Interview with Sienna in Thailand
Tell us about your path to TEFL teaching. Was it hard to leave your friends and family and move to Thailand?
I had always been interested in teaching English abroad. It is a fabulous way to sustain long-term travel and really integrate yourself into a new country and culture. Knowing this, when I saw the program with TEFL.ie, I thought it would be a great opportunity to spend a few months in Thailand.
I had been living in Dublin for the past nine months and was ready for the next adventure. This is not my first time leaving my friends and family to travel, so it wasn’t very difficult. Plus, most people want to go to Thailand so I know it won’t be long before I see them again.
What was the move from Hawaii to Thailand like? Had you ever travelled far from home before? Did you have a bit of culture shock?
The move from Hawaii to Thailand wasn’t very difficult. I went to university in Boston, which is essentially the farthest you can go from Hawaii without leaving the US. I had also studied abroad before, in Switzerland, Germany, and Japan and spent the last year living in Dublin. However, moving to a new place, there is always a bit of culture shock as the people and the food is very different.
Yet, after being somewhere for a few weeks, getting settled and adjusted, it begins to feel like home. Not to mention the fact that there are a bunch of other teachers in the same boat as you, so you start to make a Thai family pretty quickly and go on lots of different adventures together.
How was orientation in Bangkok? What was your favourite part?
Orientation in Bangkok was educational, the people in charge answered our questions and gave us an overview of how the semester would go. However, my favourite part was getting to meet the other teachers.
We are stationed all over Thailand and this was the perfect opportunity to make friends. Part of becoming a teacher in Thailand is having the ability to travel around the country and get to see different parts that you normally wouldn’t be able to by visiting other teachers.
Describe a typical school day since you’ve been in Thailand.
A typical day at school begins when I ride my motorbike to school, which is about 5 minutes away from my apartment building. I sign into the office and then go to my classroom to set everything up for the day. At 8am every day, the school has morning assembly, where they sing the national anthem, do prayers and one of the English teachers do morning talk (an English word of the day basically).
Then, depending on the day of the week, I have anywhere from 3-5 classes a day, each 50 minutes long. I teach Mathayom 1 and Mathayom 6, 13 and 18 year old students. Each class is different but I love interacting with the different students and playing the games at the end of class to help reinforce the vocabulary.
Tell us three things a future teacher in Thailand should know before they go?
- If possible, try to save up some money before moving to Thailand. You don’t necessarily need to have money saved up, however, if you wish to travel a lot, it is nice to have. Not to mention the fact that you will not be paid until the end of your first month.
- You may not be stationed in a city, but rather a rural town. Make the best of where you are stationed and get to know your town and use the weekends to travel!
- Have an open mind when moving to Thailand and be patient. A lot of things will seem weird at first but don’t be afraid to give things a shot. Be patient when teaching, sometimes the students will act up and sometimes your school will forget to tell you if you won’t have a class but try not to let it annoy or affect you.
Describe the fun you have when you’re not in the classroom? Is it true what they say about Thailand and the amazing parties?
Since moving to Thailand, I have gone on several weekend getaways around the country to Pattaya, Khon Kaen for a music festival, Chiang Mai to play with elephants, and Laos on my visa run. Each weekend was different but amazing at the same time. On all of the different adventures, I met up with several teachers that I had become friends with during orientation.
Depending on the location, the nightlife differed. For example, when we went to Pattaya, we ended up staying out until 5am! Nightlife is definitely a noteworthy part of teaching in Thailand, and no matter where you travel if you’re with the right people, it’ll be a good time.
What have been some challenges you’ve faced on the road to living abroad? How did you overcome them—any advice for our readers/future TEFL adventurers?
I think the biggest challenge to living abroad has been budgeting. We are paid a good wage for Thailand, however, with all of the trips, I tend to spend quite a lot (basically my entire paycheck by the end of the month). However, I have recently signed up to teach online as well, this way I can supplement my income as well as work on my own schedule.
The second would be finding vegetarian options when eating out. Surprisingly, there are not a lot of options if you don’t eat chicken or pork. But I have been able to survive by learning how to say “no pork” and “no fish” in Thai as well as by purchasing a hot-plate so that I may cook at home as well.
Do you have plans once your internship is finished? More English teaching perhaps?
Since moving to Thailand, I have found that I am extremely happy here and enjoy living and teaching English. When the internship finishes, myself and a few of the other teachers that I have met here plan on renewing our contract to teach for another semester in Thailand.