How Did I Get to Thailand to Teach?

How Did I Get to Thailand to Teach?

When you first hear about Thailand, you probably picture the flowy elephant pants, Leonardo Dicaprio in “The Beach,” or dengue fever. Maybe you’ve even seen pictures of your freshman roommate’s brother’s trip to Thailand where they went to Full Moon Parties and slept in cheap beach bungalows. I get it — there’s a certain stereotype found with the word, one of cheap beer and Pad Thai. And I, like you, once pictured Thailand as a Party-Goers’ Lawless Paradise with a large amount of “Different” and “Other.” But after living here for over a year, I can’t tell you how much my perspective has changed. While I still see a good bit of elephant pants (enough’s enough, tourists), Thailand’s history and culture goes so much deeper than that.

In all honesty, I don’t totally remember when or how the idea of Thailand came into being for me. I remember seeing a family friend that had just spent time as an English teacher in Bangkok, and I remember thinking “… Huh, I could do that…“ I looked at her beautiful pictures of tropical islands and cheap beer. I decided that Thailand would be my next move after graduation. After a little (a lot of) research on travel blogs, what started out as long-shot “One Day” dream, quickly became a solid plan.

The Research Days

After days of research, I started discovering tons of reasons why Thailand seemed “right.” For starters, it was beautiful. Every picture I saw, even the crappy ones on Instagram, seemed straight off of a postcard. Secondly, Thailand is cheap. As in, delicious meals are under $2 cheap. The cost of living is pretty low. If I could finagle a job as an English teacher, I would be making more than enough to support myself and my travel lifestyle. For a broke college grad, this was reason enough. Third, every person that I cyber stalked and interrogated who had done this before, had nothing but positive things to say. Reviews ranged from the best experience of their life, to wishing they could go back. The more research I did on living in Thailand, the better living in Thailand sounded.

And after months of living here, these reasons still ring true. But, I found the truly amazing aspects of Thailand go a lot deeper. For me, the true beauty of Thailand is not in the white sandy beaches, or the sunrise mountain hikes. The best parts of Thailand are the hospitality locals show foreigners, like when your motorbike breaks down. I see it in the family-owned restaurants with plastic chairs, and their excitement when you’ve learned your favorite Thai dish’s name. It’s the palpable honor and amazement that can be felt when you walk into a Buddhist temple. The best parts of Thailand can’t be calculated in a budget. They can’t be written about on the back of a postcard. The best parts can only be witnessed once you get here. But, how the heck do I get there?

Where Do I Start?

Okay — so you’ve decided to come to Thailand, but you have no idea where to start. The most expensive part of coming to Thailand is probably booking your ticket here. If you live in the US, tickets can be pretty expensive, even booked in advance. If you live in Europe, it can be a little cheaper. And, if you live in Australia or Asia…  it’s nothing. But, what I can say, is that once you’re here, the most expensive part is over. Look forward to cheap food and cheap accommodation.

The most strenuous part of coming to Thailand is deciding what it is you want to do here and following through with that. I would say that a majority of travelers that come through here are English teachers. While it’s not an easy job, it is a common one, and one that almost anyone with a Bachelor’s degree can do. You will have to complete a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA course that allows you to teach English anywhere in the world. There’s all sorts of programs, with many ranges of difficulty, including ones online that you can do from home or programs at the heart of the city where you want to be. Once you’ve achieved your certification, finding a job here is much like any other place. There are applications, interviews, and waiting for calls back.

If teaching is not your thing, you’re not limited to grammar and vocabulary lessons with eight-year-olds. I’ve seen people come through Thailand with all types of careers: muay Thai fighters, students, online marketing, or hospitality. Your options are only limited to the visa paperwork you’re willing to do. If this is something you’re interested in, though, I would highly recommend doing lots of research in your home country before coming. Thailand is very welcoming to foreigners, but you can’t stay on tourist entry forever.

How to Prepare to Go to Thailand

A lot of people ask me things like “What should I bring when I come?” or “What do you miss most?” My first response is always that Thailand has everything you have at home just with Thai words on them. And it’s true – there is very little that is strange or different about the supermarkets. All pharmacies have anything you might need. Airports and train stations in Bangkok work exactly like they do in New York City. Malls in Chiang Mai have the same stores and McDonalds that they do in London. Hospitals in Thailand are probably even better than hospitals in the western part of the world. When it comes to being prepared, you don’t have to be all that prepared.

