Roksana Racka and Keith Candon have taken the plunge and moved halfway across the globe from Ireland to Thailand to teach English These two are the ultimate #couplegoals Read on to get the full low-down on how couples survive and enjoy their TEFL adventure together (you’ll be grabbing your passport once you’ve read their stories!)
What type of travel experience did you both individually have before deciding to move to Thailand to teach English?
Roksana: We all know that Irish summers last about a week (if we are lucky) which is why my parents did their best to take our family on a holiday every year. This opened my eyes to traveling and taught me the importance of saving my money, not spending it on material things, but on travel.
Thanks to my parents I caught the travel bug and once I was 18, I began going on my own holidays. I visited friends in Barcelona, went inter-railing around Europe and last summer I even got a chance to go to America.
Keith: I definitely would not have the same amount of countries under my belt as Roksana (she loves to leave me high and dry). But I have visited Spain, Italy, Poland and Germany which is fairly standard for somebody living in Europe but nowhere as exotic or hot as Thailand so it was definitely a shock to the system coming here albeit a pleasant one
What made you decide to pack up and move abroad to Thailand? How did your families take the news?
Roksana: I thought after a tough year in university and the early mornings working at the deli in Centra it was a good decision to get away. I didn’t feel like growing up and getting a full-time job yet so teaching English in Thailand not only seemed like a fun challenge but also an opportunity to help me to visit new countries, meet new people and of course learn new cultures.
My parents were a bit worried as Asia is a long way from home but they know that once I have an idea in my head there is no stopping me so they had to accept it but were happy that I was going with Keith so that we could look after each other.
Keith: We were both working in jobs that required quite an amount of manual labor and also had to wake up at stupid o’clock in the morning to start. So when Roksana sent me a Facebook message advertising a deal for a Premier TEFL internship in Thailand, I did a bit of research and it basically sold itself.
Monday to Friday, free weekends, decent salary, great weather, relaxed culture and best of all the chance to take charge of a classroom and be in control of your own work. My family were very supportive and did everything they could to help me to prepare for the journey to Thailand. I’m sure they miss me but hey… who wouldn’t
Describe your best moments of teaching in Thailand so far? Don’t hold back on funny details!
Roksana: We taught in a boarding school in Lopburi, 2 hours from Bangkok, where students’ English skills were very advanced. This made teaching not only easier but also a lot more fun. I’d sometimes ask my 16 to 18-year-olds to write short paragraphs about their dreams and hopes which I found very entertaining to read.
A lot of Thai students described how grateful they are for their family, expressed how much they loved their families and how much they want to repay their parents for all the hard work. They hope to make them proud and in the future get good jobs so that they can look after their parents. I think we could all learn something from that!
Keith: My best moment was teaching the Thai kids that Ireland is better than England in every way possible and not to dare to mix up the two countries. Ah no, one of the moments that stands out, in particular, is when a group of monkeys visited the school one day from the forest beside our school and caused chaos.
They stole Roksana’s lunch, broke into the canteen and one particular pair of monkeys became quite frisky on the windowsill of my classroom while I was teaching and proceeded to… You get my drift.
What has surprised you the most about living abroad with your significant other? What are the best (and most challenging) parts about being abroad together?
Roksana: Once I got over the fact at how bad the toilet stank after Keith, I was surprised at how great we generally got on. Of course, there are times where we would drive each other crazy and fight as all couples do after all we did spend practically every minute of the day together but despite this, I think we got even closer than we were before. We were in a different world together and had to rely on each other.
The great thing was that we got to meet so many other teachers like us from all over the world which we often met at the weekends which meant that it wasn’t just the two of us alone. I feel very grateful for all the friends I made on my journey without them this experience wouldn’t be the same.
Keith: I’m surprised at how quickly we were able to adapt to Thailand with regards food, customs, climate, language etc we just took it all in our stride. The best part about being abroad together is that we can share so many amazing experiences which will be great to look back on in the future.
When either of us become homesick from time to time we can comfort each other. It is also an advantage when it comes to teaching that we can compare ideas and help each other in relation to lesson planning, grading etc. The challenging part I suppose is that Roksana takes AGES in the bathroom getting ready every morning but aside from that it’s all good.
What is one piece of advice you guys would give to future couples wanting to teach together in Thailand?
Roksana: If you’re coming as a couple, especially if you’ve never lived together before it’s important to be patient and talk about things that may annoy you. For example, at the start, Keith would often lie down on the bed in his shoes on. In my house, we’d take our shoes off in the hall so this used to drive me crazy.
I, on the other hand, would often leave the toothpaste cap open which was something Keith didn’t approve of, but after we reminded each other a few times not to do it, it eventually stuck and we try our best to keep each other happy.
Also while coming to Thailand you have to be very open-minded and accept the culture in which you’re emerging into. For example, in Thailand, you can’t fail your students. On our arrival, we were told that if a student is doing badly in class make them carry your books to earn extra points but don’t fail them.
If students come 15 minutes late to class do not shout or lose your face. It’s very important to come with a relaxed (Mai pen rai) attitude which means “don’t worry” “never mind” “whatever right?” You have to accept things as they are as it will make your stay so much easier.
Keith: Look out for each other. There will definitely be times when you annoy each other but I think that might come from being around the same person 24/7. My advice would be to try and not let any dispute last more than 24 hours. Kiss, make up and enjoy the paradise you’re teaching in because you never know if and when you’ll be back.
What do you miss the most about Ireland whilst being abroad?
Roksana: For me, it’s my family and friends. I’d be very close with my siblings and I miss annoying them on daily basis. I also miss the fresh Irish air so different to the stuffy hot air in Bangkok for example. But most of all I miss the good oul’ humble potato. I already told mum that when I’m home I do not want to see a grain of rice in the house.
Keith: Gaelic football. Working on the farm. Kerrygold butter. Charleville cheese. Leprechauns. Shamrocks. St.Patrick’s Day. A decent pint. The usual.
Roksana and Keith, we your travel stories! We can’t wait to see what comes next for the two of you on your travel adventure!