Interview with Sarah in Thailand
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF! WE’D LOVE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND, WHAT DREW YOU TO TEACHING ABROAD, AND MORE.
Hi, my name is Sarah. I’m 25 and live in Bettystown in Meath! I have been studying for the past 6 years in Ireland. Four of the years were in Dundalk Institute of Technology studying Social care. During my time studying, I worked part-time in a local Chinese restaurant/take away. It was perfect while getting through college as my boss was amazing and so accommodating. When I graduated in May 2018, I continued to work in a Chinese restaurant as I knew that I wanted to head off traveling somewhere. Thailand was very high up on my list. I didn’t want to go into a job down the Social Care career path as I thought I may get too comfortable with the money and not want to head away and also being honest I wasn’t quite ready to fully ‘adult’ yet!
I had a small bit of teaching experience through college placements. I had previously done placement and volunteering in a special needs school and a Montessori. I did really enjoy both placements and found it very rewarding.
What drew me to teaching abroad was that I wanted to go somewhere completely different from home. I wanted to travel, gain experience and get a feel of a new culture.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PATH TO TEACHING ABROAD—DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU’D END UP IN THAILAND?
I always knew after college I would go somewhere. Many of my friends finished college the year before me and had already headed off traveling mainly Canada and Australia. I knew that I wanted to go somewhere where I could do loads of traveling which wouldn’t cost a bomb!
I did a little research into Thailand and saw how cheap it was to travel and also live. Many of my friends had already been to Thailand and had nothing but good things to say about their experience.
I was scrolling through Facebook one day and saw an ad from TEFL Ireland. I had done a bit of research into the TEFL course then came across the Thailand internship. As soon as I read up about the internship I knew it was something I would definitely be interested in. This was during my final semester in college. I pretty much made my mind up that it was exactly what I wanted to do.
When I finished my thesis, I looked into the internship in more detail. In July I then decided to book it for the following May. That way it gave me enough time to save in order to be able to travel before I started teaching in the May (and once it was booked there was no backing out).
WHAT WERE THE BEST PARTS OF YOUR TEFL COURSE EXPERIENCE? DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT PREPARED YOU FOR TEACHING IN THAILAND?
Before leaving for Thailand, I was so excited but also nervous. I had a great support network of family and friends around me who kept reassuring me anytime I would freak out over the fact I was moving so far away!!
Overall the TEFL course was a great insight into teaching. With the different modules and the tests at the end of each module, it gave me a real feel to what it would be like to teach abroad. Also knowing once I arrived in Thailand that I would have the support from the TEFL Institute of Ireland’s partners in Thailand and also still have the support of the TEFL Institute of Ireland staff at home put me at ease. This also put my poor parents’ minds at ease too.
I did feel prepared for teaching but I also didn’t know what to expect. You can do all the training in the world and still not fully know how things will go until you arrive to meet your students and embrace yourself in their way of life and culture.
YOU WERE ORIGINALLY ON A MUCH DIFFERENT CAREER-PATH. TELL US ABOUT YOUR COLLEGE STUDY EXPERIENCES AND HOW/WHY YOU MADE THE SWITCH TO TEACHING.
Social Care is very different from teaching! I don’t think becoming a teacher was ever really in my head during my studies. Although during my placement in the special needs school I really loved it. I could see myself being and Special needs assistant but not an actual teacher. I knew whatever job I ended up in it would have to be something that is rewarding and helps others in some way. My final placement in college was in an HSE Drug Outreach and Counselling service. So you could definitely say teaching is a very different career path to go down.
I think once I had my mindset on traveling I needed to find a way in which I could go long term. Which meant I would need a job. A job that I would gain new experiences from. The usual places people travel after college like Canada and Australia just didn’t appeal to me. I knew if I went somewhere like that I would be in a 9-5 job Monday to Friday the same as at home, I know the lifestyle would be different but I just wanted to do something completely different and out of my comfort zone. Also, the cost of living isn’t cheap so I wouldn’t have been able to do as much travel as I wanted to.
