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 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!
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?
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.
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.