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Life in Hua Hin: Top 5 Markets

Life in Hua Hin: Top 5 Markets

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

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

The Night Market

Teaching in Thailand; The Night Market Hua Hin

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

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

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

The Grand Night Market

Grand Night Market entrance

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

The Grand Night Market

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

Cicada

Teaching in Thailand; Cicada, Hua Hin, Thailand

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

Teaching in Thailand; the stalls at Cicada, Hua Hin

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

The Tuesday Night Market

Teaching in Thailand; the Tuesday market, Hua Hin

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

Teaching in Thailand; the Tuesday market at Hua Hin

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

Plearn Wan

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

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

Ready to Start Teaching in Thailand?

Teaching in Thailand; the market at Plearn Wan

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

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

My First Week Teaching in Thailand: Elizabeth Collins

My First Week Teaching in Thailand: Elizabeth Collins

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

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

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

Elizabeth exploring Lat Krabang.

Elizabeth out exploring her new town.

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth receiving her TESOL certificate at XploreAsia.

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth teaching in Thailand.
Teaching in Thailand

Elizabeth making connections with her class.

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

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

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

Elizabeth's class graduating from XploreAsia.

Elizabeth’s TESOL class graduating in July, 2017.

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

Teach in Vietnam: Our First Orientation Week!

Teach in Vietnam: Our First Orientation Week!

Teach in Vietnam: Cultural Immersion

This month XploreAsia hosted its first ever TESOL course in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Our participants were able to partake in a fun-filled orientation week with cultural, historic, and tasty(!) excursions followed by an internationally accredited 120 hour in-class TESOL. 

The opportunity to teach in Vietnam is a great experience; Vietnamese people have such a strong friendly spirit, and are excited to better their English. The country itself is such a unique place full of historic sites, distinctive culture, and amazing food.

Lisa Dershowitz gives her insights from our very first cultural orientation week in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Vietnam.  In a week of incredible experiences, find out what we got up to!

Teaching in Vietnam

Vietnam has so much to enjoy, and it’s not just the food!

War Museum: Here we were able to learn about the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietnamese. The museum is a great opportunity for people to visit, and can be quite emotional. As an American, this museum definitely had a huge impact on me. However, even after our long history with Vietnam, I have found the Vietnamese people to be very welcoming to me, even after they learn where I am from. Learning about the history here in Vietnam and seeing it from a different perspective is a very important part of living in Vietnam; by understanding the history we can better understand the people and its culture.

Vietnam War Museum - Tank
Vietnam War Museum - Plane

Night Market Food Tour: Our first teach in Vietnam group went out to learn more about Vietnamese food, and to eat where the locals eat. We all traveled to one of the local markets where we were able to walk around and sample foods like fresh dumplings and dried chicken. The dumplings were quite the hit, and I am pretty sure we bought out the entire market. Afterwards, we all sat down at a few food stands where we could have dinner and fresh smoothies, including an avocado smoothie!  We ended the night sampling some sweet treats that consisted of a variety of sticky rice dishes. This was a great experience as it opened everyone up to new foods that they could eat here in Vietnam.

Night Market: Vietnamese Food

Martial Arts: We all got to test our Kung Fu skills at Nam Huỳnh Đạ, a training gym in Ho Chi Minh City. The head master there was able to give us a background in the art’s history and how it came to be. He was also able to show us around the beautiful temple that the classes are held in. This class encouraged everyone to really push themselves to try a new sport that people have practiced for years in Vietnam. I don’t think myself or anyone else has ever sweated so much.

Teach in Vietnam: Kung Fu

Language classes: Throughout the week we were able to take part in Vietnamese language lessons from our very own program coordinator, Jenny. The language can be a bit difficult as it has many tones. Jenny did a wonderful job at making it fun, interactive, and the language seem easy. Learning the language a little will make immersing yourself in a new culture far easier, while you won’t need much Vietnamese to teach in Vietnam, embracing the other aspects of life here will be made much easier. Even if it is only the very basics!

