Teaching English in Hua Hin, Thailand: Q&A with Hannah Johnson

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Master's degree or Higher

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Mexico, Ecuador, Honduras, Belize.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I was on the verge of completing my undergrad degree and had applied and been accepted to grad school for elementary education. I had a bit of a breakdown trying to imagine doing MORE school right away, but I knew that I wanted to teach. I spent a few days weighing my options, and that's when I applied to take the International TEFL Academy 170-Hour Online TEFL Course. From day one I said I was going to teach in Thailand and that's where I ended up!

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
My biggest concern about moving abroad was not having a job before I landed in Thailand! Every website and person I came in contact with warned me not to accept any teaching jobs until I was physically in Thailand, and I wasn't interested in going with a placement agency. This left me arriving with no job or set in stone plan. I was concerned I wouldn't find a job quickly as it was not peak hiring season!

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My family and friends were completely supportive. The same day I told my family I was taking this TEFL course and planning to move to Thailand, my sister and her husband announced their move to Germany. Needless to say there was a lot of big news in the family that day! Never once did my family or friends question my plans - instead they all found different ways to support me in the process. I was very blessed in that regard!

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Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
After talking with several friends who taught English abroad, being TEFL certified seemed like the most logical way to begin my teaching abroad career. I spent several days researching different TEFL certification schools & after talking with my advisor, Michael Kunik, I was sold. International TEFL Academy offered more support than many other certification schools, and I knew this was where I needed to be.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course

How did you like the course?
The online class presented me with topics I had never considered before being a native English speaker, but more than that, it allowed me to interact with classmates and get their ideas and opinions as well. Having classmates to interact with, bounce ideas off, and discuss teaching with was one of my favorite parts of this certification course. The instructors always replied in a timely manner and were always pushing me to think more deeply about a given topic or idea. The practicum aspect was very helpful for me as it forced me to put all these concepts and ideas into practice. I ended up volunteering for far more than the required hours because it turned into something I truly enjoyed doing!

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
Although I was finishing my degree in Elementary Education as I was taking the Online TEFL course, I was surprised by the amount of details this course contained. I was constantly challenged to present teaching matter more clearly and effectively to students who were learning English. This course offered so many supports, and being able to interact with my classmates work (although online) as well was extremely insightful!

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Thailand in the city of Hua Hin. From day one I had decided I wanted to teach in Thailand. I had no real reason why except that I felt like that was where I needed to be! I never once questioned that decision!

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I was there around nine months before I returned home to complete my Masters.

During which months does your school typically hire?
April (School Started in May)

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?

How did you interview for this position?
In-Person Interview

What kind of visa did you enter on?
Tourist Visa

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
The visa process took FOREVER; however, my school was EXTREMELY helpful in every aspect of the process. They gave me several days off school to travel to Bangkok for some of the initial paperwork - everything else was completed in the city where I lived - they drove me, paid for it all, and provided subs for the class periods I missed.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
Bachelor's Degree

What is the best way to apply?

TEFL ThailandTell us about your English teaching job!
I work 7:30-4 pm Monday through Friday at an English School as a 3rd grade teacher and was paid 33,000TBH ($1020 USD). I supplemented my income by teaching extra lessons (generally small groups) everyday after school and made an additional 25,000TBH ($775 USD) per month. This was MORE than enough for me to live off; however, I had no payments to be making back home and no dependents with me.

The school allowed me to take five "personal" days a year and we also had three weeks off for Christmas and several other American holidays off! Each month I lived off the money I made from extra lessons (25,000 TBH --> $775 USD)--I ate out every meal and traveled every weekend--however, I did not travel like a tourist by any means. I found good deals and ate street food for every meal! I was able to use my saved monthly salary to travel through Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern Thailand for two months and then traveled through western Europe for a 1.5 months as well.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I was staying in a hostel for about two weeks prior to getting my job. I had become friends with the owner (she loved practicing her English)! When I told her that I got a job, she told me I needed to find an apartment and she would help me. She ended up finding 5-6 apartments for me too look at and then drove me to each apartment, introduced me to the landlord, and explained cost/lease information. I ended up living alone in a 1 bedroom + bathroom apartment (no kitchen) with a view of the mountains from one side and a view of the beach from another!

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    
Living in Hua Hin was definitely a different experience than most of Thailand as it's where the King's summer home is and where a lot of the wealthy Thai people vacation. It is a definitely a town full of tourists, which has its pros and cons. There was always lots going on--events, activities, sports, etc--so really not too hard to get involved. However the expat community was pretty small, and everybody knew everybody. And I mean EVERYBODY! Being about three hours south of Bangkok made travel pretty easy as I could hop on a bus to anywhere (Phuket = ~10 hour bus ride) or drive three hours north and fly out from Bangkok. Truly I felt like I had it all in Hua Hin and would recommend living in Hua Hin to anybody!

What are your monthly expenses?
My biggest expense was by far my rent - at $200 USD a month (+ extra for using the air conditioning unit; this was expensive so I usually opted out!) Everything else was fairly inexpensive for me. Transportation was provided by my school, so I never had to rent a motorbike or use public transportation unless I was traveling outside of my town (Hua Hin). Since my apartment didn't have a kitchen (which is very common in Thailand), I ate every meal at the local night markets or street vendors. This was very affordable ($3 USD/per day), and I promise I never got food poisoning

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How would you describe your standard of living?
I definitely lived an above average lifestyle in Thailand. However, I was not buying new clothes, technology, etc. I spent more of my time and money out exploring and traveling throughout the country.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
Like I said earlier, I lived comfortably (with travel on the weekends to surrounding cities) for ~25,000TBH a month ($735 USD). However, I was making about 55,000TBH a month ($1,600 USD), so I definitely had the extra funds if I needed it. It all depends on your lifestyle. If you're going to go out on the town to the fancy restaurants, tourist attractions, night clubs, etc the cost of living is much higher.

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
GO! Honestly, that's the only advice there is! Teaching English in Thailand completely changed my life, and I find myself wishing I was back there more often that not. The country, the low cost, the people, and the ease of travel within Thailand are all reasons why I tell everyone to at least visit! Thailand was the perfect place to start my teaching abroad career and I can't wait until teaching abroad is in my cards again!


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