The Best Asian Countries to Visit as a Female Traveler

Traveling on your own, especially as a woman, can be challenging. As women, we instinctively move through the world differently than men, always trying to avoid unwanted harassment or attention. Our vulnerability and fear of becoming just another news story compels us to hesitate without seeing our curiosities through. 

At the age of 21, I realized that surrendering to a life of fear is a one-way ticket to regret. Instead, I booked a one-way ticket to South Korea to teach English for a year. This led to an additional two years of living and teaching in Asia, as well as an abundance of travel opportunities spanning nine East and Southeast Asian countries, including quite a few solo trips. Looking back at this decision years later, it feels trivial to think about the uncertainty that swirled around in my mind because this ended up being the most liberating decision I could have made.

With that said, it is important to acknowledge that one of the reasons we hold ourselves back is simply not knowing where to begin. Many kids dream of flying to Europe or an exotic location. I certainly did, too. The reality for Americans is our country’s geographical isolation means vacations abroad are not financially feasible for many families. I personally grew frustrated with the inability to scope out seasoned travelers within my own community to talk to about my dreams. 

My own international travel experiences growing up consisted of Caribbean cruises since every major coastal city in Florida functions as a port of call. I doubt I would have considered venturing to some of the best Asian countries to visit without the Caribbean island-hopping stepping stones of my childhood. It is my hope that this article inspires more solo travel for women!

Hong Kong: The Autonomous Chinese City

The former British colony of Hong Kong makes for a fantastic and women-friendly destination for Westerners due to its widespread use of English, which is one of two official languages and spoken by 52% of the population. In addition, the safe and sophisticated MTR public transportation network provides straightforward, albeit crowded, navigation throughout the island. Even as a relatively inexperienced solo female traveler at the time, I never felt uneasy. The city’s safety for women at night allows travelers to enjoy dinner by Victoria Harbour with the city’s skyline and riverboats in full view. Just remember, use common sense and avoid any public demonstrations.

Hong Kong’s tight population density means a visitor can expect a packed city, and not just in terms of bodies. My hotel room felt cramped due to the lack of space. However, its central location in the city and affordable price made the trade-off worth it. A four-day weekend during the off-season (spring) renders Hong Kong friendlier to those on a tighter budget despite its reputation for its high cost of living. Plus, the city’s autonomy welcomes foreign visitors desiring a taste of traditional Chinese and Cantonese cultures without the tough immigration laws or movement restrictions.

The southern part of Hong Kong’s Tung Choi Street market offers a wide selection of cheap merchandise geared towards women. This makes “The Ladies’ Market” a popular stop for women wanting to experience an Asian street market. Another top attraction in Hong Kong is the Tian Tian Buddha, or The Big Buddha, located on Lantau Island. The giant bronze statue sits at the top of 268 steps overlooking the Po Lin Monastery.

Photo by Danielle Faviano- Hong Kong Tian Tian Buddha-best Asian countries to visit

Thailand: The Rite of Passage in Southeast Asia

Twice I journeyed to Thailand to experience what I believe are two of the best cities in Asia: Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Many travelers consider Thailand a rite of passage for female solo travel. An extensive community of new and seasoned travelers thrive in Thailand. Locals involved in the tourism sector speak English. The well-established industry makes inexpensive accommodation easy to find. Most hostels offer all-female dorms, although they usually charge an extra few dollars per night for a bed in one. However, many solo female travelers, myself included, happily pay for the added sense of security. Note that most hostels are generally safe, but they do vary in atmosphere. Some are known for partying while others are known for being laidback. Always check reviews to find one that suits your comfort level.

Like Hong Kong’s MTR subway system, Bangkok’s SkyTrain is efficient and well-connected throughout the city. Visitors commonly rent motorbikes to get around; however, the roads can be quite chaotic with frequent accidents. Take extra caution if you choose to rent a motorbike. Foreigners commonly get scammed by companies claiming damage. Never hand over your passport or anything valuable as collateral. Safer modes of transportation include tuk-tuks and taxis, especially in cities without a subway system like Chiang Mai. In Bangkok, you can take a water taxi down the Chao Phraya River. The orange flag boats provide transportation to every site stop for a flat rate of 16 Thai Baht (0.45 USD) per trip, stopping at places such as Wat Arun and The Grand Palace.

Thailand is one of the best Asian countries to visit due to its low violent crime rates. Like anywhere else, use common sense and wear a crossbody bag close to your body to avoid becoming a target for purse snatchers and pickpockets. 

Photo by Danielle Faviano-Temple Chiang Mai Thailand-best Asian countries to visit

Taiwan: The Laidback and Affordable Alternative in East Asia

As a young woman who lived in Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei for two years, I felt safer there than anywhere else, particularly at night. The efficient subway system remains open until late and the well-lit city provides an easy walking path home at 11 PM. The bus system is just as straightforward, and Google Maps can figure out the most efficient routes to take. Consider downloading the Journey Planner/Map Transit app too. The app maps the transit systems of dozens of countries and cities around the world, including Taiwan.

The safe and well-organized transit system means visitors can avoid booking overpriced tours. This makes day trips to the frequented former Japanese mining towns of Jiufen and Hualien uncomplicated. Yehliu tends to get brushed aside, but I always recommend it to visitors due to the geopark’s stunningly unique geographical rock formations and landscapes.

In addition, the High-Speed Rail, or bullet train, runs down the western side of the island and delivers you between cities quickly, taking just over two hours to arrive in the south. This makes day trips to an entirely different region of the country efficient and affordable. However, I do recommend staying in Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung for a couple of days if possible. These smaller cities offer a different perspective of Taiwan compared to Taipei, and Sun Moon Lake in Taichung should not be missed.

