Deciding to come to Thailand and teach is a life changing decision, Xplore Asia is an excellent company to help you make those changes. I had very little knowledge on Xplore Asia before coming over, I came through Greenheart Travel (who were also amazing) who gave me little information on the transfer to Xplore Asia. However, this effected my TESOL and life thus far in Thailand very little and should not be an issue or something to hold you back.
The driver was waiting when we got off our flight, we loaded up in a van and went straight to the hotel. The hotel, H-Residence was nice and in a great area for seeing the city if you decide to fly in early like I did. I highly suggest staying with Xplore Asia group at the hotel because it gives you a awesome opportunity to get to know some people and see the “touristy” things in Bangkok with a group. We were fed breakfast every morning I was there, and the final morning you load up into a minivan with people from your group and make your way to Hua Hin.
Upon arrival in Hua Hin things got quite rushed. We threw our things into our accomodation (I lived in the big Soi 33 house), jumped back in the van, were given a quick run down of the way our mall trip would go and then dropped off at the mall to get supplies. It was a little overwhelming buying things for a house you hadn’t really seen. Just buy what you need and then figure it out as you go through your month, GET TOILET PAPER and WATER.
The first week of the course was the orientation. It was an incredible experience and is a great time to get to know the
group of people you will be spending the next month in class with, the people who will become one of your most valuable networks in Thailand over your stay here.
Mike does a great job with Thai culture classes, and they are actually interesting! The excursions are amazing (the elephant sanctuary, pineapple farm, art village, rescue paws, etc.). At the end of the week there is a beach BBQ, it is tons of fun.
Once the TESOL starts you will have A LOT of work. There are homework assignments almost daily. Sometimes you will be working in groups, with a partner, or alone. I had Jon Harman as my course instructor, I felt fully prepared to walk into the English camp and teach three solo lessons to middle/high school students. Across the board I heard very positive things about the instructors. They are very passionate about what they are doing and really want you to be an amazing teacher so they invest a large chunk of time into molding each student.
By the time the TESOL is over you feel confident and prepared for whatever placement may be thrown at you. With a Drop Box full of lessons from Kindergarten to High School level, you know you will not be walking into a school without something prepared. I do wish the course covered a little more on private schools with curriculums. The TESOL certainly prepares you for teaching, but we spent a large portion of time covering worst case scenarios and a lot of my group actually ended up with really nice placements in private schools, EP programs, and International Schools.
My overall experience with Xplore Asia was amazing, I would 100% recommend them to anyone considering teaching in Thailand. However, the things I think could use improvement. . .
Cell Phones. This was a disaster from the start. No one at the cell phone company spoke english and none of us spoke Thai. Some people wound up with cell phones with no data, some with no calling/texting ability. Some people ended up on plans, some ended up pay as you go. No one really knew what they were signing up for. The Sim card Xplore Asia provides you with did not fit most people’s smart phones and was therefore useless. I am certain Mike and his staff will have the kinks worked out with this soon, if they haven’t already.
Placements. I came over in the largest group that Xplore Asia has ever accommodated. That being said, they seemed slightly underprepared for the monumental task of placing 210 teachers in schools. The placement team did an excellent job, but placements took quite some time to secure. Some people had no confirmations up to the very end of their stay. I was lucky enough to secure a nice placement. Though, they take very little actual regard for where you would like to be placed (which winds up being a really cool thing). Do not expect to list off a city, or even a region, and actually wind up being placed there. It is considerably harder for them to place people who come over in pairs or triads. I came over with a friend and we wound up separating because the last week we had no confirmed placement. Upon separating we found placements immediately. Travel is cheap and easy here, so do not let being placed away from your friends discourage you. The placement team works really hard, but everything is very up in the air and no one really prepares you for that.
You have to remember you are in Thailand, and occasionally terrible things happen. Xplore Asia staff needed prompting from TESOL students to address and help handle these issues. Once they were prompted, the staff acted completely supportive and were more than willing to help in anyway.
Xplore Asia is a great company. They provide you with a network of people who are willing to help you throughout your stay here. They create an environment that fosters learning. The whole group is very interested in making you the best you can be so that your experience in Thailand is amazing. At the end of the day, despite the few hiccups (remember the few bad things just make the good, that much better!), they want success for you. Their system is wonderful and allows you the perfect amount of time to get comfortable teaching and make great friends. When you graduate you will have an entire network of people to spend weekends and Holidays exploring Thailand with. If you are considering using Xplore Asia, DO IT!