Why I Miss Teaching English in Thailand

I hate the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side” because it’s annoyingly accurate.

Living in Thailand, there were days that I missed a million things about the comfort and stability of life at home in the U.S.. Conversely, while living in America, I have constant ants-in-my-pants to see new places and try new things. I’ve been back in the States from teaching English in Thailand for a few months and I have a lot of feelings about my return.

Somehow, my time in Thailand moved fast and slow at the same time, and before I knew it, I was grading final exams and hugging my students goodbye. I untaped the photos from my apartment walls, took a typical look-at-my-now-empty-room Snapchat video and left Suporn Place for the last time. Now that I’m home, I find myself daydreaming about my life in Thailand all the time and wishing I hadn’t left so soon. Here are just a few things I miss the most about the Land of Smiles.

The Climate & Geography

I miss teaching english in thailand

After teaching English in Thailand, I moved back to Boston, Massachusetts where it’s now the middle of winter and freezing outside. The trees are bare and the grass is dead; the landscape is overwhelmingly brown. I can’t help but think back to the sunny days and lush flora of Thailand and wish I still had those daily views. Where are the palm trees? Where are the geckos? Where are the vibrant fuschia flowers that used to greet me outside my apartment every morning?

Full disclosure: I didn’t necessarily love Thailand’s constant heat. Clearly, I’m having a bit of Goldilocks “the weather is too hot/too cold” conundrum here but, that personal issue aside, I would choose the bright blue skies of Chonburi over Boston’s gray cloud cover. The temperature in Thailand drops a few degrees Celsius in the winter months, making it slightly more comfortable, and the rainy season brings the occasional daytime shower to briefly cut the humidity. Even though I lived in Thailand during rainy season, it mainly poured at night and the deep puddles across roads and sidewalks would dry before lunchtime.

This is probably not surprising news, but Thailand’s jungles, beaches and waterfalls have New England’s rustic scenery beat for natural beauty. I love fall foliage as much as the next flannel-donning, beard-loving Boston girl, but nothing here compares to the places I explored in Thailand.

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The Cost of Living

A plate of pad thai near my Boston apartment: $9.25.

A plate of pad thai near my Thai apartment: $1.

Thailand is continuing to grow as a popular tourist destination for Americans (though many other countries have been going there for years), in part because of how cheap it is. The U.S. dollar is equal to about 35 Thai baht, and almost everything is less expensive in general.

For less than $60, I could get from my hometown to Chiang Mai in the north or the pristine islands along the southern peninsula in a few hours. I miss having the time and money to visit exquisite places like the Erawan Waterfalls in Kanchanaburi and Khao Yai National Park, a luxury I’ve only known while teaching English in Thailand. 

The Opportunities for New Friendships

I miss teaching english in thailand

The author and her fellow ESL teachers in Thailand.

People often tell me that it takes a certain kind of person to pick up and move across the world alone for an entirely new profession. Whatever characteristics these are that motivate us to teach English abroad, they bring ESL teachers together and helps forge lasting friendships with people from all over the world.

Teaching English in Thailand is popular for people from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada and other countries where English is the native language. No matter my weekend destination, I was bound to encounter other teachers.

Adjusting to a new country, figuring out how to make rambunctious Thai children sit down, and surviving communication snafus make easy conversation starters and topics to bond over. At home, I don’t meet new people every weekend and, to be honest, the ones I meet aren’t nearly as interesting as those I encountered abroad.

The Kids

I miss teaching english in thailand
The author with some of her Thai students

Last but not least, I miss having students. Teaching English in Thailand was my first experience leading a classroom and I don’t imagine myself pursuing teaching in the U.S., so the job itself was a unique experience for me. Even though I was constantly challenged by the position (and especially by my students), I miss being Teacha Hayes and spending time with them.

While lessons and classroom activities were important, the most meaningful interactions I had with my students were in small groups or one-on-one. In these moments, the kids were less self-conscious about practicing their English skills, asking me about my life in America and telling me what they want to learn more about. By the time I left, my closest Thai friends were a group of 7th-9th grade boys who would sit cross-legged on the floor around my desk to chat. I keep in touch with my students online, but nothing compares to watching them together and listening to the ridiculous, silly things they would say.

In short, I’ve only been back for a few months and already I’m saving money to go teach English abroad again. 

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Words and photos by Christine Hayes.