Travel-to-Teach

About

Travel to Teach is an international volunteer organization that links volunteers from all over the world with grassroots community projects in South East Asia and Latin America. By basing our headquarters in Thailand, we strive to lower costs and provide affordable programs, while maintaining a closer contact with the visiting volunteers, the local people, and the projects. Our primary focus is on English Teaching, which is available at all of our locations. Whether you are on a gap year, a career break, early retirement or just on vacation, if you are on your own or in a group, we have the ideal volunteer placement for you.

Founded
2002
Headquarters

United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Unhappy
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

I volunteered in Luang Prabang as an english teacher however there were so many problems as a result from the laziness of the organisers that I cannot recommend anyone do this.

To start with, the administrative body had not contacted the coordinator of Luang Prabang to inform them I would be comming and it was only due to a friend being there that they were made aware of my presence.

Prior to arriving I was giving the wrong information of where to stay and ended up at the old guesthouse were room charges were overly priced at 10euro a night which was a waste of program fees.

Briefing from the coordinator was minimal and consisted only of the handing over of an information pack which did not include things like the english abilities of the students, what had been done previously with the students, or where they were up to. There was limited instruction as to how to teach a class or prepare lesson plans and no offer to spectate the coordinator teaching a class to pick up tips. In fact while I was there, the coordinator spent all his time studying for his own exams and never sat in on a class or offered much support. There were never any checks to see what I was teaching or how.

I was not given the option of where or when or who I would like to teach, only given 2 classes a day (3 hours total) with the same class. The class had an age range from 12 to 17 varying levels of english including one with a learning disability. There was no opportunity to teach classes with monks or work in the library, and there was no opportunity to receive Laos lessons.

None of the money I paid for the program was used for the children. No new materials were bought with it, the children didn't all have the same text book and photocopies were not made available.

There was only 1 other volunteer with this organisation but no inter-organisational efforts were made for volunteers to socialise.

All in all, I was very disappointed with the program failing to deliver things it had promised or to live up to my expectations. It might be the cheapest option to volunteer in Luang Prabang but it is not at all worth it. You would be better to arrive and just ask to assist the monks or at the library without going through the organisation.

If you want to assist people learning english, this program doesn't have a system in place that will allow for that to be done and you will not receive any appreciation for it. You will also not get the opportunity to learn about the culture much through interacting with the locals. With no one really looking after the program I would suggest (which I have done to the organisation) that it needs to be shut down

