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Trang, Thailand English Teaching Q&A with Hailey Lawson
Written by: Hailey Lawson
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
After getting married about a year and a half ago, my partner and I found ourselves stuck in a mundane routine. We were living in California after plans of moving back to her native England fell through, and with jobs we were less than excited about. Our thirst to travel was becoming insatiable, and we knew we had to find a way to go abroad and support ourselves in the process. Teaching English was an easy decision -- it gave us a way to move to another country, experience a culture completely different than our own, and support ourselves financially by giving back to our new community in a profound way. As soon as the idea came about, we took off running!
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Never having taught before (aside from the student teaching I completed during my TEFL certification), I was pretty anxious about teaching. I only had 20 hours in a classroom under my belt!
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My family was extremely supportive. In fact, it was my mom who suggested teaching abroad in the first place! Knowing mine (and my partner's) deep passion for travel and curiosity of culture, it came as no surprise to anyone that this was our decision.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I decided to get TEFL certified because I did not have any prior training in the education field, and knew it would be imperative to this new journey. From the research I had done, I learned that although it is not ALWAYS required by potential employers, it would definitely give me a leg up on the competition. I knew nothing about teaching, and had to start somewhere!
After doing plenty of research, my partner and I chose ITA for our certification for many reasons. They offered an online TEFL course, which was perfect for us as we both worked full-time and were nowhere near an ITA campus. The staff was fabulous, always available to answer any questions and help sort things out. And the on-going support they provide, before, during, and throughout your entire teaching career, was what really sealed the deal.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
I thoroughly enjoyed the course! My instructor, Darius Vukasinovic, was outstanding. He always replied to any questions or concerns in a timely manner, was very active in class discussions, and was constantly giving us useful tips and tricks for our future teaching endeavors. The course was laid out nicely -- the right amount of work in the right amount of time. I enjoyed the tasks we were given, and was able to apply some of them during my practicum. Overall, I had a wonderful experience, and would recommend this course to anyone interested in getting TEFL certified.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
My TEFL training certainly gave me confidence to step into the classroom and become a teacher. Many of the ideas from our textbook have made their way into my lessons, and as my instructor taught us, I am constantly searching for the most creative ways to engage my students. The TEFL training will only be as beneficial as you make it -- if you take what you learn and apply it with confidence, creativity and enthusiasm, the path to success can be easily found. If I had not completed my TEFL training, I would not be nearly as successful and effective in the classroom as I have come to be.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Thailand in the city of Trang. As part of the LGBT community, I chose Thailand for its openness and acceptance towards my lifestyle. Also, I wanted to experience a culture that was very different from my own.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Thailand for three months, and plan to stay for six months.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
During which months does your school typically hire?
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
No. I secured my placement after arriving in Thailand and completing a week long orientation via Greenheart Travel
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I applied for a Non-B (non-immigrant B) visa through the Thai Consulate in Portland while still in the states. Once that was approved, I made my way to Thailand. Through my school, I have obtained a work permit, and an extension on my Non-B visa through the end of my contract.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Bachelor's degree
- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker
What is the best way to apply?
Please include any application resources (website, email, etc.) or other information here:
I came to Thailand with Greenheart Travel, who secured my teaching position through an agency called BLS.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
HOURS: Here at Burana, I am at school for 9 hours a day, but only teach between 3-5 of those hours, depending on the day. The rest of the time is used for lesson planning.
SALARY: I make 30,000 THB per month, which is roughly $900 USD. Between my partner and I, we are able to save one entire paycheck per month, given we aren't doing much traveling!
SCHOOL TYPE: I work for a private Christian school (seemingly odd in a country that is largely Buddhist). Burana teaches kindergarten through high school; I teach P4 and P6, the equivalent to 4th and 6th grade in the US, with five classes per grade.
VACATION: Unlike most public schools, we do not get much vacation time off. Aside from the big breaks (March-April, October), we have a few days off for New Years, and some long weekends here and there.
I could not have been placed at a better school. My co-teachers and supervisors are wonderful; my students are motivated; and everything is extremely well organized. And to have a school be "extremely well organized" in Thailand is rare! An exceptional experience so far.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
Our agency, BLS, helped us find an apartment once we arrived in our city. My partner and I share a one bedroom apartment, that is very hotel-esque -- one single room with one bathroom.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Choosing Thailand was based in part on the culture -- I wanted an experience far different from any I had already had. And in this aspect, it was an incredible decision. Thai people are very warm and welcoming, always willing to lend a hand and help out when needed. Known as the "Land of Smiles," the "Thai smile" is something that never ceases to amaze me -- whether happy or sad, angry or indifferent, Thai people will always, always smile. (They definitely may not always mean it, but they will still smile!) Showing respect with a "wai," (hands together in front of chest and bowing the head), especially to elders or people of higher status, was something quickly learned, and being called a "farang" (foreigner) has become the norm.
As far as public transportation goes? While in Bangkok, we learned how to navigate the BTS, or the sky train. Super efficient way around the city that excludes the scamming tuk-tuks and pricey cabs. But here in Trang, we drive scooters! Scooters or motorbikes are a definite way of life here in Thailand, and one thing I learned early on? Always do as the Thais do. So, scooter it is!
