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Life After Teaching Abroad

Life After Teaching Abroad

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

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

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


Where in Thailand did you teach?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica Melton students

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

Wai Jessica Melton

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

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

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

Jessica Jamming Band Hua Hin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica Melton rugby team

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is your favourite place to travel in Thailand?

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

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

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


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

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

We Had A (Water) Blast at the XploreAsia Songkran Party!

We Had A (Water) Blast at the XploreAsia Songkran Party!

Our XploreAsia office held a wonderful and water-filled Songkran party that was truly a blast! But the actual holiday of Songkran started even earlier the night before. Music, dancing, and of course, so much water filled the streets from the evening on, and everywhere you looked, the energy and excitement was palpable in the air. We sat down to chat with some of our interns about their very first Songkran experience and what they loved most about the holiday!


Did you have any prior knowledge or expectations about Songkran? 

Krish: I didn’t know too much about the holiday. I’d heard a lot about it from friends, but I didn’t really know what to expect.

Isabelle: So many people kept telling me that it was “one of the best days of their life,” but I really had no idea what to expect. A giant water fight? It sounded like fun, but not THAT much fun. But when the day of Songkran rolled around, I was proven wrong; the holiday is truly is one of the best days of the year, and I’ve never seen that much excitement and joy in the air. It infuses the whole city.

Jane: Yes, I’d had heard it was a lot of fun and that you’re not dry the whole day! 

How would you describe the holiday to someone that’s never experienced Songkran before?

Marti: Pure joy!

Krish: The greatest water fight in the history of man-kind. 

Jane: The best day of your life. I would give up the 4th of July for Songkran. The holiday just unites the country. 

XA Songkran Party
Do you have a crazy story or funny memory from the day? 

Marti: One of our placement coordinators Nat getting inside the water bin on the side of the street. 

Krish: Our office mom “Meh” with the water gun just having a blast trying to hit as many people with water as possible. 

Jane Marti Songkran
What was your favourite part of Songkran?

Krish: Dousing everyone with water! 

Jane: Going into town and being with all the Thai people. I loved being immersed in the local culture and seeing how they celebrate Songkran. 

Meh P Ae Songkran

XploreAsia held a short blessing ceremony after the festivities where the older generation (the mothers) gave a blessing to each of us there. It was such a beautiful moment for everyone there.
 
Have you ever been a part of a ceremony like that before? What were some of your favourite memories from that special ceremony?

Krish: I had been to a monk blessing ceremony before, but this particular ceremony was different in that it really highlighted the importance of family to me. Through the experience, I felt like a welcomed member of the XploreAsia team. 

Marti: Our office mom “Meh” crying through the ceremony. It was so touching to see the love and care she gave to every person.

Jane: I’ve never experienced anything like the ceremony before. It felt very sentimental and was centered around family; even though it was in a company setting, I could certainly sense the family air. 

Marti Blessing Ceremony
Let’s play a game of Songkran lightning round!

Most important item to wear on Songkran:

Krish & Jane: Hawaiian shirt! 

Marti: Water-proof bag (don’t get a cheap one; it’ll break down!) 

Water weapon of choice:

Krish & Jane: Mini Bucket

Marti: Water gun

Marti XA Songkran Party

Sounds of Songkran:  

Marti: Children laughing and yelling, or the sounds of someone yelling as they got doused with cold water! 

Isabelle: Splashing of water, live music from stages around Hua Hin on the night before Songkran, people yelling and shouting, the sound of people saying Happy New Year to you when they put paste on your face. 

XA Songkran Party
Mike XA Songkran Party

Best moment of Songkran:

Marti: Street festivities. We were shuffling an inch at a time down the street on the night before Songkran. 

Krish: Definitely soaking my boss with water! 

Jane: When the water fights first start and everyone goes from being dry to wet. 

Favourite Hawaiian shirt colour:

Krish: Blue 

Jane: I don’t have a favourite colour; I mostly just loved all the bright colours everywhere! 

Krish Nat Erica at XA Songkran Party

Unexpected sight at Songkran:

Isabelle: Bags of chalk being sold on the sides of the road, and all the colourful Hawaiian shirts. 

