Teaching English in Sriracha, Thailand - Alumni Q&A with Sierra Duke

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Tracy, California, USA

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Bachelor's Degree.

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
I'd never left the country.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
After graduating college, I began working a '9-5 job' in the corporate world. A year or so into this new career, I began to feel a sense of incompleteness in my day-to-day routine. What I called my "quarter-life crisis", led me to search within for the things that brought me fulfillment. I came to the conclusion that I enjoyed helping others, had the desire to travel, and with a background in Communications felt very passionate about language and sharing important messages with people. All of these components led me to begin researching new careers online--when I came across ITA--and it felt like the perfect fit.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
To start, it was my first time leaving the country--ever! That alone was both an excitement and a fear that weighed heavy on my mind. Things such as cultural differences, expenses, cost of living, visas, and other factors associated with living abroad were also intimidating. Along with the fact that I had never taught English before! However, after completing the online TEFL course with ITA, many of my concerns were settled, and I felt confident in my newly acquired skills to teach English abroad. The country comparison chart was a huge assistant in helping me research and decide on the country I wanted to teach in. And the ITA Alumni groups that I was able to connect with allowed me to talk with others who were once in my shoes, and had taken the leap across the world to begin the English-teaching journey.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
The initial reaction from my friends and family was "surprised". Going from a corporate career to packing up my entire life and moving to the other side of the world is not something anyone expected from me. My mother was extremely supportive of my new decision, as she always is. Some of my other family members expressed concern about me moving to a new country, but were encouraging nonetheless. And my friends were excited to see me take on this new adventure, paving a path that inspired those around me to "follow their dreams", no matter how wild they seem.


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Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
After beginning my research on teaching English abroad, I noticed the requirement of a TEFL certificate for many countries, as well as a Bachelor's Degree (which I already had). ITA was one of the first websites that came up when I began looking into TEFL certification. After digging deeper into everything that ITA offered and talking to an advisor on the phone (Michael Kunik), I felt comfortable choosing ITA to get TEFL certified. Both the website and my advisor were extremely helpful in answering initial questions and developing the spark I had to begin this new journey.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Having taken many online courses in the past, and still working my '9-5 job', I opted to take the Online TEFL class.

How did you like the course?
The online course provided the right combination of tools for a first-time teacher to acquire the skills needed to teach English abroad. The coursebook was an easy, but detailed read. The assignments forced you to get creative and begin implementing the strategies learned to create your own activities, lesson plans, etc. My instructor (Quinn Cruz) was always available via email and answered all of my questions, as well as gave me constructive criticism and positive encouragement along the way. I enjoyed the discussions where I was able to learn about my fellow classmates, their experiences, and their future plans to teach abroad. I am most grateful for the practicum requirement for this course, where I felt I was really able to put everything I learned into practice and become comfortable with teaching English in-person.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
Almost every aspect of the TEFL training has been applied to my current teaching position. I still use the knowledge I learned on lesson planning to create plans for my students--including the templates provided by ITA. The additional courses--Pre- Grammar Course Module, Teaching Young Learners, and EAP & Business English--were also a big help as I am teaching English to people of all ages.

How long have you been in Thailand and how long do you plan to stay?
I am teaching English in the city of Sriracha (yes, like the hot sauce), Thailand, in the province of Chonburi. This city is especially unique because of its prominent Japanese community, allowing me to experience the mix of both Japanese and Thai culture. I took the leap abroad and began teaching English in May of 2019 and plan to fulfill my one year contract until July 2020.

Why did you decide to teach English in this location?
I have many friends that have visited Thailand who all had nothing but wonderful things to say about this country. Often called the "Land of Smiles", Thailand seemed like the perfect place for a first-time traveler like myself. The country comparison chart provided by ITA helped me discover the low-cost of living and other factors that allowed me to realistically make this move. I also knew I wanted to go somewhere with a tropical climate/near the ocean--and Thailand has plenty of that!

What school, company, or program are you working for?
I work for a language center called WE World of English. My company contracts with St. Mary's Preschool & Learning Center in Sriracha, where I teach English to Thai children ranging from Pre-K to Kindergarten. Through my company, I also private tutor Japanese students ranging from Kindergarten to adults. 