Once I saw the TEFL internship for Thailand I did my research and knew that was the option for me! I could travel, gain new experiences, learn a new culture and immerse myself in new surroundings.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT LIVING IN THAILAND. WHAT WERE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS? WAS THERE ANY CULTURE SHOCK AFTER THE INITIAL MOVE?
My initial thoughts were a lot different to how things actually were. When I was given my placement school area I obviously went onto google to see what it would be like. I went onto google maps and looked up Nangrong I went and looked at the real view as if you were walking down the street, from what I had seen I thought I was arriving in this tiny town with literally one street haha!! When I arrived, it was a completely different story. The town I am in is a lot different from what my initial thoughts were (thank god). It is so much bigger than I expected and there are lots going on.
We have a brilliant gym and swimming pool which we joined. The other teachers I am placed with and I do Muay Thai in the gym. It is brilliant that we are the only Westerners that go to the gym so they all seem to love us!
Being the only westerners means that everyone in the town recognizes us. The people are so so friendly and welcoming. We have been for dinner with two different families in their homes both of which put on an amazing spread, drinks, dinner, desert the lot!
The only thing that is quite difficult is that because the area I live in is not a tourist area or not an area many English speaking people live ordering dinner when the menu is in Thai you just have to hope for the best. And even in the one place which has an English menu, the translation can mean something different to what we may think. Crispy chicken which for us would be chicken in the crispy batter (yum)…. No, here it is chicken with tendons still attached for that crispness (not so yum)!! But I think the Thai people are the most friendly and welcoming people I have ever met. Even with the language barrier the locals still come up and try to speak to us and always direct a smile our way. You always hear ‘Hello teacher’ walking down the street.
The culture is completely different to at home as to be expected. But I don’t think ill ever get used to seeing up to 5 people on one motorbike! Or a child who looks about 10 driving down the road haha! Also, the squat toilets are quite a culture shock.
HAVE YOU DONE MUCH TRAVELING SINCE MOVING TO THAILAND? IF SO, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
I arrived in Thailand on the 12th of March and traveled right up until orientation on the 4th of May. I traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. A friend was with me at the start of our travels which was nice. We arrived in Bangkok, then from Bangkok, we went straight to Siem Reap Cambodia. Siem Reap to Laos, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng where tubing is a must! From Laos to the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai where we went to an elephant sanctuary which was possibly the most amazing thing I have ever done. Then up to Pai which is proper Hippy paradise. Then we headed down south to the islands. Krabi was our first stop, it was a busy town but Railay beach was nothing next to amazing so beautiful. Then we headed to Koh Lanta, where we did our scuba diving with Lanta divers which was again such an unreal experience something I’ll never forget.
From Koh Lanta onto Phuket Patong Beach we were here for Songkran festival which is literally a massive water fight for 2 days such a laugh. Two friends from home flew out to Phuket to travel with us for 2 week which was so nice. From Phuket, we then went to the islands. We started with Phi Phi which is possibly my most favorite place ever. It is the most beautiful island which also has no transport which means no cars or motorbikes which was so lovely to walk around and not be afraid to cross a road haha!! Then onto Koh Samui. Then to Koh Phangan for the full moon party which was mad.
Then from Koh Phangan, we went back to Bangkok and onto Vietnam. Our first stop in Vietnam was Hanoi where we met another friend who came from Australia. I just found Hanoi way too busy for my liking, but the train street was unreal to see and we also did Castaways in Halong Bag with VBH which was deadly. From Hanoi we headed to Ho Chi Minh then from there we went on to Ninhvana a VBH backpackers resort which was lovely to just chill out. Then we headed to Hoi An from there we did the Hai Van Pass and next stop was Hue then I flew back from Da Nang to Bangkok for orientation.
Being able to travel to so many places was absolutely amazing, I now have memories and experiences I will never ever forget. You meet amazing like-minded people along the way. I was never alone while traveling but if you are thinking of going but scared of going alone, don’t worry just do it. I met more solo travelers then people who are traveling with friends, you will never be alone.
Since we started work, we do try and travel on the weekends. We have been to Korat, Buriram, and Chiayaphum so far and I was also back in Laos in Savannakhet for our visa run. During orientation, you get to meet all the other teachers which is great as we all meet up when you plan on going somewhere.