10 Reasons to Teach in Thailand
More and more native English speakers are taking a year (or more!) to move abroad and teach English in Asia after finishing university. I was one of them, and I firmly believe that choosing to teach English in Thailand was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. There are a slew of reasons to move to Thailand, and obviously I’m a little biased in favor of the choice. Here’s my top 10 reasons to teach in Thailand…
1. One word: FOOD
The food in Thailand is incredible. Thai people treat food like a piece of complex, beautiful artwork—the colors, the ingredients, the spices—they all work together to create a delicious masterpiece. Of course you’ve heard of Pad Thai (fried noodles), but there is so much more to discover in this culinary gem of a country.
From the som tam (spicy papaya salad) to the pad pak (fried vegetables) to the pork and sticky rice to the cashew chicken to the mango sticky rice to the tom yung kung (spicy soup with shrimp) to the incredible fried chicken with sweet chili sauces to many, many other treats… a year of teaching won’t be nearly long enough to discover all this country has to offer in terms of its food. And the best part? You can buy all this delicious stuff for “cheap cheap” – the average dish from a street cart in Thailand will cost you between $1-$3. Not even kidding.
2. Thailand is breathtakingly beautiful
You’ve seen the postcards, the pictures from the tropical islands—Thailand is truly incredible. Sure, you probably won’t end up teaching on a tropical island, but you’ll always just be a bus ride or plane ride away from paradise. And when you get tired of all the beauty that the south has to offer, you can skip right on up to the mountains and culture of the north—but be sure to stop in the middle for the glorious national parks along the way, like the jungly paradise of Khao Yai National Park or the breathtaking Erawan Waterfalls in Kanchanaburi. This country really has it all.
3. The fun times
Let me tell you what, Thai people know how to have a good time. There’s a reason why Thailand is also known as “the land of smiles”—it’s that certain carefree joy you’ll find in the faces of Thai people. You’ll see it in their parties, their dancing, and their drinking—it’s a beautiful sort of innocence, an ability to take simple joy and pleasure in life. The Western world is often shy to express happiness, too worried about being “cool” or “mature,” but in Thailand you’ll just see people down for a good time no matter their age or station in life.
4. It’s great for your resume
Notice how I didn’t word that as “it looks great on your resume”—even though it does—no, it is great for your resume. Something that commonly holds people back from a year of teaching abroad is the fear that it will be a distraction on the way to getting into their career. The truth, however, is that the challenges you face as a teacher in a foreign country will prepare you to succeed in any other job, no matter where you live or what career path you follow.
5. You’ll make new friends from all around the world
People are often afraid to move overseas to teach because they’re afraid of being homesick or lonely when they are so far away from their family and friends. It’s a valid concern (and really, thank god for Skype and Facebook!), but the truth is that you’ll find an incredible support system in the fellow teachers and travelers whom you’ll meet once you get there. You’ll create connections with people that run deeper than you could have imagined before leaving, because you’ll be meeting people who share your love of travel, your curious thirst for the world around you.
Yes, when you travel you also meet many “temporary” people—people that come into your life and leave again, quickly to be forgotten. I’m talking about the others, those truly special people who “click” with you in a way you’ll never forget. You’ll find your mind and heart expanded just by being in their presence, and even when you part ways you’ll know that now you have a friend to visit somewhere new in the world.
6. The students!
Teaching isn’t easy work—and it’s even harder when there’s so many HUGE language and cultural barriers between you and your students. Some days you will probably feel like you’re accomplishing nothing, like your students aren’t learning anything. It will be discouraging and disheartening at times—but then, students will start to have breakthroughs. You’ll get birthday cards and thank you notes. You’ll have review sessions and burst with pride when your students prove to you how much they really did learn from your classes. Sometimes, they’ll make you want to pull your hair out, but you’ll end up building relationships with your students—and at the end of your contract, saying goodbye to your students will probably result in far more tears than you’d bargained for.
7. It’s a good deal
Please excuse me for a moment while I duck into the grimy world of money, because let’s be real, we all know it’s important to us in some way or another. No one moves overseas to get rich by teaching English, but you do need to eat and drink and find your way home eventually without losing everything you own. Thailand is not the most lucrative of Asian countries to teach English in—as a beginning teacher, you’ll probably make a salary somewhere around 35,000 THB per month, or roughly $1,000 USD. It might not sound like much, but the cost of living is so cheap that, depending on where you are placed, it’s not hard to save about one-third to one-half of that money each month. It may not be a way to get rich, but taking a teaching gig in Thailand is a great way to travel without breaking the bank.
8. It’s a great launching pad for other travels through Southeast Asia
The “banana pancake trail” of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam (with other SE Asian countries like Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines slowly working their way into the popular itinerary) is a well-traveled route for sure. The Internet abounds with travel information about these countries, and nowadays it seems that everyone knows someone who’s backpacked through Southeast Asia. Well, there’s no better place to start those travels than in Thailand. With such a well-built up tourist infrastructure, Thailand is one of the easiest Southeast Asian countries to navigate through, and (for better or for worse) you will encounter many, many other travelers and English teachers during a year in Thailand. It’s a great place to base yourself from before traveling to other Southeast Asian countries.
9. You’ll get to experience a different culture
It’s hard to explain the joy of immersing yourself in a different culture until you’ve actually lived in another country for an extended period of time. You might be objectively aware of how it will be so very different and mind-opening, but until you’ve gained that perspective for yourself, it’s difficult to understand just how your mindset will shift after experiencing life in another country. Life in Thailand is very different than life in Western countries, and you owe it to yourself to see how incredible it can be!
10. You’ll learn just as much—if not more—than your students
It may be cliché to say so, but teaching in another country is truly an incredible learning experience. Of course you will be learning about a new culture and a different religion. You’ll be learning about a whole new world of delicious foods and incredible spice blends and strange desserts that you couldn’t have imagined before moving to teach in Thailand. You’ll be learning about a school system that’s completely foreign and strange to Western eyes (and you probably won’t like a lot of what you see). But, what’s more—yes, I must say it, no matter how trite—you’ll also be learning about yourself. You’ll learn how to deal with huge miscommunication issues on a daily basis. You’ll learn how to stay calm and cheerful while you’re in the sweatiest, most disgusting state of your life. You’ll learn what it means to be you when you’ve been uprooted from everything familiar and transplanted into a completely different environment—and you’ll realize that you’re capable of rising to a whole slew of challenges that you never could have imagined.
So what are you waiting for? Go book that TEFL course now!
By Mary Beth Cancilla