The most difficult part about coming to Thailand is making the decision to come – and even that is not hard. There are all sorts of resources online, and not many questions Google or Pinterest can’t answer. Find someone who has lived in Thailand, and I’m sure they would be more than happy to help (or have a reason to talk about how much they loved it). Thailand has something to offer to everyone, and amazing experiences for those looking to find ones. I came here expecting a vacation lifestyle with ease, but I’m so glad that I got so much more than that.


by Emma Higgins

37 thoughts on “How Did I Get to Thailand to Teach?

  1. What a fantastic experience this sounds like. My oldest daughter is currently going to school for teaching and I’d love for her to do something like this. It really seems like a once in a lifetime chance to experience the beauty and culture of a place like Thailand while performing a fulfilling job.

    1. Wow! Kudos to your daughter for becoming a teacher! Teaching is fun and rewarding, but this experience gave me even more respect for our amazing educators.
      If she wanted to do something like this, it’s even easier for people with degrees in teaching! There are many programs geared towards teachers who want a change of scenery. Certified teachers also have more opportunities for international schools and a bit higher paychecks. Maybe she can add it to her bucket list. 🙂

  2. Hi!
    This is a great experience you wrote about and very inspiring for those who want to go to other countries and live there but don’t know how.
    But how was it with the language? From what I saw and tried to learn, Thai isn’t very easy.

    1. Hello! Thanks for your comment!

      As for the language barrier, I would say there isn’t much of one at all. Many, if not most, Thai people know English, or at least enough to get their point across. I think Thailand is one of the most fluent speaking South East Asian countries, by comparison. Thai schools have been incorporating English into their education for many years now, so the younger generation, especially, can speak English quite well. Most restaurants or tourist sites have someone who can speak English and help you!

      As for learning Thai, yes it is fairly difficult. Although, I took language lessons for 6 months, and while it’s tough, it’s not impossible! And by living there for a while, you start to pick up functional phrases and comments: how to say please and thank you, how to order food, how to ask directions.

      So if you want to make to jump to Thailand, don’t let language stand in your way! Worst comes to worst, you have to speak through Google Translate. 😉

  3. First off, Thank you for all you do! Being a teacher is such an amazing career and I couldn’t imagine all the patience and hard work that pours out of you daily! It truly is amazing. Second, Thailand! Wow, what an awesome place to teach. Its one of those places I have always wanted to visit. Very inspiring.

    1. Wow! Thank you for your comment and kind words. Teaching isn’t easy, but is definitely rewarding. And yes my patience has grown tremendously! 😉

      As for Thailand, you should make the leap and come! As I’ve said, it’s so much easier than you think and the possibilities are endless. It is a fantastic lifestyle and I would love for anyone to experience it for themselves. Good luck to you and I hope you visit one day soon!!

  4. I went on a volunteer trip to Thailand a few years back. It absolutely was beautiful and the people so friendly. Teaching English sounds very rewarding! Those kids are so cute.

    Unfortunately, the human trafficking situation (especially with children) in Thailand is terrifying. Another opportunity to work in Thailand is with one of the many non-profits aiming to rescue children and young people from sex slavery. Of course human trafficking is a problem the world over, but in Thailand they are very popular for “sex tourism,” so you see more people (mostly men) from other countries coming there to take advantage of the prolific nature of the industry. Unfortunately what I think most tourists coming for this reason don’t realize is, that they may actually be paying to be with someone who is underage and is enslaved.

    1. Thank you for your comment. That’s amazing that you volunteered in Thailand and I would love to hear about your experience.

      As for your concerns, I completely agree. Before I went, I talked with an FBI detective who focused on sex-trafficking – Thailand specifically. Needless to say, I was petrified and very careful throughout my time there. I think you’re also right that many tourists and ex-pats don’t know much about it. I often felt like the only one who knew anything about it when I brought it up to friends.

      I will say, as I’m sure you noticed too, that it is not obvious or as in your face as you expect it to be. Sex-trafficking is very real and very serious, but I’m not sure I ever came across it. I did many things alone, and never felt like I was in danger or being risky, and I had many friends who lived alone. For the most part, Thai people are very kind and helpful to foreigners and I also think this issue stems from foreign countries. Like I said, sex trafficking is very real – but as long as your careful, smart, and aware, I don’t think you’ll run into any problems.

  5. It was great to read about your experience – there’s so much positivity in it! It’s a very motivational read for someone contemplating a move.
    I’ve made only a very short trip to Thailand but that was enough for me to experience how immensely hospitable the people are.

    1. Thanks so much! I’m glad you liked it. I’d love to hear about your own trip to Thailand!

      And yes! Aren’t they the best?! I have countless stories of Thai people helping me in different ways. Truly the most hospitable people.