During which months does your school typically hire?
The peak hiring times in Thailand are February-April and August-October, right before the semesters start. But since my company also teaches Japanese students who are on a different schedule, they typically hire year-round.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
Yes. I was able to connect with my company and conduct a Skype interview, securing my position before I arrived in Thailand.

How did you interview for this position?
I had a Skype/Phone interview.

What kind of Visa did you enter on?
I entered on a tourist visa which I secured at the Thai Embassy in Los Angeles, CA, before I left.

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Please explain the visa process that you went through.
The tourist visa that I obtained in my home country allowed me 90 days in Thailand. Before that time was up, I did a "visa run" to Laos to get my non-immigrant B visa which allowed me another 90 days. I am currently in the process of getting my work permit/teacher license which allows me to stay for one full year. My company has helped me along the entire visa process which I am extremely grateful for, because visas can be complicated, and differ country to country.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?
Bachelor's Degree, TEFL Certification, and you must be a Native English Speaker.

What is the best way to apply?
Initial contact can occur via applying online, emailing the company, or bringing in your resume in-person.

Tell us about your English teaching job!
I teach about 30 hours per week between my Thai school and tutoring the Japanese students, and earn a salary of 40,000 Baht. I have 2 days off per week (Sunday & Monday) and also get 3 paid vacations during the year. My current situation allows me enough money to live comfortably, travel and save, as well as pay my bills back home (student loans, car payment, etc.).


Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...  
Inner-city transportation in Thailand consists of motorbikes, songteaws, tuk tuks, and vans, where you can get around for around 15-100 Baht (>$3 USD). Train and plane tickets are also extremely inexpensive, which make it easy to travel around Thailand or visit its neighboring countries.

You can find morning/night markets in practically any city you go where you can get amazing street food and inexpensive clothing for around 5-200 Baht (>$7 USD). Although they do have grocery stores in Thailand (where you can find some American products, like peanut butter!), I find myself getting majority of my meals from the markets, trying my way through Southeast Asian cuisine. Family-style eating is also very popular in Thailand, and there are many outdoor restaurants where you can find large groups sharing meals late into the night.

There are expat communities all around Thailand, especially in the bigger cities like Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Phuket. In Sriracha where I live, I am mainly surrounded by Thai/Japanese/Chinese people which I enjoy because it allows me to experience and get to know people from another culture.

Geographically, Thailand offers landscapes from mountainous regions to beautiful beaches, making this country a perfect place for adventure. The culture is prevalent throughout the country, from its collectivism to its Buddhist religion to its laid-back lifestyle. Thailand truly leaves its "Land of Smiles" mark on anyone who visits.

What are your monthly expenses?
Monthly Expenses- Rent: appx. $150
Utilities: appx. $20
Transportation: $30-$100 (depending on if you travel)
Food: $30-$60 (eating at markets, restaurants, shopping at grocery stores)
Phone: $10
Travel: $50-$200 (depending on type of travel-weekend or week long, etc.)
Social Activities/Other: $20-$100

How did you find somewhere to live?
My company helped me search around and view accommodations until I came across one that I liked. I landed on a studio right in the city-center for around 5,000 Baht. Like many accommodations in Thailand, my studio came completely furnished, I just had to get bedding. The location is near the ocean, mall, night-markets, and transportation which allows me to get the most out of my living situation.

How would you describe your standard of living?
I live a very different life than the one I lived in the USA, but I am very comfortable. Thailand is a country of simplicity, and you can come out here and find many of the delicacies you can find in the USA, or you can choose to live as the Thais do. I have enjoyed adjusting to the Thai lifestyle and living with a minimalist approach.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
30,000 Baht ($970 USD), which is the minimum that English teachers earn in Thailand, is plenty to live comfortably.


What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
When you initially make the decision to teach abroad, there are a million factors and emotions that may be running through your mind. My advice to anyone experiencing this would be to trust the process. Keep your goal in mind and reach out the people around you for help. Don't think too far ahead into the future, just take the little steps that you need to get you closer to where you want to go. Use the resources that ITA provides and join the Alumni Facebook groups! I absolutely recommend teaching in Thailand, and am happy to chat with anyone who is interested. :)

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