Krish: I remember seeing a guy jumping out of a bucket of water. 

Jane: There wasn’t one person unhappy in the crowd. And I was surprised by getting the chalky paste put on my face. At first, I thought it wasn’t a good thing, but then I realized that it’s meant to ward off bad spirits and is a sign of affection or good luck. 


Thank you so much to our wonderful interns! We are so glad that you had a wonderful experience at your very first Songkran! We sure had an incredible time celebrating with over 100 people, new faces, locals, alumni, and our office dogs Nom Sod, Pudding, and Pumpkin.  Happy Thai New Year!

Friends XA Songkran Party

I’d love to hear from you: what is your favorite holiday? What are some of your treasured holiday traditions? Have you ever celebrated Songkran before?

Ready for your own adventure abroad? Check out some of our incredible programs here

Making a Difference: How Trash Hero is Keeping Our World Clean

Making a Difference: How Trash Hero is Keeping Our World Clean

Accumulation of waste across the world is a clear issue, and yet not nearly enough is being done to tackle this problem. Our incredible Program Coordinator Krissy started an amazing project to minimize excess waste. Through her actions, our TESOL course participants have had the chance to actively make a difference in keeping our environment clean. At XploreAsia, we also seek to raise awareness on the issue through selling Trash Hero water bottles and offering free refills of water. Check out Krissy’s story of how she became involved with Trash Hero and the difference that the organization makes in Hua Hin, Thailand! 


What is Trash Hero and what does the organization do?

Trash Hero is an organization dedicated to sustainability and waste management education within local communities. The first Trash Hero chapter started in Koh Lipe and has since grown to multiple locations throughout Thailand and abroad. They are multifaceted in what they do, and it is very easy to get involved. Their first goal is to simply clean local areas and encourage other locals to do so through leading by example. Most, if not all, chapters have a Facebook page that advertises where and when the weekly cleanups will be held.

trash hero beach pile

The second is to encourage local businesses to get involved with the Bottles and Bags program. Local businesses can order stainless steel water bottles for 100 baht a bottle and sell them for 200 baht. The caveat is that they must provide a water refill station for any person who has a Trash Hero water bottle to refill for free.

The bags are another great aspect to the organization because Thailand has an interesting view when it comes to plastics. Plastic is regarded as an endless commodity with little thought to what happens once a person is done with it. Bringing a reusable bag with you to the shop will prompt funny glances, but again, it’s the ‘lead by example’ mentality that is slowly making headway.

How and when did you first become involved with Trash Hero?

 

I can’t remember the exact time when I started working with Trash Hero, but I know the reason. I had recently returned to Thailand after a short trip home, so probably around May 2016.

I lost my stainless steel water bottle somewhere and turned to the internet to see where to buy one in Hua Hin. The thing is, you can’t. Stainless steel water bottles are like the unicorns of Thailand, they just don’t exist. But I persisted, I typed in other locations and search words until I stumbled upon the Trash Hero website, specifically the Bottles and Bags program.

trash hero clean

I read through the information and scoured the website to see if there was a place close by to purchase a water bottle. To my surprise, they had a chapter in Hua Hin. So I looked them up on Facebook and went to their next scheduled cleanup. The rest is history as they say.

How would you describe the impact that Trash Hero has made so far in Thailand?

Trash Hero has made a huge difference all over Thailand. Most of the chapters are in the southern parts of Thailand with one in Bangkok and another in Chiang Mai. But if these volunteers didn’t come out to pick up rubbish every week, who would? Some beachside hotels are responsible for cleaning their section of the beach, but what about the other areas that fall outside the scope of those establishments? That alone can make a huge difference. Trash Hero removes hundreds of kilos of trash from the beaches up and down the coastline and on the islands. Chapters have even started on other parts of the globe.

What differences have you made personally in your daily life and how has XploreAsia helped with your involvement in the Trash Hero cause?

