steer you in the right direction. In my previous blog I wrote about my first ever experience traveling abroad, and now I’m going to bestow my newfound knowledge on all of you.

The idea of traveling abroad can seem a bit scary, especially for it to be your first time. However, don’t fret, I have a few useful tips to help you get started while on your first international trip.

Research, Research, Research

My first tip is something you should do before you leave your home country. As a first time international traveler, you should get familiar with the country you’re going to. The easiest way to do this is to look at videos on YouTube. You can find anything on YouTube, you can look at vlogs, short videos or even find creators talking about their time in that country. This can be very helpful as it can give you an idea of what the country looks like, how the weather is at the time of year you’re going, and even places to visit for when you arrive.

Explore!

Speaking of arriving to your destination, my next tip is for when you have gotten rid of your jet lag. Hop onto the local transportation and explore the city. If you don’t want to figure out the local transportation just yet, then get your daily steps in and go for a nice walk around town. It’s important to get a feel for the area you are staying in, so that you know what’s close to you and what’s not. If you are a bit timid because it is a new area, and you don’t necessarily know where you are going, do not, I repeat, do not be afraid to ask questions. No matter where you are, the locals are always pleased to answer any questions you may have. If they can’t answer your question fully, than they will point you to the person who can.  

Visit the market

While getting familiar with the area, you can stop by any of the local markets and have a look around to see what you can find. In Thailand, there are two different types of markets you can visit: there are your everyday local markets where you can get a lot of local snacks and traditional foods; or you can go to one of the night markets in your area where you can get things like local food, handmade bags and clothes, electronics and more.

As a first time international traveler, visit your local markets for some tasty cuisines
visit your nearby night market and enjoy the food and and shopping all around

 Learn the Lingo

 While in this new country, as a first time international traveler, it is also important that you know some of the language. Now, you don’t necessarily have to be fluent in the language before you arrive, but it’s always useful to know the basics. My next tip is to download a language app. There are plenty of phrasebook apps that provide you a handy dictionary of commonly used sentences right on your phone, or you can explore learning software apps such as Duolino or Memrise (both completely free!). Make sure to do your research on apps before downloading, as some are less credible than others.

 

Try new food

A good way to practice your new language skills would be to go out and try new foods. My fifth tip for you is to eat at as many local restaurants and food stalls as you can. Once you get familiar with your area, you will be able to find so many delicious places to eat where you can make friends with the owners and staff, and they can also help you try something new and teach you even more words in their language.

Once you finish eating, you may even want to step out and see what the nightlife is like in your area. This is an easy way to make friends, practice the language, and have a great time all at once.

As a first time international traveler, try as many new local food as you can!

Get outside

Aside from exploring the city, my next tip for you is to try and explore the natural wonders in your area. You can visit national parks to ethically see animals in their natural habitats. You can hike over mountains or through caves- try to find our what kinds of trails are available in your area. Visit temples and museums to get a feel for the history and culture of your new home. As a first time international traveler, there is so much to explore in the new world around you, so don’t be afraid to get out and see it for yourself.

It can seem scary as a first-time traveler, but this leads me to my last and final tip.

If you read this blog and still have no idea where to start in regards to your new adventure, then you can start by joining the XploreAsia family as an ESL teacher. At XploreAsia, we place teachers in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Costa Rica, South Korea and China. We see our TESOL graduates going off to explore the world and teach English, whilst making a difference in their new communities. Our team is with you every step of the way. The course also includes a one-week cultural orientation to get you immersed and feeling confident in your new surroundings.

If you want to learn more about how you can make a difference and experience traveling for the first time, then head over to our website.

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!

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!

Things You Didn’t Know About Myanmar- Teach in Myanmar with XploreAsia

Things You Didn’t Know About Myanmar- Teach in Myanmar with XploreAsia

We offer our in-class TESOL course and teacher placement in the beautiful, mountainous Myanmar. Not many people know too much about this hidden gem, so, in this article, we’re giving you an introduction to a country that many don’t get the chance to see. Teach in Myanmar and experience this enigmatic culture first-hand.

 Explore Inle Lake

A famous spot in Myanmar is Inle Lake. Inle Lake is over 900 meters above sea level and has become very popular due to the Inthas, the native lake dwellers, and their unique way of fishing. They fish standing on one leg, all while simultaneously steering their boats, balancing and looking out for fish. This area of Myanmar has a population of about 150,000 people who live alongside the lake in houses on stilts over the water.

