As of posting this, I have been in Thailand for 4 months (WOW!). Teaching English in Thailand has been far from easy. I have had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during my time here. From switching jobs, moving across the country on little notice, and experiencing the most beautiful beaches, sunsets, and nature. I have genuinely experienced more of an adventure in teaching in Thailand than I originally thought.
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What It’s Really Like Teaching English in Thailand
Let me start by saying this has been challenging. Yet, exactly what I wanted and needed. Ever since I was furloughed from my job at Disney in April 2020, I have desperately needed a challenge. I crave adventure, and that is what led me to seasonal work, but as far as the jobs go, they were quite easy.
Teaching English in Thailand is NOT easy.
But, it has been insanely rewarding (as I type this in between classes at school LOL).
Let’s rewind and reflect on how I got here.
Be warned, this post is much more of a diary than a guide to teaching abroad. But, I hope my reflection can help you along your journey abroad.
How To Apply To Teach English in Thailand
When thinking of teaching English abroad in Thailand there are two ways to find a job, go through an agency or apply to jobs on your own. Agencies are expensive, but they will place you at a school, help you gather your pre-departure documents (especially useful during the ever-changing COVID pandemic), and ultimately give you an immediate community abroad. Job searching alone is MUCH cheaper, but can be more stressful and requires much more independence and confidence.
I would not recommend an agency, but if you are anything like me, you probably want a safety net abroad and to make some friends along the way. The agency I went through is XploreAsia, feel free to have a look if you are interested.
I applied in early November to my agency and was in Thailand by late March. Honestly, teaching abroad in South East Asia has been on my radar since graduating from college in 2019, but I chose to pursue internships at Disney instead.
Once I was furloughed from my job in April of 2020, I knew this was my chance.
Applying to teach English abroad is easy and fairly straightforward. The hard part is all the paperwork to follow. When I applied, I just submitted my resume, had a quick interview, and was accepted! This all happened within a week for me. Next, I had to pay a $350 deposit to secure my spot teaching abroad. The rest of the money I would pay within 60 days. This money paid for my TESOL course, accommodation for the first month, insurance abroad, the staff to help me, and a little bit more.
Pre-Departure for Teaching English in Thailand
A short 4 months later, March came and I packed my bags to teach English in Thailand and boarded a one-way flight to Bangkok, Thailand.
The months in between applying and moving are a bit stressful because of all the pre-departure paperwork and documents you need to gather. These include but are not limited to:
- Criminal Background Check
- Legalizing you degree
- Requesting college transcripts
- Applying for your tourist visa
Not to mention, all the doctor’s appointments, family visits, and more to squeeze in before your departure.
I spent the majority of this time with my family at home and saving money. This move is not cheap, and I also wanted to have extra spending money for travel while abroad.
Arrival in Thailand
My situation was very unique when arriving in Thailand. I applied and moved abroad during COVID times, which means everything is unpredictable. When I purchased my flight, I did so intending to need to quarantine for the first 5 days. My agency helped everyone book our quarantine at the same hotel, which was super nice. To my surprise, Thailand lifted the 5-day quarantine to a one-day quarantine just days before I left.
My First Month in Thailand
I spent March 28, 2022, to April 28, 2022, studying to earn my Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in Hua Hin, Thailand. This was honestly one of the best months of my life. I made friends from all over the world (USA, England, Canada, South Africa, and Australia) all while learning a practical skill.
Hua Hin is a beach town about 3 hours south of Bangkok. This town is known to be the weekend getaway spot for rich Bangkokers. It is also a very popular spot among expats and those looking to teach English abroad. Hua Hin is right on the beach, while also being next to beautiful mountains. It offers a small city vibe while having all the Western amenities.
My accommodation was in a shared room, and I was paired with the sweetest girl from Brighton, England. She has turned into one of my favorite people out here and I frequently meet up with her on long weekends to travel.
I had class each morning from about 8-3 pm and the afternoons I would spend by the pool or exploring. There was so much to do in Hua Hin, and I will make a comprehensive guide on it soon. Additionally, the agency I went through set up weekend excursions you could sign up for (at a cost). These weekend excursions were anywhere from 1-3 hours outside of Hua Hin and included national parks, waterfalls, and elephants.
My TESOL class was for the most part, very fun. But, I don’t think anything can truly prepare you to be a first-time teacher abroad. So, as much as I learned and listened to in that course, the only way to improve as a teacher is to fully throw yourself into a classroom and start teaching.
First Day of Teaching English Abroad in Thailand
After the month-long TESOL course, I headed off to my placement. My agency placed me at a private school in Trang, Thailand. Trang is a very local city in the south that is popular for Thai people to vacation too because of its affordable prices and proximity to some of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches.
I only lasted 2 weeks.
I hated it… I hated the teaching, that is. The school was not for me, and for several reasons I chose to leave my agency and find a different job. Then, I went to Facebook.
I chose to look for jobs in both Trang and Chiang Mai. While I enjoyed Trang as a town quite a lot, I wasn’t set on staying. I found a great group of foreigners there and life outside of school was great, so I was open to accepting a different position there. On top of it all, I also always had Chiang Mai in my mind. I have a close friend who studied abroad in Chiang Mai and loved it, and multiple people have told me how great Chiang Mai is.
So, I figured I might as well move to where I wanted to be.
So here’s a quick timeline:
April 28 – move to Trang and begin teaching
May 10 – Interview with schools in Chiang Mai
May 11 – Quite my job in Trang
May 13 – Move to Chiang Mai
May 17 – Begin teaching in Chiang Mai
Yes, it was a whirlwind and honestly, I’m proud of myself. That was NOT easy, but I did it. It showed me how strong I am and how independent and capable I am to create the life I want.
Life in Chiang Mai
As I’m reflecting, it’s hard to put into words everything I have learned and experienced. I mean, I cannot believe how much time has passed. I have officially been in Chiang Mai for 11 weeks! Almost 3 months! And wow, have I enjoyed it.
Starting at a new school and adjusting quickly was really tough. First the first 5 weeks I would come home from school each day exhausted and still with lesson plans to do. I would spend HOURS outside of school getting everything together for the next day. My Sundays were also spent lesson planning for hours.
Around week 5-6, something clicked.
I understand the flow of the classroom, I can easily gauge the student’s English levels, and I know what my teaching style is.
Now, I have a hard rule for myself, no doing school outside of work hours. I did not move to Thailand to be stressed, I want to have that time to explore and LIVE in Thailand.
Outside of school I’ve been getting involved with a sand volleyball league, I go to cafes with my friends, and I found some awesome spots to run. I stay busy for the most part. On the weekends I try to have one day of excursions and sightseeing and the second day for laundry or just relaxing at a cafe getting ready for the next week of school.
Final Thoughts on Teaching English in Thailand
Four months have passed since I boarded that one-way flight to Bangkok to teach English in Thailand. I boarded the plane thinking I would be teaching in the big city of Bangkok, and I am now teaching at a small school in Chiang Mai.
From that moment to now, I am a whole different person. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true! I am SO confident in myself and have the reassurance that traveling and choosing these experiences over the comforts of home is exactly what I need, at least for the moment.
If you are thinking of teaching English in Thailand, DO IT. It’s hard, it’s immersive, and it is a leap of faith, but one you will not regret. As the famous quote says, “The only trip you will regret is the one you don’t take”.
What do you want to learn about my time teaching abroad? Follow me on Instagram and let me know!
Interested in seasonal work? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Working at a Ski Resort This Winter!