I personally volunteer many Sunday afternoons to Trash Hero and help to clean the beaches here in Hua Hin. I’ve also assisted in establishing a relationship between Trash Hero and XploreAsia. Wagging Tales is now one of the businesses taking part in the Bottles and Bags program offering stainless steel water bottles to our teachers and the community.

TrashHeroWater

With this expansion in sustainability mindfulness, Wagging Tales also offers lunch to participants during their course for purchase. Initially, lunch was served in single use plastic containers. I’m proud to say that Wagging Tales has since switched to serving with reusable plates and silverware. We hope to continue this relationship and have our teachers help us to spread the message of sustainability into their placement communities.

How can we get involved with Trash Hero and make a difference in helping to protect our environment?
The best way to get involved with Trash Hero is to look them up online and find a location to volunteer at near you! Then look at that chapter on Facebook to find out the exact location of meet-ups. You can also start trying to reduce your waste by getting a stainless steel water bottle, reusable bag for shopping, containers to bring with you to take-away shops, and just saying ‘no’ to straws! A little goes a long way and leading by example is always a plus too.
TrashHeroKrissy

Thank you so much Krissy for dedicating your time and resources to such an amazing cause! We truly value and appreciate the inspiring difference you are making in our community. You define leading by example, and we know that your efforts and the hard work of many others will bring about great change in keeping our environment clean. 

We are always eager to discover new ways to make a difference in the community:  what inspires you to make an impact in our world? Are there any local causes that you are passionate about sharing with others? How do you make a difference in your own community?  

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

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

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

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

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


 

How did you decide to teach in Thailand?

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

Where in Thailand do you teach English?

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

How many students/grades do you teach?

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

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

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

Teacher Bronson the Dab

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

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

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

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

Teacher Bronson Students

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

What do you enjoy most about teaching English in Thailand?

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

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

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

Teacher Bronson with his students

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

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

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

Teacher Bronson Student

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

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

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

Tips for Lesson Planning and Classroom Management

Tips for Lesson Planning and Classroom Management

Teach in Thailand

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

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

____________________________________________

David:

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

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

How many classes do you teach?

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

Students English Camps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #1

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

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

Tip #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

________________________________________________________________________

Khensi: 

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

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

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

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

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

Khensi's Teaching Tips

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

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

Khensi and her students

Khensi with a few of her students!

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

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


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

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

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

Survival Tips for New English Teachers in Thailand

Survival Tips for New English Teachers in Thailand

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

 

Written by Stella Saintis


1. Keep an open mind

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

 

2. Be Flexible

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

children in Thai school

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

children in Thai school

3. Embrace the Thai language

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

5. Eat the street food

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

English Teachers in Thailand

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

6. Know what helps you de-stress

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


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

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

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

Making a Difference as An Organization: An Inside Look at the Pala-U Orphanage

Making a Difference as An Organization: An Inside Look at the Pala-U Orphanage

At XploreAsia, we not only provide our participants with incredible teacher training and placements, but we also strive to make a true difference as an organization. We believe in creating change in our local community, and through our actions, we hope to inspire others to make a difference in their own local communities.

One of the wonderful organizations that we support is the Pala-U orphanage in Petchaburi, Thailand. Located roughly two hours away from Hua Hin, the orphanage is home to 24 children and is growing every-day. Here, we talk with one of our XA directors Paang on how XploreAsia has been making a difference at the Pala-U orphanage.


 
Could you tell us a little more about the Pala-U orphanage?

It was founded around 12 years ago and the person who runs the orphanage is a Karen-Thai national. He started fostering [children] when he was only 19 years old. In the beginning, he adopted one child while he was a volunteer teacher.

Then, he met another kid who was a really good student but could not afford to go to school and had no relatives that could take care of him. He adopted the boy and just kept going. Within a year he had 7 kids in his care. Now there are 24 children: 14 boys and 10 girls. The youngest one is 8 years old. 

Pala-U Orphanage
Mealtime Pala-U Orphanage

The orphanage is not funded by any government institutions or private organizations. There are other private groups that have tried to help them but they haven’t been able to provide stable support.  It is located in the west of Thailand, about 1 hour 40 minutes from Hua Hin. It is in the remote area in Pa Deng village in Petchaburi, close to the border of Myanmar. 