  6. Teaching in Thailand would be such a good experience. I haven’t been to Thailand before but I’d love to visit one day. I really liked your travel tips.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. 🙂 It was an amazing experience, and one I encourage everyone to try – even if teaching isn’t your thing! Thailand is such an awesome place and should be on everyone’s bucket list. Good luck to you and I hope you make it to Thailand one day soon!

  7. This is a great idea. A fab thing to do to help the local community and a fabulous life expereince xx

    1. Thank you! It really was an amazing life experience and something I’ll treasure forever. Thai people are so helpful and kind to foreigners, I think I learned just as much from them, as the English they learned from me!

  8. Teaching in Thailand seems like an amazing opportunity. It’s great to work with little kids and see how the educational system works in a different country.

    1. You’re so right! It was a fantastic opportunity, especially for a first “real” job for someone like myself. Getting to explore the world was just a bonus. 😉 And I definitely agree! I think the schooling was really the biggest “culture shock” I faced while there. It was so interesting to learn how the school works in a foreign country. I found myself trying to put myself in my third grader’s shoes often.

  9. This is a fantastic post and idea. I sometimes wish that I am anywhere in Vietnam or Thailand. Just the idea of going to another country always thrills me. If I get tired in Europe, I would definitely consider Thailand aside from my homeland. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I absolutely loved my experience and highly recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of taking the plunge or wanting a change in scenery. It’s a lot easier than you think and your future self will thank you. Maybe you can add South East Asia to your bucket list! 🙂

  10. what a great adventure you’re in! moving countries to a place with a totally different culture! loved it! I totally agree with you when you say Thailand is so much more! I love to travel and truly live like the locals and experience for a while how it would be living there so I understand so well your point of view. Thanks for sharing and showing that you have to immerse yourself in a place to really get to know it!

    1. It was truly an amazing adventure and one I will cherish forever. I also love to deep dive into the culture of a place I visit – I think that’s why I wanted to do Thailand for a full year. It’s hard to really understand a new place in a two week holiday! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  11. What an interesting way to start your career! I taught various subjects and ages for 43 years with Masters in Remedial Reading and Learning Disabilities. Are there programs for kids who need Special Ed?

    1. Yes – it really was a great first job! And kudos to your teaching career. I’ve found even more appreciation for teachers throughout the year.

      I’m actually not sure about special education classes in Thailand. We had a few supplemental classes in reading and math for students that needed it, but at my school, at least, we didn’t have any programs for special ed students.

  12. I think that’s pretty amazing that you are doing this. And so young! I traveled to foreign countries when I was young but I never considered living and working there. This is a great experience for you!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I agree – I really think this year has been a life-changing experience. I called it my “Productive Gap Year” between graduating college and finding a “real life” job.

  13. This sounds like such an amazing experience. I have friends that moved to Thailand, 10 years ago and they’ve never looked back.

    1. It was an awesome experience, and one that I’ve recommended to anyone that will listen! And that is amazing! The Ex-Pat community in Thailand is really phenomenal, so I totally understand why you’re friends wanted to stay. 🙂

  14. I can’t say that I have ever considered working or living in another country, so reading about your experiences was certainly enlightening. It sounds like a scary yet amazing thing to do! The closest I’ve ever come to Thailand is the food, and it is amazing.

    1. A lot of people I would tell about my trip were always surprised when I told them what I was doing after I graduated. It’s definitely something different! It was a little scary at times, but a year later, it was all so worth the anxiety. And I think I’ll miss the food most when I get home!!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, and taking the time to read my post! I’m really glad that people are seeming to enjoy it and take something away from it. But it was definitely an amazing experience and something I recommend to anyone!! It’s really cool how much a place can stick with you after just a year.

  15. I wish I would’ve went out of country after college. It sounds like an amazing experience to have. You make me for sure want to visit Thailand one day.

    1. Hey, it’s never too late! 😉 I’m glad I inspired you a little and let me reassure you that it’s so much easier than you think. I really loved it and think anyone would fall in love with Thailand. Good luck to you and I hope you make it there one day!

    1. Thanks so much! It was a life-changing experience and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I feel like there’s just something more you get out of staying in a place for a year rather than a two-week vacation. The deep dive into culture and way of life is irreplaceable!

  16. Whenever I think of Thailand I think of paradise. So cool that people can teach English in such a wonderful place! Definitely on my travel list

    1. It truly is paradise! And I couldn’t have asked for a better first “real” job. I learned so much – and earning a paycheck while traveling the world was just a bonus! I hope you get to see Thailand one day soon!

  17. What an amazing experience, I bet those children are very grateful you came into their lives to help them. It looks like it is a beautiful place to visit, thanks for sharing this with us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.