TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF MICHAEL! WE’D LOVE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND, WHAT DREW YOU TO TEACHING ABROAD, AND MORE.
My name is Michael, I’m 26 years old and I am happy I decided to teach English abroad. I was born in Manchester and moved to Ireland when I was 11 years old. I’ve lived in Dublin for most of my life and soon came to realize that moving to a new country can help with your personal development even if it’s only a couple of hundred miles across the Irish sea. I think moving to Dublin with all the social history behind the city opened my mind to other ways of being. It gave me the opportunity to adapt to new cultures and ideologies which is a key component to living abroad. I first heard about teaching English abroad on a radio advertisement when I was shopping with my Nan when I was a child.
When I was younger, I thought this type of work would be better suited to my sister. I later came to realize that I was capable enough to do it myself. When I finished secondary school, I did consider teaching as a career but understood TEFL teaching abroad was an ideal way of finding out if teaching was the right career path. I believe it to be a better way of living compared to home and after finishing my six-month internship, I believe anyone could do it if they wanted this lifestyle. I’m still a novice teacher but I have found great satisfaction from teaching and hope to continue down this road and live a full life abroad.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE AGE-GROUP TO WORK WITH AND WHY? WOULD YOU CONSIDER TEACHING OTHER AGE GROUPS?
I taught Prathom 1-6 in English, Conversation and Computer Science, so I had the chance to work with all age groups in primary school. I taught Computer Science to all ages while English and Conversation consisted of classes P4-6. Even before I started teaching I thought I would prefer an older age group. The younger age group were great: they were so cute and working with them was fun. The older age ranges were a little more challenging but class was a little more serious which is what I was looking for. When I was teaching the older age ranges it was still fun. You could really see them becoming more unique and developed as young people.
I think it was extra special with P6 because I got to help them in their last steps to secondary school. Not only this but saying goodbye wasn’t as difficult, as I was finishing up my placement and they were taking an inevitable stage of graduating from primary school. Other than primary school I would consider teaching adults. I enjoy teaching more challenging material and I think I would find more fulfilment teaching adults, but primary teaching can be just as satisfactory.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL WORKING DAY LOOK LIKE FOR MICHAEL?
Daily life in Kamphaeng Phet is extremely laid back and so was working life at my school. In my opinion I think it’s the perfect place for a novice teacher or traveler to gain some experience in a different country. For myself and my fellow teachers at my school, work would begin between 7.30 to 8.00. It didn’t really matter unless it was before 8.00. At the start of my placement, I arrived to school by bicycle and after a while I got a scooter. Both means of transport were provided by the school, as transport is a little lacking in Kamphaeng Phet. My classes started at 8.20 and my weekly schedule consisted of 20 teaching hours.
I usually arrived at school at 7.30 to drink coffee with my co-workers. I would also check over my lesson plans to prepare for my classes in the morning. I would head to the classroom, write out my whiteboard plan or prepare my slides for teaching. When morning classes had finished, I went for lunch and more coffee with my co-workers and then I finished my lessons in the afternoon. I had plenty of time between classes to prepare lesson plans for my classes for the rest of the week.
WHAT WAS THE MOST HELPFUL PORTION OF YOUR TEFL CERTIFICATE EXPERIENCE? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU DRAW FROM YOUR COURSE EXPERIENCES REGULARLY IN THE CLASSROOM?
My TEFL training was intense, the regular four-week TEFL course was crammed into a two-week course. In terms of the theory, it really didn’t go much into basis of grammar terms and in my opinion, it wasn’t really needed nor really recommended to teach to the children by Thai schools. They do send out a pdf and ask that you revise grammar theory in your own time if you need to brush up on your grammar. The basics are easy to grasp even if you are a little fuzzy and you could access information on the SEE TEFL course website. The 6-month internship program mainly focuses on teacher training which is more beneficial. The teaching practices were the most effective and the skills taught are transferable to most class topics. Teaching under exam pressure is difficult but it actually made teaching in front of a classroom full of children a lot easier. The skills I was taught in the class became a common teaching practice for my classroom.
YOU’VE BEEN TEACHING IN KAMPHAENG PHET PROVINCE, MID-WAY BETWEEN BANGKOK AND CHIANG MAI, TELL US ABOUT THE AREA?
When I found out my placement was in Kamphaeng Phet, I was a bit worried. After being in Chiang Mai for a month and finding it comfortable to live there, I thought it would be hard to live in a small provincial town. Initially, I think I painted a bad picture in my head and expected things to be a lot worse. When I first arrived in Kamphaeng Phet I was picked up by my school and brought to my accommodation. One month in and Kamphaeng Phet became a home to me. I was surprised, being a big city boy and finding a home in such a quaint little town was a shock. My friends became family and I found a nice routine living here. It doesn’t have everything but I think it was just what I needed. It has a great community feeling here and I take part in local ceremonies and some festivals if they were not canceled due to Covid.
