With so many unknowns in this world there is one thing I do know for sure. I am exactly where I need to be.
With so many unknowns in this world there is one thing I do know for sure. I am exactly where I need to be.
The second term of the year started for many/most Thai students this week. As a result, this week in particular, for myself, has been interesting to say the least. Right away I have had to jump into lesson planning and a lot of organization just to get back into the grove of things (which is a little hard when you have been off for a month, just saying). The kiddies are way too adorable and all showed up to class with new haircuts and looking and totally refreshed! Haha man do I love them. This is going to be my first whole semester working in Thailand so I am quite excited to see what it brings me. For now, here are some cute pictures of this week. 🙂
I kind of have the feeling that many people back home think that I am in Thailand living the life of luxury, not learning anything important and spending my time doing nothing but traveling/vacationing in paradise with not a care in the world other than what fancy tropical drink I should order next. Furthermore, many parents in specific are not supportive of their children making such a life changing decision because my job is “not a real one.” However, I can assure you that couldn’t be further from the truth and I think it’s time to defend myself and other English teachers out here because of it! Here is the truth about TESOL in Thailand and ultimately whether or not you are up for the challenge!
Teaching English is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life and there is a reason we get paid a crap ton more than our Thai co-workers (to be honest the inequality really bothers me). This is because people from English speaking countries wouldn’t be as willing to pack up their comfortable lives at home just to live and work in a country where they suddenly join the poverty line. As a result, schools have to offer a better salary to attract teachers like myself. However, even with a much higher salary the turnover rate is immense (because people don’t realize how challenging it can be) and this causes a big problem for Thai people who want and need to receive a proper and reliable form of English education.
So now that we know the basics let’s start with the work itself. My work conditions are insanity as I teach in a class room with no air conditioning everyday from Monday – Friday. The sweat literally drips down my face all day and usually burns the crap out of my eyes. Imagine working in the scorching heat where the average temperature is in the mid to high 30s with a humidity percentage of about 70% and to top it off you’re in a hot stuffy classroom with no air circulation. In addition to the immense heat picture yourself not only having to teach your lessons while sweating your butt off but having to manage those students, trying to keep them interested, well behaved and active at all times while knowing they barely understand a single word you say. This includes a shit ton of physical activities which require me to dance, run and jump around as much as possible, all whilst dying in the unbearable heat. It is exhausting and us teachers on this side of the world work just as hard (if not more) than anyone else.
In addition to the tiresome work with our kiddies, we have to figure out just about everything ourselves. Sure, I have co-workers and a school director who try to help out with any questions or concerns I may have but the unfortunate truth is that most of the time no one can really understand me. So in order to explain myself I engage in a game of charades trying to get a message across that usually ends in giggles and awkwardness. If you are not a patient person you will definitely become one with a job like this lol.
Another thing that many may not be aware of is dress code. The dress code for teachers on this side of the world is generally more strict and conservative in comparison to back home. As a result, you must make sure you are nicely groomed and wear appropriate attire, whether that be a uniform provided by your school or for woman a typical professional just below the knees skirt paired with either a collared button up shirt or a blouse of some sort and closed toe shoes (flats become your best friend) and for men dress pants and a dress shirt.
Once you live in Thailand you come to the frustrating conclusion that most if not all of your daily tasks at work are completely fluid, meaning there is no one right way to do something and everything is constantly changing. In addition to that you may never know if you are doing something right because Thai people are so kind and non confrontational they will almost never tell you. Also, random things will and do happen… all the time…and usually you will never be informed of it. Some days you may show up to class with a perfect lesson plan only to find out your classes are cancelled because of a field trip or some school event that requires all of the students on the field dancing…This has happened. Sure, some may say this is exciting because you can do whatever you want (e.g. “WORKPLACE FREEDOM! I’m basically an executive”)…No. Just no. Let me tell you, us North Americans are used to organization when it comes to work and all of a sudden not having a solid foundation to base your teaching on becomes extremely confusing. You find yourself in a constant whirlwind of mistakes, self doubt and towering last minute tasks due to last minute expectations from higher-ups. This in itself is both overwhelming and tiring.
Now that I have expressed why teaching in Thailand is no vacation I do have to admit that this is what makes Thailand exciting. Sure the majority of us came here because we all share the love of travel. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll realize it takes a lot more than the love of travel to make someone want to just pack up their things and leave their friends and family for x amount of time to make another country their home. Curiosity, adventure, self discovery and most importantly wanting to make a difference in this world are more than enough reasons why we are doing what we do. This job actually makes me feel like I am doing something that is having a positive impact on the lives of the people who live in my new home town. There is no better feeling than teaching a lesson and seeing your students finally understand what you are saying. It’s amazing. Moments like those sometimes make you want to cry. For these kids English is the doorway to their future. This is what they need to help them gain a good job in such a competitive world.