Teach in Vietnam: Language Lessons

Cooking Class: One of my favorite parts of the orientation week was our market tour and cooking class. We all traveled to a different district and visited one of the local day markets.  There we walked around picking out the freshest ingredients to cook with later in the week. We were able to try different tropical fruits like longans and mangosteens. In addition, we stopped for some delicious Vietnamese coffee and smoothies. After our tour of the market we headed off just outside of the city to Jenny’s grandmother’s house. Here we were able to relax and get a taste for the countryside here in Vietnam. Jenny’s grandmother was so sweet and happy to have us stop by her house. She had one of her sons fetch and cut open fresh coconuts from the large tree at the house. In addition, she insisted cutting up tons of fruit for us, and teaching us how to properly eat everything! Finally, on our way out she wished us all well and good luck in our futures. 

Next, we traveled to Jenny’s parent’s house where several members of her family were awaiting us. From the second we enteredwe were greeted with so many smiles, and the smells of fresh Vietnamese pancakes being cooked in the kitchen. Here, some of the women taught us how to roll fresh spring rolls.  Afterwards, we all took turns making our own scrumptious spring rolls. It was just a wonderful afternoon eating some of the freshest, tastiest Vietnamese food, relaxing, and talking with everyone.

Teach in Vietnam: Cooking Lesson
Teach in Vietnam: Vietnamese Cooking

Cu Chi Tunnels:

One of the last excursions we did during orientation week was visiting the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. Here we were able to explore and learn even more about the Vietnam War. We were able to experience some of the small tunnels that soldiers lived in and fought from. If you wanted you could even walk or basically crawl through the tunnels under ground. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels was an incredible and eye opening trip for me and the rest of the group about what life was like during the war.

Teach in Vietnam

Friday Night Dinner:

We ended the week with a large group dinner. We all gathered together on the rooftop of a local restaurant and were able to just relax and secure all of the strong friendships that everyone had made during the week. There was so much delicious food for us to try and several local beer options. A local teacher also came and joined us for dinner. It was great for all of us to hear what it is like to teach in Vietnam.

Teach in Vietnam: Group Dinner
Teach in Vietnam: Dinner

Overall, orientation week was packed with so many great activities and excursions. It let everyone get a taste for Vietnam; quite literally with all of the food we tried, and also get more insight on its culture and history. The perfect introduction to the Teach in Vietnam program!

To find out more about XploreAsia’s Teach in Vietnam program, click here

Teach in Thailand: Being Healthy in Thailand

Teach in Thailand: Being Healthy in Thailand

With tempting sugary deep-fried treats around every corner, staying healthy in Thailand can seem like an impossible task. However, keeping active and eating healthy isn’t as difficult as it looks. Check out our top tips below so you can stay in shape (or begin a healthier lifestyle) whilst you teach in Thailand with XploreAsia:

Healthy Food

Teach in Thailand: Orientation Week Papaya Salad

If you’ve come to teach in Thailand with no previous experience of the country, the food can look, taste and smell a lot different to the food you might be used to. It is all delicious, but it can be hard to tell which meals are better for your health.

The classic dish papaya salad is of course a healthy option and authentically, uniquely Thai. Despite being filled with vegetables (and occasionally shrimp), the dish does often contain some sugar and fish sauce (which can be very high in sodium). If you want to make it healthier by excluding these ingredients, just tell the seller that you would like “mai won” (“not sweet”) but be warned: without this sugary addition the spice levels make it not for the faint of heart. Another classic salad, yum ma-muang (green mango salad) is harder to find but comes without so much heat and is a great alternative for vegetarians.

Khao man gai

Khao man gai- chicken over rice

Morning glory

Stir-fried morning glory over rice- a healthy meal or side dish

Another option is to have stir-fried vegetables (pad pak) or single veggies such as morning glory which, when paired with rice, can be a full meal by themselves. Vegetarians (and vegans) living in Thailand can find themselves feeling limited, but almost every street stand will be able to whip up something like this and for dishes that do contain some fish or meat, you can use the phrases “mai sai blahblah” or just say “mai ao” (“don’t want”) whilst pointing to individual ingredients.

For those wanting to make sure they get some protein in, dishes such as cashew nut chicken, chicken soup or the straight-up chicken and rice (khao man gai) can make for affordable, clean meals to help build muscle and avoid excessive amounts of sugar and oils.

A visit to a Thai market during orientation week.
Rose apples at a local Thai market

For vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, Thai fruits are also great alternative to the salty and sugary 7/11 snacks and when you teach in Thailand can be great things to nibble on during break times. Fruit is never difficult to find and can be seen at most markets and supermarkets, sometimes in handy snack-sized portions, and can be very different to the fruit we see back home. Will you be brave enough to break open a durian?

