Teach Abroad - Thailand, Teach Abroad Programs

Perspectives on Teaching Placements and Packing Light in Thailand

by Paul Hoffman, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in Thailand

A few days ago, I received an email from a woman who is coming to Thailand to teach English.  It was very interesting for me to read her email and know exactly how she is feeling.  It was just a short time ago when I was feeling the same way.  I was in her shoes.  My thoughts then are her thoughts now.  I’m sure you’ve all heard expressions or clichés about a picture being worth a thousand words, anticipation verses reality, trial by fire, only learn by doing, on the job training, etc, etc….  Well, I now have a 2.5 month perspective and it’s an amazing feeling!

She asked the same questions in her email that I had before leaving America.  How is the school?  How is the city?  How is the food?  What is the cost of living like?  Can you travel around Thailand on the salary that we make?  What should I bring?  What should I pack?  What should I not bring?  What are the living conditions like?  How about the apartment?  And the list goes on….

I thought I might include an excerpt of the email reply that I sent her:

It has been wonderful here in Suphanburi!  When I first learned about my placement, I was disappointed because I wanted to be in Southern Thailand, but this location and this school and our coordinator, Wattana, are all top notch!  I couldn’t have asked for a better placement.  Plus, you’re close to everything – Bangkok is an hour away and then there’s a van or a bus or a train to take you anywhere in the country.  This city is a safe place to live and the cost of living is low.  You’re lucky to get Kanchanapise School.

I wear ‘dockers’ type slacks and a dress shirt for teaching.  You should bring light weight fabric skirts that go to your knees or lower and light weight fabric tops that are fairly conservative.  It’s hot and humid here and you will sweat.  Bring clothing that is easily washed and dried on an outside clothes line.  Wash and wear type stuff.  What ever you do – Pack Light!!  You can always buy stuff here for very cheap!  There is a Tesco Lotus (think Walmart) store that’s close by and you can shop there.

I teach Matteoym (sp?) 1 and 4 – that is the same as 7th grade and 10th grade.  Our school has 7th grade to 12th grade – so you will be teaching two different grade levels, but I don’t know which two.  It’s a BIG school.  Your class size will be about 45 students.  You will meet your classes once per week.  You’ll teach 18 classes per week.  You will have to come up with your own lesson plans.  The fall semester is great because there are many Holidays / days off!

As I said Suphanburi is great.  Very down home.  It’s about 70,000 people – I think.  No one can give you a straight answer on that.  I walk everywhere in this city.  There are buses and trucks and Tuk Tuks, but I find that I can walk everywhere that I need.  The Market area is amazing and there are 100’s (or 1000’s) of food carts and restaurants and places to eat – it’s so cheap!!

This province has some good sites and hopefully your school van driver will take you around the province like he did for me!  It was a great Saturday!  But, you can travel every weekend to new places here in Thailand.  Some are close and others are far.  So, a two day weekend is spent close to Suphanburi or Bangkok, but a long weekend is spent in the farthest reaches of the country!

Your salary will basically allow you to live like a King or Queen.  The pay we get goes a long way here.  You can eat out every day and still travel around the country.  Now, you won’t be staying in five star hotels and eating at 5 star restaurants, but if you budget just a little, you can live VERY comfortably and still travel and see everything.

Pack light!  I can’t stress that enough.  You will be going home with more than you brought.  You can buy almost anything you need right here.  Don’t bring an iron.  Do bring sunscreen and any real special hair products that you might use.  The sun screen here is VERY expensive and some brand name hair products are not available.

You will be at the same apartment complex as all of us.  It’s filled with both local people and many teachers who teach at three different schools in the area.  The apartment is called Yoo Dee Mee Suk.  The apartments sleep one person and they are fairly spacious.  Think basically a studio.  Bathroom is ok with sit down / flushing toilet.  (Bathrooms here in Thailand are normally much different than at home – just be prepared for different.  If you have an open mind and can adjust well, you’ll do fine.)  The apartment has AC, but I use a fan.  If there is no fan in your place, go buy one.  I never turn my AC on.  You will have a TV, but I never turn my on.  You will need a hot water heater / kettle for coffee and noodles and stuff.  If you don’t have one, go buy one.  There is no carpeting.  Everything is tile.  It’s a nice place.  Very secure – thumbprint readers and stuff like that.

Before I came to Thailand, I got a Typhoid vaccine and Hepatitis A or B or C vaccine.  (I can’t remember the type – I think it was C.)  Anyway, I wouldn’t get the Malaria vaccine.  If you get Malaria, you can buy the needed medicine right here in Thailand for 1/3 the price of back home.  Buy it here only if you need it.  Oh yes – buy insect repellent at home and bring it.  Get the good stuff – Deet 40 or 50 %.

The best advice I can give you, is to be open and flexible.  Things don’t always go as planned, but it will be ok in the end.  Remember, this is different from the U.S. – that’s one of the reasons you’re coming here – right?  Thai people don’t get worked up over anything and if you do while you’re here, your time here will be miserable.  Just smile a lot and learn to let things go.  Just chill and relax and enjoy everything.  It’s the journey – right?  Always smile while you’re here!  Treat people here with respect and kindness.  They don’t always understand the U.S. sense of humor and sarcasm.  But, they like to have fun!  Learn some simple Thai language phrases and USE them!  Speaking their language goes a long way!  Don’t worry about your pronunciation or anything like that.  Just speak a little of their language and it will help.  Have fun here!

I saw a T-Shirt this weekend while I was at Koh Samet.  It said:  “Work hard, Travel harder” I love that!

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

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