With South Korea and Japan gaining popularity amongst young travelers in recent years, Taiwan often gets overlooked. Even though China claims Taiwan as its territory, Taiwan functions independently and democratically. In my opinion, Taipei’s relaxed atmosphere makes it one of the best cities to visit in Asia.

Photo by Danielle Faviano-Jioufen Taiwan-best Asian countries to visit

Cambodia: The Road Less Traveled

The Southeast Asian country of Cambodia is often skipped over in favor of neighboring Thailand or Vietnam. After spending two weeks in the country and learning about its dark yet important history, Cambodia rose to the top of my return list. I journeyed to Cambodia only after gaining some experience as a traveler due to its lack of infrastructure, particularly outside the capital city of Phnom Penh. It feels as if most people wind up braving the stomach bug at some point in the country/ I did when I arose before dawn to watch the sunrise over the historic temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Absolutely worth it and now a fun tale to tell, just remember to drink and brush your teeth with bottled water.

The weak currency means that the US Dollar or Euro are more valuable, and even the locals use a mix of US Dollars and Cambodian Riel (0.25 USD is worth around 1,000 Riel). Cambodia is a developing country, and I would advise increased caution when visiting as there have been reports of burglaries in hotel rooms. However, petty crimes such as purse snatching, which occur more often here than its Southeast Asian counterparts, are the most common. Always keep your bags between your legs when riding in a tuk-tuk, which I recommend instead of attempting to navigate the chaotic or unpaved roads with a rented motorbike. Tuk-tuk rides are incredibly cheap using Grab, Southeast Asia’s version of Uber.

Those flying into Cambodia typically land at Phnom Penh International Airport as it serves more destinations than the newly opened Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport. Calling a tuk-tuk or a taxi is the best way to get to your accommodation, while buses remain the most efficient way to travel between cities. 

Photo by Danielle Faviano-Angkor Wat Cambodia-best Asian countries to visit

 

Final Thoughts Regarding the Best Asian Countries to Visit

According to the World Population Review, Taiwan and Hong Kong are amongst the safest countries in Asia for women. Both countries rank just below the United States with Taiwan in the 38th spot and Hong Kong in the 39th. Thailand takes the 52nd spot on the list and sits amongst Greece and Argentina. Cambodia takes the 110th spot,tying with Egypt.

The hardest thing about deciding to take a trip as a solo female traveler is also seemingly the simplest: booking the actual trip. Once you do, you realize how liberating traveling alone can be. As mentioned above, most hostels in Asia offer all-female dorms. I suggest staying in one over an Airbnb to meet fellow travelers! People are always looking for buddies to have dinner or take an excursion with. Just keep your wits about you while abroad in the same way as you would in your home country—be wary of accepting drinks from strangers and take extra caution at night. When searching for a hostel, book one with storage lockers and bring a lock to protect your belongings while out in town.

Lastly, hundreds if not thousands of social media networks exist for travelers of all kinds, including solo women. Search on Facebook or Instagram for expat and travel groups in a country on your list. Seasoned travelers understand the daunting task of wanting to but needing an extra push, and they usually enjoy offering tips to newbies. I met a few friends this way years ago, and we always find time to connect if we are heading to the same region. Get on a plane, go, and thank yourself for doing it when you return!

Interested in more tips for solo travel? Check out this article about traveling alone over the holidays.

Mritunjai Rai Talks Indian Lifestyle

Indian lifestyle blogger Mritunjai RaiDreams Abroad is a global resource. We have members and readers all over the world. It is our goal to offer a platform for every age group. With this in mind, we were fascinated to discover Mritunjai Rai and his Indian lifestyle blog. Intrigued by his thoughts, we asked Mritunjai some questions in order to expand on his posts.

Before getting into the interview, we want to introduce you to our author’s Indian lifestyle. Mritunjai was born in a small town near Varanasi but has lived in the likes of Delhi, Chandigarh (Punjab) and Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh). He finally setting camp in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, which is a close-knit society. While he himself lives in a nuclear family, Mritunjai characterizes that an important aspect of Indian culture lies in joint families where people live together – from grandchildren, all the way to the grandparents. He does admit to some youthful longing to be out in the world independently, but he points out that as you get older; you realize how important it is to get together and share a meal with your family every day.

 

Of the 200+ languages spoken in India, which would be the easiest for a Westerner to learn and why?”

“Well… to each their own. There’s a learning curve for each of them, but if you’re entirely alien to the native dialect of India, I believe Hindi is the easiest. It is simple and rolls off the tongue (for the most part) and you can find someone in most states who would understand some of it. I couldn’t say for everyone, because I am bilingual and speak only Hindi and English. My mother, however, speaks Bengali as well, and I have noticed it shares some similarities with Hindi. So maybe I’ll alter your question a little and say if you do decide to learn an Indian language, maybe Hindi would be the more convenient option. 

That said, I’ve lived in places where they speak Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, and one thing that’s common with all the languages here is that they will all make you feel like you’re right at home.”

Which Indian language is the most difficult?”

“I can only give you my perspective, but I’ve always been scared to try my hand at South Indian Languages (Tamil, Telugu, and more), which is a shame because South India has some of the MOST beautiful places to visit. I’m a huge fan of meeting the locals and getting to know more about their Indian culture rather than doing the usual touristy stuff. This becomes easier if you know the regional dialect.”

Why are there more agony aunts than uncles? How much are you angling to change the status quo with the recent relationship article you uploaded to your Indian lifestyle blog?”

“I guess that can be broken down into two reasons. First one, being that women by their very nature are warmer and more empathetic. Of course, you’ll also find some men sharing that trait, but let’s go with the general trend. That makes it easier for people to open up and share their problems without the fear of being mocked or ridiculed.