Rice and curry shops (in Thai: ran khao kaeng) are also a great alternative as they offer a lot of variety. They are normally found as street stalls but can also be spotted in food courts. The idea is to choose one or more of the toppings to eat with rice. To find out more about rice and curry shops, check out this blog post.

Exercise

When you teach in Thailand, especially if you have younger classes, you might find yourself running around the classroom on a daily basis so chances are you will be getting some exercise accidentally, but it’s always a good idea to get some more in. As much as the heat might seem like a deterrent, there are plenty of ways to get exercise here in Thailand without breaking too much of a sweat. For example, taking walks around your town or city is not only good for you, but can also let you notice places and sights that you might otherwise miss taking public transport (just stay away from those newfound fried chicken stands!)

If you want something more intensive, a good old-fashioned jog around the many parks and open spaces is always a great, free option. Due to the heat, it’s probably best to time your jogs into the evenings or early mornings. Remember to bring a water bottle and possibly a few of your new friends along to keep you motivated.

The natural beauty of Thailand

Exploring by foot is a good way to see the natural beauty of Thailand.

As you’ve come to teach in Thailand, why not try something quintessentially Thai? Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport and if you took our in-class TESOL you likely already had a taste of it during your orientation week. Muay Thai gyms normally offer personal training sessions which are around an hour long, but if you’re not feeling so brave you can always contact your local one and ask to arrange a group session perhaps with some fellow teachers.

Muay Thai classes are also held during orientation week at XploreAsia.

As well as Muay Thai gyms, there are also regular gyms and plenty of outdoor fitness activities such as yoga, aerobics and Zumba. These classes often happen in parks or even in shopping centres and can be a great way to meet new friends.

Meditation

Wat Khao Noi, Hua Hin

Health isn’t just about the body. Meditation helps to refocus the mind and alleviate stress and cluttered thinking patterns. As Buddhism is the main religion here in Thailand, there are plenty of temples to visit to take a moment of quiet reflection. Although temples in the center of Bangkok might not do the trick, those slightly off the beaten track can enjoy a bit of peace and tranquillity.

Meditation

Our TESOL students learning meditation during orientation week

As well as recharging your batteries, learning the ancient art of meditation is another great way to immerse yourself in another aspect of Thailand. It’s an ideal opportunity to learn more about the rituals within and the history of Buddhism, a religion that has a lot of influence on contemporary culture.

Want to teach in Thailand?

Teach in Thailand

It’s never too late to change up your routine. If you want to change your life and the lives of children around the World through teaching English, check out our accredited TESOL course to get started on your journey.

Teaching in Thailand: XploreAsia Teacher Meetups

Teaching in Thailand: XploreAsia Teacher Meetups

Moving abroad can be stressful, but when you come and train with XploreAsia, we provide a network of support formed of our staff, many of whom have experience teaching in Thailand and other destinations. Our team have also completed their TESOL certification through XploreAsia too! As part of our continuing effort to keep people connected, we hold regular teacher meetups for our placed teachers in Thailand so that they can meet people who are living and working in their area.

The main purpose of these meetups is to give our teachers the opportunity to meet other teachers working in the same region. Due to the TESOL training taking place in separate groups and in various locations, people usually haven’t met all the other teachers in their area and it can be difficult for them to find other westerners. We also use the meetups as an opportunity to talk to the teachers individually in person to see how they’re doing at their placement town and to find out how their experience has been with teaching in Thailand since our last contact.

A review from an alumni teaching in Thailand

Our most recent meetups were held in Thailand’s sprawling capital city Bangkok and Khon Kaen, a city in the North of Thailand.

A group photo of our Bangkok meetup

Some of our wonderful XploreAsia family members who came to our meetup in Bangkok in July!

In Bangkok earlier this month, teachers working in the city and the surrounding areas were able to meet up and have dinner together, along with the placement team on the Chao Phraya River. In addition to enjoying the food in an amazing location, the teachers also took part in a trivia quiz to test their knowledge about Thailand and were able to discuss the ups and downs of life teaching in Thailand.

