My Thailand Experience was All Worth it With the Help of TEFL Heaven

My TEFL Heaven Thailand Experience – Was It Worth the Money?

“I would love to do what you’re doing but I don’t have that kind of money to throw around”

Welcome to the most irritating sentence you’ll hear, and one that you will frequently be subjected to if you make the (completely awesome) decision to do the TEFL Heaven Paid Internship Programme in Thailand.

It’s like people who make that statement forget that doing a TEFL qualification is an investment. It’s a time to learn new skills as well as explore the world!

I Don’t Have Have Money to Throw Around

Coming out of a long-term relationship, losing the deposit on our flat and paying for legal advice whilst still paying off my student overdraft, I can tell you that when I first considered TEFL Heaven, I was in no position to throw money around. If I was going to spend what is, let’s be honest, a large amount of money on this experience, I wanted it to be worth it!

What Was I Paying For?

But where was my hard-earned cash going? What would I get out of it? I was lured in by the Instagram-worthy photos that my friend was sharing during her TEFL Heaven course, but it seemed an awful lot to spend for three-weeks of beach selfies, right? Well, if you are wondering the same thing, I have since thought long and hard about where my money went (and how I’m very happy with where it went) and I can share my thoughts with you.

Support in Preparation

The TEFL Heaven Team

What became evident very quickly after being accepted on to the course and booking my place, was that I was paying for invaluable assistance in my preparations from a great group of people. Any question I had, I knew that the TEFL Heaven team were there for me and that they genuinely wanted to help. The support really helped ease my (and my mum’s!) anxieties.

The TEFL Heaven Support Website

There is also TEFL Heaven support website that unlocks exclusively for trainees and has a good amount of information all in one place, so I didn’t have to spend hours feeling lost and confused searching outdated blogs for articles on visas, documents and what to expect.

… but I still used Google search of course!

Although, the first “gift” that this experience has given me since, is an uncanny ability to Google my way to just about any unusual answer regarding life in Thailand! I now feel confident arranging solo travel around a foreign country, but I am so glad that in the beginning, I had TEFL Heaven’s staff and website to give me a virtual pat on the back and/or kick in the right direction.

The Arrival

Getting to Know People

Soon enough I was in Bangkok, sleeping in a hostel with half a dozen strangers on the same program (soon to be friends), battling my first of many fights with Bangkok belly (getting used to the food!) and trying to navigate my way through the hot, hot streets. I was learning how to take care of myself all over again. I thought I had already achieved this medal being 23 years old, but this experience certainly tests you in a very positive way!

The TEFL Heaven Welcome Day Social Event

This event gave me a chance to mingle with other trainees who would be on my course but hadn't stayed at the same hostel as me or those who would be at other training locations – giving me plenty of people to meet up with when your course is over. 

The day also really set the tone for how much fun we were all going to have. I will never forget using a carrot, tied around my waist, to push a water bottle across the room.... yup, prepare to make a fool of yourself and laugh until your stomach hurts.

Plus, we got a little introduction of what to expect, a mini Thai language lesson and some Thai cultural lessons too including my first introduction to tamarind – the sweet, sweet Thai fruit that has my heart. It’s these little extras that made the program stand out to me and reassured me that, although I was being a “strong independent woman” and all, that I was being taken care of.  

The Training

Accommodation and Training Resort

And then there was Koh Chang. I got basic, shared accommodation, included in your program. My room mates included 3 lovely girls who were my rocks throughout training. The basic wooden huts, broken wifi, stormy nights and electricity black-outs (common in Thailand) certainly tested our patience but I would definitely say those were growing-up moments in themselves. Nothing makes you feel more like a warrior than braving it without your western luxuries. However, it was easy to get your zen back when the accommodation included two beautiful swimming pools and a vibrant sunset on the beach every night.

Secretly, I loved those nights without power because it meant we'd all get in the back of a pick-up truck and head to the nearest backpacker town for a tasty Pad Thai, a game of cards and maybe a local beer.

We Were Worked Hard

But don’t for a second think that this TEFL course allows slackers! I was happy to discover that our trainers, kind and friendly as they were, were serious about helping us all become confident, skilled teachers. I felt that the trainers tried to get the best out of each individual trainee. We had to be ready for class at 9am every day (hilarious punishments were ready for those who did not make it) and usually worked hard until 4pm.

