Seb’s career had taken him from being a spray painter to mining in the Australian outback. But he was looking for a change. After talking to family, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his sister and become TEFL certified and teach English in Thailand. Now, Seb has discovered a passion for education that was untapped in his past jobs. Keep reading to learn the highlights from experience and what advice he has for you, as a future teacher in Thailand.
Tell us about yourself! We’d love to know about your background, what drew you to teaching in Thailand?
Well, where to start? I was born in a town called Geraldton and raised in the city of Perth, Australia. I’ve always had a happy supportive family that encouraged me to do anything in life. I never really liked school. I did well but was always more into the hands-on kind of trade work. I was a spray painter for eight years after school, then worked for a mining company in Australia.
The only places I’ve ever visited outside of Perth were Melbourne, Tasmania, and Bali (typical Aussie…roughly 10 times haha).
I have a half-brother (Nick) from the UK who I had only met two or three times at this point, and we got talking about a scenery change. Nick suggested teaching and we came to an agreement and a date of departure in a matter of days
Did you always know you’d end up teaching in Thailand?
After we decided on teaching, Thailand was the first choice because my sister had actually done the same course five years prior, and highly recommended it! I enjoyed the idea of Thai culture because it’s somewhat similar to Indonesia, which I absolutely loved. Great people, great scenery, and great food.
Our second option was going to be Cambodia and still might be one day.
What were three things about your experience teaching in Thailand that you did not anticipate? (This helps future teachers preparing for a trip there to feel more ready!)
Hmm, firstly the local support network is amazing. Looking at forums online before coming over, made every single task sound daunting. I don’t recommend reading too much into ‘opinions’ online if teaching here is something you’d like to do. I have come across very, very few negative people.
Secondly the accommodation. If you plan on staying for any length longer than a month, there are some amazing condos for extremely cheap prices and great quality with great security. It took me all of two days to find a condo and sign a lease less than 1km from the school that I’m teaching at.
Thirdly, the Thai mail system is exceptional. For small items to arrive from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes a maximum of two days (for me so far). So many (and I really mean so many) helpful things online that can be at your door within a week. I’ve not heard of any bad stories with mail yet.
What is one thing about the life of teaching abroad in general that you never expected/ Weren’t prepared for? Our readers love to get the inside scoop!
Honestly budgeting. I’ve never been amazing at saving money so I tried to come over on a tight budget which didn’t work out. There are too many nice places that lure you in for an expensive meal at western prices. Don’t get me wrong, these places are great every once in a while, but for a little over $2 AUD, you can get a meal that would give your mums cooking a run for its money!
Can you share with us a favorite story or two from your time teaching English in Thailand?
Hmmm, a favorite story. It would probably have to be while doing my TEFL course in Thailand. We went to a school about a 40-minute drive from the center of Chiang Mai, and there are not many westerners out there. We were looked at like rockstars. Just before teaching my class, I was writing my name on the whiteboard as the kids were trickling into the classroom. Just as I’d finished writing ‘Teacher Seb’ one of the kids starting chanting “Teacher Seb, Teacher Seb, Teacher Seb”. Most of the class joined in and it was the most welcoming and happy class I’ve taught so far. Coincidentally they all seemed to learn a relatively hard verb tense very quickly. When I left, they literally screamed “BYEEEE TEACHER SEB”.
After this class, a few of us were waiting for the rest of our peers to finish and we started juggling a football on the oval (in formal clothes mind you). At first, about four kids joined in. Then after about half an hour, we were surrounded by about 30 kids of all ages trying to beat ‘us teachers’ in a football game. In the end, we were drenched in sweat and smiles all around. That was one of the most wholesome experiences I’ve had in Thailand so far.
What’s your favorite phrase/word/ of the English Language?
A simple one but a good one that I kept forgetting – ‘conjunction’ basically just joining two parts of a sentence together (clauses/phrases etc).
What advice do you have for someone on the fence about whether to teach in Thailand or not?
I highly doubt you’re going to have a bad experience and regret it. Even if it’s just for six months. I’ve already met some lifelong friends. It sounds so cliché but it happens. Everyone is just as nervous as the next person. There are four or five people from my class that I will speak to for the rest of my life.
Teaching in Thailand has taught me to be more confident in front of crowds. I’ve always had an irrational fear of looking stupid, now I embrace it! Never felt better about it, and yes. I’m normally quite an introverted person.
I was lucky to do this with my brother, but within days I made friends that I could call brothers, so don’t stress about soloing it. You’ll be fine!
Finally, what does the future hold for Seb?
Hmmm. Good question. I’m going to finish up my six months to one-year teaching here and likely study more. The class has given me a newfound love for studying that I never had in school. Hopefully, I can study and teach in Chiang Mai, but only time will tell.