How did you become involved with the Pala-U orphanage?

We contacted the orphanage 3 years ago about adopting puppies from our Rescue Paws project. Through our staff at Rescue Paws, we found that they were interested in getting some dogs to protect the properties and also to be pets for the children there. We went there to give supplies of dog food to them and we found that the place needed a lot of help. 

How does XploreAsia support the orphanage now?
Paang Pala-U Orphanage

 

We donate things that will help them sustain the orphanage in the long term. We sponsor the mushroom growing project and donate plants (Durian and other fruits) so they can grow food and could sell them if they have more than they need. We visit the orphanage at least once a month and keep in touch by phone.

We support them in several ways. We try to promote the orphanage by bringing our participants to do activities with the kids. We organize English [lessons] so they can learn English and promote their social skills and gain confidence through interaction in the activities. Mike and I have also been donating money and supplies regularly as well as taking care of the medical expenses for the youngest child that has leukemia.

Supplies Pala-U Orphanage
Can you tell us more about the little boy with leukemia?

Tou Tou is a Karen kid from the border. He doesn’t have a nationality (no citizenship). He came to the orphanage as a 3-year-old, brought by one of the leaders of the local villages there. His mother passed away in childbirth. Tou Tou has never seen his mom. He has Thalassemia, a genetic condition, from his parents and he was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago. He needs to go to the hospital in Hua Hin twice a month for a check-up and a blood transfusion. We pay for his medical bills so he can continue to do so.

What are some of the ways that we can help the Pala-U orphanage?

There are several ways to help this orphanage. As a volunteer, you could teach them English. You could help them by teaching some skills that they could use to sustain themselves: how to make crafts or bake, even how to use a computer or create websites. You could help build the common areas and accommodations.

Meal Pala-U Orphanage
Playing Pala-U Orphanage

 

You can volunteer there on a regular basis. However, just keep in mind that the space to stay there is limited because they don’t have a lot of available rooms. Also, most kids there go to schools during the day except in school break. You can stay in a place nearby. The area is quite small but very beautiful, and they do sustainable farming. They grow vegetables and raise cows, chicken, and ducks. It is a simple life surrounded by nature.


Thank you so much, Paang! The work that you do with the Pala-U orphanage is truly inspirational.

Group Picture Pala-U Orphanage

There are countless ways that you could make a difference at the Pala-U orphanage. The children at the orphanage depend on the help of volunteers and donors like you to receive educational, nutritional, and medical support. Please consider joining XploreAsia in reaching out a helping hand today. For more information on how you can make a difference for the Pala-U orphanage, contact us directly at m.volpe@xploreasia.org. We would love to chat with you! 

Are you ready to make a lasting difference teaching English abroad? Consider signing up for one of our incredible TESOL courses and teaching programs today!   

Experience Thailand’s Songkran Festival

Experience Thailand’s Songkran Festival

A country-wide water-fight & the only holiday where you’ll be drenched 24/7

Songkran occurs during the hottest month of the year and while schools are on holiday. The whole country has the chance to relax and cool off, while people drench one another with water buckets, water guns, and any other water-spraying device. Songkran is a national holiday so banks and most businesses will be closed during the three-day period, so take that into consideration when planning for your trip.

A Look at Songkran Rituals

As a New Year’s tradition, Songkran is celebrated through purification rituals, water offerings to temples, and as a way to wash away the impurities accumulated over the past year. Over time, the yearly ritual has evolved into a country-wide water fight involving ice buckets and super-soakers. 

Traditional rituals include pouring water over Buddha statues for good luck and then sprinkling that water over loved ones as a blessing. Today many people still take this time to wash their personal Buddha statues and make offerings to monks in the form of food, clothing, and flowers.

The second day of the celebration is National Family Day. While most tourists head to the biggest cities for chaotic celebrations, many Thai people retreat back home to visit their families.

