The XploreAsia TESOL Experience

Rebecca Illingworth

We interviewed Rebecca during her TESOL course to get her thoughts on the XploreAsia experience, teaching overseas, and advice to all future teachers!

Right: Rebecca with her partner Keanu, during orientation week in Hua Hin.

Have you lived or traveled abroad before?

Yes, I lived in China for six months last year, I’ve also lived in new Zealand and Australia

How do you expect those experiences to help you with teaching in Thailand?

I think they will help me adapt and integrate into the culture more easily because I’ve had experience doing that before. From teaching English in China, I know what to expect in a sense of culture shock – I know things will seem a bit weird at first, but they’ll get easier. I truly believe that to really get to know the people and see society you have to stick around for at least six months, to really get a feel for the country and culture.

What made you decide to teach abroad?

I’d heard that schools have a different attitude to towards teaching. It would be fun, it’s new. I think you can get to know the people and children through teaching, you get a sense of what life is like for children in that society and culture. I’m currently in school for childhood studies. Teaching abroad helps in my studies, it’s good that I have studied it and now I can actually see it.

Why did you decide to teach in Thailand?

I’d heard that Thailand was nicknamed the land of smiles, so it seemed very friendly and laid-back, just a beautiful country to spend a lot of time in. I’d back packed in Thailand before so I’ve seen all the hot spots, but I wanted to spend time to get to know the people, getting to know the culture.

What were you most excited about in coming to Thailand?

Getting to know the Thai people more, and that it’s sunny almost every day, England isn’t this sunny.

What do you wish you’d known before coming to Thailand?

I wish I’d made the effort to learn a little Thai before I came here. We had Thai language during orientation week, but it’d have been nice to know more. Or maybe researching a little more about the geography, since we can be placed in areas throughout Thailand, and I don’t know as much about the south or the east.

What are some of your impressions of XploreAsia?

Very professional, lots of people here to help you with a wide variety of questions you might have. If you need visa help, or placement help, or even if you want to know where to eat. Very knowledgeable friendly people. 


Eating freshly prepared papaya salad during the Thai cooking class!

Did you know about or research XploreAsia at all before getting here?

We watched all the videos, and compared it with the other companies – we thought that XploreAsia seemed more professional and the best option. They had connections with lots of schools and really gave help/support.

What are your highlights from the Orientation Week with XploreAsia?

Meditating with the monk was really cool. You’d never have gotten to do something like that if you were just backpacking, unless it was specifically organized for us the way it was through XploreAsia. 

How do you feel this TESOL course is preparing you to succeed in a teaching job?

I have a TEFL and I did it online. Doing a TESOL in class with an actual lesson plan and having the class to bounce ideas around is very helpful and very useful. It’s a reflective type of learning. What I think they do really well is because they don’t just teach the course, they teach what attitudes we need to adopt to teach in Thai schools.

How do you feel the TESOL instructors are preparing you to teach in other cities in Thailand?

I feel like they’re very truthful and honest in painting a picture of what it will be like in a Thai school, and the best way to interact with your colleagues, the best attitude to have to get the most out of the experience. Not to sweat the small stuff, not to take things to heart when you have any classroom management issues. They tell us what it‘s like to be a child in Thai society. They’re very knowledgeable, funny, engaging, they always have personal stories that bring their lesson to life, very experienced. They know what they’re talking about.

What do you find most interesting about the TESOL course so far?

The curriculum project – I like that we’re doing that because in the future we might have to make our own curriculum so it prepares us for that. It’s nice to work with other teachers to collaborate ideas. Gets you thinking that all your lessons lead on from each other, makes you think about how each lesson should build on the last when youre lesson planning.

Did you have any fears before coming here?

The usual kind of fears, am I going to fit into the society, culture? Am I going to fit into the school, are the students going to like me, will I get along with co-workers? Will I be a successful teacher?

How have those fears changed since being here?

Last night we had street food, ate dinner with other Thai people. They tried to talk to us and gave us food to try. Even doing that, it made us feel like part of the society. They had also just finished work and were having dinner before going home.  We tried speaking Thai, and you could tell they appreciated the effort, and the friendliness of it all was quite nice.

Gaining invaluable teaching experience at an English camp during the TESOL course in Hua Hin

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone considering teaching in Thailand, what would you say?

Come with an open mind, be open to every possibility. Seize every opportunity and try to live!

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