Meditation in Khon Kaen

Through discussing their individual experiences of culture shock, the challenges they face whilst teaching in Thailand, and sharing funny stories about their students and schools, the teachers were able to leave the meetup with new friends and newfound confidence in their teaching abilities.

At the meetup in June in Khon Kaen, the placement team met with another group of XploreAsia alumni and were able to visit three local attractions. First, the alumni received a guided tour of the breath-taking nine-story Wat Nong Wang temple during which they learned more about Buddhism, and also found out about the history of the temple itself. Afterwards, the group took some time to wander around the park surrounding the nearby Ubonrat Dam to enjoy the sunshine, and get to know eachother better. The final attraction our XploreAsia teachers visited was the secluded Phra Bat Phupan temple which offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Meditating at one of the stunning temple excursions during the Khon Kaen meetup.

All good meetups end with a group meal, and in Khon Kaen the teachers were able to use this time together to really get into detail with each other about their experience teaching in Thailand. During all meetups, we hope that participants leave with both rekindled and brand new friendships with other teachers, as well as reassurance that they aren’t alone in their adventures.

Khon Kaen meetup group photo

Some of the XploreAsia family at your meetup in Khon Kaen!

At XploreAsia, we are still here for our TESOL students even after they graduate and our teacher meetups are only one of the ways in which we make sure that our alumni still feel like part of the family. Check out our website to find out more about our TESOL course and how you could start teaching in Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Vietnam or China.

Teach Abroad with the XploreAsia Family!

Teach abroad: XploreAsia family

XploreAsia Family taking a company trip to Mallika 124 in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

XploreAsia is passionate about changing lives and embracing adventure through teaching abroad. This passion comes from the staff themselves, many of whom have been teachers previously before joining XploreAsia to help facilitate other people’s journeys across Asia. The XploreAsia staff make up a diverse family that not only supports one another, but also cares deeply about the teachers taking their accredited TESOL course and the surrounding community. 

Each staff member of the XploreAsia family has a unique story that has brought them to work for XploreAsia, and we’re delighted to be able to share some of their stories with you!

 

Becca, Program Coordinator

Teach abroad: XploreAsia team member Becca working with elephants

Becca during her time working with elephants

Teach abroad: XploreAsia team member Becca taking a selfie with her favorite companion

Taking a selfie with one of her adorable rescue dogs!

Becca is a proud  team member of the programs department. When she’s not helping our participants prepare for their unforgettable experience, and taking care of her three dog children,  she is often found volunteering and helping animals. As a matter of fact, volunteering is what brought her to Thailand. She saw an opportunity to volunteer with rescued elephants and went for it. This hands on volunteering experience led her to work in marketing, public relations, web management, and as a volunteer coordinator for the Save the Elephant Foundation. However,  Becca didn’t stop there! She ventured out even further and decided to teach abroad. She became an XploreAsia participant, completed her TESOL course, and taught English in schools around Thailand. Her adventures in Thailand have brought her to work for the XploreAsia family.  When asked why she wanted to work for XploreAsia, she simply stated “I had a great time as a participant. I appreciated the support that was given by the team. Not only do they help individuals become teachers, but they also create a support system after they are placed”.

XploreAsia is ecstatic to have her adventurous soul as part of the family!

Ae, Placement Coordinator

Teach abroad: Ae receiving some love from a former participant

Ae receiving some love from an XploreAsia teacher! 

Another outstanding member of the XploreAsia team is placement coordinator Mananya, also known as Ae. She forms part of the extremely committed placement team at XploreAsia that is dedicated to finding participants the best possible teaching jobs in Thailand. Ae is originally from Phang-nga, Thailand but has lived in Bangkok, Phuket, and Krabi. She has previously worked in the fields of education, tourism, and healthcare. Surprisingly, Ae came across a position at XploreAsia by accident. She decided to move near the Hua Hin area to take care of her mother and found an opportunity nearby in a multicultural company. For Ae, XploreAsia is not your typical company, she states “It feels like family, we’re all close, and we are open to share our thoughts when we work”. Ae enjoys walking in every morning and being received with warmth by the staff and the adorable dogs that make great companions while at work. The XploreAsia staff family feels like it was meant to have Ae as part of the team. 

 

XploreAsia family dog Nom Sod loved by our teach abroad teachers

Nom Sod doing what he does best, relaxing and being adorable!

