UK native Hattie had 100% made up her mind to take the plunge and travel to Thailand alone to teach English, and she’s so happy she did. Read on to find out about this talented TEFL teacher and the amazing adventures she has had with the fantastic friends she has made along the way. Maybe you could teach English in Thailand
Tell us about your path to TEFL teaching. Was it hard to leave your friends and family and move to Thailand?
It was quite hard, especially as my boyfriend and I had been planning for a long time to go away and teach together, but when push came to shove he decided he wasn’t ready to go. It was just another excuse, the same excuse we had both been using for the past 2 years!
But I had made up my mind 100% and I wasn’t going to wait for anyone so I took the plunge and went alone! I’m so glad I did! It was sad saying goodbye to my family and friends, and to be honest, if it wasn’t for them I would probably never go back to England, but I have so much going on out here I never get lonely.
What was the move from the U.K to Thailand like? Had you ever traveled far from home before? Did you suffer much culture shock?
I had only traveled long – haul twice before, once to New York and one to the Caribbean so I was okay with being far from home. But I’d never gone alone before and I’d never been to Asia so it was all a bit nerve-wracking.
The culture shock didn’t feel very bad, to be honest, I am still shocked by Thai culture sometimes but the actual transition into the culture was fine. I love seeing how other people live!
Describe a typical school day in the world of Hattie.
I get to the school at about 7:15 am so I’ve got time for a (30baht!) breakfast at the roti place across the street. Then at 7:45 am all of the students and staff gather in the playground for morning ceremony where the flag is raised as the national anthem plays. Classes start at 8:00 am.
I teach 3 – 5 periods a day, two of my classes I teach for English Main which includes grammar and vocabulary, And for 3 classes I teach reading and writing and/or speaking and listening. My students are aged between 12 and 15. I work at a private bilingual school so most of the students already speak good English, which is very very different to the Government school I worked in when I first arrived in Thailand. My first school was large and I taught 20 groups instead of my current 5, and class sizes were around 35 rather than my current 20.
Tell us three things a future teacher in Thailand should know before they go?
You’re going to want to explore every corner of this country. Thailand is a beautiful place with lovely locals. I’ve been here for about 6 months and have explored a fair bit but it is HUGE! I’m happy I can have more time here to explore off the beaten track, as well as some hotspots which I haven’t got around to checking out yet (like Koh Phangan for the infamous Fullmoon party!).
You’ve got to be laid back! The Thai way of life is very slow and relaxed, which can be frustrating for some people or in some situations. But when it’s this hot you can’t rush! (Oh another thing, be prepared for hot, hot weather). So just embrace the Thai “Mai Bpen Rai” ethos.
Teaching isn’t all fun times and great Insta shots. It is hard work, it is a full-time job, so you’re not free to do what you want when you want, and it can be really stressful at times. It’s easy to romanticise the idea of teaching just based on pictures you see and people showing their best lives on social media, and when (like me) you spend so long dreaming about the experience you don’t even consider what the negatives might be. That said, I regret nothing, and if I went back to myself pre-TEFL knowing everything I know now I would only urge myself to do it sooner! But just a word of warning, don’t expect it to be plain sailing the whole way through!
Describe the fun you have when you’re not in the classroom? Is it true what they say about Thailand and the amazing parties?
Well, now I live in Chiang Mai my life is very different to when I started out in a rural town in the North East. In my first town, the evenings would be spent going for runs, going out for dinner, watching movies, pretty low key stuff. But then come the weekend myself and the 3 other foreign teachers at the school would go on trips to explore landmarks and national parks and sometimes find a city to party in!
Now I still explore nature and love to go to waterfalls and national parks, but I can do so much more in terms of eating and drinking out, and there are even several English movie playing cinemas! In terms of the amazing parties, I’ve not been to the main places yet for that so I can’t comment from experience, but as a top backpacker country, there are always people looking to have a wild time!
What have been some challenges you’ve faced on the road to living abroad? How did you overcome them—any advice for our readers/future TEFL adventurers?
Motivation to get out here! I spent a long time talking about teaching and imagining traveling, it was actually a really big step to get from the talk point to the walk point! My advice would be – don’t let anything hold you back, I assure you that once you are here, the only regret you will have is not doing it sooner!
Packing! If I could go back now I would pack differently, and bring less. But everyone is different. And to be honest I don’t know what advice I can give on that one.
Do you have plans once your internship is finished? More English teaching?
Already finished and yes I have been in my new job for 2 weeks. Before this, I traveled for 2 months in Thailand and Laos with the foreign teachers I worked with.