Meet Stefanie our Thai TEFL expert. Read her interview about life in Asia for English teachers abroad, then be sure to check out her blog and her Instagram to go even deeper!
Tell us about yourself! We’d love to know about your background, what drew you to teaching abroad, and more.
Hello! I’m Stefanie and I’m originally from Chicago, IL. I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration specializing in Marketing. After graduating I spent about 4 years working in a Japanese restaurant and felt like my career wasn’t going in the direction that I wanted it to, so I decided to make a change.
I had a close friend who started teaching in Beijing and introduced me to the TEFL world. After doing A LOT of research I found Premier TEFL’s partnership with Angloville and headed off to Prague to earn my first TEFL certificate. Once I was finished in Prague I felt like I needed a little more help before jumping right into a classroom so I browsed Premier TEFL’s website again and chose to do an internship in Thailand which also gave me another TEFL certificate.
Thailand is a long way from home in the US, what made you choose Thailand? Had you ever traveled that far from home before?
I chose Thailand because the dates suited my schedule between leaving Prague and the start of the Thailand program. I also had two Thai friends living in Bangkok and I was curious to see what Thailand had to offer.
The first time I left the US was in 2016 for a solo Euro trip which was amazing. I traveled to Prague, Vienna, Venice, and Rome.
What did you learn about yourself during your time in Thailand?
I thought that I would like teaching older students rather than younger because I thought they would be easier to manage and they would understand me more. However, after teaching here for almost 2 years, I’ve learned it’s completely the opposite! I never thought I’d ever teach a kindergarten class, but here I am!
What is the number one adventure/experience everyone should have when they visit/move to Thailand?
Everyone should definitely experience Songkran which is the Thai New Year! It’s also known as the Water Festival and occurs in the middle of April. The whole country basically just has a giant water fight in the streets for three to four days in celebration of the New Year.
The water is supposed to symbolize a cleansing and starting fresh for the coming year. The best place to celebrate Songkran is in Chiang Mai.
What is your favorite thing about teaching English?
I like being able to see my students progress over the term and developing relationship with my students. Since, I currently teach kindergarten, they love to talk about everything and if they don’t know a word, they try their best to get their point across. It’s also a good way for me to teach them new vocabulary.
You completed your Thailand program (CONGRATS!). Now that you’ve had time to process, what were the best parts of your experience—Both inside and outside of the classroom?
The Thai teachers and other English teachers have definitely made my experience memorable. The Thai teachers are always willing to help with any questions I’ve had about their culture. The first school that I taught at was in a small village in northern Thailand and I learned a lot about the culture being only 1 of 12 foreigners that lived in the town.
It was an experience that you wouldn’t get if you taught in a city. Since leaving the small village, I’ve moved to the suburbs of Bangkok where I can take a plane, bus, or train to just about anywhere and have a weekend getaway in another province of Thailand or a neighboring country. Singapore is only 2 hours away by plane!
What advice do you have to share with future TEFL teachers considering Thailand for their time abroad?
✈️ There’s honestly no time like the present. If you’re thinking about teaching abroad take the plunge and go for it!
Also, don’t forget that it is a job and there are expectations for you to follow. Schools like when you are creative in your lessons. You wouldn’t like it if you had to sit in a class and learn repetitive vocabulary, would you? Keep it interesting, and have fun!
Finally, try all the food. There’s more to Thai food than just Pad Thai! You will discover a whole bunch of fruit that you never knew existed.
What’s next for Stefanie, what career path or adventure are you currently working on?
Right now, I plan on staying in Thailand at least for another year. I’m currently looking into Master Programs for Education or Master TESOL programs so that I can be better qualified to teach in other countries. I’m not sure which country yet, but it’ll probably be somewhere in Asia.
If you would like to learn more about teaching in Thailand, check out:
- Interview With Jenny McGuire in Thailand
- 9 Must-See Places While Teaching in Thailand
- Insider Tips on TEFL in Thailand