One of the most loved members of the XploreAsia family is Nom Sod. Nom Sod has been at XploreAsia from the beginning, and not only is he loved by the staff, but all the teach abroad participants that have the privilege of meeting him. Nom Sod is a rescue dog adopted by XploreAsia founders, Mike and Paang, who say he had boundless energy. Nowadays, you can often find him relaxing and taking naps around the building, although he still loves all the attention from the participants. Nom Sod and his furry friends Pumpkin and Pudding work hard in keeping a smile on everyone’s faces. These extra members of the team are the key players of making XploreAsia feel like home.

 

Teach in Thailand

XploreAsia staff spending time together in Kanchanaburi

Posing for a picture with Mom

All of our team work to ensure all participants get to enjoy the benefits of teaching English abroad. Although all their stories are different, they all share the same passion for teaching English, traveling and giving back to their local communities. Participants who train and teach with us not only leave prepared to teach, but they also gain a brand new family abroad through XploreAsia. We believe that there is nothing more important than having a good support system, and we’re pleased to be able to provide that. If you are interested in learning more about XploreAsia, visit our website and follow us on Facebook to keep up with the adventures of the XploreAsia family.

First Month Teaching in Thailand: XA Alumni Hannah Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your first day arriving at your placement like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah with her students during their Mother's Day celebration

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

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

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

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

Playing with elephants in Chiang Mai.
Relaxing in Phuket.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah getting her TESOL.

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

Hannah high-fiving a student at English camp.

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

Teach English Abroad: Samantha Sundermann’s Story

Teach English Abroad: Samantha Sundermann’s Story

For more info on what Samantha is currently working on, head over to www.shinecentres.com

Samantha Sundermann completed her training at XploreAsia and spent 6 months teaching in Myanmar before returning to Canada. Despite returning home, she was able to use the connections she made whilst being an XploreAsia teacher to continue to help children in Myanmar get access to a higher level of education. Read about her unique experiences in her blog post below:

Samantha with her TESOL class receiving her teaching certificate at XploreAsia

After several years of traveling for work and constantly being on the move, I finally decided it was time to stay in one place for a while. When deciding what I wanted to do for career, I thought back to what has always sparked my curiosity. Teaching English abroad is something that I have always been interested in, and now was the time to give it a shot.
 In 2015, I went home, saved up some money and did some research on how to teach English abroad. Through my research, I found XploreAsia and signed up for my TESOL course.  After being granted my certificate, I went on and taught in Tachileik in Myanmar for 6 months.  It was an incredible experience that I wish could have lasted longer but unfortunately, I had to get back to Canada for work.
In Toronto, I have been working for Shine Dance Competitions for the last 5 years.  Shine, is a company that hosts and organizes children’s dance competitions in Southern Ontario and Quebec.  Shine is a great company that lets me travel during off seasons to have new experiences (such as teaching English abroad) and then come back to Toronto when the dance season begins.  For several years, Shine was planning to offer underprivileged kids an opportunity to access a higher education through online learning.  I was absolutely thrilled when they asked me to take charge of this project and I already had my first location in mind!

Assistant teachers with our class in Tachileik, celebrating their last day of Nursery 1

Tachileik is a small but fast paced town in the north of Myanmar with lots of stories to tell.  One of the most loving places in town is a small orphanage.  Some of the teachers who were teaching before me would go on the weekends and teach the kids English.  They invited me along one weekend and I was absolutely moved by the experience.  It was my first-time meeting kids in an orphanage and experiencing their way of life.  We arrived while the kids were in the middle of mass.  Hearing their voices in song was beautiful.  They saw us come in and knew it meant it was time for their English lesson.  They quickly finished mass and were ready to be taught.  Their enthusiasm was infectious.  They laughed and shouted throughout the lesson on animals.  It was so inspiring to see a young generation so eager to learn.  Although, I didn’t make it back to the orphanage as often as I would have liked, I was motivated to bring Shines’ project to these kids.
I contacted my friends in Myanmar who were equally as excited by this project.  They instantly started researching how to get internet to the orphanage.  Our company, Shine Dance Competitions, in partnership with Response I.T., arranged to provide all the computer equipment for the project, among other things, and I started researching how to get the computers to the orphanage.  After months of researching different methods to send the computers to Myanmar, I reached out to Mike (XploreAsia’s Managing Director) for help.  With some luck, Mike happened to know the easiest route to get computers to Yangon.  From Yangon they were then sent on a bus to Tachileik.  We are so grateful for the team of people who helped get this project off the ground.
Teach English Abroad: Mass at Orphanage

Mass at the Orphanage

Teach English Abroad: kids at the orphanage ready to learn!

