Teaching English in Thailand, Meet Niamh!
1. Introduce yourself! What did you do before TEFL? Why did you decide to become a TEFL teacher in Thailand?
Hi! My name is Niamh, I am currently teaching English in Mahasarakham, Thailand. Before I made this huge lifestyle change, I had worked in hospitality for years. Then I left my job as a Team Leader in Belfast to pursue my dream of traveling. I chose to take this leap as I was finding life in Ireland a bit monotonous and really wanted to make a change in my life and experience a new country and culture.
2. Tell us about your journey to Thailand? Why did you choose to teach in Thailand?
Were there other countries you had in mind?
I was originally considering the South Korea programme with TEFL.ie. However, I had always wanted to travel to Thailand but there were no available spaces. I messaged TEFL.ie on their website and got in touch with Emma. Who then directed me to the option of teaching in Thailand.
3. What was your first impression of Thailand? Something you may not have expected? Did you experience any culture shock?
Thailand had been on my bucket list for years and I was planning on traveling there before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, so I already had a lot of research done on the country. I have also previously been to Cambodia with Habitat for Humanity so I had a fair idea of what to expect. However, it’s impossible not to feel the wave of a culture shock when you’re thrown into a completely different way of life in a country you’ve never been to, from the absolute chaos of Bangkok city and Khaosan road to, by contrast, the laid back, calm and kind attitudes of the Thai people amidst the havoc of the traffic and so many other aspects. Although you’re in the mayhem of unfamiliarity, it was surprising how easily myself and the other teachers adapted to the culture and customs of the diverse country that is Thailand.
4. What TEFL course did you complete? How did you find it? Has it prepared for teaching English in Thailand?
I completed the 120 hour TEFL course. It was really easy to follow with multiple choice exams at the end of each module which I found useful to solidify the knowledge gained in the theory. It equipped me with a lot of general teaching information and particularly explored the psychology behind learning which acts as a useful foundation for my role as a teacher. However, you are never fully prepared to teach in Thailand and it is beneficial to remain open minded as a lot of the experience consists of learning on the job, especially if you lack teaching experience. In my opinion, this is what makes it such a valuable and authentic experience which will encourage you to think outside the box and be creative and adaptable.
5. What has been your favourite thing about Thailand?
There have been so many things I have loved about Thailand as it is such a diverse country. My favourite thing has definitely been the beautiful places I’ve been able to travel to during my time here. Thailand has such varied terrain and weather from the sunshine on beaches with a turquoise ocean to jungle hikes in thunderstorms to watching the city lights in Bangkok from an infinity pool.
6. Talk us through a typical teaching for you. What kind of school do you teach in?
What age groups are you teaching? Your favourite thing about teaching English in Thailand?
I teach in a high school in a rural area called Mahasarakham. I teach M1, M3 and M4 so my students are between the ages of 13-16 years old. Originally, I was hesitant about teaching teenagers as I had stated my preference as kindergarten/primary school however I’m so happy with being placed with older students as my favourite thing is getting to know their personalities and bonding over tik toks! They’re always up for the craic and I’ve found them all to be so polite.
7. Have you had much time for sightseeing whilst in Thailand on your time off? Has
Thailand been easy to travel around?
I arrived in Thailand 3 weeks prior to teaching so that I could travel to the parts of Thailand I had always wanted to see such as Koh Phi Phi and Ao Nang. Thailand love their bank holidays and I have more trips planned for these including the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, a long weekend in Chiang Mai, National Park hikes and I have been to Bangkok on a few regular weekends thanks to a direct night bus from my area to Bangkok.
8. Do you have any tips for teaching in Thailand? What to prepare? Was it hard to
adjust to becoming a teacher?
The most important tool to teaching in Thailand is your mindset and how you react to situations. It’s important to go with the flow and realise that both you and your students want to have a good time. If you have a sound personality and don’t take yourself too seriously, you can make teaching fun for yourself and your students. The long days in roasting heat with sometimes only a fan in your classroom when your students are wired to the moon can sometimes make you question why you’re there, but in a whole, it’s more than worth it.
It can be difficult to adjust if you don’t remain open minded and it’s important to realise that Thai culture is completely different and new and that applies across all areas of your experience. My best advice is to embrace the unfamiliarity and enjoy your authentic experience, and try to find the fun in every moment.
9. Would you recommend the Thailand Internship?
100%. The difficult part is starting and going through the process of getting your visa and other documents required to teach in Thailand. TEFL.ie put us in touch with a Thai agency who have helped us every step of the way and couldn’t be more helpful. It has made the whole process so much easier and enjoyable.
10. Tell us about your plans for the future once your internship is over.
Right now, I’m taking each day as it comes but I know in the future I want to travel a lot more and live in different countries. It’s reassuring to know that I have my TEFL certificate as I can teach in any country. Thanks for reading my blog on my experience so far teaching in Thailand, I’m always happy to help and answer your questions over on my instagram!