Chinlone

 While visiting Myanmar, if you pass by young kids playing in the street, or hear of a big competition going on in the city, then they might be playing chinlone. Chinlone is the national sport of Myanmar, and can be considered a mix of football and dance. It’s played in teams of six people who form a circle. The football is danced around the circle for as long as possible before hitting the ground. The purpose of this game is to showcase your technique and performance and Chinlone is not about scoring goals like in British football. The objective is to perform the best tricks. If you teach in Myanmar, don’t be afraid to jump in and show off your best moves too!

Culture 

There are many cultural habits that feel a little strange to most westerners, but, to the people of Myanmar, this is their way of life. For example, in western countries the ideal way to get a waiter’s attention is to catch their eye or by waving your hand towards them. In Myanmar, however, it’s customary to make a kissing noise in the direction of the person you are trying to gain the attention of. This is very different from western culture, and is another example of how unique Myanmar’s culture can be.

Teach in Myanmar and learn more about their cultural traditions like the longyi

Another cultural tradition in Myanmar is for men and women to wear longyi. Longyi is a piece of cloth made of cotton, worn around their waist, similar to a sarong. The men will often wear plain, checkered or striped patterns and will hold the longyi in place by tying a knot the size of a tennis ball. The longyi can be worn in many different ways; people can also fold their longyi in between their legs like shorts for certain activities.

Women also wear a form of longyi called Htamein. This piece has a black band that borders the top of the cloth which cascades down into beautiful and unique patterns.

Thanaka is used in Myanmar as a protectant from the sun and many other useful ways
While you teach in Myanmar, you will see a Thanaka paste used from small children to elders

While visiting Myanmar, as you walk through the city, you are bound to see many people wearing a clay mask on their faces. That clay mask is called thanaka. Thanaka has been used in the Burmese culture for over 2,000 years. It’s made by grinding tree bark until it is the consistency of a paste.

Many Burmese people use thanaka as a sunscreen to protect them from the beaming sun rays. It can also be used for makeup and in your everyday skincare routine. Additionally, the paste can be used for cleansing purposes, anti-acne, to control the amount of oil forming on your skin throughout the day, and for many other purposes. While you teach in Myanmar you can purchase thanaka in cream or powder form, or even the bark itself to try making your own from scratch.

While you teach in Myanmar it is important to note that the country uses the imperial system rather than the metric system. Instead of measuring distance in kilometers, it is measured in miles. Instead of measuring weight in grams, it is measured in pounds and so on. There are only three countries in the world who still do this; the United States, Liberia, and of course Myanmar. 

The country also has more than one hundred different ethnic groups, making it even more diverse than the United States of America. Of the 100 plus tribes in Myanmar, one of the most famous is the Kayan Tribe, specifically the Padaung Long Neck Women. The women wear brass coils around their neck to make their neck appear longer, starting at the age of five.

Padaung Long Neck Women can be seen walking throughout parts of the country while you teach in Myanmar

Traditional Food

Myanmar’s National dish is mohinga. Mohinga, a rice noodle and fish soup, is an essential part of the Burmese cuisine. Considered by many as the national dish of Myanmar, it‘s made up of at least three species of fish: ngaiji (a small freshwater catfish), ngakhu ( another type of small freshwater catfish) and ngapali ( a snakehead fish). This dish can be eaten at any time of the day, but is usually eaten during breakfast time. If you pass by a street stall, you are sure to find mohinga. The sellers often carry a long wooden pole on their shoulders with two pots on the end, one pot for the broth and the other carrying the noodles. You can find all the ingredients from the sellers as well, making your dish complete.

Another traditional meal you can find in Myanmar is laphet thoke. This dish is considered a symbol of generosity, sharing and loving. Laphet is fermented tea leaves, accompanied with crispy beans, fried chickpeas, fried garlic, roasted sesame seeds, roasted peanuts and dried shrimp.

Make an impact on the lives of the community like the children at the Orphanage.

Help the Community

Pala-U Orphanage in Thailand is also home to Karen children. Located in Pa Deng Village in Petchaburi, close to the border of Myanmar, it was founded about 16 years ago by a 19-year old volunteer teacher. The children in his care have no relatives to take care of them and they don’t have access to education or medical help. XploreAsia are proud to support the orphanage and if you would like to volunteer or donate to help, please contact our CEO: m.volpe@xploreasia.org.

