I’ve gotten quite a few messages, along the lines of…I have been meaning to write about how I got here and any advice I have for someone who is thinking about doing the same thing, and now that I am ending my teaching contract, it seemed like the right time.
I am gong to split this post up into three parts:
(1) what I did before coming here
(2) how it’s been being here/what I’ve learned
(3) other resources I know of
Since I graduated in 2014, I knew I wanted to move out of Seattle. I didn’t, and still don’t, know what I want to do (as in, for work) but I knew that if I stayed, I would end up stuck in a life that I didn’t really want. Getting stuck is so easy, it’s so easy to stay in whats comfortable. When I was working in the restaurant industry, I met people every day who didn’t know how they got to where they were. From 30 to 80, I saw people who weren’t happy…the cliche, they were surviving – not living. I knew that the further I got down a certain path, and the older I got, it would be harder to make such a radical change.
I was lucky enough to have a friend, MC, who was down for an overseas adventure. I will forever be grateful for her coming with me because I don’t know if I could have done this by myself. For months, we sent emails and applied for jobs all over the world. We checked the English teacher boards for jobs in our ideal locations, but when we came up empty, we casted our net wider. We interviewed with recruiters and companies in Korea and China. After finding it hard to find a school that would place us together, we decided to apply through a company called Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). We had been putting off using a company like them because of the program fees but in the end, we felt that it was the best decision. While we were applying to jobs, I did an online TEFL certificate class through the International TEFL Academy. This isn’t required in many places in Asia, but I wanted to get certified so I felt more prepared to teach. I also volunteered in an ESL class at Bellevue College to make sure that I would even enjoy teaching English. (I loved it!)
Once we decided to go through CIEE to Thailand, it all happened pretty quickly. We had an online course to prepare us for moving, a company who helped us apply for our visas and then a lot of research trying to figure out how to pack for a year in Thailand.
I am not always traveling, even though that may be the impression you get from my IG. I teach English at a university about an hour north of Bangkok. In terms of teaching positions, I really lucked out. I have the most lenient job I have heard of existing over here. Many of the other schools have you come in at 7:30 and leave between 4 and 5. You have to clock in and clock out with your thumb print. You teach 1000+ students. It’s like a real job. Well…mine isn’t exactly like that. Officially, we work from 9:00-4:30. This semester we have our own 4 hour lecture and then TA for 3 other professors. We also practice English with students outside of class throughout the week. Unofficially, we really need to be here by 10:00 and as long as we aren’t teaching, we can leave whenever. I have one 2 hour class, I don’t TA for the other 3 teachers and I practice English with students once or twice a week. Last semester, I taught 3 classes which kept me busy and I actually wish I was teaching more this semester. They only gave us 1 class because our contract is up before the semester ends so a Thai teacher will take over after midterms. It’s nice to not have too many responsibilities but it also means I spend 80% of my time at my desk in my cubicle googling random things.We were given 10 vacation days and 8 personal/sick days. Our contract is for 10 months. Since we don’t have real teacher duties, on the breaks where other teachers are attending trainings or other teacher-y activities, they let us have that time unofficially off to travel. Through unofficial time off and holidays, I have had an additional 36 days off. During these unofficial days is when I did some of my longer trips, like to Vietnam and back to the states. The rest of my traveling has been done on long weekends, where either a holiday falls on a Friday/Monday or I take one of those days off.The workplace in Thailand is an entirely different work culture than back home. The culture here is very anti-confrontational and while I would never normally consider myself pro-confrontation, it’s really at a whole different level here. Taxi drivers say yes, they know where they’re going, even though they have no idea. Students are taught not to ask questions because that is to challenge the teachers position of power. There was a rumor going around that one of the other foreign teachers was rude because she didn’t say hi to someone in an elevator once, so someone told someone to tell me so I could tell her to be nicer. All of these things make it hard at times to be employed here.
Things are also very last minute. We find out about meetings the day of, are told minimal information about upcoming projects and deadlines and are given very little notice about holidays/days off. It takes days-weeks to get answers to questions we have. Due to the combination of the hierarchal structure and discomfort with direct communication, it can feel very frustrating at times to work here.
Since I work at a university, I don’t deal with as many behavioral issues as primary & secondary teachers do (for example, last week MC had a student jump on her back and try to pinch her boob…). The most I have to deal with is tardiness (but lets be real, I don’t mind…), sleeping (I also don’t mind), cheating (sometimes I do mind, but mai pen rai) and the occasional inappropriate comment. Overall, I’m pretty lucky and I have been blessed to have pretty cool classes.With all of that being said, I personally would say it is worth it. I really enjoy teaching, I like my students and I get along well with the other Thai teachers. That is just in my opinion. Some of the foreign teachers I work with do not like teaching and are over the job. It just depends on you and the type of person you are.
My main point if you are thinking about teaching abroad is that it all isn’t traveling and laying on the beach. You do have to work so ask yourself, will you be happy teaching full time and traveling part time?
Side note: the money
Not including rent, I make 25,000 THB per month. That’s $752 USD. My monthly bills are electricity ($12-$42), water ($4) & my phone ($24). That means I roughly have $700 to last a month. That is definitely enough to live (food, transportation, some entertainment, shopping, etc.) but it starts to get pretty tight when you add in travel, especially travel outside of Thailand. It’s doable! But sometimes not easy.
I was able to use my tax return money to help pay off my credit card and because of my AmeriCorps stipend, I have some leeway with my school loans. If I had more debt at home, I would probably find this pretty stressful – having to pay off US debt with Thai dollars would be hard. (Salary can vary! We have heard of international schools paying double what we get paid. Usually you need a teachers degree & experience but if you have that, you’d obviously have many more options.)
This is not an extensive list! Just some things I have used/come across along the way 🙂
- http://www.ajarn.com/ (Thailand only)
Country Specific Programs
- CIEE Teach Abroad (Placements in 12 countries)
- Aclipse (Korea & China)
- English First (China, Indonesia, Russia)
Teaching English Online (another popular option)
- VIP Kid
- ESL Authority – Job board
- TEFL Search – Job board
- Online ESL Reviews – Facebook group
If you are interested in teaching abroad, I would start by looking at some job postings and reading blogs from people currently teaching. Do some research and see if you can see yourself doing the same thing.
After that, if you are still interested, than I would spend some time formatting a resume and cover letter made for teaching abroad. If you get your TEFL certificate, they usually provide guidelines and assistance for your job search but all of this information is also online. Then it’s just like any other job search – find positions, apply, wait, repeat.