There are some beautiful places to see in Kamphaeng Phet. My friend had a car so getting to these places wasn’t difficult. The small town has some great history. The biggest and most valued attraction in Kamphaeng Phet is the historical park as it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds some of Kamphaeng Phet’s oldest ruins. In a past life, Kampheang Phet was a fortified city and the old battlements can be found dotted about the town. Another attraction in Kamphaeng Phet I personally enjoyed was Klong Lan Waterfall which is listed to be one of the best waterfalls to see in Thailand. There are some other staples to Kamphaeng Phet but it held most amenities you find in other places in Thailand which made it comfortable to live there. Despite not having an airport, Kamphaeng Phet is a good location to travel by bus given its location, which made traveling affordable and easily accessible.
CONGRATS, WE HEAR YOU’VE BEEN OFFERED NOT ONE, BUT TWO JOB CONTRACTS. WHAT ARE YOUR PLAN NOW YOU’RE EXTENDING YOUR STAY?
When it came to the end of my six-month internship, I found myself at a difficult crossroad. I was really enjoying my time in Thailand and I didn’t want to leave. I also had several commitments at home and I had to start making plans fast. I had a lot to consider when making my decision but I decided to move to Chiang Mai. The main reason was for my own career development. I didn’t want to turn down a position in an international school. I’m currently back at home preparing for my exam. After quite a lot of stress organizing how I will get back to Thailand my school agreed to transfer my work permit. I’m going to miss my school in Kamphaeng Phet. They were extremely supportive with my move to Chiang Mai which makes it even more difficult to leave but I think it would be a mistake to stay if I plan on leaving in the future anyway.
When I arrive back to Chiang Mai, I plan to keep my head down and settle in to my new position. I look forward to meeting all the friends I made in Chiang Mai and celebrating my birthday in June. There are places I want to see in Chiang Mai that I didn’t get to see when I was there. I would really like to hike Doi Inthanon and some of the other mountains in that area. I have explored quite a lot of the south and I would like to visit some of the places in the north such as Chiang Rai. My old next-door neighbor is due to get married and he has moved back to Chiang Rai so I really hope to get an invitation. There were quite a few places I wanted to visit in Thailand and it was one of the reasons I stayed. I just have the feeling that I haven’t quite finished with Thailand yet and a part of me just wants to stay and I feel like I will be a lot more comfortable in a city.
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR YOU TO HAVE AN ORGANIZED INTERNSHIP TO KICKSTART YOUR TEFL CAREER?
I believe having a organized internship was extremely beneficial not only for assistance in building a teaching career but for networking. I remember before I left to come to Thailand how nervous I was about traveling abroad to teach. I had started planning from the minute I left university and knew a TEFL internship would be the most convenient way of getting a teaching position abroad. I had already got a 120-hour TEFL course but I wasn’t confident enough to go on my own. I had researched quite a lot before I came and a lot of articles mentioned how easy it is to come to Thailand and get a teaching position and it is true but then again, I didn’t feel comfortable doing it alone. It was a little pricey for the internship but even looking back, I would do it this way again. It is extremely stressful moving abroad to teach when you have never done it before but with the internship everything is prepared. I just had to make my way to Thailand.
Even when I had arrived in Kamphaeng Phet, my school assisted with finding accommodation, they sorted my visa out for me and they really went out of their way to help me get settled. I have mentioned this before but the teaching practices from the two-week TEFL course was also beneficial. I found it easier to teach after being taught in a established teaching method. Another benefit from doing the internship was making a network of friends and teachers. It made it easier because we were doing it together. Even though I moved to Kamphaeng Phet I had my friends in the north. It was a comfort to visit them and stay in touch. A couple from the course even helped with getting my new job working with them in an international school.
WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT THE LIFE OF TEACHING ENGLISH IN THAILAND THAT YOU NEVER EXPECTED/WEREN’T PREPARED FOR? OUR READERS LOVE TO GET THE INSIDE SCOOP!
Although this might seem like a disappointing answer and my answer hasn’t changed even looking back over the question. I had done quite a lot of research before I moved to Thailand. I do overthink things but I think this helps to prepare for the unexpected. So, in regards to the question, I think the biggest surprise was how easy it all turned out. There were a lot of things to overcome and at times it could be stressful going into the unknown but accepting this aspect made it easy.
Since deciding to teach abroad, I knew it was going to be mentally challenging to overcome big changes and having to make big decisions. I started meditating through an application on my phone before moving to Thailand. A big part of learning to meditate was acceptance with emphasis on accepting change. Change is an inevitable part of life and adopting this way of thinking really help overcome these challenges. I also suppose I was surprised that it was so easy to come here and be successful. If I didn’t decide to do the placement and came to Thailand alone, I think I would have answered this question differently. Although I had researched the complications of Thai bureaucracy and obtaining a visa, alone, I won’t have been prepared. Luckily, I went to immigration with the school visa administrator and have a better idea of what to expect.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO DO ON WEEKENDS OR FREE TIME?