Default avatar
Melissa
4/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Before I chose to volunteer with Travel to Teach during my time in Thailand, I researched many other volunteer opportunities. And, although I was skeptical of the program, we still went through with my choice, mostly because monetarily, they couldn’t be beat. There were plenty of other organizations that had far more reviews and that were accredited. Well, now I know why.
We, two teachers from the US, originally signed on for a two week volunteer opportunity with Travel to Teach, but conflicting plans only allowed for us to stay for one week. Just like they say on their website, one week is not nearly enough time to get the full volunteer experience with the students that you make connections with, but it was surely enough time for us to figure out that Travel to Teach has A LOT more work to do before they can be considered a volunteer organization we would ever recommend.
Travel to Teach put us in contact with two wonderful places to volunteer, in Mae Hong Son, but they offered little to no support or resources throughout the process. Had we not been experienced teachers or advocated for ourselves, it would have been a counter-productive experience for the students and intimidating for us.
Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, we were met at the airport by the head of media, Laura, who greeted us with a smile on her face. She had left her plans to pick us up at the airport because her boss called regarding a “conflicting meeting” 30 minutes before our arrival at 8:30 that evening. It should have been the first warning sign of what was to come. Jim, Laura’s boss, and the contact person for the volunteers in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son was spread completely thin and had a lot of brushing up to do in regards to her training. She travelled to Mae Hong Son on an earlier bus, met us at the station and only stayed for a day and a half. She changed her prolonged stay because “she was needed in Chiang Mai” – a 6 hour bus ride away. During her time with us, she hastily made arrangements for us to teach 4 days a week at a temple in the town and at a Kayan village that was a 30-minute drive away. She went over Thai customs, which was the most help she provided during her time and introduced us to Jess, a novice English speaker and kind man who drove us back and forth from the Kayan village. We were left in a guesthouse bare of resources (pens, paper, etc), with the exception of a desk in the corner of the living room stacked with books. Like I said, we were on our own from the start.
On our first day of teaching at the temple, that we had one hour to prepare and eat lunch before, the four of us (there were two other volunteers that would be staying for a prolonged period of time) broke up into smaller groups during the first hour and co-taught during the last two, since we only had 3 students. Alex, the English teacher at the temple, was exactly what we needed! He sat in on all of our lessons, was interactive and co-taught whenever he could. He is the reason the program works and thrives at the temple. Jim, on the other hand, was less than helpful, offering suggestions that were not needed and interrupting lessons that were otherwise working. She seemed to have little experience teaching and interacting with students, making them feel uncomfortable when opening up dictionaries or referencing their notes, something any teacher knows is okay during beginner lessons. Although it would have been nice to have Jim there to assist us as a translator and support, considering her debut, we were better off alone.
We would arrive at the Kayan village the next day, without Jim – who suddenly had to leave for Chiang Mai that morning. The four of us spent the entire day there – 9am to 3pm – with 50 children ranging from ages 4-18. Although we had the opportunity to visit the day prior (30 minutes), we were unaware of how the students would be broken up, who would be assisting us or how advanced their English was. Within 10 minutes we found out. There would be no assistance from the principal or teachers and we had no interpreter. This was nothing like the temple experience and we were left to structure our day. So, we broke up the students on our own and went along with the lessons we planned, attempting to differentiate instruction in accordance to their levels. The day ended with us feeling defeated, but happy with our attempts, considering the lack of support. We quickly realized that the only way this opportunity would thrive was if we became our own advocates, which is exactly what we did. We no longer relied on Travel to Teach for any feedback and solely communicated and planned with each other.
Although my review is quite candid, my goal is not to deter people from volunteering with Travel to Teach. I merely want all volunteers to know what they are signing up for. I do believe that there is a desire to help, but, before that can come to fruition, I also believe that more time and resources need to be spent on structure. The staff needs to be appropriately trained (or retrained) and there needs to be a point of contact for the hosts and volunteers. Once unqualified person cannot coordinate volunteer efforts for locations that are 6 hours apart.
Simply put, there is no structure and guidance in this program. If you are looking to make an impact and provide your services to those in need, you will have that opportunity, but be prepared to be on your own.

Default avatar
C.
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had an amazing time volunteering through travel to teach in Thailand. Our days began with us teaching children from the ages of 5 -18 english using games, songs and arts & crafts projects. We enjoyed delicious Thai lunches prepared by the Travel to Teach staff, with snacks between meals. In the afternoons we worked on renovating the orphanage. On our days off we enjoyed sight seeing and excursions, everything from Tiger Kingdom, the floating market, to a blessing by the Monks. I honestly had an amazing time solely because of Travel to Teach.
We experience things I think we would not have experience outside of this program. I am someone who TRULY believes in public service and this organization met and lived up to my expectations. I would certainly do it again and for a longer time. Thanks for an amazing experience.

What would you improve about this program?
This program excelled in every way possible. Communication was rough, but it wasn't the fault of Travel to Teach, mainly the USC coordination.
Default avatar
uscgirl21
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Travel to Teach Counselors did a great job hosting me and my group of volunteers. I came to Thailand with a group of 20 students from my university and we taught English and renovated an orphanage through out our 2 week stay. The counselors went out of their way to make our experience enjoyable by taking us to the many tourist attractions in Chiang Mai and even traveled with us to Bangkok. The counselors worked very well with the students during English camp which made everyone more energized and happy to work the the kids. Overall I had a great experience and would definitely come back!

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked to have more games and information to teach the kids. At times I felt like they were not learning from me because we didn't have enough to teach them although they learned a lot from just being around us.
Default avatar
Mike
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

During the Fall Semester of 2012, I decided to sign up for a volunteer program at my school called Alternative Winter Break (AWB), which among many locations included Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Thailand AWB volunteer program has been one of the most amazing experience of my life. I had the opportunity to work with orphan kids to teach them English as well as build bathrooms and showers for them with the help of my colleagues and the local people running the orphanage.
People in Chiang Mai are very hospitable and friendly and Chiang Mai city is a very beautiful and serene place. My 2 weeks stay there was one of the memorable moments in my life. I went there to teach but I ended up learning so much about my self, Thai culture, and from working with others. I will never forget those amazing children at the orphanage and those kind and selfless individuals who work at the orphanage. Special thanks to the coordinators and personnel at Travel To Teach for guiding us through our journey. Thank you Thailand and Travel To Teach, I look forward to come back soon

