A couple’s story in Thailand- Ashleigh and Sean
Tell us about yourselves! What did you do before teaching in Thailand, and what motivated you both to start teaching English in Thailand
Before moving to Thailand, Sean worked as an accountant in Dublin, and I worked as a primary school teacher in Athlone. We both were motivated by the idea of travelling, and teaching English appeared to be an exciting and suitable way of transitioning into a working life abroad. The four-month teaching contract also inspired us that TEFL Ireland was advertising, as it enabled us to get a taste of teaching English abroad while also gaining insight into life in Thailand.
Did you look at other internship destinations, or were you sold on teaching English in Thailand?
We didn’t look at any other internship destinations. We were pretty much sold on Thailand from the start.
What drew us to Thailand, first of all, was the landscape. Thailand looked so beautiful in the pictures; we couldn’t wait to explore it. The weather was another factor; we both wanted to move to a hotter climate for a while. The living expenses in Thailand were very affordable for a couple wanting to travel on a budget. Lastly, the food was a big winner. Thailand is full of walking street markets where you can pick up many fresh fruit and vegetables, Thai dishes, and everyday materials.
What was your first impression of Thailand? Something you may not have expected?
Our first impression of Thailand was the heat and heavily populated streets in Bangkok. The streets were packed with locals eating and cooking street food on small push wagons. At first, we were nervous to try the street food as we were unsure how safe it was. However, we now realise that street food is the cheapest and the best place to eat Thai food. We now find ourselves seeking street food everywhere we go, which is something we didn’t expect.
Secondly, before landing in Thailand, we heard that Thai people were amiable. Having lived here for the past few months, we’ve realised that they are even kinder and more friendly than we expected. They are constantly sharing various parts of their culture, such as the language, food and social norms, making our experience enjoyable and homely.
Did you experience any culture shock?
Honestly, we didn’t experience much culture shock as Sean and I have previously travelled to countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Africa, which enabled us to be exposed to other foreign cultures. As well as this, it has been easy to adjust to Thai culture as we are travelling together, and we can support each other on difficult days when one might feel homesick. We are very social and try to socialise with local people from our school and in the gym. This helps us adjust to the culture and learn the locals’ ways.
What does a typical teaching day look like for both of you?
A typical teaching day in Thailand varies slightly for both of us. In Sean’s words… ‘It’s Chaos!’ Lol. MI am used to teaching from back home, so it’s not as chaotic. We start our school day at 7.30 with a whole school assembly. The lessons begin at 8.30 am and finish at 3.30 pm. I teach English, and Sean teaches Maths. We introduce sixteen classes per week, equating to sixteen hours. Any spare time between classes is spent lessons planning lessons and playing with the children in the yard. We have an hour for lunch. We have lunch with the other English teachers across the road during this time and enjoy street food.
Did you get to see much of Thailand since you’ve been there? Did you get some time off to do sightseeing?
Yes. We decided to fly to Thailand two months before our teaching contracts began to do some sightseeing. During this time, we explored the islands of Koh Yao Yai, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui and Koh Tao. We spent a few days in Bangkok’s capital, visiting some ancient temples. Then, we also flew north to Chiang Mai to spend some time in the jungle and visit an elephant sanctuary. We live in Northeast Thailand in a city called Udon Thani, and living here has enabled us to take a train or bus ride to visit some great and ancient sites in the towns of Nongkhai and Khon Kaen.
What are some of the best and more challenging parts of teaching in Thailand as a couple?
Best: We can bounce ideas off one another and share resources and games. We are bonding so much with the kids. We laugh every day together, making the travelling experience memorable and enjoyable.
Challenges: Honestly, not much. Some of the paperwork can be challenging at times, but we both aim to get everything done during school hours to create a work-free zone at home in the evenings.
Would you recommend teaching abroad with someone you know?
Yes, 100%. It helps so much with settling into a new country and culture. Having a travel buddy ensures you already have a friend, and you can support each other through new experiences. However, ensure that the person you choose to travel with is open-minded and easy-going about things. With travelling comes enormous excitement and uncertainty, which you must adapt to. You are travelling to explore a new destination and enjoy yourself. That won’t be much fun if your friend isn’t seeing it the same way.
What advice do you have for someone considering teaching in Thailand?
- Get all your documents organised and submitted early to the TEFL team.
- Save some money before coming to Thailand to enable you to travel before your contract starts.
- Pack wisely! Light clothing, comfy shoes, good quality and breathable work clothing, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, swimwear, any necessary medications you need, packing cubes for handy travelling and maybe a small bag pack for weekend trips.
- Talk to other teachers that have taught English abroad and ask them for tips, lesson ideas and games.
- Be open-minded and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime.
- FEEL THE FEAR! Feeling nervous and unsure about travelling to Asia and teaching for the first time? Just go for it! It’s only four months, and you can do anything for four months!
What are your plans?
Nothing planned as of yet. We hope to travel more and visit countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines while we are on this side of the world. I hope to continue my teaching journey and gain more experience teaching English to primary children from various nationalities. Sean eventually wants to return to his old accountant career and practice in a new country. Thailand also holds a prominent place in our hearts right now, so who knows; we might end up staying to work here for another while.