My favorite things to do in my free time was traveling weather it was with my friends to different cities or going to visit my friends in Chiang Mai. I got a buzz dotting about the country on the weekends and after taking a Covid test, returning to school Monday morning. It really was enjoyable leading a double life. I also really enjoyed learning and experiencing Thai culture. I did boxing at home so I took to Muay Thai very quickly. I enjoyed experiencing all the national holidays and some of the ceremonies that are celebrated along with it, like Chinese New Year, Thai New Year and Lon Kratong. These are just some examples. I would normally celebrate with locals which made the experience more authentic. Please feel free to read on into some more of my experiences in more detail.
In my first couple of months, I took my time to settle. I had done some traveling before my placement so I was pretty satisfied for a while. I spent most of my weekends relaxing and getting to know the people in town. I’m naturally an extrovert so it was important for me to have a lot of friends. I always think the more the merrier. I enjoyed making friends with my co-workers, neighbors and foreign teachers in Kamphaeng Phet. My first trip with my school colleagues was a trip to Sukhothai for the Long Krathong festival. Sukhothai is the old capital of Thailand and with the annual festival taking place, it really marked the starting point of my time teaching in Kamphaeng Phet. I went with my foreign and Thai teachers which made it extra special to share this experience in the ancient city of Sukhothai.
For such a small town I didn’t expect to have a large circle of friends. So, in the beginning I spent a lot of time with my new friends. We would go on nights out, host dinner parties and spend holidays together like a family. With some of them well established in Kamphaeng Phet, they also acted as a guide to the town. As a group we developed a love for Muay Thai and would train and watch fights together, which made my time with them special. In terms of traveling, one of my friends had a car which meant we could go on little road trips on the weekends.
When it came to the New Year, I was pretty settled in Kamphaeng Phet. I started spending more of my free time traveling. I would travel with my friends from Kamphaeng Phet or I would travel on my own to my friends in Chiang Mai. I really got the best of both worlds. It was great having friends to visit in Chiang Mai. It felt like I had family I could visit and they always made plans for when I arrived. The fun thing was every time I went to Chiang Mai there was always some event or party going on the following week which made me come back. Some of my best memories were made in Chiang Mai. My friends in the north had a thing for villas so I would spend some weekends living a ‘bougie’ lifestyle. The city had a nice nightlife too, and a few music festivals, I really enjoyed the re-awakenings festival. With frequent visits to Chiang Mai, I also went bungee jumping which, of course, was unforgettable.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE COST OF LIVING AND BUDGET FOR LIVING IN THAILAND (COMPARED TO HOME)?
I found the cost of living in Kamphaeng Phet very affordable and even cheaper than Chiang Mai which was an advantage when moving to a new country and working out the cost of living. When I compare it to the cost of living in Dublin it’s even better. To live independently in Dublin, you have to sacrifice at least three quarters of your rent to live alone. I found living in Kamphaeng Phet was actually cheaper than living with my mum. It cost around 4,000 baht (around 100 euro) a month to live in a modern studio apartment and that includes water and electricity. I’ve been looking at places in Chiang Mai with a gym and swimming pool from around double that price which is still extremely cheap.
Most Thai apartments don’t come with a kitchen but its cheap to eat out or get a take-away. Thai dishes on average are around 40-60 baht per meal whether you eat out or order a take-away. It’s more expensive for western food but that depends more on the restaurant. For decent western food its around 200 -300 baht for a meal. Another thing to consider when living in Kamphaeng Phet is transport. There is a lack of transport which makes getting to places somewhat tricky, if you don’t know how to ride a scooter it can be hard to get to places around town. Although a motorbike taxi can be an option at around 70 baht for a ride. But all in all, it was extremely easy living in Thailand, it was the first time in my life I didn’t worry about money and still managed to save around 10,000 baht of my salary a month which was quite a lot considering my lifestyle. My monthly salary of 35,000 was more than enough to keep me going.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE AS A TEACHER ABROAD?
Like I’ve mentioned TEFL teaching was always part of my career path so I believe it was actually the teaching that was the most rewarding aspect. Since finishing secondary school I have put my hand to many things but nothing really gave me much satisfaction or purpose. I found wanting to teach abroad and finally hitting this milestone in my life was a big thing. It was nice to come to a point in my life where I felt proud of all the things I have accomplished.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE ON THE FENCE ABOUT WHETHER TO TEACH ABROAD OR NOT?
After being in that position myself I think fear gets in the way of what we want. Whether your traveling to pursue a career in teaching or you just want to travel, Thailand is the perfect place to start. From my own and my friends’ experiences, most of the government schools in Thailand are pretty laid back so we enjoyed our placement regardless of our own goals in life. As an aspiring teacher I found Thailand to be a perfect fit. My Thai teachers were always supportive and allowed me to work at my own pace. The supportive work space made me feel comfortable starting out and I could figure out what I wanted from teaching. If anyone was considering even trialing 6 months in Thailand, it’s definitely worth it. If you start teaching and don’t like teaching just stick it out until the end and enjoy the holiday. If money is worry just save enough to come over and have an emergency fund just as a safeguard to easy any other worries./