Tell us a bit about yourself. We would love to know more about your background and what drew you to teaching abroad etc.
Hi, I’m Caitlin, a 25 year old Irish kindergarten teacher, working and living in Bangkok, Thailand. I’m a business and marketing graduate from Maynooth University, Ireland. During my second year of studies I spent a summer traveling Southeast Asia with a group of friends. Talking to and meeting people from all corners of the world were living and teaching in SEA immediately sparked my interest in following their footsteps after University. Along with falling in love with the people and culture, hearing their stories and after further research online, my decision was made to book that one way ticket.
Tell us about your path to teaching abroad. Did you always know you would end up teaching in Thailand?
Originally I thought I would live and teach in Vietnam, due to the fact that I spent more time in the country previously and knew a handful of people working there already. I knew I needed my TEFL certificate to secure a good job there so I decided to get that completed first and then go on the job hunt. After extensive research online, the TEFL Institute of Ireland proved the most popular place for people to do their TEFL and had great reviews. Luckily for me they were offering an advanced course and placement in Thailand – this was a package and offer I could not pass up! After speaking with someone from the institute over the phone who was more than happy to answer all of my questions, my decision was made and I signed up. Shortly after my TEFL was completed I began my placement process to the land of smiles.
What were the best parts of the TEFL experience? Do you feel it prepared you to teach English abroad?
The best part for me was the help and guidance you get throughout the course and during arrival in Thailand. Everything from visas, phone plans, transport, accommodation and bank accounts is set up and organized for you. We were provided with a 3 day orientation in Bangkok on our first weekend which helped us so much. Preparing you for culture shock, teaching skills, lesson plans, speaking Thai and coupled with meeting so many like minded people and friends for life – this was definitely the best part of the experience for me.
You found your position on your own, did you find it difficult to secure a job not having taught English before?
Luckily I found a job easily after moving to Bangkok. I spent 2 days searching websites online and facebook groups and had interviews lined up within the week. Securing an interview is the easy part – the demo lesson and interview was the hard part. Just be prepared for demo lessons with both adults and real life students. If you’re going for a kindergarten position like me, don’t be embarrassed to sing songs, dance silly and play games with a group of 5 adults. Have fun with it! The interviews I had were not so focused on previous experience but more to what I could show them I could do in person and the ideas I had. YouTube and Pinterest will be your greatest asset.
You moved abroad with your significant other, what was that like? How do you both find life in Thailand?
Moving abroad together was the best decision we’ve ever made. We both have a passion for travel and fell in love with Thailand. It’s great having one another to help with any homesickness we may have and book last minute trips when you get surprised with a long weekend. Thankfully we both found jobs we love and it’s far easier and cheaper for rent and transport when there’s two of us. We both joined a GAA team here – Thailand GAA, and they have been amazing to us. They have become our family here and it is a great way to meet new people as well as travel around Asia playing a sport we both love.
Have you traveled much since beginning your English teaching career abroad? Where have you been? We would love to hear about some of your favorite adventures thus far!
Yes, we have done most of our travel around Thailand this year, now that it’s nearly all covered we will expand to other countries next year. The amazing thing about Bangkok, or Thailand in general, is how central and easily accessible it is to other countries. Luckily we both had 2 weeks off at Christmas and we were able to spend time on most of the Islands in the South – the full moon party for New Years Eve on Koh Phangan was crazy and my highlight!
Due to many Thai Holidays and Air Pollution issues we were fortunate enough to have numerous long weekends which allowed us to make trips to other islands closer to Bangkok – my favorite being Koh Kood near the border of Cambodia, it has the whitest sand and bluest waters I’ve ever seen. Working in Thailand you need a specific visa and have to make “visa runs” quite often, these visa runs are the best. You can travel to Vientiane Laos for a few days and eat amazing French inspired cuisine and visit temples, then head to Vang Vieng for a night or 2 and have the perfect balance of adventure, great food and nightlife – and its extremely cheap! We also travel a lot with the Thailand GAA team and have had tournaments in Hanoi & Kuala Lumpur.
What are your plans for the future? Continuing to teach or are you planning on moving home?
Originally our plan was to stay in Thailand for 4 months and move somewhere different to keep traveling and teaching and then move home after one year. Yet here we are 10 months later and couldn’t be happier. We love Bangkok and the group of friends we met here and have recently signed 2 year contracts with a new school. We will definitely move home in the future but we just don’t know when yet. We are having too much fun here!
Any advice for those considering teaching abroad?
As cliche as it sounds – just do it! I have no regrets at all and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s easy to make friends and the best place to travel. If it’s the actual teaching you’re worried about, don’t be. Employers here are so helpful inside and outside of the classroom. There’s a world of English Teachers online and different social media platforms who are amazing at answering any questions you have or even for sharing different ideas and tips for the classroom. If it’s not going well for you then home is only a flight away. It’s better to say “I tried” than “what if”.