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

Alumni interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Britt Van Oost

Britt Van Oost, 23 years old, is from Bruges, Belgium and is in her gap year after finishing her studies as an Occupational Therapist and Master public health science. She enjoys everything that’s outdoors, adventures and crossing your limits.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Travel to Teach in Thailand?

teach in Thailand

Britt:I decided to volunteer abroad in Thailand because I heard good things about the culture, nature and the friendly people. Then I started my search on the internet I found that Travel to Teach was the cheapest and had the best offer. The guesthouse looked very nice and the project seemed really well organized. All my expectations came true.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Britt:On school days, me and my friend got picked up from our guesthouse by two teachers from the school at 8.30am. After a 30minute drive we watch the children pray in front the Buddha and do some gymnastic and then go to their first class. We then had some time to look at our preparations we made the day before. Then we had our first class from 9.30 till 10.30am and our second class from 10.30 till 11.30 am. We had a long lunch break till 14.30pm. We got a very nice lunch at the school and after that we prepared lessons for the next day and fill in or lesson plan in the computer.

After our preparations we had time to relax and walk around the neighborhood, by food for dinner. Then our last class was from 14.30 till 15.30pm. Then we just waited on the teachers to close off the school and then head back to the guesthouse, made dinner or get is at a nearby shop. And then chill with the other volunteers, or go swimming, work on the computer. We had Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, so we had a lot of time to go on trips, visit the city, go hiking or just relax at the pool nearby.

What made this experience unique and special?

Britt:Me and my friend had such nice schools to work at. The teachers and students where so nice and I loved teaching there. There are so many holidays and celebrations in Thailand. It was so nice to experience them at school and really get a sense how the local people live. You get to share the happiness of the locals.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Britt:This experience has had a big impact on how I look at life. I used to be stressful, nervous and worry a lot. Now I know I have nothing to worry about, or to be stressful or nervous about. I have everything I need at home and I appreciate it much more. So because of this, I’m a more happy person. I know it’s going to be heard not to slip back to old habits, but at least I can experience it know and try to hold on to it as long as possible.

Staff Interviews

Staff interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Devika Ray

Job Title
Staff Member

Tell us a little about Travel To Teach and your role at the company.

Devika with volunteer

Devika: Travel to Teach is a non-profit organization that connects volunteers with different grass-roots projects in various locations in South East Asia and Central America. I am currently interning here is a Head Office Intern and my role involves handling our social media and digital marketing platforms, planning and organizing itineraries for volunteer groups, budgeting and general support in anything admin-related. What I love is that I also get to help our volunteers in their projects which means I get to teach, construct and participate in other volunteer projects.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

Devika: This has been a recent change for me. I was working at a corporate job in New York for the past two years, but needed a change and wanted to travel. I left 6 months ago and started backpacking around the world by myself. I loved the travel, I loved experiencing other cultures but ultimately wanted to do more than just the beaten tourist track. Interning at Travel-to-Teach has been the perfect way for me to learn about Thai culture and life, while at the same time, making a more meaningful impact. It's also definitely made me realize that the volunteer industry is an avenue I can see myself working in long-term.

What makes Travel To Teach unique?

playing outside

Devika: I really like that our head office is based in Thailand. Many volunteer organizations have head offices in Europe or the US which makes day to day interaction with management difficult. Having our office in Chiang Mai not only ensures that our overhead costs (and hence prices) are low, but also helps the volunteers connect with the interns and staff. Support is always available and you really feel like you're part of a big family :)

In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?

Devika: First and foremost, you have to appreciate and be curious about different cultures and ways of life. You have to be open to new experiences and respect the customs and lifestyles of the countries you volunteer in. Good international volunteers are social, friendly and outgoing. They are motivated because they want to make an impact, they want to do more than the average traveler.

What does the future hold for Travel To Teach?

Devika: We are looking to expand our reach and open more programs in other locations. Our existing programs are strong and I think we are now at a point where we have the funds to branch out further.