We practiced teaching a lot!

You will laugh at yourself when you realise that you'd rather be in the classroom (in Koh Chang, this was a large open-air restaurant area beach hut type-thing) where the shade is, than lying on the beach. This really is an intensive course and you had to quickly put embarrassment aside as it involved a lot of standing in front of the group and giving mock lessons. If it wasn't your turn that day? You had to use all of your energy to make your friend's teaching practice as realistic as possible and play the role of a Thai kid.

On my friend's birthday, I went the extra mile by pretending to be a kid throwing a tantrum in the corner during his lesson. Others played the role of "class bully" or launched in to a wrestling fight on the floor. I'm sure he still thanks us all for helping him develop as a teacher. After a morning of running around, I would tactically try to chose the spot by the fan for study breaks or group work - who knew it would be so gruelling playing musical chairs/relay races/stuck-in-the-mud when you are 23?

Pool time = chill time

By the end of every class we were all ready to jump straight in the pool which, luckily, was about 10 steps from the classroom. That didn't stop all 20 of us from jumping in fully clothed one day, though. Intensive grammar lessons do that to you.

Teaching Real Thai Kids

It was when English Camp rolled around – a chance to actually teach kids for the first time – that I began realising I actually enjoyed this as a career. What a discovery to make! The trainers also went the extra mile in ensuring that we were all happy and well (again, knowing that they would take us to the pharmacy if we were sick reassured my mum back home!)  and that we were all making the most of our weekends!

We Explored and made friends!

Although trips aren’t included as part of the course, we got to be a little lazy and let the team organise tons of fun options and excursions for us – so I really did get plenty of Instagram-worthy shots!

The highlight of the course for me was cementing my new found confidence and new found friendships during our final night. The trainers had arranged an award ceremony ("Most Hufflepuff" trainee? That's me.) and talent show for us all – and we even ordered pizza. A luxury in Thailand! I'm not sure if I ever imagined myself dressing up as Ginger Spice and doing an 8 minute tribute act with 4 new friends, but I'm very glad it happened.

I’m happy that my money went towards quality teacher training but I also feel that in three very short weeks, I did a vast amount of reflecting, developing and changing as a person. All that good cheesy stuff you’d hope for out of a trip to a paradise location in Thailand. Plus, I gained some good friends and hilarious memories – well, unless I’d had too many buckets the night before… (buckets of alcohol that is!)

After The Course

Far from feeling abandoned at the end of my training, TEFL Heaven continued to help – even when I got a little cold feet and panic-emailed them about my job placement in the early hours of the morning (someone will always be "the last to know" about where their school is, especially given Thailand's notorious laid-back approach. I laugh about it now).

This programme comes with not just a qualification that will serve you well for teaching English in many countries, but also a guaranteed teaching job through an agency, who then help and guide you. However, 3 months on and I still feel like I could speak to TEFL Heaven if I needed to – and here I am, still in touch with them and writing articles with them – and I don’t feel like the benefits of choosing to do this course have stopped yet.

It’s Changed Me

Every day I still feel like I’m progressing and becoming more and more confident with myself. I’ve started working out, eating well and saving money. I’ve started taking chances, letting things go and I’ve adopted a whole new philosophy of “Mai Bpen Lai” – a Thai phrase that means “no worries/let it be”. In fact, my Mai Bpen Lai approach to life has developed so much that I now have it tattooed on my leg – not that I’m recommending that.

The Take-Home message?

So when someone suggests that travel and teaching abroad is a waste of money, I think of this super long list of benefits that is still growing and surprising me. I took a chance paying for this course thinking I would have some fun on a beach, a job to keep me going through the week and a salary at the end of every month. Little did I know that I would love that job and wake up every day looking forward to teaching, let alone did I consider all the invisible (and visible – I’m looking at you, tattooed leg) changes in me as a person.

I’m going to stay out in Thailand a lot longer than originally planned, but when I do return home, I’ve already looked at options for me to become a teacher. I never would have imagined that this experience would give me a whole new career to look forward to. I would say that I invested my money wisely. After all, some things are just priceless.

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