Interview with Jenna Chatillon, Thailand Q & A

PERSONAL PROFILE

What is your name, age and nationality?

I’m Jenna Chatillon, age 25, from the USA.

What is your education level and background?

I have a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast News with a certificate in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?

I’ve been to Mexico a couple times, taken one trip to Northern Africa, lived in Barcelona for 5 months/traveled lots of Europe, taught in Thailand for 1.5 years and traveled many parts of Asia, and lived/worked in Melbourne, Australia for a year and traveled parts of Australia and New Zealand.

What motivated you to teach abroad?

I was hungry for a new adventure and wanted something completely different than what I was used to. I’ve always been super passionate about traveling and dreamed about living overseas at some point. Until the end of my college years I had no idea that teaching English could be an option for me but when I found out a couple of my friends did it through TEFL Heaven, I was curious to hear more and upon reading about the program, I was sold.

What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?

I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of living across the world on my own and could make a difference in students’ lives by helping them improve their English, a skill that I know could open so many doors for them. I also wanted to visit certain Asian countries that I’d always dreamed of going to on school breaks/between jobs. I was able to do all of this which was super rewarding and also came with making some amazing memories.

Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?

On my own, but I made so many friends right away so it didn’t feel like I’d gone alone at all!

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

Only a few people-this was helpful as it’s always nice to be able to hear about someone’s experience before.

What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?

I was nervous about meeting people I could stay in touch with throughout my time there, having people to celebrate holidays with, etc. However these concerns proved to be nonexistent soon after arriving. The group I trained with got so close and truly felt like a family away from family. I also ended up meeting lots of people through my job and ended up having tons of people I could always spend weekends and travel with, which made the experience so much richer.

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION

What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?

I loved the idea of teaching English overseas and it’s a job that I think is very important in today’s world—it makes such a difference in a person’s life and obviously allows for many travel opportunities. I chose TEFL Heaven since I knew two girls who’d gone through the program and absolutely loved it. I trusted their opinions and decided to go for it myself, a decision I later realized was one of the best I’d ever make in my life!

What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?

I learn better face-to face, not to mention an in-person course makes it much easier to meet people and make friends. Getting settled into a foreign country and taking a course learning new skills and information about a completely different culture is such a bonding experience and the relationships I made during the course lasted throughout my whole time in Thailand. We also played so many fun games and did loads of hilarious yet informative activities in the course that gave me tons of ideas for what I wanted to incorporate into my classes once I started teaching. We gave mock lessons in front of the group and got lots of feedback from our instructors which really helped my teaching skills, and I know I wouldn’t have gotten any of these types of experiences or benefits through an online course.

Which TEFL program did you do?

Paid internships Thailand, October 2015.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

Everything! The location was gorgeous, the group was wonderful, and I learned so much. The course thoroughly prepared me for what teaching actual classes at a school would be like. It also gave us a great introduction on Thai culture to prepare us for day-to-day life in the locations we’d be living. Overall, it made the transition from moving/working in the USA to Thailand much less daunting.

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

Very prepared! Of course it’s always daunting to do anything for the first time, but the course taught me so many different effective methods to teach and our instructors were super informative about what to expect in the classroom. We even got the opportunity to go to a school at one point to teach lessons which made it feel like we’d all already had some teaching experience.

How long have you been teaching in Thailand and how long do you plan to stay?

I taught in Bangkok for 1.5 years and am now about to move to Argentina to teach English again for (most likely) another year.

How did you secure your English teaching job?

TEFL Heaven’s agency placed me in my first job, then my second job in Bangkok I found on my own through a website.

What does a typical working week look like for you?

School is generally Monday through Friday from 8am-4pm. I occasionally had work to bring home (grading, lesson planning, etc) but generally got everything done during each school day. Each day I’d have between 2 and 6 lessons to teach, some days were heavy and others much lighter-on the lighter days I’d use the extra time to prepare future lessons, grade papers, etc.

What age group or range do you teach?

At my first job I taught grades 1-3 and my second I taught grades 7, 9, and 10.

What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?

In teaching, there’s simply never a dull moment. My favorite moments are the “a ha!” looks on student’s faces when that light goes off in their brains the second they understand the information given. That’s such a rewarding feeling-knowing you’ve taught them something that they’ll retain. I love encouraging my students to persevere in their English studies since I know it can open so many doors for them, and it’s always amazing to hear about all the different plans students have whether it be studying overseas, participating in English-related competitions, and so forth.

How did you get your work visa?

TEFL Heaven helped me get a Non-Immigrant B visa before I left the US. The job they’d set me up with sent me the documents I needed to get this approved through the Thai consulate in Los Angeles right before I flew to Bangkok.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?

TEFL Heaven showed me a few apartments near my school and I chose the one I liked best-it was very quick and easy!

COUNTRY INSIGHT

The food in Thailand is unreal-I have to admit that was probably my favorite part of living there…the way they combine spices and flavors is unlike any other place I’d been and the markets are so much fun to explore. There are also countless travel opportunities whether it be the breathtaking islands, mountains up north, or even just different areas of Bangkok! I loved it all.

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: 4,000 THB/month

Food: 1,000 THB/week

Other bills: 500 THB/week

Social life: 1,000 THB/week

Transportation: 500 THB/week

Phone: 1000 THB/month

Other costs: Give or take, 500 THB/week

Would you say you are able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?

Yes!

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Thailand?

If you’re even just thinking about it…do it! It’s not something you’ll regret. The work you’ll have, the people you’ll meet, and the places you’ll get to see are unlike any other experiences you’ll have living at home. Teaching abroad broadens your perspective so much and opens countless doors to even more exciting opportunities. I’d 100% recommend teaching in Thailand (as long as you’re ok with hot weather!). It’s a country that’s incredibly welcoming, unique, affordable, and easy to get around. There are also many teaching jobs available not only in the larger cities but in more rural areas so there are all kinds of living experiences to be had, whatever you so choose!

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