Another reason could be that men being vulnerable is still shunned for some reason. This probably discourages a lot of men from taking up this task. 

But the landscape is rapidly changing, and I see more and more people, irrespective of their gender, speaking up and offering advice about life, relationships, and more! I do not think providing advice should be put in stereotypical boxes. If there is something that needs to be said, people need to say it. It’s the 21st century! 

Addressing the second part of your question, I did not write the Indian lifestyle blog to change the status quo, mostly because I do not see the world that way. I just know that a lot of my friends talk to me about their relationships, seeking perspective on how to navigate a situation. And, more often than not, it all comes down to the basic principles of communication, ethics, and decision making — the very things required to have a healthy work-life. I thought drawing a comparison between the two might be a fun read and may help people navigate their professional life better. Plus, there could be a lot of people going through the same thing and might find this helpful. But if that changes the status quo for the better, I’m all for it.”

Food in Sainjh Valley

People tend to divide Indian cuisine by north and south in terms of tandoor and paneer and dosas and vadas. What other regional variations are there? Is there an East-West division, too?

“I love this question. Mostly because I’m a big-time foodie. But calling it North Indian and South Indian cuisine might be too vague or high level. There are 28 states and eight union territories in India, all of which have some or the other cuisine that will make you drool. You already named a few from the North and the South, but let me tell you some of my personal favourites.

Go to Lucknow for some amazing Mughlai food and Delhi, for some really crazy street food. Punjabi food is ideal if you love spicy. And do NOT miss out on Bengali and Rajasthani sweets, you’ll be missing out too much. I could go on and on about these, but I’ll just leave you with this — when you visit India, be prepared to gain a few pounds before you go back. That is how we show our love!”

When writing about your visit to Pondicherry, you focused on capturing the essence of the place. How would you define your travel writing?”

“I suppose it’s like being lost in thought. Or childlike wonder. I know it probably sounds ridiculous. But I’ve read travel blogs that tell you about the ‘Seven best places to visit’ or ‘How to travel on a budget’ and that’s all very helpful, but I’ve never been able to look at traveling that way. 

My inclination is automatically towards the people and their Indian lifestyle. For example, I love how every restaurant in White Town (Pondicherry) closes by 9 or 10 PM, but post that is the best time to take a walk in the French colonies in the cool summer breeze. Or sit on the rocky beach and just relax and talk. There’s something about the sound of waves at night that makes you open up like nothing else. Travel should not be just about physical experience… but also an emotional one, where you get to reconnect with yourself and everything around you.”

If people wanted to discover a less touristy Taj Mahal, where would you recommend?”

“I wouldn’t. I’m not a very touristy kind of guy, but I do know that the Taj Mahal is one of a kind and therefore one of the wonders. It has a story that’s unique to it and a history that made it what it is. 

However, maybe you’d like Auroville. It is not as touristy and the concept of its foundation, its principles of humanity, and the vibe will win you over. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the place and it is one of the best travel decisions I ever made. Did you know that people from all over the world live there and money isn’t the primary driver? They value peace and the satisfaction of living above all else. At least that is my understanding of it. I might write a blog on it and take you on a virtual ride soon.”

In India you have the Hindu caste system. Combined with British rule, does that make the country one of the most class-conscious ones worldwide?”

“The caste system existed way before the British rule, but maybe got a little amplified in the politics of things. But if you think about it, the entire world is class conscious, in one way or another, isn’t it?

Let us break it down a little more so it’s easier to understand. Bear with me as I try to explain this.

The way I see it, the caste system is nothing but a certain subset of people deciding they are better than others, based on their origins or the means that they come from . Or treating the one from a ‘lower’ class differently, whether consciously or subconsciously. 

Now, if you think about it, how is it any different than the ethnic ‘cleansing’ going on in Palestine or the colour discrimination that exists in America? 

As people who hope to progress, it falls to us to create a culture where people feel happy, safe, and, most important of all, equal. Thankfully the landscape is changing on that front as well, as we hear people from all walks of life standing up for each other. It really warms my heart. 

As for India, while people may still belong to certain castes, it does not hold much significance, at least in urban areas. You will, however, still find traces of it in suburban or rural areas. 

It is centuries of conditioning that we can hopefully strip away completely. And not just here, but across the entire world. Our planet would be a much better place if people just looked at skill and intent instead of caste, colour, gender, or sexual orientation of others.”

Your third post of 2021 on your Indian lifestyle blog looks back on 2020. In it, you mentioned upskilling. What new smarts did you add in Twenty-Twenty?”

Ah, I’ve been trying to work on myself a lot this year. Looking at the lockdown as an opportunity to add to my skill set, I started this Indian lifestyle blog in January. I also did a course on strategic content marketing, got back into the habit of reading, tried to make and edit videos and I have set a goal to learn basic French by the end of this year. I also really want to learn about financial planning and investing. The idea is not to get everything done. It is to get the ball rolling and cultivate a lifestyle of constant learning and improvement.

Indian Art Exhibit

In what ways is art magical for you?”

“In the way that it can transport you to places without you having to move from your couch.

  • A good book can make you travel across not only land, but also time.
  • A good painting can help you feel a lot of emotions at once.
  • A good movie or play can make you forget where you are.
  • A beautiful song can relax you or pump you up.

Art in any of its forms is magical to me.”

You compared 2020 to a bootcamp of a teacher. How does it compare to 2021?”

“Well, 2020 taught us so much, a lot of which you already read in my Indian lifestyle blog. And I feel like if we paid attention, it was a great trial run for 2021. If we’d taken the lessons from 2020, we could have handled this year much better. 

