My TESOL journey

Koh Phi Phi

Over the last several months I have had many people contact me through email, Instagram and my blog to ask me what steps I took to move to Thailand and become an English Teacher. So, I decided it would be beneficial if I blogged about what lead me to my life changing decision and exactly how I did it! Below is my story. J

Where it all began:

I experienced my first plane ride at the age of 15 on a family vacation going to the Dominican Republic. To this day I will never forget seeing the ocean for the very first time, the beautiful palm trees swaying all around me, the warm sea-breeze gently touching my face, the long stretch of sparkling white sand and the surge of emotions that ran through me at that moment. I was so excited that I literally ran right into the waves fully clothed. You never forget your first.

Ever since then, I became totally enticed by travel. Like many, I had only categorized myself as your typical “Holidaymaker” type of traveler. Staying on an all-inclusive resort was all I ever knew and the idea to relax on the beach with a drink in my hand always appealed to me. However, my passion for learning and experiencing other cultures quickly became an obsession of mine to say the least. As I got older, the appeal of a country became more about what makes them physically and culturally unique and less about staying inside the limitations of my comfort zone. I wanted more. I needed more. Therefore, it is no surprise that I ended up studying and receiving an undergraduate degree in physical and environmental Geography. What can I say? I am just a girl who loves the world.

Upon completion of my university career I had planned (for many, many years) to move abroad and teach English as a second language (TESOL). This was going to be my first step to experience the world in a way I had always dreamt about. I wanted the opportunity to submerge myself into another culture and a more intimate experience rather than just vacationing. Initially, I wanted to teach in China and was pretty set on that idea. Many programs and schools in China offer a competitive salary, will pay for your flight including return and even provide you with a living allowance! China is a fantastic country for teachers who want to save money/pay off student loans, debt etc. However, after a lot of research I realized that China may not be the country to suit my personal goals or needs. One reason in particular was that most of the teaching positions/opportunities I was interested in China required you to sign a year-long contract. This alone scared me because I didn’t want to feel pressured to stay for an entire year just in case I absolutely hated it. Upon that conclusion I decided to look at other countries that are in high demand for native English speakers. Subsequently, I came across South Korea and Thailand and started to research programs offered in these countries as well. Unfortunately, I started to read various forums on specific programs that offer services to provide you with a TESOL placement. This was extremely discouraging for me. I read one bad review after another and came to the upsetting realization that a lot of these programs are nothing but scams. Many of them ‘claim’ to provide you with nothing but the utmost support but instead provide nothing short of a nightmare for the many victims who get sucked into the whimsical fantasy illustrated on their websites.

The typical hook, line and sinker: Get paid to travel!

It’s a no brainer really. Who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel?

Result? Many people become interested and are willing to pay large amounts of money for these services without doing their research first.

This kind of information is terrifying for a novice who is deciding to move across the globe to a country, (let alone a continent) they have never been to before. In addition, these programs are not inexpensive; hence my extreme hesitation to settle for anything less than reliable. Now, before assumptions are made about my opinion on recruiting agencies let me make myself very clear. I am not bashing every company out there that provides such teaching programs. I know that there are many above average ones that provide nothing but outstanding service. However, in my opinion, finding a credible recruiter (much like any other service) is as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. You have to weed out all the bad ones to be able to find the amazing ones. Unfortunately, at that time in my life, this intimidated me enough to make me sweep my long-time dream of teaching abroad under the bed.

My heart turned Green:

Fast forward a couple of years and I finally graduated university and was immediately offered a full-time position with a fantastic development/construction company. However, my heart had other plans and no intention of staying put much longer. Not too soon into my new chapter of life my long-time dream started to creep up on me again. Due to past research and enquiries for different TESOL programs I was still receiving advertisement emails from these organizations. Once again I found my curiousity urging me to look into other possible teach abroad options. Then something magical happened (oh Google you wonderful thing you). I came across an organization that seemed too good to be true. Greenheart Travel. I started to research forums to see what they had to say about Greenheart and I couldn’t find any dirt on them! Some people had left silly complaints but nothing that Greenheart could prevent. Some people just like to complain about everything. Those people can never be satisfied even if they’re fed with a silver spoon (those are the kind of people who leave bad reviews on Trip Advisor that boil my blood). Greenheart had so many different options all of which seemed incredible. However, I decided that Thailand was definitely the country I would want to experience teaching abroad and Greenheart offered this. For the heck of it I decided to type Greenheart Travel Teach in Thailand on Facebook and came across a closed group. I requested to be in the group and almost instantly I was added into it by Sarah (Greenhearts amazing angel who will go out her way for anyone). This group blew my mind. It is full of current English teachers in Thailand who went through Greenheart and many who are considering whether or not to join the program. Any question you have has either already been answered in the group or will be answered. I spent a lot of time reading through the comments and was almost positive that I had finally found my program. Not too soon after showing interest in Greenheart, I received a call from them. It was a fantastic one on one that provided in depth answers to any unanswered questions I had about the particulars. So there you have it. I jumped ship. I was sold and little did I know my life was about to change forever!