Songkran Water Fight

Songkran is the largest celebration in Thailand, and it occurs every spring during the passing of the sun into the Aries zodiac month. Unlike other calendars that are set according to the lunar year, Thailand’s calendar was originally set according to the sun and star alignment.

Before the New Year was moved to January 1st,  the Thai New Year took place on April 13th. Therefore, the Songkran festival now officially begins during the second week of April. Depending on which region you visit, this giant water fight can range from 1-2 days to nearly 10 days of constant water shenanigans.

What makes Songkran unique?

  • Anyone can participate; all ages, religions, and nationalities are welcome!
  • It’s FREE! (Other than the purchase of a water gun)
  • Tens of thousands of people crowd the streets to partake in drenching one another with water
  • Everyone is smiling and enjoying the festival while embracing a piece of Thailand’s unique culture. Who doesn’t love a friendly water fight?

 

Popular Cities Songkran
Songkran Water Fight

 

Where to go for Songkran

Our XploreAsia team will be hosting our own water fight party for previous teachers and students to reconnect at our office in Hua Hin. If you’re in the area, stop by to say hello and soak our team with water! We’d love to see you! 

If you’re interested in completing a TESOL course in Thailand but you aren’t sure about which date to choose, consider coming in April! Not only will you have the chance to complete the TESOL course in preparation for when school starts again in May, you’ll also be able celebrate Songkran with other TESOL course students and the XploreAsia team. It’s a holiday you won’t want to miss out on!

TAKE CAUTION: 

Driving during the Songkran celebration is not encouraged due to the high number of participants crowding the streets and drenching drivers with water.  Also note that there is an endless flow of alcohol during these four days, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and refrain from getting behind the wheel.

Also if you’re celebrating in Chiang Mai, be aware that moat water will most likely be used and it may contain bacteria, so protect your eyes and don’t swallow the water! Lastly, take extra precautions to stay safe while travelling to and from the popular Songkran sites. Public transportation is encouraged as traffic will be mostly at a standstill.

Things to Bring

Whether you are craving a chaotic mob of super soakers or dreaming of tranquil time with loved ones, Songkran offers the time for both. Just remember, when you find yourself inevitably drenched in water, to take a moment to embrace the beauty of Thailand’s unique culture. This holiday is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that won’t want to miss!  

With that said, gather your Rambo gear, collect your water weapon of choice, and get ready to celebrate the New Year as the Thais do!

Songkran Water Fight

Have you celebrated Songkran before? Do you prefer water guns, water balloons, or super-soakers? Do you have plans for the Songkran celebration this year? Come by our XploreAsia office to celebrate with us – we’d love to see you!  

Curious about how you can start your adventure abroad? Check out our amazing programs here

TESOL Course Orientation Week: What to Expect When Living in Thailand

TESOL Course Orientation Week: What to Expect When Living in Thailand

We are so glad to welcome the newest members of the Xplore Asia family and share their stories from their first few weeks living in Thailand. Our new interns just came back from their weekend trip from Koh Pha Ngan and are back in the office, working away and preparing to welcome our next TESOL course intake. They have been in Hua Hin for just over two weeks now and would love to offer some advice on what to expect during orientation week and adjusting to life in Thailand.

New interns, Xplore Asia

Our new interns: Marti, Julia, Jane, and Isabelle!

What was your first impression of Thailand and how did it compare to your expectations?

Boat Trip in Bangkok

Boat Trip in Bangkok

JaneI was surprised by the Western influence and how much of it there was. Coming from New York City, I am used to the hustle and bustle of a busy city that is not exactly clean.  However, Bangkok was a whole different ball game.  I also thought that Hua Hin would be a quaint little beach town getaway, but it feels much more urban. The city has grown on me quite a lot, and it offers so many wonderful things.

Isabelle: Here in Hua Hin, the busyness of the roads continue to surprise me, but I love the difference between night and day in the city. At night-time, the city is far less hot, which is reflected in the atmosphere: people come out to relax, eat, and drink at the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants.  It’s so lovely.

Is this your first time traveling in Southeast Asia, and did you do any research before you arrived?

