Alumni Spotlight: Shaun Els


Shaun is an English teacher working in Hat Yai, Thailand. He has been a teacher with a technological college for the past 18 months and is thoroughly enjoying his tenure there.

Why did you choose this program?

Coming from South Africa, with very little reference with regard to agencies in Thailand, I was at the mercy of online reviews and depended highly on service delivery to dictate my choice in an agency. Road Experience seemed to have the best reviews, and upon contacting them, they were also timely in their responses and more than willing to go the extra mile for my peace of mind.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Road Experience assisted me with everything from initial orientation into the Thai culture and schooling system, to training, placement, searching for accommodation, contract negotiations, dispute resolutions, and visa/work permit documentation preparation.

All I needed to concern myself with was my flight to Thailand and initial costs, including deposit/rent for accommodation, food, transport, visa/work permit fees, etc. Though all costs were summarized before my arrival in a comprehensive information sheet, so there were very little unexpected costs on my behalf.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

In general, I was quite well prepared for my move having researched Thailand quite a bit leading up to my journey. Something I would advise anyone wanting to live and work in Thailand is to be prepared for the very real culture shock that many new expats experience.

Those coming from first-world countries should be prepared for a more laid back culture (almost frustratingly so) and relentless bureaucracy (Immigration Departments leave much to be desired). Other than that, it's important to keep an open mind and to understand that Thailand is a country with its own customs, culture, religions, and people and that these elements should be highly respected. Be a good guest. Embrace the difference, don't let it deter you.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Many participants expect a "working holiday" type of experience, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Most weeks are quite similar to a full-time job in my own country, the only difference being the job description, colleagues, surroundings and of course job satisfaction. Getting up for work (very little traffic in most instances, excluding Bangkok for obvious reasons), attending morning meetings, teaching my allocated classes and then commuting home (if I haven't got a scheduled tutoring session after school).

Most days food is bought at local street food vendors or restaurants, simply because it's cheaper to purchase cooked food than to cook every night. This has allowed me to try many different types of meals, sinking me deeper into the Thai culture I've come to love.

Weekends are when we are able to travel; visiting nearby nature reserves, islands and many other "touristy" attractions. Thailand has many long weekends due to the large number of public holidays here, these weekends are perfect for venturing out a bit further -- whether you want to travel deeper into Thailand than usual or even further into neighbouring countries, there is more than enough opportunity as well as a public transport system that caters for exactly that.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I didn't fear coming to Thailand. I feared staying in my tired old routine. If you're coming to Thailand with fears, you're doing it wrong. If you fear change, then ask yourself if your fear of change outweighs your fear of never experiencing something new and different, with all of its nuances. It's simple.