 TESOL Certification and placement:

Upon arrival to Thailand, Greenheart essentially hands you over to a company known as XploreAsia. This is the actual company that provides you with your one month TESOL course (120 hour certification). XploreAsia both certified me to teach English and provided me with a job (monthly guaranteed salary of at least 30,000 THB (approximately $11531 Canadian) as soon as the course was completed. This was one of the craziest, most exciting, emotional and special times in my life. Nothing could have prepared me for my first month in Thailand. My group was small one of less than 30 people. For the duration of the TESOL course we all lived in Hua Hin (just 3 hours south of Bangkok) and quickly became very close. It was amazing to meet so many other likeminded people who are as curious about this world as I am. Not to mention, these fantastic people became a support system and my family away from home. Little do they know but they helped comfort and lessen the culture shock that was consuming every fiber of my being. The best part about the connection made with these guys is knowing that I now have friends all over Thailand. The course was fun, intimidating and sometimes nerve-wracking but nothing we couldn’t handle. Everything we learned gave us the confidence we needed to move and start worker as full-time teachers. The preparation was fantastic. We were taught exactly how to write lesson plans and given opportunities to practice on our peers and in a real Thai school.

Moving day?

When you teach English abroad through an organization you will be given little room to choose where you get placed to work. In my course we were all told to be open minded about all of the potential teaching positions within Thailand and to basically expect whatever position we ended up with. If not, we would run the risk of waiting a much longer time to get another offer (which was a worry because we all had limited amount of money to get us through before our first paycheck). I am not saying that it is impossible to get a position somewhere that you may have a preference for, however it might be a challenge. In my course most (if not all) of my classmates requested that they not get placed in Bangkok. They didn’t want to get caught in the craziness of the city. However, a huge handful of people ended up with positions there regardless but they all actually ended up loving it. In my case I got a placement literally in the middle of nowhere. I am one of few western/ English speaking people in my entire town. Which has made me experience a roller coaster of emotions for multiple reasons but I must admit I love my little town.

Where do I live now?

You know what’s scarier than moving thousands of kilometers across the world to a continent you have never been to? Googling your new soon to be home/town and realizing that there is basically no pictures or information that can be found! I was told I would be moving to a small town but being unable to research anything about it freaked the crap right out of me. I mean, how could I mentally prepare myself for the next chapter of this adventure if I could not find anything about it online?

So fast forward, I Currently I live in a small town in the region of Isan, which is northeastern Thailand and is considered the most authentic and culturally rich part of the entire country. My town is called Ban Phai and it is the real Thai deal haha. It’s is smaller than a suburb but bigger than a rural farm town, although completely surrounded by farms. However it has just about everything you need to live comfortably. What shocked me the most about Ban Phai is that this town is the true Thai experience. You won’t find any Western style restaurants here and if you are anything like me it is a huge struggle. This town is big on dishes with fermented fish (stinky fish as they like to call it) which has been hard for me to accept, considering I don’t really eat fish at all. Tesco is the equivalent of Walmart in Thailand and they are everywhere except in super small towns like mine. However, as always you can always count on 7/11 to have carry many of your basic necessities (everything from shampoo, makeup to bread and other random foods and stationary). My town has one main grocery store but it is pretty far and only convenient if you have a car, bike or moped. Otherwise I walk when I’m desperate because it is the ONLY store that sells peanut butter here and I gotta have my PB. Fruit is plentiful here and all over the country no matter where you are. Thailand is huge on markets that sell everything. There is clothes shopping everywhere. However, if I want really nice western style stuff/clothes I have to go to the city and shop at the mall which is an hour bus ride. Anyways, I just wanted to give you a little insight as to how my town is and how I live.

Lessons learned so far?

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times, visited the south such as Phuket and Krabi and I realized that I am happy living where I do. I like peace and quiet and calm vibes and Ban Phai provides all of that for me and more. Also, when I came to Thailand I really wanted an authentic Thai experience and I do not feel that I would have got it if I had been placed in a more touristy area (so in a sense I got lucky with where I ended up). I can truly say that I feel at home and I know I am exactly where I need to be at this point in my life. Teaching in Thailand has taught me lessons that I will hold on to forever. The majority of those lessons focus on patience, acceptance, passion, appreciation and enjoyment. Teaching has taught me how much I love life, people and more importantly my beautiful and bright little students.

Fun fact:

As a result of living in Ban Phai I am able to save quite a bit of money. Once this semester is finished I will be traveling for almost two months with my boyfriend before I move back home to Canada. As a result, the cheap living in my town has made it possible for me to save money to do this! 😀

xoChaylavie

Author: chaylavie

20 something year old just lustfully wandering around this world.