Hello all my fellow wanderlusters!
My name is Robyn Glaza and I am a 25-year-old having the experience of a lifetime teaching abroad. I got my TEFL certificate back in 2015, and have taught and lived in Prague, Thailand and Ecuador since then. I have no intention of stopping this lifestyle anytime soon.
I have been blessed because I can combine my two main passions in life; teaching and travel – and it has made for one hell of a journey these last three years. From the cobblestone streets of Prague to the jungles of Thailand to the never-ending mountains of Ecuador, I have fallen in love with not only my students but the entire unique culture of each country and continent.
If traveling, teaching and adventure are up your alley, then you should DEFINITELY give teaching abroad a shot! I am here to help you with any questions or concerns you have about teaching in Thailand and Ecuador. Although I will not be specifically focusing on Prague, I can also gladly help out in that area as well!
REMEMBER: No question is stupid or trivial when it comes to living and teaching abroad (trust me) You never know when some fact or tip might come in handy!
Ahhh the country of smiles, intense heat, amazingly cheap street food and most importantly, motorbikes. As soon as my time was coming to an end in the beautiful city of Prague, I knew I wanted to do another year abroad. Somewhere new. Somewhere different. Somewhere, like Thailand.
A good friend of mine had just finished a year abroad in the south of Thailand, and could not have had a better experience. After creeping back on all her pictures and adventures, I got in touch with her and chatted about it. In just a few conversations, I wascompletely sold on the idea of Thailand being my next country. And what an adventure it turned out to be!
After a week orientation into Thai culture and their schooling system through a program called TravelBud, I was placed in an international school in Beung Kum, a small suburb of Bangkok. Although I was really hoping to be placed up North in the mountains or down South in the beaches, those were really popular spots for every teacher, so I was assigned to an area I didn’t know much about, and hasn’t ranked highly. However, I took what I could get, just because I was so happy to be in Thailand.
Now, when I explain my living conditions and school experience, please remember that this is definitely not the case for most international schools in Thailand and everyone’s experience is different. My school, being in a small and remote area outside of Bangkok, did not have many apartment options available. My school did have the option for me to live onsite, in an extra dorm corridor in a separate building at school. I got a huge discount.
Was living in one room with two other girls at the age of 24 my most ideal living situation? No. Did I survive and save a TON of money for travelling during that year? Yes, yes I did.
All of my other friends in Thailand, who had more availability for living options, were able to find comfortable and affordable one-bedroom apartments. Two-bedroom apartments are less common and would be extremely hard to find. In terms of rent compared to living expenses, Thailand is a very affordable country in every sense of the way. While you may think you are not getting paid a lot through teaching, rent, food and daily living expenses in Thailand are very low so you will make do, I promise. The term “living comfortably” to me means that I could afford rent, groceries and phone bill each month while still being able to go out most weekends and travel once a month or so.
In terms of the school system, you will see some similarities to schools you’ve been to and taught at, like the subject matter and uniforms, BUT, you will also see a lot a lot of differences in what you are used to.
For one, being a Buddhist country, Thailand takes their religion very seriously. At almost any school in any city, you will have a morning prayer ceremony every day and pay a lot of respect to the Buddha in different ways. You’re not Buddhist? That’s okay! No one expects you to adopt the religion, but because of it’s importance, make sure you do show your respect!
Another big difference you will find is in the class size and teaching methods. If you think 15-20 kids is a big class, then you will be mistaken in Thailand. Classes there will generally consist of about 30-40 students per class. It sounds like a lot, but it is manageable!
Also, although corporal punishment is a big no-no in the US, it is not that way in Thailand. It may make you uneasy at times, but a slap on the wrist, or bottom, with a ruler is something you will have to get used to. Again though, you will never be forced to partake in this. It is part of the national culture and therefore is used more by national Thai teachers.
One final school difference that took me, as a licensed preschool teacher, a lot of getting used to was the curriculum. For me, teaching involves hands-on activities, games and projects. For Thailand, the curriculum consists of book work and repetition. While this was not my style of teaching, a lot of first time teacher friends of mine really enjoyed this because it provided a guide to what needed to be covered. So, if you are uneasy about lesson planning and coming up with genius ideas, you won’t have to worry as much in Thailand because the book serves as your guide and lesson plan.
The ever-terrifying visa process…
Now, before I get to the fun stuff, I want to inform you about the one hellish part about teaching abroad….the dreaded visa process…
Luckily, I did not have too many issues with the visa process. In Thailand, as well as almost every other country, the schools you teach at will help you with the entire visa process. When I went in 2016, I had to obtain a “non-immigrant B visa” before leaving for Thailand. This was done by sending my passport into a visa agency and having them insert the visa (easy peasy).
I would definitely make sure to check if this is still the same visa you will need!!! Things abroad are constantly changing and visa processes are especially tricky.
If the non-immigrant B visa is still indeed the visa you need, you will have to be ready to do “border bounces” every 3 months. While this may sound terrifying and complicated…it is not! Pretty much every foreigner in Thailand that plans on staying for an extended period has to do this. Again, the school will almost always aid in this process.
But basically every 3 months you will need to leave the country (usually to Malaysia) for a few days and then come back to Thailand and have your visa “renewed” for another 3 months.
Again, this will totally depend on if the visa process is the same as when I was there! But be prepared to border bounce!!! It’s certainly not the worst thing in the world to be “forced” to go on vacation every few months.
Why Thailand? Why not Thailand?
Now enough with the school stuff, because even though some weeks it feels like all you do is teach, there is still an IMMENSE amount of time to immerse yourself into the local culture and travel around to everywhere and anywhere.
One thing I loved about Thailand is the Thai people… they are so welcoming and find immense joy in teaching you and letting you into their community. Hey, it isn’t called the Land of Smiles for nothing! So, if you’re someone who really wants to become part of your country’s culture and way of life, Thailand is a great place to be.
Another amazing pro of living in Thailand is the easy accessibility to basically every type of geography you can imagine. From the crystal-clear oceans and beaches in Krabi, to the chaotic streets of Bangkok, to the seemingly endless mountains in Chiang Mai…it really has it all. And travelling within Thailand is so easy that each destination is only a short and cheap plane ride away. Whether you’re an active person who loves hiking or you’re a beach bum who just likes to relax, everyone will find a place that suits them in Thailand.
NOW HERE COMES THE SERIOUS PART…
While I know most people, including myself, have had an unbelievable time in Thailand, this country certainly is not for everyone. If you go into this like it’s a semester abroad in Europe, you are in for a huge surprise. Thai culture and norms are about as different from the US and Europe as you can get.
The phrase we had to use at least once a day was, “Only in Thailand” …basically meaning that you can always expect the most unexpected and be ready to go with the flow. A store’s sign says it opens at 9 AM? Ehhh maybe won’t open until 12 PM or not at all. Too much traffic on the road? Ehh a motorbike will just hop up and ride on the sidewalk.
If you can’t be prepared to just “roll with it,” Thailand may not be the place for you.
Also…if you can’t handle the bum gun and squatty potty be prepared to hold your bladder for your entire stay in Thailand. I will not go into intense detail here for the sake of everyone, but just go and google “bum gun” and “squatty potty” and be prepared to use both every day.
(Also, if you can’t handle the INTENSE weather, from 110-degree temperatures to monsoons and flooding, then this spot is not for you either!)
Thailand is a hot yet beautiful, poor yet rich, overwhelming yet calming, chaotic yet extremely peaceful country.
If you want an enormous yet EXTREMELY rewarding opportunity, go teach in Thailand.