I guess 2021 for me has been humbling. The COVID-19 situation in India is crazy and one of the worst crises this country has ever seen. This tells us a few things:

  • Human arrogance is a dangerous thing. We think nature won’t strike back, until it does. Reminds me of something I heard — the Earth is borrowed, not owned by us. We’re the visitors. Let’s try and be decent ones so our stay isn’t cut short.
  • When it comes down to it, you don’t fight for materialistic things. You fight to breathe.
  • We often forget this in the time of sheer darkness that there is also a lot of light in this world. I see people in my country trying to help each other purely out of humanity. Our neighbouring countries trying to help the best way they can. The only way we get through this is together.
  • Suddenly the ‘Please put on your own oxygen masks before you help others’ announcement in flights has got a whole new meaning. It’s important to take a step back and make sure you’re okay. You cannot help others if your own mental health is shattering.
  • And finally, let’s not forget all of this when it’s over. Let’s use this to be kinder to each other and to nature.”

Final thoughts on living life with meaning

We want to capture the essence of a country. So we are interested in learning about Mritunjai’s Indian lifestyle. He considers India a true democracy where people have an opinion and are not afraid to voice it. The past few months have also seen people rally together to support each other. This shows the true spirit of the country – that you can find family even outside of your family. However he counsels against abusing this freedom.

Mritunjai says that any freedom comes with a responsibility to be smarter and more sensitive to others and their individual plights. While it is very easy to read a headline on social media and start condemning people, it is wiser to try and get to the bottom of the issue before spreading hate online. This is true for any human being, but in a country as big and diverse in population as India, the chances of conflicts increase multifold. And so it falls to every individual to be kinder and wiser to their fellow people.

If this interview has piqued your interest, head over to the Resources section of Dreams Abroad. Here, you’ll find our VLOGS where the great and the good champion their causes. This is also the home for Recommendations where we share some of our favorite blogs and websites.

by Leesa Truesdell

How to Teach in Thailand

In our last interview, Diego Ambrosio talked about wrapping up his school year by giving final exams. He was waiting to hear more about the COVID-19 instructions from the Thai government. He recalled his first day of class and how much he had grown as a professional. Diego took us on a typical day-to-day life of a Thai teacher and shared his teaching methods and his overall classroom instruction. 

In our final interview, Diego talks about why Thailand and how to overcome initial and recurring obstacles a teacher might encounter during their first years of teaching. 

What has been the most important thing you learned while teaching abroad so far?

“I would say that the first thing I learned was certainly the ability to adapt to a culture and a way of life diametrically opposed to how I lived in Italy or England.

Hand in hand with this, I have learned to acquire greater self-confidence and greater courage in accepting the “great teaching challenge.” This is not simply teaching, but teaching through a language that is not your mother tongue.”

Diego Ambrosio and his School Director

Have you accomplished your goals while living in Phuket?

“It was not easy at all. I believe that together with a large organizational component, a bit of luck was also needed. I, fortunately, had the opportunity to meet the right people at the right time.”

Planning a new life in a decidedly distant place from your native land requires a lot of preparation.

“First of all, you must consider a minimum budget available to “start the engine,” let’s say. Without an appropriate budget, moving abroad is like trying to start a car without gasoline. Obviously the more gasoline you have available, the longer you can travel before having to refuel. “Refueling” can only be dispensed by a job. Therefore, you need to know how to organize your resources the best you can and have a roadmap calendar for each day of the week, including small or large objectives to complete.

Acquaria Museum

The second really important thing is to be aware of the baggage you are leaving with, which doesn’t just include clothes :). It also, and above all, includes your curriculum vitae and accredited professional skills. Without these, I could hardly have entered the world of teaching in Thailand. So, within the time that was granted to me, I followed all the objectives. I never broke down or became lazy. Whenever I could, I tried to get more and more information. I scoured the Internet and asked people I met every day.

This resourcefulness, together with my “good nose,” was fundamental in being able to slowly plan my future and to transform uncertainties into solid affirmations.”

What has been the biggest challenge of living abroad?

“The biggest challenge has certainly been to find a job in a country with very few job opportunities for foreigners. It should not be forgotten that in Thailand, most professions are reserved for Thai people only. The few remaining opportunities for foreigners are divided between four or five sectors, which fortunately includes English language teaching.

If I had wasted the opportunity to teach English in Thailand I would have had little or no reason to stay in Thailand. The lack of job diversity is one of the main reasons it’s such a challenge to live in Thailand compared to other countries that offer a wider variety of work.”

What advice would you give on how to deal with that challenge?

“As I explained before, this challenge can only be overcome by rigorously accomplishing a series of small objectives. Together with a well-managed budget, professional background, and a back-up organization to support you will increase your success rate. No matter what, there’s always a small chance of failure. However, your chances of succeeding will be much higher if you face the adventure with an organized conscience.”

Do you have any advice for other teachers about to travel abroad to teach for the first time?

“A specific piece of advice that I have not yet expressed is to try, at least in the beginning, to not to rush towards opportunities that are too demanding. It’s more appropriate to always start with small experiments. Don’t travel too far. Test your very first experience in a new country somewhere with a similar social system.

M3 students

I tested my endurance and adaptability initially in England, a country very close to Italy. I managed to gather positive energy and the experience necessary for a bigger adventure. That first step into a new country was the one that brought me to live in Thailand today.”

How has teaching abroad helped with your overall professional goals?

“Teaching abroad has certainly helped me a lot in perfecting my professionalism within the teaching sector. Above all, teaching is itself a job that enriches you daily, not only with exciting experiences but also culturally. The countless considerations of the ever-changing English Language and all the new information I receive every day slowly complete the puzzle of my knowledge. Every day I become more and more confident in myself, and therefore, in my ability to teach English.”