Contradictory to everything I’m saying about the hardships, I absolutely love it here even with the complications. Sure teaching has not been a walk in the park and it comes with a lot of uncertainty, confusion and frustration but I wouldn’t change it for anything. You are not babied here. No one holds your hand and gives you instructions on what you need to do and for that reason I have learned so many valuable lessons. For one I have learned that you don’t always need words to communicate with people. As a result, I have met a lot of beautiful people here that I wouldn’t have otherwise back in Canada and I truly feel so blessed to experience it all. I love the fact that I can smile at any Thai person especially at work and know that I will always be greeted with an even bigger smile. A job like this molds you into a completely different person. Working in Thailand is a character builder and has not given me anything less than a whole new outlook on life. I have gained so much patience, acceptance, compassion, creativity, self-confidence, knowledge about myself and most impotantly have learned to work independently with little direction. What excites me most about these characteristics is that they are transferable and I know that I have so much more to offer my future employer when I do return back home and the confidence to go for what I want.
I think this is important information for people who are curious about taking the leap into TESOL specifically for Thailand. The very first thing I was taught in my my certificate program was that “if you are here for a vacation you are here for the wrong reason and may need to reconsider your purpose here.” This is 100% the truth. This is a job just like any other. However, with living and working in Thailand you are blessed with the beauty of its physical geography and as a teacher you will have more than enough time to explore it. Thailand has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in this world with the kindest people.
Next time you are ready to judge us about our decision to teach abroad think to yourself “could I do this?” On the flip side, if you are serious about taking the big jump, buying that one-way plane ticket and want to make a difference this is an amazing way to do it. Just do your research and know what you are getting yourself into. Teaching abroad is not all luxury but I can promise you that if you greet the opportunity with an open mind you will not regret it and will be on the ride of a lifetime.
“Work, save, travel, repeat.”
Story of my life.
“I don’t want to wait until I’m ‘established’ to be able to live my life. Instead, I’m thinking that these kind of moments are exactly what will shape me as a person and point me in the right direction to become more than just established. I want to live my life knowing that I did exactly that. I lived.”
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I totally do and I am okay with that! #traveladdict
What’s stopping you?
“Did you know, you can quit your job, you can leave university? You aren’t legally required to have a degree, it’s a social pressure and expectation, not the law, and no one is holding a gun to your head. You can sell your house, you can give up your apartment, you can even sell your vehicle, and your things that are mostly unnecessary. You can see the world on a minimum wage salary, despite the persisting myth, you do not need a high paying job. You can leave your friends (if they’re true friends they’ll forgive you, and you’ll still be friends) and make new ones on the road. You can leave your family.
You can depart from your hometown, your country, your culture, and everything you know. You can sacrifice. You can give up your $5.00 a cup morning coffee, you can give up air conditioning, frequent consumption of new products. You can give up eating out at restaurants and prepare affordable meals at home, and eat the leftovers too, instead of throwing them away. You can give up cable TV, Internet even. This list is endless.
You can sacrifice climbing up in the hierarchy of careers. You can buck tradition and others’ expectations of you. You can triumph over your fears, by conquering your mind. You can take risks. And most of all, you can travel. You just don’t want it enough. You want a degree or a well-paying job or to stay in your comfort zone more.
This is fine, if it’s what your heart desires most, but please don’t envy me and tell me you can’t travel. You’re not in a famine, in a desert, in a third world country, with five malnourished children to feed. You probably live in a first world country. You have a roof over your head, and food on your plate. You probably own luxuries like a cellphone and a computer. You can afford the $3.00 a night guest houses of India, the $0.10 fresh baked breakfasts of Morocco, because if you can afford to live in a first world country, you can certainly afford to travel in third world countries, you can probably even afford to travel in a first world country.
So please say to me, “I want to travel, but other things are more important to me and I’m putting them first”, not, “I’m dying to travel, but I can’t”, because I have yet to have someone say they can’t, who truly can’t.
You can, however, only live once, and for me, the enrichment of the soul that comes from seeing the world is worth more than a degree that could bring me in a bigger paycheck, or material wealth, or pleasing society.
Of course, you must choose for yourself, follow your heart’s truest desires, but know that you can travel, you’re only making excuses for why you can’t.
And if it makes any difference, I have never met anyone who has quit their job, left school, given up their life at home, to see the world, and regretted it. None. Only people who have grown old and regretted never traveling, who have regretted focusing too much on money and superficial success, who have realized too late that there is so much more to living than this”
– Wunderkammer, Did you know?
