Have you ever considered a different career path? Always wanted to do something that gives your job a meaning, a sense of adventure and freedom at the same time? One of our alumni, Shanoira, had the exact same thoughts! Read her encouraging and heart warming story of her adventures and experiences teaching English in Thailand.
I have been in Thailand for about 7 months now and if you’re reading this, then you are probably interested in teaching abroad. You might be wondering what it is like and if it’s something you can really do.
Well, no need to fear! I will let you in on everything there is to know about life in Thailand.
So first off, the hardest part is taking a leap of faith and truly committing to coming to Thailand! At one point, Thailand was just a dream. I was reading blogs but I didn’t have an active plan to move to Thailand. Then one day as I sat at my office desk (hating my job), staring at a picture of Loi Krathong, I thought, “What am I waiting for?”.
That night I filled out an application which led me to Thailand. So if this is something that has been on your mind for awhile: DO IT! In life you only regret the chances you did not take.
In order to teach in most Asian countries, having a TESOL or TEFL certificate furthers your chances of getting hired as well as getting better pay (especially if you do not have a degree). I decided to get my TESOL certification with XploreAsia. XploreAsia is a well-run organization that has taught me in a short amount of time (3 weeks) to be a well-equipped teacher. For people who have never taught before or people who are new to a foreign country, I highly recommend going through a program like XploreAsia. In my view, not doing so would’ve been like jumping into the deep end of a pool and not knowing how to swim.
Their are numerous benefits to this program, such as you will instantly have a network of friends that can help you if you ever have a question about anything: visa runs, lesson plans, places to visit, etc. Also they will be living all over the country, so if you ever want to travel anywhere in Thailand you have a place to crash. When it comes to XploreAsia, they provided me with Thai lessons, cultural lessons, and fun excursions, all on top of the intensive training to be an ESL teacher. They set up my bank account, found me a job, and even helped me arrange transportation to my new town. I would never in a millions years have been able to do any of those things without the guidance of XploreAsia. Honestly, XploreAsia? You da bomb.
Teaching English in a Thai School
If you’re like me, you may have visions of these well-mannered Thai children eager to learn English, engaged in all your activities, and hanging on to your every word because you’re that awesome of a teacher. Well, it’s about time to wake up because all that, simply put, is a dream, not a reality. My students are hyper and talkative; there have been many times that they couldn’t care less that I want to teach them English. When I just began teaching, I wanted to rip my hair out of my head because I couldn’t get them to stay quiet, nor could I hold their focus for longer than 30 seconds.
However, please don’t let these things scare you! I honestly love being a teacher and I have never felt more fulfilled from a job in my entire life. Once I mastered classroom management and became inventive with the activities I used in class, this satisfaction from my job only increased. Every day (well, maybe not every day, but most of the days I’ve had teaching), I knew my students left class and learned new words or concepts. I’ve realized that English is a crucial skill to have, and the ability to speak and understand the language really does provide new opportunities to students for their futures. By being a good teacher, I’ve aided in their English knowledge and that makes me super happy.
Also, just so you know, Thailand schools tend to function by disorganized chaos. Classes get cancelled or moved around all the time. The students are constantly missing class since they are studying for some big Thai test that you know nothing about or it’s sport week, which is treated like the mini Olympics. You just have to learn quickly to go with the flow and your life will be so much easier. Do not get worked up when things do not go as planned because believe me – they won’t go to plan.
As a foreigner with braids in my hair, I sometimes feel like a painting in an art gallery. Thai people will stare at me, whisper to their friends, and some even pull out their phones to snap a picture. One thing you’ll have to get use to is the amount of stares you will encounter being a foreigner in Thailand. We look different, and we act different, and especially in smaller towns, you can stand out like a sore thumb. At times, it can be annoying when all you want to do is eat dinner at the market but everyone has stopped what they are doing and are intently staring at you. But in time, this becomes normal, and you’ll instead feel odd when you go to places like Bangkok and no one cares that you are not Thai.
I got my placement in the Chaiyapum province which is located in Isaan. I am approximately 6 hours north of Bangkok. If you have ever visited Thailand, there is a 99% chance that you have never visited my town. Google has stated that less than 1% of tourists pass through Chaiyaphum each year. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a fantastic little town, and it has truly become my home away from home.