What was your most memorable moment at your school or in class this year?

“It is curious to note that my colleague Bethy, a member of Dreams Abroad and a great friend, and I share a similar indelible memory linked to the moments spent so far in school. I will never forget the day my pupils of the Mattayom Four-level organized a surprise party on my birthday.

It all started with an organized false “skit.” One of my pupils pretended to be sick on the floor while another student immediately ran to my office to ask me for help. Once I arrived, I immediately started to give aid to the pupil. I lifted his legs and asked for a glass of sugar water to help him recover. I was in a state of total panic and felt extremely worried.

It was at that moment that a group of students gathered behind me with the cake and candles ready, singing a very excited and emotional “Happy Birthday.” I had tears in my eyes from a double dose of joy. Realizing that the ill student was just a joke and that they had all gathered there and planned this out exclusively for me is a memory that I’ll treasure forever.”

What parts of your teaching will change next year and what will you keep the same?

“The teaching method is generally not subject to change. In this case, I’m referring to the style, the voice, the stage presence, and my way of presenting my lessons.

What normally is subject to change every year are the courses I teach. They may be courses I have never taught before. This variety leads me to constantly organize new projects and new work material. It’s usually a very exciting and motivating task, since teachers are the main actor and director of what will be presented and what will contribute to the student’s educational growth.

I felt particularly interested when I received the chance to create a “Creative Writing & Speaking” course for students of level M5 and M6. In this course, I inserted one of my favorite fairy tale authors, the Greek fabulist Aesop, with enrichment from figurative language (figures of speech). I also assigned a final project that required a theatrical representation of a fairy tale.”

Waterfall in Thailand

What did you do over the Thai teacher vacation in April?

“Unfortunately, as for the vast majority of people around the world, I spent the month of April under lockdown. The Thai government decided to quarantine the nation in order to contain the global pandemic triggered by the then-novel coronavirus. Spending the holidays cooped up at home is not exactly what anyone would hope for. This was especially so in my case, as I was really looking forward to returning to Italy to spend a little time with my family members I only have the opportunity to see once a year.

Nonetheless, we will survive this. The human being is invincible and always finds a solution to everything. I am sure that we will find the strength and the right temperament to overcome even this sad period of our lives.”

What is the most important tip you can give someone wanting to teach abroad?

“If you really intend to teach abroad, remember that motivation and planning are the essential elements to undertake this choice. Motivation represents the first real starting point. Ask yourself if teaching is really a main goal in your life, or if it is a fallback to achieve other purposes, such as being able to stay in a country and explore it. The most delicate phase is planning, since it includes the collection of all useful and fundamental information before departure. A few examples of things you need to know about include your itinerary, and all the information you can get about your new home country in terms of work, laws, health, lifestyle, customs, traditions, climate, cost of living, and more.

Finally, you must think about the economic budget required for the first few months. You must plan this in advance in order to cover any surprise situations that may occur. The greater the starting budget, the better your quality of life will be, along with fewer worries to overcome.

Finally… I cannot help but to wish you a lot (and I mean a lot!) of luck! :)” 

thai School Formal

Wrap-Up of What It Is Like to Teach in Thailand

Diego will be teaching online intermittently until July. His regular school year starts July 1, 2020, when he resumes classes. He is waiting to hear more instructions from the Thai government and what actions will occur next due to Covid-19. He is optimistic that the future will allow him to teach in Thailand again. Diego has really enjoyed his experience in Thailand and is hopeful that the coming school year will provide another great year of professional growth and memories.

Krabi sunset teach in thailand

 

Day-To-Day Life Teaching at a Thai School

by Leesa Truesdell

Diego AmbrosioDiego Ambrosio and I had the chance to catch up for his second interview Finding the Perfect International Job. He had participated in a few Thai regional tournaments since we last spoke. He went to Bangkok, Thailand to judge a spelling bee competition and a group of his students participated in a music competition in Pang Na. His group won a gold and silver medal in the competition! He wrapped up his school year and is getting ready for exams. Diego has learned so much about what it is like teaching at a Thai school over the last year. He remembers when he first arrived and how much he has grown as a person and as a professional since that day. 

Read more about what Diego said about his day-to-day life teaching at a Thai school: 

What is a typical day at your school like? 

Each public school in Thailand generally follows the same morning routines before class starts. In my school, students must be present in the main square starting from 7:30 until about 8:10 in order to observe and respect the various routine ceremonies. These include a display of rigorous respect for the Thai National Anthem in a “Stand to Attention” position and music performed by the school band, a Buddhist prayer, and finally a list of ten “commandments” to always remember. The morning ceremony ends with the school jingle played by the music band. Each lesson lasts about 50 minutes (a period) and the school day consists of eight periods. Teachers must stay in the office until 16:30. The school entitles teachers to about one hour of lunch break. There is also a school canteen if necessary.

 

How many people do you work with? How many classes do you teach?

 We currently have nine teachers of different nationalities In the Foreign Teachers English department. There is one teacher from Poland, one from France, one from Morocco, one from Australia, three from the Philippines and one from Canada. The Canadian teacher is the coordinator of the English department. This year I received an assigned eighteen hours per week teaching eight classes for a total of five different courses. However, our contract provides for the possibility of having to cover up to 20 hours of teaching per week. In any case, we must cover the hours of the other teachers if they miss class due to illness or personal reasons.

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

I consider myself a lucky person from this point of view because I was able to immediately establish excellent friendships with my work colleagues.  I consider myself a naturally sociable and peaceful person, as well as extremely empathetic. Sometimes we organized meetings outside of school and ate together on special days of the year. For example, last December 26th, we all had lunch together on Christmas Day.

thai teachers

What is your favorite part of the day? Why?

