What happens when a young woman from Cornwall takes a chance on life when she needed a break from the ordinary? Read on to learn Jenny’s TEFL story on how she ended up in the “middle of nowhere” Thailand, Southeast Asia – and loved it.
When did teaching abroad catch your eye? Did you always want to travel as a kid, or was this a later in life aspiration?
I traveled Southeast Asia two years ago, I completely fell in love with the countries I visited (especially Thailand). I knew I had to go and travel again at some point in my life but wanted to do something worthwhile and helpful with my time. A good friend of mine decided to teach abroad and I decided to join her. Best decision I’ve ever made.
You’re an ESL teacher in Thailand! Badass! What lead you to choose to complete a TEFL internship in Thailand?
I had been to Thailand before, I knew how developed it was, more so than other Southeast Asian countries and I thought that would be a good place to start my first ever teaching job.
I knew a fair bit about the country so I didn’t feel like I was jumping in completely at the deep end. Also, not a lot of other internships offer less than year-long contracts. I didn’t know if this would be best for me as I had never taught before so Thailand, Southeast Asia ticked all the boxes for me.
I also knew that the cost of living here was so low. I knew, I would be able to do lots with my free time here.
What TEFL courses did you complete? What were the three most helpful things that you learned/practiced throughout your TEFL training?
I completed my 168 hour TEFL course I found it great and broken down well for someone who had no idea about teaching. Each section is divided into manageable chunks to take everything in with ease.
The video links especially gave good insight to real classroom situations which was good preparation. Lastly, each quiz at the end of the section tested and secured the knowledge I had learned.
Have a lot of your friends back in the UK taught abroad? How did they support you in your decision?
A few of my friends back in the UK had taught in English abroad, one in South Korea and two others actually in Thailand.
They really helped me make my decision and know that it wasn’t as scary as it may have seemed at the time. They urged me to go for it as it was an opportunity I shouldn’t pass up on. I’m glad I listened to their advice to go for it!
Can you tell us about a challenging student/situation in your classroom and how you handled it? What did you learn from the experience for future instances like these?
I taught classrooms with students aged 12/13 aged 15/16. The most challenging thing for me was gauging their level of English and being able to work with what I had in such massive class sizes (over 40!). My lower level M1 classes sometimes struggled to understand simple instruction. Usually, there were one or two more able students that could help me out and explain/translate for me. That made things much easier.
As time went on, I found different classes preferred different things. Some needed more games, more help etc. I also found out the students that I could depend on for helping me explain things to the whole class. That was great, to be able to cater for the class and to understand each individual student needs.
What has been your favorite part of teaching abroad OUTSIDE of the classroom?
We were based in northeastern Thailand, also known as Isaan and we stayed in a small town called Loeng Nok Tha, was quite frankly in the middle of nowhere.
The town was basically a road/highway which ran through to other places, so there wasn’t much there and also NO other foreigners whatsoever. This meant that we grew close and spoke lots with the locals, the teachers and any passers by that wanted to help.
There was one family in particular that ran a restaurant right by our accommodation. We ate there nearly every night for four months, we became close friends, enjoyed parties together, trips away, had inside jokes, and many a laugh and smile. To build this kind of relationship with someone even with the language barrier, to be so accepted and welcomed by this family so freely was honestly the most incredible thing.
I’ll never forget them and I know they’ll never forget us (we still talk nearly every day!). Outside of school life and numerous cultural trips away—this family is what made my time so special.
What advice do you have to share with future TEFL teachers considering Thailand for their time abroad?
To be perfectly honest, this wasn’t something I was aspiring to do for years—this was an opportunity that came about at a time for me where I needed a huge change in my life.
?Moving out here to Thailand, Southeast Asia seemed (and was) the perfect idea. I think just to travel again was my main objective, but from the moment I started teaching, it became to apparent as to why I was here and how worthwhile what I was doing was. Thailand is a perfect place to start traveling and/or teaching because you can do it short term if you are unsure, the people are the most welcoming, friendly and selfless people I’ve ever met.
❤️Even if you hate teaching (which you won’t), the warmth of the people within this Land of Smiles will fill your heart with pure joy. Sounds so cheesy, but I’m not exaggerating. 100% the best thing I’ve ever done and I urge anyone to do the same.
?Make sure you brush up on your basic Thai phrases, it will help a lot especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere like we were. But if you’re not, then most people will speak some English; however, I think it’s polite to know some Thai.
☀️Bring plenty of sun lotion with you, it’s so expensive out (everything else is super cheap!).
?Other than that, come with an open mind and with your creative head on for the kids and you’ll have an absolute ball. K̄hxbkhuṇ pratheṣ̄thịy c̄hạn rạk khuṇ (thank you Thailand, I love you!).
If you enjoyed Jenny’s story to the Land of Smiles and you’re considering of teaching in Thailand , check out more insider tips to traveling to Thailand, Southeast Asia.
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- Brianna’s Thailand Teaching Adventure
- Sean’s TEFL Thailand Experience
- Steph’s Top Tips for Teaching in Thailand