If you’d like to experience and explore this beautiful country, then join XploreAsia as an ESL teacher. We provide a one month in-class TESOL course, accompanied by a cultural orientation week. Upon graduation, you will receive an accredited certification and our lifetime support. It is sure to be the experience of a lifetime. For more information on our TESOL course visit our website, and don’t forget to check out our  Instagram and Facebook pages to see what our teachers in Myanmar have been up to!

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!

“I Conquered My Travel Fears to Complete an Internship Abroad!” Ashia’s Story

“I Conquered My Travel Fears to Complete an Internship Abroad!” Ashia’s Story

Conquering my fear: traveling alone for the first time.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

An internship abroad is an amaing opportunity, but can be a huge step outside your comofrt zone. For many of us, fear of the unknown can prevent us from fulfilling our goals. One of our Marketing Interns Ashia talks about how she overcame her fear of flying and took her first trip across the world, all by herself! Check out how she kicked down the wall and started an amazing adventure with us!

Have you ever wished you could conquer your fears? I’ve wanted conquer my fear of flying my entire life. I lived by my motto “if I can’t drive there, I won’t go”, but I had all of these places in my mind that I wanted to travel to. I had this elaborate plan to visit all these different countries before I hit my mid-thirties, so I could focus on building the foundation for my future. Well, here I was at the tender age of 25, experiencing my very first domestic flight across the US. I did it! Did the fear stop there? Of course not- it was very much still intact and, if I’m being honest with myself, I did not see it leaving.

Ashia conquering her fear by letting it go during our trip to the beach as part of orientation week.

Soon, I decided to take another step and go on my first international trip: a one-hour flight to the Bahamas with my friends. Still, fear lingered in the back of my mind and I couldn’t see myself ever traveling on my  own. I had this dream to fulfill, but it was blocked by my many reservations.

Shortly after, I ran across the chance to participate in a marketing internship abroad with the company XploreAsia- in Thailand of all places. When I found out about this opportunity a strange phenomenon happened. Not an inch of doubt. Not a moment of fear. The thought of traveling across the world, all by myself, suddenly brought up no red flags in my head.  This was such a change for me.

This time, I didn’t let my fears overtake my desires. I booked a flight and traveled 22 hours and 58 minutes to the other side of the world. Not in the comfort of friends or family. Not knowing any of the language. Not knowing what was in store for me. I would be living here in Thailand for three months for this internship and living my dream whilst working in a field I’ve always dreamed of working in. Only if I conquer my fears, would I get to see parts of the world I’ve only pictured in my head.

“My visit to the cave temple was very uplifting. The hike to the cave was intense but worth it!”

Ashia headed from Georgia, USA, to Hua Hin, Thailand to complete her internship abroad.
Conquer your fear of traveling alone and experience incredible places!

From the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a shift. Such an ease come over me and although this was my first time ever doing something like this, I just knew that I could do it. Doing an internship abroad can be a huge step outside of your comfort zone, but I implore you to follow my example and push yourself outside the box.

Ashia also got to learn about Buddhism during her internship abroad in Thailand.

During the orientation week with XploreAsia, we did so many activities like muay thai, which is one of the oldest forms of boxing in the world. I also got to experience meditating with one of the monks in the village, which was probably the purest and most serene experience I’ve ever had. At Rescue P.A.W.S., we were able to take the rescued stray dogs out to the beach for some much needed exercise. We also learned how to cook the Thai dishes som tum (papaya salad) and pad Thai. It was a great introduction to the culture.

I have been living in Thailand for just over one month now, and it has been a complete dream. I have been living in the city of Hua Hin, which has a very beachy feel and a very warm welcome.

“The temple visit was thoroughly insightful.”

I’ve even come out of my laziness and have been walking long distances, riding bikes around town and hiking up mountains. All of which I would have opted out of if I was still at home. I am completely out of my comfort zone, and being in this new environment has put me in a new headspace to do the unthinkable. There is no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision. I faced my fear head on and just did it.

Whilst in Thailand, I have also traveled to Malaysia all by myself. The locals were also really welcoming and showed me all the best places to eat! I spent only a few days in Malaysia and without a doubt will be returning for another adventure.

There is no longer any fear in my heart when it comes to traveling. I am already planning trips to nearby countries that I now have the confidence to travel to. Those dreams can finally become a reality.