Some of the things I enjoy doing in Chaiyapum include eating breakfast by the lake, hanging out at the one bar, checking out the markets, and going for a swim at one of the local resort’s outdoor pool. However, I also love going for rides to one of the highest viewpoints in the province (like on the picture below) and just relaxing; we’ll check out the waterfalls and visit the stone hedges. Chaiyapum is a cute little town, and I have honestly met some of the most amazing people there.
Thailand is not really big on kitchens. Therefore, most apartments are “dorm styled” and are big enough for only one person. However, you will never hear me complain about this because the rent here is BEYOND cheap! I live by a lake in a quiet part of town next door to mansions that the house governor generals inhabit, and I still only pay 3500 baht a month in rent (Approx $120 CDN). And this also includes Wi-Fi! I am from Toronto, and I pay more rent living with my mom there than I do here for my own spot. I also love being the queen of my castle and being able to decorate my place how I wish to, clean my apartment when I want to, and come in and out as I please without having to talk to anyone. You really can’t put a price on freedom.
When you are new to Thailand and you don’t speak the language, ordering food can be a pain, especially if you have dietary restrictions. I don’t have any dietary restrictions, and it was still stressful to figure out how to order food when I first got here. You will go to a restaurant and the menu will be in Thai, so you’re pretty much playing Russian roulette by ordering something based on the picture or the one with the minimal Thai words that you’ve recently learned. You will hope it will be delicious or at least edible, and sometimes when I did do this, the food was amazing. Other times, I didn’t get so lucky.
Western food is a lot more expensive in Thailand, but it is still a nice treat once in a while.
Thailand food selection was something I had to adjust to a lot! In Canada I did not eat much Thai food besides the occasional Pad Thai, so everything here in Thailand was very new to me. At first, I was very reluctant to try new cuisines because at times I can be very picky about food. Also, Thai people love spice, and I hate it. It was definitely a sharp learning curve for me, getting to know all the Thai cuisines, but now there are so many new dishes I love.
Another thing: Thai people also LOVE sugar so if you’re like me and thought you would get to Thailand and lose weight without dieting or exercising, then give up the dream now. It might not be like that.
Thailand’s transportation is generally super easy and convenient. There is a train or bus that can get you to anywhere in Thailand for very cheap. If you are ever in Bangkok, the BTS system is years ahead of any transportation in Canada, and I love transportation here. It’s very easy to get around in Thailand, so if that was ever a stress of yours, I hope I put that to rest.
I should note that I have never ridden a motorbike before and neither do I have my driver’s license back home in Canada. However, getting a bike seemed like the most logical thing to do once I got to Thailand, so I got one. Getting a motorbike is super easy: all you need is a passport, cash and *boom* you can rent a bike virtually anywhere! I rented my bike for approximately $60 (Canadian dollars) a month and gas ran me around $4 a week. So overall, it is super affordable and easy to get a bike in Thailand, and remember to be safe (i.e wearing your helmet, not drinking and driving)! Navigating the streets of Thailand is really not a problem, except for in Bangkok. Driving in that city would be pure chaos. Just take the transit system there!
There is such a difference between reading about Thailand and actually living in Thailand. Facebook and Instagram can be super deceiving. You see posts of your friends feeding elephants, and drinking Pina Colada on the beach and you think, “Wow everyday in Thailand must be like paradise.” To an extent, living in Thailand is its own form of paradise, but people also forget that Thailand is a big country filled with more than just elephants and beaches. If you are coming to Thailand to teach English, you might be placed somewhere in the middle of the country, not just at the beach.
The best advice I can give to you is to be open-minded and to embrace the cultural experience you will undoubtedly have. There are plenty of opportunities to travel (like long weekends or school breaks). So don’t think you have to be on an island teaching in order to enjoy Thailand.
Living abroad can get lonely and culture shock can be significant and real. But believe me, the pros will outweigh the cons, and you will get over culture shock no matter how bad it gets! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and when you embrace the good and the bad, you will reflect on this experience later in life, and you will be more than glad that you did it.
In Hua Hin, celebrating Songkran (Thai New Year) with my XploreAsia family
So now that you know everything there is to know about my life in Thailand. What are you waiting for? Book your flight now!
You can also check out Shanoira’s Youtube channel where you can have a more detailed overview of her adventures in Thailand and additional tips for teaching english in abroad. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us in XploreAsia, we would love to hear from you!