Orphans during class time

Currently, the orphanage has internet access and 2 teachers who go on the weekends to teach the kids how to use the computers.  For now, the kids are using websites to improve their English.  As the children become more proficient, we will start talking to them about what other topics they are interested in learning. One of the teachers at the orphanage is a native English speaker, and the other is a native Myanmar speaker.  This is convenient because when the kids don’t understand the programs on the computer, they can ask in their native language but still have an opportunity to speak English as well.  Through many education oriented websites, the kids can learn anything they want. In countries such as Thailand, where these websites are offered in the primary language, the children can start taking any courses they want.  However, due to there being less options in Burmese, we encourage the improvement of their English language skills to give them more choices in what they want to learn online. Learning English will also help to create more career opportunities for them in the future.
The goal for this project is to let the kids learn new skills to help their community.  They can learn anything from Tree Planting, to Rocket Science.  We want to encourage these kids to enjoy learning and improve their current living situations.  Currently, we are looking to expand the project within South East Asia, targeting a few different countries.  Once we have a few solid facilities, we will begin to expand in each country where our project has proved successful.

First time students see computer set up

Students on the bus home from school in Tachileik

At the moment, we are building a website to promote this project.  When we acquire sponsors, we can grow at a quicker rate. Additionally, we also need to find contacts in different countries who can supervise the project for us and who also want to teach English abroad.  We will be posting blog updates about how the projects are running and eventually we would like to have the kid’s blogging about their own experiences!

I am very grateful for the opportunity XploreAsia gave me to meet new people and teach English abroad. I am excited to continue working with Shine to expand this wonderful project.  We are now working with XploreAsia to set up computers for the kids at the Pala-U Orphanage, in Thailand. I cannot wait to see what is to come! For more information please contact me at: sam@shinedance.com

www.shinecentres.com

If you want to teach English abroad, apply here.

XploreAsia’s 5 Year Anniversary!

XploreAsia’s 5 Year Anniversary!

Today at XploreAsia we celebrate our fifth anniversary and we’re so proud of how much we’ve achieved  in such a short time, in partnership with our wonderful teachers!

Our first course only had 8 students all from South Africa, but we are currently preparing for over 100 participants from all over the world coming to train with us in October. In the past 5 years we have trained 2,500 teachers from 10 different countries and have placed over 3,500 teachers into schools all across Asia. In fact, our teachers have taught more than 1,000,000 students from Thailand alone. Those children will have the ability to get jobs that require fluency in English, enabling them to work in tourism, international business and so many other sectors. Learning English is an incredible opportunity for young people in Thailand and our amazing teachers have opened those doors for over a million children.

Teacher at camp
Cute Student

We began with a staff of four delivering the course from a room above a coffee shop in Khao Takiab, but we now have two buildings, more than 20 members of staff and of course our four dogs to complete the family. We can also now offer our accredited in-classroom TESOL training in two locations; the sunny beach town of Hua Hin and the eclectic city Chiang Mai.

As well as developing our teaching programs, we have also founded our partner organisation Rescue Paws, a charity which helps stray animals in Hua Hin. Rescue Paws has evolved quickly from humble beginnings as a feeding project into a safe haven for strays that need rehabilitation and medical care from our on-site veterinarian. Rescue Paws has accomplished a great deal with the support of XploreAsia and our teachers including, tending to over 4,000 wounds, vaccinating 3.751 animals, performing 869 sterilizations and facilitating 174 adoptions. We are also continuing to work with Pala-U-Noi orphanage to help them develop the care they can provide for the orphaned children. We have been able to fund medical treatment for the children, including cancer treatment, as well as supporting the farm to help them gain self-sufficiency. We are currently working on plans to build a library with full internet access. At XploreAsia we’ve always been passionate about giving back to the community and this is something we will continue to strive for as we carry on growing as a company.

