Exactly one year ago this month, I boarded a plane to become an English teacher in Thailand. Originally it was supposed to be a six-month experience, but a year later and counting, it’s become my life. Six months prior to boarding that plane, I was graduating university and becoming a teacher had never even crossed my mind, nor was it ever something I really wanted to do. But with graduation ahead of me, and the pressure to find a full time job and begin my career like everyone else around me, I knew I needed something different. I knew I wanted to travel. So one of my best friends and I decided we should go teach English abroad.
Choosing to be based in Thailand was not difficult – we wanted to travel, we wanted the sun, the beach, the jungle, and all the adventures that come with it; and boy did those adventures come. We took our three-week TEFL certification course in Krabi (read my 10 reasons for getting TEFL certified in Thailand here), and after a few months of teaching English in Bangkok, I am back down South, living three minutes away from the beach, and feeling more relaxed than I have ever felt in my life.
Having chosen the lifestyle of an English teacher in Thailand has changed my life in more ways than I can count – obviously all for the better. It has become a true cultural experience to live amongst locals, taking in and participating in Thai culture every day. This life has opened up so many opportunities; not only career related, but also life related.
Leaving the comfort of my parents’ home to move to Thailand and live in a foreign country on the other side of the world — where literally nothing is like what I’ve been used to — has been so liberating for the following reasons. .
I’ve made lifelong friends
Teaching English in Thailand has given me the opportunity to run into and meet so many new and different people. Not only travelers who are passing through, but also people that have decided to become expats as well. These connections have become life changing, and guaranteed lifelong friends. It also doesn’t hurt to know that wherever I go in the world, there’s a good chance I’ll have a friend’s couch to sleep on. The best part is that these people I’ve met are so similar and likeminded to myself. They are people who want more out of life, and want to experience everything the world has to offer. That’s one thing you get out of traveling that you don’t get back home. While some people may choose to remain stagnant, there are so many others looking to experience the most out of life. And I’ve learnt to be the latter.
My work became my passion
By becoming an English teacher in Thailand, I have opened up to a whole new field of work, one that has kind of become a passion. I would have never considered becoming a teacher back home – it’s just something that I never really saw myself doing. And now, I’m not quite sure I can imagine myself doing anything else, especially out here. One of the main reasons I see ESL teaching as so important, is the mere fact that speaking English on this side of the world is so beneficial to a local, in terms of how far it can get them economically and even socially. People value the English language so much, that parents are constantly placing their kids in
as many lessons and programs as they can. And as a teacher, especially for young children, it is my duty to ensure they have a good foundation of the language, so that they can continue on and learn as much as they can so one day they can reap the economic benefits of speaking English. And that in itself is so fulfilling.
I became a part of a new culture
To me, the most rewarding part of this whole adventure has been the ability to adapt and assimilate to Thai culture. Here I live amongst the locals, and I can now have basic conversations in Thai, or pick up on conversations that I am not even a part of. And this to me is so important because it has made me a new type of traveler — no matter where I go in Southeast Asia, it is imperative to do as the locals do, and experience their country and their culture the way they do. Because even though I am a visitor, their way of life is still important to me and I want to respect it. Greeting people in their own language, eating where the locals eat, and making connections with them is so much more memorable than just being a passerby in a foreign place.
Traveling is more than your Instagram photos and the stamps in your passport — it’s what it actually does for you. Living and teaching English in Thailand has made me more aware of that, and helped me to realize what it is I am capable of. This experience is something I had always wanted to do, and I look back now and I realize how proud I am of myself that I ACTUALLY did it. I stopped dreaming about it and took the leap. My time here has given me the most incredible experiences. I’ve traveled to amazing places, and met some of the most beautiful people I know, but the best part of it all is what I’ve done for myself. To be able to live on my own in a foreign country, to make the most meaningful connections, and to immerse myself in a culture that was outside of my comfort zone, has bettered me in more ways than I can ever put into words.