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TEFL 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 Ruby, and I’m currently teaching English as a foreign language in the Sahkon Nahkon Province, Thailand, as part of a 4.5-month internship with TEFL Ireland. I am 22 years old and graduated from university just last Summer. I studied Occupational Therapy at Coventry University in the UK. After graduating Uni, I felt a bit lost; I feel like there is a lot of pressure put on newly graduates to start their career straight away after graduating, I knew I didn’t want to do this however. I knew I wanted to see more of the world while also having a sustainable income, and that’s when I decided I wanted to teach abroad with TEFL Ireland.

Tell us about your path to teaching abroad—did you always know you’d end up in Thailand?

Teaching abroad is something I have always been interested in, but with no previous teaching experience or degree, I didn’t know where to start. So when I saw this internship programme to teach English in Thailand with TEFL.ie, I knew I had to take the opportunity! Not only is it a great way to earn a living while being abroad, it also gives such a great insight to a new country, along with a completely authentic immersion into a new culture. Teaching here allows you to experience the everyday lifestyle and way of living in Thailand. 

Additionally, after working in America for three months last summer and then moving back home to Monaghan for 8 months, I knew I was ready for my next adventure. I didn’t know I’d end up in Thailand but I’m glad I did. I was attracted to the laid-back way of living here and the Thai culture. 

Do you think your TEFL course prepared you to teach English in Thailand?

The content provided on the TEFL course is extremely helpful. From classroom management strategies to sample activities to do with the students, it was very useful. The children are always very excited for English class and are actively engaged; I am able to keep the lessons fun, creative and engaging thanks to the TEFL course. Teaching English in Thailand has been better than I could have expected. The student’s positive attitude towards learning and respect for the teachers and foreigners makes it impossible not to enjoy my time over here. The TEFL course provided a great structure for my classes over here and was a good resource for lesson planning. The TEFL package was very appealing to me, there was even an option to be put in the same accommodation as other teachers in your school – which I was delighted about as a solo traveller!

Describe to us your day in the life of a teacher in Thailand. How many hours a week have you been teaching? How big are your classes?

A typical day at school begins when my friends and I leave our apartment and begin our walk to school. It is only a 10-15 walk away, and you are greeted by many students along the way with “Good morning, Teacher!!” When you arrive at the school, there are different staff members at the gate taking part in the morning “Gate Duty” to greet you. After that, I sign into the school and head down for morning assembly, which takes place at 8 am every morning. At the morning assembly, the Thai national anthem is played along with the School’s song. My first class commences at 8.30 am.

I have 19 classes in a week, typically 4 classes a day, with each class lasting 50 minutes. The school day is from approx 7.30am-4pm. The time in between classes is spent on lesson planning and preparing power points and activities. I usually get lunch from the school canteen and eat with my colleagues or my students; Thailand’s food is amazing. Each class varies in size but on average there are about 40 students in each class. I am based in a secondary school, and teach Mathayom 5 and Mathayom 6, the students are aged 16-17. Although each lesson is different, I love engaging with all the students and using activities at the end of class to help reinforce the vocabulary and conversation learnt that day. Initially I felt anxious teaching secondary school students, but within my first few days here I quickly realized I had nothing to worry about. The students are always so much fun and so willing to engage! The day is usually finished by going to a restaurant for dinner with the other teachers. 

What were three things about your experience in Thailand that you did not anticipate? 

Friendliness: When I first came here, I was (and still am) shocked at how lovely Thai people are! Before I arrived in Thailand, I had heard that Thai people were friendly, but after being in Thailand for nearly two months now, I realise they are even kinder and more friendly than I could have ever expected. Thai people want to help you, they don’t call it the “land of smiles” for nothing! The locals in my town are always educating me on Thai food, tradition and the culture, and trying to teach me a bit of Thai! Being one of the few foreigners in a small rural town makes you very much a bit of a celebrity!

How laid back everyone is: Something else I did not expect when I came to Thailand is the relaxed lifestyle. Thai people have a very slow-paced, easy-going way of living. They do not take anything too seriously. They even have a very famous saying that is “Mpen pen rai”, which means “never mind”, “don’t worry”, or “whatever”, among other things. Not only do travellers commonly hear this phrase in Thailand, but they reside in a culture which consistently practises it. Another common phrase which is used among Thai communities is “sabai sabai”. “Sabai” means ‘comfortable’, and the phrase sabai sabai is often used to tell people to relax.

Cost of living: I am still shocked by the cost of living here compared to back home. My lunch at school each day costs 30 baht (0.75 cents), dinner costs no more than 80 baht (2 euros), and fancy coffees are around 25 baht (60 cents!!). All of Thailand is cheap, but when you move away from Bangkok and the other touristy areas, you will be even more shocked by how cheap everything is. 

Now that you have some experience of your placement in Thailand, can you tell us about the highlights of your experience, both inside and outside the classroom? Tell us what’s your favourite thing about Thailand. What do you like doing on your days off?

Some highlights inside the classroom for me have to be when the kids finally understand the vocabulary I have been teaching them or when they get the sentence structure correct. Also when the kids tell you how fun the classes are or how much they love English!

Outside the classroom, I have to say the time I spent on the Koh Phi Phi islands is a definite highlight. After the orientation in Bangkok, we then had 2-3 weeks free before we started school. I spent a good five days on the Phi Phi islands and they were just amazing; the views, the beach, the parties, it’ll be hard to beat! My favourite thing about Thailand has to be the food. There is so much variety, and I’m always trying new things. On the weekends, my friends and I often get the bus into a neighboring city called Udon Thani which has no shortage of things to do. We have often stayed over a night there to save getting the last bus home. So far, the time I have spent in Thailand has been amazing.

TEFL Thailand

Would you recommend the Thailand Internship? Have you any advice for future teachers?

I would highly recommend the Thailand internship to anyone considering teaching abroad with TEFL. TEFL assists you every step of the way, including help with Visas, police checks, etc. They make the process so easy. Additionally, the assistance provided for teaching is a great help, and the friends you make along the way here make it so worth it! 

The advice I would give to anyone considering the internship is to go for it, don’t overthink it!! The process is very easy and once you are over here you settle in so quickly that the thought of leaving is actually more difficult! Another small piece of advice I would give to future teachers is to budget around a months wages to last you out here until your first payday. Also, pack a raincoat and umbrella if you’re coming here during rainy season, I wish I did!

What are your future plans?

At first, I did not intend to stay longer than my one semester here, which is 4.5 months. However, I am enjoying it so much here, and the school has been so welcoming that I am considering staying for another semester! If I do not stay for another semester though I will definitely be travelling more of South East Asia, there are still more places I would like to see in Thailand, and Vietnam is also on the bucket list. Either way, I’d be pretty happy with either of those two options! I have also been considering the TEFL internship in Vietnam. 

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