My overall teaching experience was awesome. Of course, there are going to be days that are terrible and things just don’t want to work out for you. You will have your good days. Days run smoothly, everyone is happy and the students cooperate. I loved working with the students. There were moments they made me angry, but that comes with being a teacher in any country. At the end of the day, it was such a rewarding experience to learn more about their culture, language and lifestyle even though I was there teaching them about mine.
The students I had were amazing. We helped each other. I would help them with their English and they would help me with my Thai.
The students’ respect for one another really stood out. When I say this, try to think back to the days when you were at school. Do you remember the days when students use to perform talents to the rest of the school and all they received was being booed off the stage? Can you remember students stepping onto a stage, presenting an important message to the school and being shunned even before they said anything?
This does not happen in Thailand (well, it never happened at my school or any other school I heard of). In Thailand, the kids applaud, cheer and clap for one another, it doesn’t matter how poor the performance or speech is. The only time they ridiculed each other was when their skin burnt. Thailand has a stigma to the darker your skin is, the less class or the lower you are considered in society.
Just know that the Thai’s aren’t shy to let you know what they think. If they think you look ugly one day they will tell you, you look ugly. If you look fat in something they will tell you, you look fat. If you are too tanned they will judge you. They are very honest. The personal accusations brought quite a few of us down, but at the end of the day, we cried about it and then moved on.
I do think that when you go somewhere completely different to what you are used to, you will experience a bit of culture shock. I can guarantee that you will learn so much from them. In general, the Thai people are amazing. They are friendly, kind and very gentle when spoken to. They are always willing to help, no matter what and will always try to strike up a conversation only because they want to practice their English and not always to chat you up.
To be honest with you, the only agency that I’ve heard of that doesn’t give you problems is very rare to find. One way or another, you are going to have problems and the only way of finding a proper agency is by going through someone that has personally worked with them before. There are good agencies, but you can go about finding work without using an agency. I have heard people go over on a holiday visa and then find work in that time. It’s not the best way of going about it. Try to email as many people as you can and ask them to assist you and deal directly with the school. This will make everything work out so much easier in the long run. Your work visa will be easier and faster to obtain once you arrive.
How would I start planning my teaching trip to Thailand?
Before we start, just know that I had a job waiting for me in Thailand. It made my life easier obtaining a non-b visa. A non-b visa allows you to have 3 months in Thailand without having to do the normal border run. It will also give you enough time to sort out the work permit once you arrive there.
What also made life easier for me was that I already had a friend in Thailand. She had been there for a year before I arrived and helped me with all the advice I am trying to give you today. The best is to try and get hold of people who are in Thailand and ask them to send your CV to schools they work at or might know of. It’s better if you can get a teaching job directly from the school and not through a language agency.
Agencies normally cost a
shit load of money and always take a cut of your salary each month. If you work through an agency in South Africa it will cost you almost double of what it would cost you to get yourself there. The positive side of using an agency is that everything is arranged for you and so helps a bit with the nerves. In the same breath, it’s not impossible to do it yourself. I did it.
Step 1: You will need to decide where you want to go. I would recommend starting off in a busier city or in a town with loads of foreigners. Try to stick around the middle of Thailand, around islands, in or near to Bangkok or in Chang Mai. Ask around and find out where most of the socializing happen. This will be good in the beginning because you will be able to make loads of friends and automatically fall into your own little support circle of friends. Trust me, you will need this.
Email the Thai embassy so that they send you a list of what they need for your application.
Step 2: Get money together and get the job in Thailand.
You will need at least R5000 in your bank account and a statement from the bank to prove it. You will also need to
unfortunately buy an air ticket before you actually send off documents for your visa. Ask for all the letters from the school to prove that they will be employing you as well as your invitation into Thailand*.
Step 3: Criminal Clearance.
This can take anything up to 4 weeks at a police station and costs around R59.00. You will need to go get this done because you need it for step 4. If you are willing to pay R250.00, you can get your clearance from Private Investigators in a matter of days.
Step 4: You will need to start sorting and putting everything together in an envelope. If you are able to, apply for a non b visa. If you are located anywhere other than Pretoria (South Africa), be prepared to pay quite a bit for the courier. It’s a special, safe courier, transporting only passports. If you are in Pretoria, you are lucky enough to go directly to the Thai Embassy.
Step 5: Get ready for one hell of an emotional journey. I promise you this isn’t as easy as hopping onto a plane and arriving in a foreign country with no problems. The excitement is all worth it. Enjoy the ride!
There will be days before departing when you are going to wonder if this was the best idea ever and will probably tell yourself you are making a mistake. I stuck to my gun and just kept going through all the emotion. Once that air ticket is purchased, there is no turning back.
*This might change from time to time. The type of letters you will need from your school will be on the list for your application of your non-b visa.
What sites would you recommend looking at to find work if I don’t know anyone in Thailand?
My friend recommended the following site and I will recommend it to you. Everything I wanted to know about Thailand was there:
They also advertise jobs. I applied to one on that site and received feedback immediately.
What qualification would you need to teach in Thailand?
From what I know, you either need a degree and/or the TEFL/TESOL certification.
You can do the TEFL/TESOL course in South Africa before leaving or you can do it in Thailand. I was really lucky to get a job with my degree, work experience and impressive CV. I created a mini presentation in PDF format including a motivational letter, CV, copy of passport (a MUST) and ID, a bit about myself, criminal clearance letter, copy of qualifications and a photo of myself. Because I had all this information ready it impressed the school and so made life easier finding a job without sending emails back and forth. Do BE CAREFUL of spam artists on other sites.
I would suggest doing the TEFL/TESOL once you arrive in Thailand if this is your first time abroad. Not only will you meet awesome people, but TEFL/TESOL courses are normally done in a beautiful location in Thailand, so you get to travel a bit!
Is Thailand the easiest option for South Africans to go abroad in terms of getting a visa?
At the moment I would say it is although you must remember that South Africans are considered as non-native English speaking individuals. Once you arrive, your school will probably ask you to write a very ridiculously easy TOEIC test in Bangkok. This is to prove that you are in fact a native English speaking individual.
Can you live well on a Teaching Salary?
Normally foreign teachers are paid very well. Depending on each individual you will be able to travel and live comfortably. Most teachers save and then go on amazing international holidays twice a year. If you are good with money, you will save and travel very well!
Would you teach in Thailand again?
Of course, I would, but there is a whole world to see and I have only seen one little piece of it.