Jane: This is my first time in South East Asia.  I did a bit of research but nothing too extensive.  For example, I googled pictures of Thailand and Hua Hin and read a few travel books about Thailand.  I also talked to my friend a lot about Thailand because she studied in Chang Mai in Spring 2015. I do like to keep things a surprise and I knew that Hua Hin would be different from where my friend was and from what people think of when they think of Thailand.                                                                                                                     

Marti: Yes, I’ve been to both Vietnam and Myanmar. I didn’t do much research because I assumed it would be somewhat similar to those other countries.

What was your biggest concern about living and working in Thailand?

Life in Thailand

Sunrise in Hua Hin

Isabelle: I was mainly concerned about safety as a female traveler, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I feel much safer here than I did traveling in other places (sometimes even in the States).

Julia: I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew it would still be an interesting experience no matter what happened.

What advice would give to someone who has the same concern?

Jane: For someone who is sort of “afraid of the unknown” and unsure about coming to Thailand, I would tell them this: everyone has fears and anxieties of the unknown.  You are excited but nervous. I think if you even have a slight desire to go and see somewhere, just go.  Otherwise, you’re always going to wonder, “What if I’d done that? What if I’d gone?” 

Marti: Embrace it! Everything in this country is amazing, from the people to the food to the scenic landscapes.

Julia: It will all work out and even at times when things get frustrating at work, remember that you are still living in Thailand. Stay optimistic and positive about the experience and embrace it.

Local market where we ordered ingredients in Thai to cook Pad Thai and papaya salad!

Isabelle: There are dangers everywhere, of course, but I have found that I feel very safe here in Hua Hin. It’s important to use common sense, but that’s similar to any other place. As my dad always states, “Make good choices,” and I think that goes for a lot of things – not just personal safety, but in looking out for others as well.

What was your favourite part of the TESOL Course Orientation week?

Elephant Hug

Hugging an elephant at the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation!

Jane: My favorite part was going to Hutsadin Elephant Foundation and learning about the elephants.  They are truly amazing animals. 

Marti: I thought it was interesting to hear the backgrounds of other people involved in the program to see what made them decide to come to Thailand. It was a great way to get to know everyone very fast. Feeding elephants is always a plus! 

Isabelle: The Thai politics and culture class taught by the director Michael Volpe was a highlight for me; I learned so much in just those few lectures, and his enthusiasm and clear love for Thailand made me all the more excited to experience living in the country.

What was the most surprising part about orientation week and life in Thailand? 

Hua Hin Beach

The beach down the street from where we live!

Isabelle: Thailand is truly a study of contrasts and some aspects of the culture can sometimes contradict one another. The fact that cars and motorbikes will not stop for pedestrians was surprising to me, but as long as you’re vigilant and patient, it’s not too much of a problem.

Julia: I was surprised by how busy Hua Hin is. I expected it to be more of a relaxed beach town.

Marti: I was surprised to learn about the background of the recent King that passed and discover the level of adoration he received from the Thai people.

What was the most challenging part about adjusting to living in Thailand?

Isabelle: How hot it is here in Thailand. It really does drain your strength, so drink lots of water, wear good shoes, and don’t forget to put on bug spray. There are so many bugs in Thailand! 

Jane: The most challenging part was being jet lagged.  I was so tired and went to bed at 9:30 pm every night.

What do you love about life in Hua Hin?

Jane: I love being by the beach and the abundance of seafood.  The food here is really tasty and super cheap.

Isabelle: Recently, we went to the Grand Night Market for dinner, and I enjoyed it much more than the regular night market. It was far less touristy, the food was delicious, and in the back of the market, a gathering of bars with bright, colourful lights overhead was so inviting and peaceful.

Hua Hin Beach

Hua Hin Beach

What do you wish you would’ve brought with you to Thailand?

Isabelle: More bug spray! And long, flowy black pants for the office. Comfortable slip-on and slip-off shoes (flats) are awesome to have here because you’re constantly taking your shoes off and on when you go into any businesses or the office.  

Jane: I wish I had more room in my suitcase to bring home some of the amazing things you can find in Thailand.  The clothes here are so bright and pretty. There is a lot of color here, and everything is vibrant and cheery… I would LOVE to bring that home. 