Conquer your fear and explore the world!
Starting an internship abroad lets you get a real feel for local culture. Ashia got a chance to experience the ancient sport Muay Thai during her time with us!

If you have a fear of traveling alone, take that leap and get rid of any doubt or fear you may have. Don’t let your fear keep you hostage. There is so much to see, so much to experience and so much to take in. Thousands of people every year, get on a plane and fly unimaginable miles from destination to destination. They just get up and go. They don’t let fear get in the way and you shouldn’t either. Doing an internship abroad has been one of the best decisions I ever made. It has been not only a chance to gain international work experience to count towards my postgraduate applications, it has also given me the chance ti immerse myself in a new culture and meet lots of new people.

To learn more about how you start a new adventure and join XploreAsia as an English teacher or an intern, visit our website to find out more about our adventures. We offer an internship abroad in Marketing, Management, Teacher Placement, Education Development, and NGO Management and our programs are open to a wide range of nationalities and skill levels. We also offer a Marketing and Communications internship at our partner organisation Rescue P.A.W.S. Send us a message to find out more! Also be sure to check out our  Instagram and Facebook to see pictures, videos and updates from our teachers, interns and staff.

XploreAsia Alumni Meet Up in Bangkok

XploreAsia Alumni Meet Up in Bangkok

Let's Meet Up with our teachers in Bangkok!

On December 14th, our placement team headed out to meet 27 XploreAsia teachers, who now teach in and around Bangkok after graduating their TESOL course. We all met up at Bangna pier before crossing the river to Bangkrachao. Nicknamed “the lungs of Bangkok”, this green island is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and provided a perfect place for our teachers to relax and get to know each other better.

Teach in Thailand and Explore Bangkok!

First, we grabbed some bikes and cycled over the elevated walkways to Baan Toob where teachers chose between making some unique tie-dye outfits and accessories or crafting their own incense sticks. Guided by XploreAsia staff, most of the teachers opted to embrace their inner fashion designer and created intricate patterns on white linen dresses, jumpsuits, bags and scarves. After working together to tie the fabric, the teachers were thrilled to return after lunch to see how their garments turned out after dye was added!

 

“XploreAsia has been incredibly helpful. Whenever I needed guidance the placement team came to the rescue.”

Bronwynne Calitz, teacher in Bangkok.

Let’s Get Creative Whilst We Teach in Thailand 

Some teachers opted to learn how to make hand-twisted incense sticks. Although creating this ribbon effect was harder than the artisan made it look, our teachers had a lot of fun getting their hands dirty and helping each other to perfect the technique.

Next, we headed over to Bang Nam Phueng floating market to let the teachers buy some souvenirs, some much needed coffee, and to grab some lunch. The market had a lot of options to suit the tastes and dietary requirements of the group. It was great to see our teachers spending quality time with each other. Some reunited with people they hadn’t seen since their TESOL course and others made new friends who are living in their area.

Refuelled, we got back on the bikes and headed over to Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park. Here, our teachers got to explore the green space and share their stories of what it is like to teach Thailand and live here. We were thrilled to have such a large group of people from various intakes and from different walks of life. Many of them shared similar struggles and successes and it was wonderful to see them bonding with each other.

Participant learns how to hand twist incense while at the teacher meet up in Bangkok
Teach in Thailand and show off your tie-dye masterpieces at the teacher meet up in Bangkok

The Gift That Keeps on Giving 

The last stop on our journey around the island was Pobrak, a restaurant with a porch overlooking the water. As well as eating lots of Thai food, the teachers also got into the festive spirit by joining in with our gift exchange game.

It can be hard being away from family at this time of year and for some of the teachers this was to be their first holiday season away from home. We hope that this meetup helped reinforce that they have a family and a network to support them and enrich their experience.

“I’ve never lived in a city before I started to teach in Bangkok, but I’ve been able to make friends through the network. The city is much less intimidating if you have a friend.”

Annie Wilkinson, teacher in Bangkok.

If you want to experience making a difference in a community and embracing your adventure, then check out our website for more information on our four week accredited TESOL program. After the program you will have the opportunity to teach in Thailand and join our alumni meet up in your respective city and meet teachers from other intake dates while enjoying the beauty of the city around you. No matter how long ago you’ve finished the course you will always be apart of the XploreAsia family.

Check out this video of the meetup made by our marketing intern Ashia:

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see what our teachers are up to.  We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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.

Pin It on Pinterest