What is your name, age and nationality?
My name is Emilie, I’m 29 and I am from Ottawa, Canada.
What is your education level and background?
I completed my undergrad studies at the University of Ottawa in Communications and History. After that I continued my education and completed a Masters in Communications, specialised in social media and globalisation.
Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?
Before coming to Thailand, I had travelled abroad but mostly with my family. Our favourite thing to do was to road trip through Europe. My most memorable trip was when we rented a car in eastern Europe and travelled through seven different countries. Other destinations I had travelled to were the United States and Mexico. I had never been to Asia prior to this experience and I had never travelled on my own.
What motivated you to teach abroad?
I had caught a travel bug! I wanted desperately, to not only travel, but to experience living in a different country. I was seeking out an adventure that would transform me and lead me down a different path. South East Asia had become of great interest to me. I had taken history classes in University about this region and I was eager to visit it, first hand. When I found out that you could get a job teaching abroad, I thought it was the perfect way for me to immerse myself in a different culture and discover a new way of life.
What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you
I didn’t have anything that I specifically wanted to achieve before coming out here. I actually didn’t put much thought into it and decided to just dive in and see what life brought me. I was confident in my capabilities to succeed, with success being defined as having a positive, inspiring and fun experience. Going off of those three aspects, I have most definitely had an experience that has been defined by those three words. This country and employment changes you for the better if you let it. It teaches you valuable life lessons that I am not sure I would have learnt as quickly had I not taken this opportunity.
Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?
I applied for the program on my own. I wanted to challenge myself and wanted it to be a personal experience.
Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?
I had a few friends who had just come out to Thailand to do the TEFL Program and they had a very positive experience.
What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?
I didn’t have any concerns before coming to teach abroad. I was trying to get the most out of my last summer in Canada and was very confident about my decision to come abroad. Something was tugging at me and I knew it was the right decision. I was excited and knew that this was the right journey for me.
TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION
What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?
As mentioned earlier, a few of my friends have done the TEFL course and had nothing but positive things to say about TEFL Heaven. I decided to go with TEFL Heaven since my friends had, had such a positive experience. They had really good reviews and the price was also very reasonable. I decided to do a TEFL course because it would allow me to get direct experience in teaching abroad and what it means to be a teacher in a foreign country.
What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?
I wanted to do a face-to-face TEFL course as I believed it would give me an advantage over doing an online course. Having that interaction between me and the trainers was essential for me. I also wanted to get the first hand cultural experience which the online courses don’t offer. Another big selling point was the classroom environment that the face-to-face TEFL course provides. Being in a room with a group of people and learning with them at the same time allows you to feed off the energy and get inspired by some of the things they share as well.
Which TEFL program did you do?
I did the Thailand Internship Thailand Program. I was fascinated by South East Asia and I had also heard great things prior to joining the program. That facilitated my decision process.
What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?
The best thing about my TEFL course were the friendships and bonds I had formed with the other people on my course. It was absolutely magical to be surrounded by 20 or so individuals with like-minded attitudes and desires to be in a different country and take on this new adventure. We were all in it together and that really helped the transitions in to this new chapter or our lives.
How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?
I felt very prepared going in to my teaching position. The trainers I had were a great help and they really took the time to share their knowledge with us, whilst making sure that we were comfortable throughout the entire process. We were also lucky to have the opportunity to teach children at an English camp during our training which greatly helped with my confidence prior to getting to my placement. Again, the community of fellow trainees and the support system I gained throughout those three weeks was imperative to my success.
How long have you been in Thailand and how long did you plan to stay?
I have now been in Thailand for almost 5 years. Initially I wanted to come to South East Asia to travel and thought that teaching in Thailand would be a great place to start. I was planning on staying for one term and then wanted to backpack through South East Asia for another 5 months. I had given myself a year and was convinced that I would go back home after that year. Those plans quickly changed as soon as I began teaching. I absolutely fell in love with the experience, with Thai culture and with the way of life here in Thailand.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
One of the best things about TEFL Heaven is that they offer a guaranteed job placement, which makes things much easier for all trainees who come to Thailand to be a teacher. After the course was completed, I was placed with an agency that secured me an English teaching job. I didn’t have to do any research. They found a school for me, helped me to find suitable accommodation and also helped me with all the visa processes. It was completely stress free and the transition was extremely easy!
What did a typical working week look like for you?
A typical working week consists of a Monday to Friday 7:30 am to 4:30 pm daily schedule. I would get to school around 7:30 am in the morning in time for assembly and the national anthem. After that, class for the students would start at 8:00 am. The morning session would go from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon, when the students had an hour of break for lunch. In the morning I would usually teach 2 hours during that 4 hour block. The other hours were taught by my fellow Thai teacher. With the 2 free hours I would have in the morning, I would usually go for a coffee and do lesson planning for my class. After lunch, I would usually teach another 2 hours in the afternoon and so I had another free hour to lesson plan or grade some work or workbooks. In total, you usually teach an average of 20 hours a week. This is great because it gives you a lot of free time to plan your lessons and really allows you to get creative with future lessons. I had a desk in my classroom and a computer hooked to a printer that was always available for me to use.