The most pleasant moment of the day is around the first afternoon hours, after lunch. I usually go for a digestive walk around the school campus. The campus has various nature trails. The school has become a lovely place because it sits inside a beautiful natural reserve of mangrove trees.

How is the material being taught to students? Do you use a specific method?

My school follows the conventional teaching method found throughout almost all Thailand English language teaching programs. The lesson plan includes four main phases that we call “warm-up,” “present,” “practice,” and “produce.” 

teacher abroad

The “warm-up” phase is generally short-lived (five to ten minutes) and includes the “call of attendances,” “introduction to the lesson,” a possible “ice-breaker” or “review of the previous lesson.” The second phase, “present,”  is the one in which the lesson is presented. Teachers explain the most important contents in this phase, through the use of projectors, audio-visual material, and obviously, the blackboard. The third phase, “practice,” consists of guided exercises to understand the contents explained, through individual or interactive exercises. Teachers must constantly monitor these activities and assist students the best they can. The final phase, “produce,”  is the final production of the learning contents learned by students. It can take place through the presentation of projects or individual works aimed at the development and improvement of oral skills and content presentation.

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

I always prepare my lessons with care. Preparing ahead helps me feel well-organized. I have everything ready well in advance so that I don’t have to run into unpleasant or unexpected events. As I explained above, I prepare my lessons through a specific template provided by the school which includes the four main processing phases. In addition, I also like to always look for new ideas and materials. Thanks to the Internet, I can always have an endless source of teaching material available. 

Do you work at a bilingual school? Does the school teach English as a subject or throughout all classes?


The English language is taught in all the classes. This means my school is ultimately a kind of bilingual school. However, there are several types of classes that have access to different levels of teaching quality. The two main programs of study for the English language are called the “regular program” and the “English program.” The regular program includes the teaching of the English language, but not through foreign native English-speaking teachers. On the other hand, the English program provides for the presence of native speakers, therefore the enrollment cost is significantly higher.

What goals or standards are classroom teachers using to measure the performance of their students?


Like any educational institution in the world, Thailand’s school system has parameters for the student assessment during the course of the entire school year. Teachers evaluate students at the end of each semester. My school has two semesters per year. Each student can earn a total value of 100 points. They can earn these with scores from two main units (25 points + 25 points) plus a mid-term exam for a max of 20 points and a final exam with a maximum score of 30 points. Based on the total score obtained, the student will be able to access a grade ranking that ranges from a minimum of 1.5 to a maximum of 4.

I want to clarify an important detail of the Thai school system, namely that students cannot be rejected or repeat the same school year. The school promotes each and every student, no matter what. Whenever a student earns a score lower than 50/100, the teacher becomes responsible for taking care of the student by organizing an extra lesson, project, or exam for the student. The student must complete them as proof of resolution of the low score. Even if the student fails to successfully complete this phase, he will still be promoted. This aspect makes us reflect a lot, since it shows a big flaw in the process of education and growth of the Thai child. There is a very high possibility of an unprepared student reaching the upper levels of an academic course.

Looking back at our first Teach Abroad interview, what have you learned most about yourself in the classroom this year?

There is always something new to learn with each passing year. I can still remember who I was as soon as I arrived at this school and how, day after day, I managed to improve the quality of my teaching together with improved creativity and constant participation within various school events.

Recently, for example, I learned that the morale with which you start your lessons has a decisive impact on the progression of the lesson and on the learning that follows from the students. So it is really essential to always start in the right gear and have the best intentions.

Wrap Up Working at a Thai School

Due to the recent coronavirus pandemic, the minister of Thailand mandated that schools in Thailand be shut down until May. Diego wrapped up his final week of classes by giving final exams. He had originally planned to go back to Italy in April for his break. Since Italy is a major epicenter of the coronavirus, Diego will not be able to go home and plans to remain in Thailand for now.

Stay tuned for more on Diego’s Thailand teach abroad adventure.

 

What It’s Like Teaching English in Cambodia

by Edmond Gagnon

Michael CarterIn the first part of Michael Carter’s interview, he told us how and why he chose Cambodia as his new home. He targeted Southeast Asia but did not have a particular country when he first decided to come. Then, he visited a friend he’d made from Germany who was living in Cambodia. Seeing Cambodia’s gorgeous atmosphere and rich culture, he immediately applied for a job there and the rest is history. 

Here is the second part of his interview teaching English in Cambodia.

What is a typical day at your school like? 

“A typical teaching day for me begins at 7:40 a.m. and finishes at 4:10 p.m. Many schools run early evening classes as well, but not where I currently work. There is a long gap between morning and afternoon classes, between 10:30 a.m. and 1:20 p.m.). This is mainly to coincide with typical hours of Khmer schools. Most students study for a half-day at Khmer school. Students from wealthy families who can afford English schools spend the other half of their day there.”

How many people do you work with? How many classes do you teach?

The place I work employs a lot of people for various duties. There are probably about fifty to sixty teachers on staff. The day is divided into six classes — three before and three after midday. I teach anywhere from four to six classes a day, which adds up to twenty-four teaching hours per week. Most schools here use a twenty to thirty hour teaching week as a base. Notably, the afternoon classes do not have the same students as the morning.”

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

Teaching English in Cambodia“I tend to work independently most of the time. This is partly because I am the only one teaching the courses I do teach (i.e. sociology and psychology). But for other subjects, there are typically three teachers teaching the same thing and they often share ideas and materials. We also have a computer database where teachers can store and access lesson plans or worksheets that have been shared.”

What is your favorite part of the day? Why?

 “Quitting time — 4:10 p.m. Reasons are obvious I would think.”