A lot can be said about the nightlife in Thailand. Whether it's the classy rooftop bars or dance clubs in Bangkok, the chill beach bars all throughout the south, or the small farang bar in your town, there is definitely something for everyone! Alcohol is one of the more expensive things in Thailand, especially if mixed drinks are your thing. Expect to spend a few hundred baht on one drink alone! Not so bad if you convert to dollars, but when you earn in the local currency, it's a different story.
One of the best things about Thailand? THE FOOD. Hands down. You can eat for an entire day for $3 or less if you stick to street food, which in all honesty, is usually the best. If you are a daredevil when it comes to food, then this is the place for you. Visit any local Thai market and find squid roasting on skewers, octopus legs, fish balls, the infamous smelly durian fruit, even scorpions! For the less adventurous, try some som tam, or spicy papaya salad, or tom yum soup. Whatever your desire, you will find it here in Thailand.
The expat community in Thailand, from my experience, is a great resource. There is a huge network of people to connect with, be it teachers or otherwise, whom you can reach out to with questions, concerns, advice, or just to meet up. As a teacher, this community is of great importance. It is where you will search for tips and tricks for your lessons, bounce ideas off of for possible games or activities, and seek advice about those unruly students. It's also a great group of people if you are to ever feel homesick, and want to be surrounded by more "familiar" faces.
Lastly, I will mention travel. Aside from teaching, my favorite experiences here have been the times I have traveled. Financially, it is very cheap and very easy to travel throughout Thailand. Whether you are flying from Chiang Mai in the north down to Bangkok for the weekend, or taking a bus from Trang in the south up to the mountainous city of Pai, traveling is very accessible. The two big breaks from school are March-April, and the month of October, which gives you ample travel time. In the south of Thailand you will find the picturesque beaches with turquoise blue water, with some of the best diving in the entire world. In the north, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are homes to hundreds of breathtaking temples, and in the northeastern region of Isaan, you can get a feel for what the country looked like hundreds of years ago. Traveling to neighboring Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam is very easy, and depending on where you live, may be a short bus ride away! There is SO much to see and do in Thailand, the travel opportunities are endless.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Here is a breakdown of my monthly expenses:
-Rent/utilties: 6,000-7,000 THB per month, split between two people (approx. $170-$200 USD per month)
-Food: This is very dependent on WHERE you are eating. In Thailand, having a kitchen is not common, so most people eat out each day. If you stick to street food, you can expect to spend around 980 THB, or $28-$30 USD.
-Social activities: Going out for a drink can be 30-100 THB ($1-$4 USD), depending on where and what. Personally, I have a beer or two usually on the weekends, so I would say I'd spend about 560 THB per month ($16 USD)
-Transportation: 2,000 THB per month for a motorbike (split between two people), approx. $29 USD per person.
-Phone: I brought my phone from the states and bought a Thai sim card, which I highly recommend. (You can also buy cheap phones here in Thailand!) I pay for a monthly plan, with 2 GB of data (You can get more or less, depending on how much you plan on using your phone away from a wifi connection). I pay 299 THB, plus I always put an extra 50 THB of credit in case I need to make an emergency phone call, so 350 THB altogether, which is $10 USD per month.
-Travel: Again, this will vary greatly depending on how much and where you are traveling. I recently took a weekend trip to Koh Lipe, an island here in southern Thailand. We traveled by minivan, ferry, and long tail boat, with transportation there and back coming to 1,400 THB. We stayed in a bungalow right on the beach, for 900 THB per person (we were in a group of 4, and stayed for 3 days & 2 nights). So for the weekend, I paid 2,300 THB for transportation and accommodation, approx. $65 USD. Bus travel throughout Thailand is very cheap, as is travel by train. You can also find cheap flights with carriers like Air Asia and Nok Air, but a bus is definitely your cheapest option.
-For any fitness enthusiasts, a gym membership may be of concern to you. In my town, there is one gym that is mediocre at best, for 30 THB per day, which is less than $1 USD. At the other end of the spectrum, there is a gym that is comparable to mine at home in California, complete with TRX bands, kettle bells, and brand-new equipment, for 1,500 THB per month, or approx. $43. But going out for a run may be the best bet, and a great way of exploring your new town!
How would you describe your standard of living?
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
30,000 THB (approx. $900 USD) would be an ideal salary, especially if you are not worried about saving money to bring home.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
If the thought has even crossed your mind to teach abroad, I strongly urge you to do it. Step outside of your comfort zone, choose a place that interests you, or a culture you want to learn more about, or a language you would like to learn, and go for it! Your experiences throughout your time abroad will compare only to the reward you will get from teaching. It is an exceptional experience, and one I cannot recommend enough! English teachers are needed throughout the ENTIRE world -- The opportunities and the adventures that await you are endless!
I would recommend 110% teaching English abroad in Thailand. It is an incredibly beautiful country, with warm, welcoming people, amazing children, and a unique culture. Especially if you are new to Southeast Asia, then this is the best place to start.
Tired of mundane jobs and fueled by a desire to see the World, Hailey and her partner decided to get TEFL certified and head to Thailand. They were attracted by the country's rich culture, great travel opportunities, and also, Thailand's famous cuisine.
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