I am part of an online English teacher community. It is basically a Facebook group where all of us soon to be/current teachers are able to help out one another by answering any questions that many of us may have. The other day one girl asked whether or not anyone else was leaving a significant other behind to go teach in Thailand. As soon as I saw this I smiled because many months ago I was wondering the exact same question. Last November I made a huge and final decision that I was going to pursue my dream of temporarily moving to Thailand and teach English as a second language. It was the best and most effortless decision I could have made. I was at a point in my life where my wanderlust was growing immensely, I had graduated University, I was ready to move on to a different career and I was completely single! However, fast forward to the New Year I had started dating a very special man. I promised myself that since I would be moving I would not under any circumstances date anyone! Uh oh. Guess I failed at that lol. Anyways, It was the scariest thing to think that if I started to date this person I would soon be leaving for almost an entire year. However, although my mind urged me not to go on with the idea my heart screamed at me to do otherwise. So, just like most, I listened to my heart. Our dating quickly led to one of the best decisions I could have ever made. For the very first time I found someone who truly makes me happy and has made me realize how a healthy relationship should be. But I don’t want to carry on and make you all throw up with the mushy, gushy love details, so I won’t go much more into my relationship. However, I do want to touch up on a topic that has been weighing heavy on my heart and is totally related. Independence.
The first thing that many people asked me before I left was “what are you and Mike going to do?” At first, this seemed like a completely rational question. I mean sure, I was getting ready to move to the other side of the world. At the time, it made sense to even ask myself this question. After all, many relationships cannot last when two people live only 10 minutes from each other. Therefore, my long distance relationship couldn’t possibly stand a chance! However, since moving and being away for almost two whole months I’ve had a lot of alone time to process this question and have come to many realizations.
We are too caught up with society’s idea of how a relationship should function. One guy answered the above mentioned girls question by stating “I feel like I am in Ellen’s audience. All will be okay-it’s just a job and if he loves you, he will make the effort to support you. If he doesn’t, then the answer is…” This guy hit the nail on the head! If you’re with someone they should support your decisions and vice versa! Obviously moving far away is a decision that should be seriously discussed among one another. However, I feel that so many people are quick to avoid perusing their dreams because they don’t want to risk putting strain on their relationship, maybe because their significant other is unwilling to let them do it or they are just too needy and cannot do anything without them. But how unfair and selfish does that sound? I feel like this applies to many scenarios, not just moving far away but the smallest of things such as hobbies or interests one might have but is discouraged to do so. I’ve seen this happen in many relationships (even my own) and this paves one of the biggest roads to resentment that I’ve seen yet.
Why? Why are so many of us so terrified to be alone? I feel like my generation lacks independence. I am always confronted with people who are not comfortable with alone time or being single. So many constantly feel they “need” to be with someone and hop from one relationship to the next or stay in their current shitty one because they can’t fathom to be alone. Many may think that I do not have a place to comment on this particular point because I have only ever been in long term-relationships. However, since dating Mike and making my decision to leave home for a while I have been confronted for the first time with having to learn some real independence. Although I am an only child and have always liked my space the thought and act of leaving him absolutely broke my heart. However, my recent adventure has really made me realize the importance and beauty of being alone altogether. Being alone opened up a lot of new opportunities for me. For the first time, in a long time, I accepted a lot of new experiences with open arms because I had no choice but to. I have always been very open about the fact that I struggle with social anxiety. Luckily, my anxiety has never got to the point where I am unable to attend social gatherings altogether, but I have not had the easiest time with it either. I always have mini freak outs in my head about meeting new people, small talk, being socially awkward and just coming off as straight up weird! I over analyze everything in my head to the point of exhaustion and sometimes wish that I was as outgoing as everyone believes me to be. Since being all alone, I kind of feel like Jim Carrey in the movie Yes Man, where he plays a super negative man who is stuck in a rut until he discovers the power of saying “yes” and trying new things. Well I guess that is pretty much what I have been doing. My independence has pushed me to say yes, regardless of my fears of social anxiety. I’ve meet so many wonderful people that I wouldn’t have otherwise because of it and have already had so many life changing experiences.
The most important thing I have realized is that you learn to become your own best friend. There have been many times in my life that I haven’t had self-confidence or have considered myself nothing but dumb. Being alone has pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me realize there is so much I am capable of. You learn to trust and love yourself and it is a pretty good damn feeling. I have always said that if you cannot learn to love yourself how could you possibly love anyone else?