What age group or range did you teach?
My homeroom class at the school I was working at for 4 years was primary 1 and so the students were 6 to 7 years of age. This is the age group I liked the most throughout my teaching experience. They are coming straight from kindergarten and are all extremely cute and endearing. At this age they are just starting to develop their English skills and so there is a possibility that you could even be their first experience when it comes to interacting with a foreign teacher. Primary 1 can be intense as you are helping them develop their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. It is very rewarding to see your students’ progress and to see them gain confidence throughout the year.
I have also taught all ages of kindergarten, from nursery (2-3 years old) to K3 (4-5 years old). I also did some substitute teaching in primary 2, primary 3, primary 4, primary 5 and primary 6.
My first placement was in a College in Bangkok. The students ranged from 18 to 21 years old. This was an interesting experience as I was told I would be teaching subjects like Business English, English Communication and English and Tourism. At first I was unsure if I would be qualified to teach these subjects, however, after the first day of school, I quickly realised that these students had an extremely basic level of English and so all I had to do was start with the basics. It was a wonderful experience as it allowed me to form great rapport with these students while getting know their interests and passions.
What did you most enjoy about teaching your students?
The best thing about teaching is the bonds you form with the students. Being a grade 1 teacher was the most amazing experience of my life. Everyday you start your day off with 30 little hugs and smiles. It is impossible to have a bad day when you are graced with love from these little humans. Children are truly remarkable and the lessons they teach you every day is incredible. They teach you how to be a better person and to enjoy every little moment in life. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and the journey TEFL Heaven has allowed me to experience.
How did you get your work visa?
Getting my work visa was a very simple process. The school and your agency helps you to obtain this. You simply follow their directions in to getting the correct documentation and then you can apply for a work visa within the first 3 months.
What were your monthly expenses?
Rent: Rent in Bangkok was about 4,500 baht monthly and in a smaller city about 3,000
Food: A great way to eat cheap is to eat what the locals eat! You can get any sort of local meal for 30-50 baht a dish. Cheap, easy, convenient and delicious!
Other bills: I had to pay electricity and water bills separately from rent. Electricity came to about 1000 baht a month, while water was cheap at around 80 baht a month. Other bills included cellphone data which comes to about 500 baht a month depending on your service provider.
Social life: Drinking alcohol is where it can get expensive as it is actually not that much cheaper than back home. I try to minimise this and do outdoor activities or splurge on western food once in a while. Another thing I like to treat myself with are massages. You can get an hour Thai massage for 200 baht - a great way to wind down after a week of teaching.
Transportation: If you get a motorbike you can rent one for 2,500 baht a month. A super convenient way to get around.
Phone: Getting a sim card is very easy! They sell them everywhere and even at a 7-11. My monthly payments for a phone come to about 500 baht a month.
Other costs: If you want to splurge on some shopping once in a while, you can visit any local market and get clothes for really cheap! They also have great second hand markets where you can get anything from 20-100 baht.
Would you say you were able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?
Definitely! I never had to check my bank account. If you stick to Thai food and you minimise the alcohol consumption, your salary can really go a long way. You can live comfortably and even travel during your break without having to worry.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS:
What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and
would you recommend teaching English in Thailand?
Teaching English in Thailand has absolutely changed my life. It has really allowed me to experience something magical and work for a job that I was truly motivated and passionate about. Working with kids is such a special experience and truly gives you insight as to what is important in life. They are so transparent and authentic that it really allows you to be yourself and become the best version of yourself. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to discover themselves and try something new and exciting!
How did you come to work for TEFL Heaven and what do you most enjoy
about what you do now?
I had always maintained a great relationship with TEFL Heaven as I had worked for them between school breaks by being a trainer for the company. This meant that during school holidays, I would help TEFL Heaven train newcomers coming to Thailand to obtain their TEFL Certificate. This was as equally rewarding as working in a classroom. It allowed be to improve my skills as a teacher, make new friends while helping people reach their goals and become teachers just like me! It was truly special being able to share my passion with like-minded individuals and support them through their process of becoming a teacher in Thailand.
Not long ago, there was an opening position at TEFL Heaven as Program Manager for the Thailand Internship Program. I felt like this position was calling me and I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity. I wanted to share my passion about teaching with more people and I wanted explore my background in Communications. I am currently really enjoying this new position! It is allowing me to reach people who are also passionate about travelling to South East Asia and passionate about discovering new cultures. It is also allowing me to inspire people with my story and why I am still in Thailand after all this time. It has truly been a beautiful adventure and I can only hope to motivate others and help them live out their dreams.
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