Pup at Rescue Paws
XA Orphanage trip

XploreAsia’s 5th birthday coincided with Lek’s birthday, our lovely administration manager, so we headed out to dinner to celebrate both. We ate pizza, pasta, salad and desserts all while hanging out together and having a blast.

Lek's Cake
Mike & Paang
Nat & Becca
Here at XploreAsia, we strongly believe that cross-cultural experiences are not only incredible and life changing for the individual but also increase cultural understanding and empathy around the world and we’re delighted that we’ve helped so many people to start their own unique adventures abroad.

Want to become part of our growing family? Check out how you can be part of our story by looking at our programs here!

Volunteer Abroad with Rescue Paws and XploreAsia

Volunteer Abroad with Rescue Paws and XploreAsia

Rescue Paws Pup

As well as training and placing teachers to work abroad, XploreAsia are also passionate about contributing to the local community. Stray dogs are unfortunately extremely common in Thailand which means there are thousands of animals at risk of starvation, abuse and in need of medical treatment. In 2013, XploreAsia and their Australian partners Global Work and Travel decided to do something about it.

From humble beginnings as purely a feeding project, the Rescue Paws foundation now has an on-site veterinarian, Dr Aye, to provide emergency medical care and vital sterilisations as well as a dedicated team of volunteers who help coordinate international adoptions and take care of the street dogs the organisation takes in. The foundation’s main goal is to heal, rehabilitate, sterilize and release strays back to their packs around Hua Hin.

XploreAsia Dog Wash Rescue Paws

Volunteer Abroad and Make a Difference

“The dogs are often born in dire conditions on the streets.” Says Rescue Paws’ Volunteer Coordinator Jayne Soltys. “Sterilization of these dogs is so important to be able to control the population, and so that the locals feel safe from potentially aggressive dogs. We also make a large effort to teach people how to properly care for their pets by talking to them about sterilization, vaccination, and parasite treatments. By working with XploreAsia, we hope that the teachers will help by making pet care a part of their curriculum”

“As corny as it sounds, every day we witness miracles. To watch a dog go from not being able to walk to running around on the beach, it’s absolutely incredible in a way that I cannot describe.” A prime example of this comes in the adorable form of Rescue Paws’ only permanent resident Sprite. Despite using a wheelchair, Sprite’s boundless energy and charisma wins the hearts of staff and volunteers alike. The foundation is also committed to educating the local community about animal care by reaching out to local schools and organisations.

Dog on the beach

Rescue Paws relies on a team of volunteers and are always looking for extra hands to help feed, care for and play with the dogs, so there’ll be plenty of opportunities to volunteer abroad with the organisation whilst you’re in Hua Hin earning your TESOL qualification. As Jayne says, “If you only have a couple of hours to spare, we can totally use all the help we can get when it comes to taking our dogs for walks along our beautiful beach.” You’ll also get the chance to visit during the orientation week to meet the team and get a taste of what it’s like to volunteer abroad with animals at the foundation.

XploreAsia teachers walking dogs at Rescue Paws

Other Ways to Help

Even if for some reason running along the beach with a bunch of dogs isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other things you can do to help the team out whilst studying for your TESOL qualification. All the profits from Wagging Tales, the café at XploreAsia HQ, go directly to Rescue Paws so whenever you stop by to pick up a refreshing watermelon slushy or an energising Thai iced tea between classes, you’re making a real difference to the lives of strays in Hua Hin. In fact, the money from your morning coffee provides one whole meal for a rescued pup. During your training, you’ll likely be eating a lot of freshly made lunches at the café and the fact that you’re making a huge difference to stray animals’ lives makes every bite taste even better.

Everything adds up. Five cups of coffee pays for one vaccination, ten of their delicious smoothies adds up to one bag of dog food and twenty lattes provides one sterilisation to help reduce the number of dogs being born on the streets. Whatever your schedule is, just by hanging out with your new friends at our cosy café makes a huge difference to animals in need.

XploreAsia Pudding at Wagging Tails

According to Jayne, even the seemingly smallest actions make a big difference. “You can like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter, and share our stories with your family and friends. Anything and everything helps!”

Want to Volunteer Abroad?

Head over to Rescue Paws’ website to find out more information about how you can volunteer abroad or to find out how you can make a difference to strays in Thailand whilst you’re studying for your TESOL qualification in Hua Hin.

Dogs of Rescue Paws

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