How is the material being taught to students? Is there a specific method being used?

“I think most schools are looking for similar teaching styles, but I certainly would say it’s student-centered. We are meant to keep the TTT (Teacher Talking Time) to an absolute minimum. Group work and pair work are preferable to independent studying. Encourage learner interaction and incorporate critical thinking into the activities whenever possible. I create a lot of supplementary material and often look for short video segments on YouTube which may add another dimension to the lesson.”

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

One of many city temples“You can’t always stick to a lesson plan to the last detail, but you should have something planned anyway. Sometimes the timing can be tricky, but you don’t want to have flat or inactive moments.”

I always plan some type of warmer (five to ten minutes) to bring the learners on board. This doesn’t necessarily have to be associated with the material in the lesson. It could simply be a short competition of some kind. The purpose is to grab the attention of your ‘audience’. Think of watching a film at the cinema — or reading a story. The first few minutes of a film are crucial to catch the interest of the viewer, just as a writer needs a ‘hook’ to make the reader want to continue. Teaching isn’t any different. Get their attention, wind them up, and then let them go.

After the warmer, give brief but clear instructions for the class activities. This is your time to teach any new material… but don’t ramble on for too long.

The rest, and longest part of the class must allow students to interact/practice etc. Depending on what you have taught, give a short (five minute) recap/review of the lesson’s key points at the end and assign extra practice (homework) from time-to-time.”

Do you work at a bilingual school? Is English being taught as a subject or throughout all classes at the school? Describe the ways English is being implemented. 

“Our school is strictly English only. We don’t simply teach English, we teach subjects in English. Of course, they learn their basics of the language there as well. However, they study social sciences, history, geography, computer, sports, etc. — all in English.

There are other schools which do just teach English language as a class, though. These places usually have early evening classes that cater to young adults after work.

Our school operates a Khmer language school as well and some students study half a day at each.”

What are the standards classroom teachers use to measure the performance of their students?

“Testing mainly. I personally think students are tested too often but this is what the Cambodian parents want and expect. We also make a part of their score based on speaking from day-to-day class activities. Once a month they are given a project or assignment connected to what they’ve been studying. A mark is given for this as well.

At the beginner levels, we stress fluency. Once they’ve attained that, the higher levels base their scores on both fluency and accuracy.”

Does your school have a set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help their students succeed?

Stone Masons at work

I’ve probably touched upon these already, but in a nutshell:
  • Critical thinking skills. Students need to be able to both think and express their ideas and opinions. It isn’t about simply remembering a lot of facts and formulas.
  • Social skills. Cambodians tend to have tightly-knit families. Unlike in most western countries, teenagers do not go out or just hang out with friends. They almost always go out as a family unit. Group work at school affords them an opportunity to interact with non-family members. Social media is perhaps changing things a bit, but not necessarily in a positive way.
  • Confidence. Unlike some schools, we do not automatically pass everybody in order to continue collecting their money. Pushing a student to a higher level when they are not ready is wrong. Students will soon realize their skills are inferior to others and this will kill their desire to participate. Getting good grades is something wonderful for younger learners to show their parents. Giving some verbal praise from time-to-time can do wonders, especially for older, less confident students.

Looking back at the first Teach Abroad interview, what have you learned most about yourself since first being in the classroom this year?

“I have been teaching for around twenty years and for about the first fifteen of those years, I didn’t teach anyone younger than the age of about seventeen or eighteen. It was almost exclusively young adults under thirty. This was both in Indonesia and Cambodia. I now teach kids as young as eleven and twelve and up to the age of seventeen or eighteen. One thing I’ve had to adjust to was having patience dealing with young, wandering attention spans. My partner is Cambodian and we have three young children together so I have become used to this fairly naturally.

Something I’ve known all along but continue to practice is changing up the way I conduct my lessons. Yes, I could replay what I’ve done in the past, though I would find that boring. Keeping things fresh is a key to retaining job interest. Nobody likes a mundane job.”

What It’s Like Teaching English in Cambodia

As you are reading this, Michael is seeking shelter from the 37°C temperatures that don’t normally come until at least a month from now. If you have any questions about teaching English in Cambodia, or the country itself, please don’t hesitate to ask.

How I Traveled to Cambodia and Stayed to Teach

Harold Michael Carter(Harold) Michael Carter was born and raised in Stratford, Ontario. He studied journalism and discovered at an early age his affliction of wanderlust. Michael furthered his education in life by backpacking his way through Europe. The most important thing he learned from traveling was that he needed to do more of it. 

I met Michael through extended family, when we visited Stratford, home of the Shakespeare Theatre. When he wasn’t working as a manager or bartender in town, he shared photographs and stories of his travels abroad. We bonded over beer, wine, good food and tales of far away places.  

He left Canada for Cambodia in January, 2000, using Phnom Penh as a base from which he could explore Southeast Asia. In 2005 he left for Indonesia, where there was plenty of work back then. He managed to travel and visit home in 2006 and then returned to Cambodia in 2007. He still resides, teaches, and travels from Cambodia today. 

I interviewed Michael Carter to offer an insight into how traveling and teaching abroad can turn into a life lived abroad. 

 

Why did you choose to teach in Cambodia?

“I didn’t choose this country in particular, but I did target Southeast Asia. The main reason was that I wanted a base for traveling in this part of the world. I had previously visited Thailand and initially considered moving there. However, I came to Cambodia to visit a German friend who was living here at the time. I applied for a job just for the hell of it and the rest is history.”

Have you ever taught before? If not, what were you doing before you decided to move abroad?

