What is your name, age and nationality?
My name is Hollie Drever, I am 23 years old and I'm from Scotland – which is part of the UK!
What is your education level and background?
I have a Bachelor's Degree in Midwifery and had been qualified and working as a midwife for about 2 years (5 in total with my training!) before I joined TEFL Heaven.
Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?
I am lucky in that we got to travel a lot as a family when I was growing up. On my own, I had lived in The Netherlands for 3 months as part of a university exchange. During the exchange I lived in international housing with students from all around the world – and also stayed on my own in a rural village! Meeting so many new people and hearing about their cultures was the best part of my experience and made me want to travel more. It was a great starting point to give me the confidence to do similar programs by myself.
What motivated you to teach abroad?
Midwifery in the UK is an autonomous profession with lots of responsibility and stress so for me, the negatives were really outweighing the positives. I needed to see what else was out there in terms of a career but also a lifestyle. To be completely honest, although I enjoyed teaching adults in my job, I felt a bit apprehensive about teaching children! I didn't know if I would enjoy it much but I was desperate to travel – the amazing thing is, it turns out that I love teaching kids!
In the summer before TEFL Heaven, I'd left my family and friends to live with my boyfriend at the time – and that failed spectacularly. I felt absolutely awful and needed a drastic change, and travelling in Asia was something I had always considered – now I was free to do it and didn't have to wait for anybody else.
What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?
Let me answer this with two goals....
1) I wanted to test out a new career and see if it suited me. It does. As I said, I wasn't convinced that teaching would be a role for me but now I love it. I've even started looking at opportunities to teach back home, because it's something I'm seriously considering doing with my life. I feel like I have finally found a job that I really, really like, and it's taken me by surprise.
2) I wanted to be as happy as I possibly could. I am 100% succeeding. Don't get me wrong, some days I feel homesick and some days my friend's have to put up with my bad moods (sorry, guys!) but when I'm sitting in Lumphini Park, or chilling on a beach or riding on the back of a motorcycle through the amazing city lights, I feel truly happy and so grateful to be living in this country. All those cheesy lines about experiences changing you as a person are true, and this experience has given me lots of time to reflect on that.
Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?
I applied solo!
Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?
Yes, one of my friends had gone through TEFL Heaven and I remember looking at her photos and feeling very very jealous, never thinking that I would be in the same position the year after...
What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?
I had so many concerns, because I am a wimp.
I was scared about silly things like safety and crazy insects and getting sick. My mum was begging me not to go. I look back on all of these worries and laugh because very quickly I adopted the Mai Bpen Rai attitude (Thai phrase for no worries/chill out/it's all good) and you will too. Yes I got sick and yes I've had my fair share of insect/lizard dramas but it's never made me want to go home. Safety wise, I have never been concerned in Thailand.
I was also concerned about how I would cope with the infamous laidback nature of Thailand, because at home I am very organised and ahead of the game. It still baffles me how paperwork etc will be sorted out at the last possible minute over here, but I feel very proud of myself that 99% of the time I can just breathe and laugh and focus on the many, many positives.
TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION
What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?
I would never have considered teaching abroad without some kind of training or support, and I stand by that now. I chose TEFL Heaven because they were recommended by a friend, because they were a UK company and because they were very enthusiastic whenever I enquired.
I also wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be alone so by doing the course, I knew that I would make friends and meet people.
What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?
Again, I would never have considered doing this online and I stand by this. This is mostly because I would have felt unprepared both in terms of teaching but also, in terms of cultural understanding. Also, I really wanted to make the most of the country and travel/experience it before I started teaching! That’s all part of the fun and I'd have been gutted to have missed out on my three weeks with my TEFL friends!
Which TEFL program did you do?
Paid Internships Thailand.
What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?
Meeting others and having fun!
I also really enjoyed having 3 trainers who were experienced in teaching in Thailand – they were really invaluable. Hearing anecdotes and stories and tips from them really enhanced my learning.
How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?
I felt prepared but I would have liked longer!
How long have you been teaching in Thailand and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been teaching now for over 2 months. Initially, I thought I would only do 1 term but now I plan on teaching TEFL for 1-2 years!
How did you secure your English teaching job?
My TEFL Heaven programme came with a gauranteed job!
What does a typical working week look like for you?
My hours are 07:30 to 16:30, although 1 day a week I have to greet students at the gate from 7am. Assembly starts everyday at 07:50am and it still mesmerizes me! I wish schools at home did assemblies the way Thai schools do. Although I absolutely have to be in school during those hours (in other schools, you may be allowed to leave/return as you wish), I only teach 21 50-minute lessons in a week. This includes a "Gifted" Writing class and an English Club. The rest of the time I have a desk in a shared office where I plan lessons, grade work and prepare materials.
What age group or range to you teach?
I teach all of the school's M5 students (age 16-17) and some M2 (13-14) and M4 (15-16). The English level is very basic and classes are large, about 50 students per class.
What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?
I love their personalities, they make me laugh so much because you get such a diverse range of characters. I love when they try really hard and when they have their "lightbulb" moments when something clicks for them. The best thing is when I revisit a topic and they remember it! They are normal teenagers and can misbehave or get bored but when they are really enjoying an activity and the whole class is laughing, I feel great!
How did you get your work visa?
After I'd started working at the school, my agency assisted me. It's a long and frustrating process!
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
Although my agency had some options for me, I was lucky because two friends were in the same neighbourhood and there was an empty studio in their block! It is a very basic but clean room with a double bed, wardrobe, table and fridge. There is a little balcony and a shower room. And I have air-con! The building itself is falling apart and it isn't a great area, but it's right across from my school so my commute time is minimal and that won me over! I wanted somewhere very affordable for my first term, and that was easy to find – but I'll be upgrading when my pay goes up!
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: 4000 baht
Food: 2000 baht if not eating out much
Other bills: 2000 baht
Social life: anything!
Transportation: 2000 baht
Phone: 500 baht
Work permits, Visas and the associated travel cost me a lot for now!
I'm also paying off loans back home which is an annoyance.
Would you say you are able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?
I probably do but now that I've gone away every weekend since arriving in Thailand, I'm getting greedy! I'm having to cut back on my spending right now and behave a little more sensibly – mostly because I do want to stay out here long term and travel as much as possible. If I was here for just one term, I'd be having the time of my life on my salary! I also live in a difficult area for travel expenses (it's so close to Bangkok and yet so far in terms of cheap travel!) right now, so I'm going to change that next term. When you first start up, you also need to think about things like supplies for your studio – kettles, irons, cleaning supplies, bedding etc all really added up! And the invaluable hot pan which I now use for cooking, in the hope that it will pay for itself!
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Thailand?
I can absolutely say that if you are considering it, go for it. Hesitations and worries are normal but feel the fear and do it anyway. The worst that will happen is you might see it's not for you, and come back home with great memories, killer photos and a tan! But there is a reason that most people you speak to end up loving it out here and stay much longer than planned. I would recommend Thailand for sure because TEFL Heaven's Thailand programme is so established and easy for first-time travelers and first-time teachers. Remember that, like me, you may even find a career that you excel in and enjoy!
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