Why did you choose this program?
I chose this program because I have so much in me that yearns to travel the world and do everything I can to make a positive impact on the people I encounter and I knew that sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day would cast a shadow over the light that I want to spread.
I went on a gap year after high school and spent it volunteering at a children’s shelter during the day and working nights to help fund the six months I planned to spend backpacking through Europe. I have been very fortunate in my life and I believe that helped ignite my need and hope to make some sort of difference, even if it is small.
After my gap year, I studied Drama and English literature and then found myself at a crossroads. Do I continue my studies or do I get a job? I didn’t have it in me to study again at that time and the idea of sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day would be my worst nightmare coming to life.
That is when I heard about teaching English in Thailand and I learned about TravelBud. Two months later, I was sitting on a plane leaving everything I knew and loved back in South Africa and with a racing heart and sweaty palms, I was en route to Thailand.
I chose this program because I needed a change, desperately. I needed to challenge myself and lose myself in a culture that is completely different to my own.
And ultimately, in order to follow my whims and what would hopefully become my passion, I needed to earn a living. Teaching in Thailand would incorporate all of this and I would soon find out that it would incorporate so much more.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I came to Thailand through TravelBud and it was the best possible decision I could have made. TravelBud has been assisting me in every way from the moment I sent my first enquiry email to now, sitting in a coffee shop in a small town in Thailand, having just completed my first semester teaching English.
There are so many companies out there and sometimes you can get a little lost trying to find the right one, I did and I am so lucky for that. TravelBud has held my hand every step of the way and although I thought it would be scary going abroad alone to teach in a country I knew nothing about, I have never really been alone after choosing TravelBud as my program provider.
The only thing I did truly on my own was send my first enquiry email to them and book my plane ticket. As a program provider, they could not have been more helpful, knowledgeable and understanding. To this day, if I have a question about anything, like a visa requirement, I send TravelBud an email or give them a call and I am set to go and completely prepared.
I would recommend TravelBud a hundred times over to anyone who is thinking of teaching abroad.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
The piece of advice I would give someone going on my program is to be open to new experiences, always. Whether it is helping out a Thai teacher after school with making flashcards or going for meals, these little experiences are the ones that build the support for the most incredible adventure.
I went to countless meals where I sat on a floor in beautiful little Thai home, barefoot, surrounded by food I had never seen, having little to no conversation because of the different languages. It is strange at first and a bit uncomfortable, but you start to learn that good conversation doesn’t necessarily equate a lot of talking. Good conversation could be laughing at each other for having no idea what the other person is saying, hand gestures and facial expressions.
New experiences can be nerve-wracking, you can be vulnerable and out of your comfort zone but I would say, soak in these moments and take them in because they are all part of the adventure.
The little moments, laughing with a local friend over coffee or getting lost and riding on the back of someone’s truck who you hope understood where you needed to go, these are the moments you remember. So, say yes, be open and put yourself out there. I promise you that you won’t regret it.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
An average week for a participant in this program will include 20-24 teaching hours. I would teach four lessons a day and have four free lessons a day to prepare lessons, mark my student’s work and make review tests for Friday lessons. The best part about teaching only four lessons a day is the extra time you can spend creating awesome lessons for your students.
My daily schedule as a teacher would be waking up and getting ready for school around 6:30am. Walking fifteen minutes to school, grabbing a coffee on the way at our village coffee lady and getting to school for assembly at 7:45am. Morning assembly would include announcements, singing the National Anthem and paying our respects to the Thai flag and the King. Morning classes would start around 8:30am and run until lunch at 12pm where I would eat with my students in the cafeteria.
I would spend my lunch hour eating and then interacting with students, working on my Thai, and getting to know the culture. Afternoon classes would run until 16:00 and then I would walk home to prepare for tutoring or go to village aerobics at 17:00 which happens all around Thailand and is awesome. Dinner would usually be spent with co-workers or friends, eating incredible street food or being invited to their homes to eat authentic Thai food and practice our English and Thai.
Public transport is affordable and easily accessible, which means each weekend can be used to explore a new town or province. A participant of this program will spend the week teaching and learning about the culture and the language and the incredible people of this country and spend the weekends and month-long holidays traveling and chilling.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?
I think my biggest fear was the unknown. And not in a cliché way, I was truly afraid that I wouldn’t like Thailand, or I wouldn’t be good at teaching and then I would be stuck. I would have invested all that time and money into something that didn’t work out - and I desperately didn’t want that to be the case. I think somewhere deep down I believed it wouldn’t be but I will still so afraid of it.
I read somewhere once that in order to grow, we need to do the things that scare us the most. So even though I was terrified for what my future was going to be, I still got on that plane and it was without a doubt the best decision I have ever made. I realized once I landed that even if I hated it, I could just go home. It was not the end of the world, most of our fears aren’t. But I made the decision when I arrived in Thailand to make the absolute most of my trip and have no regrets.
And slowly the fear of the unknown stopped being so scary and I replaced that fear with the most incredible memories that I realize now have fueled me through my entire experience.
It would be extremely difficult to not fall in love with Thailand, the culture, the people and teaching. And once you fall in love with it, any fear that you could have had about this country stops mattering. Because you’re here.
How do I know if teaching abroad is for me?
I truly believe that traveling abroad to do something good and make an impact on people is something every person who has the means should do. This is an experience that will not only change you and the way you view the world for the better, but it will challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone and you will experience a way of life that you could never even dream of.
I have learnt more about myself in the past 6 months than I have learned in my past twenty-two years. Don’t get me wrong, living abroad isn’t always easy. It can be hard and confusing and sometimes even a little bit lonely, but like we do in our normal day-to-day lives, we persevere and we work hard and we move on. And then we look back on those times and we see how much they helped us grow and how much we are actually capable of and then we soar and we soak up the good.
So, if being happy and feeling fulfilled is for everyone, which I believe that it is, then living and working abroad is for everyone too. Because you cannot not be happy and fulfilled doing something this incredible.