Teaching in Thailand as a Couple: Emma & Ciaran!
Tell us about yourselves! What did you do before teaching in Thailand, and what motivated you both to start teaching English in Thailand
Emma: Hey everyone! I am Emma. I am 22 years old from Tenure in county Louth, Ireland. Before we started teaching in Thailand, I had just finished my degree in animation. During the pandemic, I had lost my job and I was finding it really hard to get another job so I decided to do my TEFL course in the hopes to find a job teaching English online. By the time I had completed my degree, I realised that I wasn’t ready to get into the animation industry just yet. Since I was 10 years old, I knew I wanted to travel the world and learn about new cultures,thanks to an inspiring teacher I had. So with our degrees and TEFL certificates, we got in touch with the TEFL Institute of Ireland.
Ciarán: Hi everyone! My name is Ciarán, I’m 25 years old and I am from Drogheda, County Louth. I finished my degree in business in 2019 and since then have worked in office jobs, and sales the last job I had before teaching in Thailand was as a barman in my local pub in Drogheda. I first started thinking about moving abroad to teach when I was in SouthEast Asia in 2018 with my friends traveling around. We met a lot of people along the way who were TEFL teachers while we were in Thailand and Vietnam. So, since then it’s always been in my head that it is something I definitely wanted to do. As Emma said, we did our TEFL courses and got in touch with the TEFL Institute of Ireland, and got the ball rolling!
Did you look at other internship destinations, or were you sold on teaching English in Thailand? What drew you to Thailand?
Emma & Ciarán: Thailand was always in the back of our minds but we had originally decided to go and teach in Taiwan because we wanted to get abroad as soon as possible and the Thailand internship hadn’t opened. After months of trying to get placed in Taiwan, we discovered that my college wasn’t on the list of accepted universities in Taiwan. About a week later, the Thailand internship opened and within 3 weeks we were given our placements and were told to start preparing our documents for the visas.
What was your first impression of Thailand? Something you may not have expected
Emma: HOT! So our first day in Thailand wasn’t too good. We had to quarantine in separate rooms in a hotel not too far from the airport, we were given very bland food that didn’t give me much hope for Thai cuisine. The next day was a completely different experience. We headed straight into Bangkok and tried amazing food such as Pad Thai and Khao soi. I was always told that Thailand was “the land of smiles” but I definitely didn’t expect the people to be as friendly as they are although especially in Bangkok there are a lot of people trying to scam you.
Ciaran: The first impression I got this time around and the thing that shocked me the most was how quiet everywhere as compared to four years ago. This was obviously from the Covid lockdown because when we first got here there were still a lot of restrictions for both getting into the country and then socializing in the country like pubs and nightclubs were still restricted. After our second week here the restrictions began easing a little and we could notice instantly that there were a lot more foreigners in each part of the country we visited!
Did you experience any culture shock?
Emma: No, not really! We were given a lot of information before we arrived in Thailand about the culture so that we would be prepared. I would say the main things that were different compared to home was when we went to the cinema, we had to stand while videos of the king and queen played before the movie started.
Ciarán: None at all! Again, as Emma said, we were given a lot of information before arriving to prepare us for the different traditions and the differences between our cultures. There are a lot of things that are different, such as at 8:00 am every morning in school the national anthem is played over the speakers and everyone has to stand up, then other things such as if you drop any cash on the ground you cannot use your foot to stop it from blowing away because there is a photo of the King of Thailand on the cash so it would be seen as highly disrespectful to stand on it.
What does a typical teaching day look like for the both of you?
Emma & Ciarán: A typical day would be, to get on our bike and arrive at school before 7.30 am. Classes start at 8.30 am although I have a maximum of 4 classes a day so there is a lot of time for lesson planning and PowerPoint making. The day ends at 4 pm. We teach in a high school which means there’s always something going on. Whether it be a festival, a competition or just playing badminton or basketball with the students, there’s something to fill in the day.
Did you get to see much of Thailand since you’ve been there?
Emma & Ciarán: We arrived a month earlier than we needed to as we did want to explore Thailand a little before the semester started and with Covid restrictions still in place, we thought it was the perfect time to go to the tourist hotspots before the tourists could get into Thailand. We have been to Bangkok, Phuket, Phi Phi island (Maya bay), Pattaya and Chonburi, and a few more islands that are close to the city we live in.
What are some of the best and more challenging parts about teaching in Thailand as a couple? Would you recommend teaching abroad with someone you know?
Emma: I would say the best part about going as a couple or with a friend is that you are never alone. Although we have met some amazing people here, it’s nice to have someone that knows you longer and that you are completely comfortable. To be honest, we haven’t had any challenging moments besides disagreeing on where to go on the weekend or the holidays. I would 100% recommend teaching with someone you know because when times get hard you’ll have a shoulder to lean on.
Ciarán: Definitely one of the best parts of going as a couple is that you are always with someone you know. Obviously being this far away from home is a bit daunting at first so it does make the move a lot easier, especially as a couple. But we work and are friends with many other foreign teachers who traveled over here by themselves, but now we all go on holidays together, go out on the weekends together as a group so if you do want to travel by yourself, definitely don’t think that you will be alone!
What advice do you have for someone considering teaching in Thailand?
Emma: Don’t stress and enjoy it! The teachers are so supportive and they all understand that this is new for you. Once you use your materials and play games both the students and yourself will enjoy it.
Ciarán: I will always recommend it to anyone! It is natural to be nervous about doing it because it is a big step. But worth every bit of nerves that you go through! The Thai teachers you will work with will always help you no matter what the issue is. They are very very supportive. And, as I said, there are always other foreign teachers to talk to who have been here before you and can guide you!
What are your future plans?
Emma & Ciarán: We plan on teaching in Thailand for another year in at least! Maybe teach in Vietnam or Costa Rica. I plan on maybe trying to start my own online tutoring company. So I can travel as much as I want. A lot of traveling is planned as I don’t see myself living back in Ireland for a while.