It’s nerve-wracking, right? Entering a foreign country, full of a foreign script, where people are smiling but you don’t recognize any of their faces, where the bathrooms are nothing like you’re used to and the water has to be treated before you can sip it.
It can be a lot to take in, even for the most seasoned travelers. And while we firmly believe this is all part of the adventure (it’s what we signed up for, no?!), feeling like we have a better grasp of what to expect once we set foot abroad can still settle some nerves (and upset tummies).
Premier TEFL is on your side, and our goal is to make that transition go as smoothly as possible. In this first week guide, we’re going to cover…
- Nailing your arrival at the airport
- Breezing through orientation
- Now that orientation is over, do a little sightseeing
… so that you can make your first few days in-country count.
Welcome to Thailand. You’re going to love it.
Nailing Your Arrival at the Airport
Wipe that sweat off your brow because you have your work cut out for you once you land in Bangkok. If you’ve survived major hubs like London, New York City, Dubai, Los Angeles, or Atlanta you’re going to find Suvarnabhumi International Airport a cinch (well, once you figure out how to pronounce it, that is).
ESL teacher Kate found Bangkok’s airport to be “the most stress-free airport I’ve ever been to. It’s very easy to get a tourist visa on arrival” And don’t worry about long lines at immigration. There’s free wifi to login to so you can immediately start sharing snaps from your new digs.
Battery-life a little low? Make sure you pack your Thai adaptor in your cabin / hand luggage so that you can charge quick as soon as you get off the plane.
Now that you’re fully charged, you’ve told Mom and Dad you’re alive, you survived going to the bathroom in a hole in a ground, and you’ve got a freshly minted tourist visa to begin your stay, it’s time to find your way out to the taxi stand. Kate shares her best advice to get you in the right wheels:
“Pro tip: When you come out of the airport, turn right and try to find/go on a green taxi. Make sure to get the smaller one (there are two types of taxis and the machine prints out tickets in order). If the next taxi in the queue is the big one, then print another ticket for the smaller one. Wait until you can get into the smaller one if you have time to spare and want to save a little cash!”
Don’t be surprised if your taxi smells like Thai food / your mouth waters the entire time you’re in it. You’ll get your taste buds on that (spicy, deliciously wonderful) grub soon enough!
Breezing Through Orientation
Now that you’re settled in, it’s time to get this ESL party started—and nothing kicks off your teach abroad experience like our group orientation.
Come morning of orientation, plan to meet everyone (including other ESL teachers and Premier TEFL’s wonderful partners) in the orientation hotel lobby. The program starts bright and early—around 8:30am—and lasts for three full days. The first thing you’ll do is hear general introductions and receive an overview of what your orientation schedule and subsequent teaching placements will look like.
Take your key (yup, you have a room now!) and head up to your shared accommodations to get settled. Hopefully your fellow roommate/intern likes Harry Potter and jaffa cakes as much as you! If privacy is more your jam, you can opt to pay a little extra for a private room at the hotel instead of the shared option. No offense, but you’ll probably need to take a shower (long haul flights=smelly passengers). Enjoy the bit of time to unpack and unwind.
“Pro tip: You might not feel your most sociable on arrival BUT now is the time you’ll find unexpected (potentially life-long) friendships. We totally recommend bunking up with another newbie.”
Don’t rest your eyes (#jetlag) because soon, it’ll be time to return to reception to get your Thai sim card and 4G data plan organized. If that’s not enough to get you to hop out of bed, we’re not sure what will! You’ll want to sort this out ASAP, too—Kate shared that the free WIFI connections are pretty useless just about everywhere.
It’ll be a whirlwind 72 hours packed with lessons on Thai culture, the work permit, lesson planning and other teaching tips, not to mention tons of fun and games and even a ceremony to remove evil spirits (called Sai Sin—trust us, it’s awesome).
“Pro tip: Don’t forget to wear your black bottoms and company provided shirt!”
Now that you’re connected, you need to stock your phone with local apps. Thailand’s answer to WhatsApp, LINE is the first essential. Grab, Wongnai, Eatigo, and Nostra Maps should come next.
Now That Orientation is Over, Do a Little Sightseeing!
We’re going to bet that you didn’t come to Thailand just to teach abroad and not explore. One of the best ways to get to know your new little slice of paradise is to walk it on foot. And since there are dozens of amazing things to check out around Bangkok, we know your pedometer will be up for the challenge.
Past Thailand TEFL interns have named not coming early as a common regret from their overall experience. Gifting yourself with time to get to know Bangkok a little better and settle in—before you start teaching—might be the best way to go. There are glittering temples, buzzing alleyways and shopping streets, little fish nibbling at your toes, monks gliding in saffron robes, and yes… phad thai.
Once you’ve had your fill of the city life, why not head beyond to see what else makes this country great? Everything is “basically within a 3 or 4 hour radius from Bangkok, in whatever direction, but the closest “paradise spot” you can get to is Koh Samet!” This island will not disappoint.
Kate further recommends booking a hotel or hostel in advance in Ban Phe, which is the town where you will leave on the ferry in the morning. This is essential as some interns were left in the dust without accommodations in this small town!
Stay in this idyllic wonderland as long as possible… or at least a few days… to really get a feel for this amazing paradise. You might need extra relaxation after the mini-bus ride to the port. The rides tend to be packed, hot, and overcrowded, with few rest stops along the way. “Make sure to take a ‘comfort break’ before you get on the bus!” You’ll be cracking up over life’s little surprises in no time.
Your first week is already over—time flies when you’re having fun, huh?
Somewhere between the second (and third) helpings of som-tum, cheers’ing countless Changs, and laughing with your new TEFL BFFs, you realized something. Things work here. You work here. You fit in, you feel like the best version of yourself, and you’re ready to put your best foot forward to excel in your classroom. You feel alive, you feel full (#mangostickyrice), you feel fulfilled. And this is just the start.
Well done at successfully transitioning to life abroad. You’re a natural!