Self-discovery is a beautiful thing and I truly believe that one can only accomplish that alone. Only you can discover who you are and what you want from life. Many amazing people come into our lives to help us grow but if you do not give yourself some alone time you hinder your ability to grow as an independent person. Ultimately everyone deserves to feel confident alone. I feel that my time away will not weaken my relationship but only make it stronger. It gives both of us a chance to grow independently without many of the constraints that most relationships have today. But one thing I know for sure is that I cannot wait for the moment I get to see him again, for me, close to a year is long enough.
It seems as though my culture shock had come quickly and left just as fast. I am finally settled into my new apartment (basically a dorm room lol) and have been teaching my wonderful kindergarten class for about a week and a half now. I feel like I have been learning a lot more than I could have anticipated and for that I am not only happy but humbled. It is funny how ignorant we can be to a culture we have never experienced. I don’t necessarily mean ignorant solely as being disrespectfully unmindful and unwilling to be open to differences. What I mean is simply and innocently not knowing. Although a touchy subject, so many of us are so familiar with how we live that it is hard to fathom how or why others live the way they do. However, what I can tell you from my short amount of time of living on the other side of the world is that no matter how far some countries are, most people all want the same thing; love, happiness, respect, and togetherness . Witnessing these characteristics in many Thai people, on multiple different accounts are definitely the reason why I feel so comfortable living here. It has caused a sense of belonging for me and has really made me feel at home.
I left Hua Hin last Monday at 6:30 am. That morning/day was probably one of the most nerve wracking days I have had yet. Sadly I had to leave all of my beloved Suchaya House ladies (miss you <3!) but it was time to start this new adventure! There were so many unknowns about where I was going that it was driving me mental (but like we have all been saying, This is Thailand, Mai Pen Rai- it means no worries!). However, the day went pretty flawlessly. Before making my way to my new town Ban Phai, I had to visit my agency in Bangkok for an orientation about my job placement and all fun things related to that. That lasted a lot longer than I expected. Once that was finished I had to hop in a taxi with all my belongings and make my way to Mo Chit bus station and somehow figure out what bus I needed to get on to start my journey 6 hours north-east of Thailand. Sound intimidating? Yup it was. However, my agent helped me out a lot. Anytime I would call her for help she would make me give my phone to a worker at the bus terminal and tell them where I needed to go. So this worked like a charm and definitely helped me navigate my way around much easier than I thought. It just so happened that like many others in my program, I was actually in Bangkok while the bomb happened, so of course I was receiving like 50 messages at a time asking me if I was safe. My internet on my phone had been acting up all day so I wasn’t sure what everyone was even talking about. I didn’t know a bomb had happened until 10 minutes before I hopped on my bus to leave Bangkok. As you can tell this situation didn’t help my already constant anxiety throughout the day. Anyways, it was close to 10:00 pm when I got on my bus and left for Khon Kaen (a major city an hour away from Ban Phai). I needed to go there first because it was too late for my agent to take me to Ban Phai so I would be spending the night in a hotel in Khon Kaen and leave for Ban Phai in the late afternoon. So I arrived in Khon Kaen around 3:00 am, got dropped off at some super sketchy side road bus stop and waited for my agent. She picked me up and brought me to the hotel where I would be spending the night. Anywho, fast forward to 4:00 pm that day, my agent finally brought me to my new home and showed me my school. I started work as a teacher that Wednesday.
Fun side notes:
Now to talk a little bit about teaching English in Thailand. The students I teach are the same 28 students everyday. I am considered a home room teacher which is cool because I am really bonding with these kids. The parents of my students pay for their children to receive extra English teaching. As a result, not only do I teach my kindergarten students English but, Phonics. Science, Math and Health as well. For all of the reasons this job should be easy is exactly what makes it equally as challenging. Its not a walk in the park and it is definitely not a vacation. Its work. Just like anywhere else in the world. I can honestly say that I am slowly changing. I am truly not going to go back home to Canada as the same Chay. Something about this job makes you grow up in a way I would have never thought possible. You really learn to become an independent person and that is basically because no one can fully understand your language. The language barrier here is real. This leads to constant disorganization and confusion. Half the time you’re not really sure what the heck you are doing or if you are doing it right. But I have learned that the best thing to do here is to smile! When you are an approachable person, a likable person and most importantly a kind person you got this! People here will find some way to help you if you are in need. You might be mentally and physically drained and potentially on the brink of dehydration from the constant sweat but its worth it. As a teacher here, these kids absolutely adore you. You walk around half the time feeling like a mini celebrity. The amount of times I have been told I am beautiful, been given high fives and endless amounts of hugs have all made the intimidating factors of this job all the more welcoming.