MartiMost of my clothes aren’t fit for office life. I wish I had packed less so I could take advantage of the cheaper, more suitable options here.

Thank you to our new interns! We’re so happy that you had a wonderful TESOL Course Orientation experience and we’re excited that you’re here at Xplore Asia. We can’t wait to hear about the new adventures and experiences you’ll have while living in Thailand! 

Ready to start your own adventure living in a different country? Are you interested in teaching or working abroad? Check out our amazing program experiences here.

Discovering the Art Scene in Thailand

Discovering the Art Scene in Thailand

A Guide to Arts and Culture in Thailand

A First Look at the Art in Thailand 

Last Sunday afternoon found me wandering the Chatuchak market in Bangkok, weaving my way through crowded stalls brimming with wares: everything from vintage sneakers to baskets of mangoes, cheap sunglasses and old porcelain dishware. Amid the hubbub, a narrow corridor led deeper into the covered market area, and I soon realized that an entire community of artists and small galleries flourished in the tiny and often hidden corners of the market.

One of the many stalls in the Chatuchak Market 

Golden walkways at the Grand Palace 

There, nestled between large vendors selling purses of all shapes and sizes and bustling restaurants, lay an entire network of small stalls showcasing art pieces and handmade jewelry, portraiture, and modern art.

When one envisions Bangkok, artwork – street art, galleries, and the like – is not generally what first comes to mind. But as I continue to learn more about this multi-faceted culture and country, Thailand offers one of the richest and most diverse art scenes around the world.

In addition to the stunning temples that adorn the cityscape of Bangkok, contemporary galleries and eclectic art spaces open regularly around the city, creating a mosaic-like art scene that honors traditional Buddhist art and handmade craftsmanship.

Rounding the corner of one stall, I caught a glimpse of a vastly intricate painted scroll depicting a battle at sea. It was done in ancient art form, the boats replete with dragon-heads and sailors fighting with spears, and as I looked a little closer, the plaque in the corner read the artist’s name and then the date: February 2017. It had been painted just the week before.

So this is Thailand then too: a blend of contemporary and traditional, a study of contrasts, and always, always surprising.

Street Art and So Much More in Hua Hin

I have found this to be the case in Hua Hin as well, where I am currently living for the next few months. There is a different flavor to the art in this city. A former fishing town that sits right along the beach, Hua Hin offers a significantly more laid-back atmosphere than in Bangkok, and as a popular tourist destination, the art scene is catered perhaps more directly towards this crowd.

Golden Buddha statue at the Khao Takiab Temple, Hua Hin

In Hua Hin, there is the Baan Sillapin Artists Village and 3D museum. The original arts center in Hua Hin, the village holds large galleries of arts and antiques and offers walk-throughs of artist studios. In the winter months, the village hosts an Art & Jazz collective, bringing musicians in from around the world to perform at the center. The village a slight trek away from the city center of Hua Hin, around 5 km on the road to Pala-U, but transportation is easy here – you can rent a taxi or a tuk-tuk for a fairly reasonable price to bring you there and back.

For more art galleries within the city itself, you can also check out the Aourd Art Gallery on Poon Suk road, Art My Home Gallery on Chomsin Road, and Cicada Market for beautiful handmade pieces.

But I have found art in so many unexpected places too: on the corner where I run every morning, there is a little monster painted on the wall of a restaurant with the word “Gallery” colorfully inscribed above. I love it. I look for it every day.

There is art to be found everywhere, and in all cliché form, sometimes you just have to look for it in the unexpected places. I find that through art, you can discover so much about a culture and a country, trace its history and values, its path through conflict and harmony.

As you begin your adventure traveling to Southeast Asia to teach or volunteer, be sure to keep your eye out for the unexpected artwork all around you.

My favorite mural in Hua Hin! 

I’m curious to know: what kind of art are you interested in? Do you love street art, contemporary art, or historical pieces? What amazing artwork have you found in your travels? When you think of art in Thailand, what images came to mind?

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