Taryn Beasley hails from Northumberland, England, and previously attended University of Leeds. She dreamt of becoming a chef—and even developed recipes for some big brands in the UK! Now teaching in Thailand, she’s learning more than just the secret ingredient to a great batch of som tum. Read on to learn about her TEFL journey!

Tell us about your background?

My background has nothing to do with English or teaching. I studied Food Science and Nutrition at university and spent 3 years working in the food industry creating factory recipes for products sold in the UK. Teaching abroad was something I’d always been interested in doing and so I took a bit of a leap of faith and applied for it. 

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You’re currently teaching abroad. Awesome! Please share your unique journey to working abroad as a teacher—including your TEFL course experience. 

I decided I wanted to teach in Thailand after visiting the country on holiday in April 2019. I applied to Premier TEFL and completed my TEFL qualification online with them. It was straightforward and easy to complete. I was then contacted by their affiliated company based in Thailand who offered me an interview. From that interview I was accepted and offered a place at a school in northern Thailand, in Sakon Nakhon province, to teach English for Communication in a high school.

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What were the three most helpful things that you learned/practiced throughout your TEFL training? 

I found the most helpful things I learnt during the TEFL training were:

    1. The lesson planning guide was really helpful in planning my first lessons as somebody completely new to teaching.
    2. The TEFL training included lots of different exercise and activity ideas to learn vocabulary that I have used with my students.
    3. A brief refresh of my knowledge of the English grammar system, as this is something I’d not really looked at in depth since I was 16 and doing my GCSEs.

What makes teaching abroad an attractive pursuit for you? Can you tell us about it and how it motivates your work? 

I enjoy travelling and teaching abroad gives me the opportunity to see so much more of Thailand and Asia, and not just the tourist destinations. I feel like I really get to understand what the Thai lifestyle is and see inside of a normal day-to-day life in a small town. Also my students motivate me every day, seeing them take a keen interest in English and their drive to improve and practice really drives me.

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What are some challenges that you have faced and how have you overcome them? What have you learned for future similar situations? 

One challenge is getting students to speak up when they don’t understand something, no matter how many times you try to ask if they are ok or understand what is being asked, when they have a blank sheet of paper in front of them and confused look on their face, they will tell you they are fine. The best way I have learnt to deal with this is to offer as many example answers or ways to work through the task as collaboratively as possible between either the teacher and students or the students themselves. 

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Describe your first few days abroad. What was it like? What were your biggest fears? How did you handle/manage them? Did you LOVE winning the orientation survival pack?! 

My first few days in Thailand were incredible, I arrived a couple of days early so that I could relax and get over the jet lag before taking a cooking course in Bangkok and  exploring Ayutthaya with another new teacher! I then had the teaching orientation where I met the most incredible group of teachers and we’re all still super close now even though we’re spread out across the length of Thailand and try and see each other whenever possible including New Years when there’s a group of 16 of us. Winning the orientation survival kit was so exciting too and I’ve used almost everything that was in it.

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Can you share with us a favorite story or two from your time as an ESL teacher in Thailand?

I’m 2 months into my ESL journey and I already have so many incredible memories, from judging a singing competition to watching students wrapped from head to toe in blankets, hats and scarves because the weather had dipped to the average British summer temperatures, to watching months of the student’s hard work come together for a week-long sports competition including sports, dance and cheer contests.

Taking part in an English camp was another highlight as we got to travel to a primary school and play English games all day with the kids and ended the day with a game which resulted in us all covered in baby powder. Also being able to celebrate Loi Krathong in the town was amazing as there was a huge week-long carnival and festival.

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What insider tips do you have for other TEFL teachers considering working in Southeast Asia? 

I think you need to prepare yourself for a huge cultural shock, Thailand is so different to western countries in many ways. Also prepare yourself for quite a shock when you’re just about used to Bangkok and then get shipped off to a small rural town where sometimes you feel like a celebrity because everybody stares at you. Also, night buses will never be an enjoyable experience. 

Related reads…

How to be a respectful TEFL teacher abroad

Interview with Brianna Flores in Thailand

TEFL packing tips for traveling abroad

Thank you for taking the time to share your magnificent story with the Premier TEFL community. Happy travels!