Teaching English in Pattaya, Thailand: Alumni Q&A with Laura Pearce

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
St. Paul, Minnesota

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Bachelor's degree

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 and France.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I graduated from the University of Minnesota, TC, in May of 2016 with a degree in Speech-Language and Hearing Sciences. I wanted to go back to graduate school for Speech Pathology, but decided I'd like to do some traveling before I go back. I was thinking about doing Workaway (volunteering abroad) until I met some people who said they taught English abroad. I thought it would be a good way to make some money while also getting to travel. I also thought it would be cool to learn about a different way of life other than what I have always known. Oh and the last reason is that I LOVE working with kids! (Elementary education was going to be my second choice for a college major).

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Making friends! I am such a social butterfly, but I am always worried about making friends. I was nervous that it was going to be a hard job and I would have to spend hours lesson planning. I was nervous about not having technology and living in a bug-infested area.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My parents were nervous! They really wanted me to go to Seoul, South Korea, because the pay is great and there is great technology and resources. However, my heart was set on Thailand, which they weren't so enthused about. They thought I was going to get malaria! My friends knew this was the right decision to me. They were all so jealous of my decision (yet none of them decided to teach abroad). They all said they want to come and visit!

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Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
There are so many agencies online, but none of them seemed very reliable. I read a lot of the Q&A's online, which helped guide me to choose ITA. I spoke to Felicia on the phone who told me there was a promotion ending the following day. I made the decision to choose ITA, and after that I was SO EXCITED because I knew teaching abroad was a reality.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Cours

How did you like the course?
I liked taking the course online. I continued working while taking this course over the summer. The instructors gave such great feedback and seemed like they really wanted to help me make great lesson plans. I worked hard on my lesson plans so that I would hopefully be able to use them in the future. I also loved the practicum. I went to a small learning center and taught adults from Myanmar who had just come to America from Thailand border camps. The center was so appreciative to have me and treated me so nicely. I also loved bonding with all of the students.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
Well first of all, I asked the staff what they thought about the different schools I was interviewing for, and they gave me great advice. They helped me make my final decision to go to Thailand (and not listen to what my parents thought was best for me). I used my Young Learners lesson plan that was part of an assignment during the course. The course gave me confidence to teach! Without completing the lesson plans and practicum I honestly don't think I could be in front of a classroom teaching!

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Thailand in the city of Pattaya. After completing many interviews via Skype for South Korea, my heart just wasn't in it. Finally, a school contacted me on Ajarn.com, and said they were looking for a teacher for their Preschool A classroom (2&3 year olds). Right away, I was like "YES! This is my dream job!!" However, I was very skeptical about the location, Pattaya. It is known as the sex capital of the world - there is a lot of prostitution here. The school connected me with a girl who was currently employed and she assured me that Pattaya is a great city to live in and that I would be living on the outskirts of the city (not right downtown).

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been here since January 2017. I initially planned to stay until July of 2017. BUT, I just resigned my contract for another year until July of 2018. And... maybe I'll end up staying even another year. I love my job!

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During which months does your school typically hire?
May/June for the new school year which starts in August. I got hired in the middle of the year because one of the teachers had to leave.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?

How did you interview for this position?
Skype/phone interview.

What kind of visa did you enter on?
I came with a non-immigrant B visa - which was then turned into a working visa upon arrival!

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I paid 80 USD to get a non-immigrant B visa (90 day visa). My school paid for (and did all the paperwork) to get me my one year working visa. It was a VERY easy process! If I hadn't come to Thailand with the non-immigrant B visa, I would have had to make a visa run to Laos. So I am grateful my school told me to get my non-B before I came!

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- TEFL Certification
- Bachelor's degree

What is the best way to apply?
Email. I saw the job posting on Ajarn.com (which is mostly where they find all of our teachers).

Tell us about your English teaching job!

School and students: I teach preschool A (2&3 year olds) at an international school.

Hours: I work from 8:30-3:00 but my students are there 9:00 - 2:00. I am actually only with my students for about 3 hours a day. I have three assistants in my classroom who help me take care of my 25 students.

Salary: I make 42,000 Baht (approx. $1265 USD) a month, but I also teach after-school classes, which gives me a couple extra thousand Baht a week.

Savings: I save at least half of my salary every month.

Housing: I live in a VERY NICE one bedroom condo, which costs me 8,000 Baht ($240 USD) a month. SO CHEAP!

Vacation: We get a lot of PAID vacation time off. A month in December, a week in February, two weeks in April, a month and a half in July/August, and a week in October, along with a few long weekends. Definitely enough time to travel around Thailand or to other countries.

Teaching abroad is the best decision I have ever made. I absolutely love Thailand, mostly for the food and the people :). I think working at an international school was a good decision. A lot of my students have parents who speak English, so I can communicate with them.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
A girl who works at my school found me a condo to live in before I came to Thailand. I moved in on my first day here. I live in a spacious one bedroom apartment by myself. I love it!

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    
I live across the street from a huge market. I spend about 100 Baht ($3 USD) a day (only on food), and on the weekends I might spend a couple thousand Baht. Still so cheap. Downtown Pattaya isn't really my scene, but I am a three hour bus ride from Bangkok. I have made friends with other expats at my condo as well as with teachers from my school.

There is a beautiful island that is just a 45 minute ferry ride away. I drive a motorbike to school and back. I take Grab Taxi or Uber if I am going to the city center. There are A LOT of tourists in Pattaya, so anything Western that I want is never too far away. So far I have traveled to the southern islands of Thailand as well as to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I plan to travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar next year. There is never a dull moment here in Pattaya. I fall more in love with the city everyday.

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What are your monthly expenses?
I pay 8000 Baht ($240 USD) for rent and another 1000($30 USD)  for electricity/water. I spend 100 baht a day on dinner/ breakfast. On the weekends, I like to go to a rooftop pool, to the island near by, shopping downtown, or hangout at my condo's huge swimming pool. I don't have WiFi at my condo (only because I was too lazy to set it up). I pay 89 Baht ($2.60 USD) a week for unlimited data on my phone. I pay 1,500 Baht ($45 USD) to rent a motorbike each month. Food is cheap here. Drinks are comparable to food prices.

How would you describe your standard of living?
I have access to everything I have at home! Shopping, food, nightlife, everything! I live very comfortably while saving about half of my salary to use on travel.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn to live comfortably?
Maybe 30,000 baht ($900 USD).

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would DEFINITELY recommend teaching English in Thailand! I recommend talking to someone from the school and asking their opinion about EVERYTHING. I love Pattaya despite it's bad reputation; it really is a great city with great people. Thailand is so cheap and the people are so lovely. The children and parents respect teachers. It's a great place to work.

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