“This was my first teaching job abroad. After roaming the globe for many years, I decided I wanted to base myself some place other than Canada. I was inspired by a writer from Montréal whom I met in the Czech Republic. He was writing and teaching in Prague. I thought to myself, “This is exactly what I want to do — write and travel and be able to financially support this lifestyle.” I had recently severed a relationship and no longer felt ‘tied down.’ I returned to Canada to work for a few months and by the end of the year I was Asia-bound.”

What did you think teaching would be like? Where are you teaching now?

“I thought teaching would be an ideal venue to interact with local people. It was a new venture and was somewhat exciting in the early days. I probably followed the script in the beginning but soon developed my own style. I am currently teaching in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where I reside with my family.”

Carter Family

How did you prepare for your teaching job? What steps did you take?

“I knew I would need some sort of certification and so I bunked with a friend in Toronto and took an evening and weekend TESOL course. If giving advice on the matter, today I would suggest taking a month-long CELTA course. TEFL is accepted in Cambodia but the best schools are now looking for CELTA certification.”  

What are your perceptions of Cambodia during your time there?

“Cambodia is an interesting country as it is evolving so rapidly. While many things have improved, many aspects of the country endeared me more when I first set foot here twenty years ago. To be honest, if I just arrived for the first time today, I doubt I would choose to live here. I now have established a family here and so now I will always have one foot here at least. Where would I choose instead of Cambodia? I suppose if I were single and starting over with Southeast Asia in mind, I would choose Vietnam.”

Angkor Wat Cambodia

What are your goals while you are abroad?

“Life long goals continually change. Travel opportunities would have been my initial answer to this. I now have a Cambodian partner and we have three children together. My goal now is to establish a reasonably secure base for them before I retire. At that time, I hope to pick up with my travels again. (With Cambodia as my base — health permitting). I have taught here and in Indonesia and was a whisker away from taking a job in Azerbaijan. However, I no longer have the desire to take a job in another country.”

What has been your most difficult time there?

“Tough question. I really haven’t experienced too many difficulties. I suppose becoming a financial prisoner is the main issue. Teaching pays well in some countries (such as South Korea & Japan), but the cost of living can be high in those countries. The cost of living is relatively low in Cambodia but the average rate of pay for teachers coincides with that. Most teachers can live here comfortably so long as they don’t expect to have any money left over to move on. It’s sort of like collecting a welfare cheque — it pays the bills with not much leftover. The other issue that could become a difficulty is health care. Cambodia is lagging behind other countries in the region in this department. This is not the place to be if one has health problems.”

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh Cambodia

What has been your best experience?

“Although I might not have thought so at the time, I suppose it was when I took on the task of being an adviser to a Cambodian senator who was overseeing the ASEAN conference his country was hosting. That is my best memory from a professional point of view.

From a personal point of view, I would have to say that collectively I have met a lot of interesting people here. This experience has shaped and reshaped my ideas over the years.”

How do you feel about the culture there? Do you feel you have immersed yourself into the culture?

“Cultural differences and cultural sensitivity will always be an interesting, yet sometimes challenging part of the relocation. I lived in Indonesia for a little more than a year and seemed to fit right in. In Cambodia, I found it more perplexing in the beginning. I suppose I will never fully be immersed in this culture because differences always come up with child-rearing strategies for example. My partner and I are often at odds as to how to raise our children. Essentially we have the best interest of the kids in mind but we have very opposing tactics as to how to achieve this. Cambodia is predominantly a Buddhist nation and Buddhism allows for tolerance. It is pretty much live and let live here — even though my ways may seem curious to others and vice-versa.”

Mekong River Phnom Penh

What advice would you give to other participants about their first year? What are some of the things they must do, and things they absolutely must not do?

Bousra Waterfall Cambodia

“My advice may differ from some you might hear, but here goes. Try to find out information about the schools first and then try for a job at the BEST possible school. (Not necessarily best paying, but one with a good reputation and proven record of longevity). Some people might suggest going for any job and making rookie mistakes at a lesser institute and using that as a stepping stone. Bull to that. All you will do is acquire bad habits. Work with the best or don’t work at all.

Arrive with enough money to sustain yourself for at least two to three months. Schools usually pay once or twice a month. Even if you land a job immediately, you won’t see money for at least a month and you will have initial expenses to deal with.

Finding a School

Most reputable schools are not interested in fly-by-nights. Get a place to live as soon as possible — not just a guesthouse address. Many new arrivals have the attitude they will stay in a cheap guesthouse until they find work. My advice is to look like you are serious about staying and provide an address for your potential employer. If you are only looking for a six-month stop-over to collect some travel cash then you could do better looking at a lesser operation with a guesthouse address. But if you seriously want to spend some time in the country, then present yourself as someone who might stick around. No reputable place of employment wants a high turnover rate of employees.

I’ve taught in two countries in Southeast Asia – Indonesia and Cambodia. In both countries, local transportation is relatively cheap but distances between potential employers are often far and quite spread out and transportation costs while job searching will add up quickly. If you have money, consider getting a small motorbike. If not (as was my case), pick up a cheap, used bicycle. You can get one in Phnom Penh for around $35 US. If you’re old school like me, sling a briefcase over your shoulder with your CVs and go from place to place.”

Stay tuned for Edmond Gagnon’s second interview with Michael Carter on how he traveled to teach in Cambodia. They will be sharing more great adventures with his experiences at his school. To find out more about Edmond Gagnon, visit his website.

by Edmond Gagnon

Finding the Perfect International Job

 

diego ambrosioDiego Ambrosio is from Catanzaro, Italy and is thirty-three years old. He received a master’s degree in foreign language and literature for English and Spanish languages. Immediately following his degree, he volunteered internationally with Worldwide Opportunities Organic Farms for two months. The first farm he worked at was in Denmark and the second was in Norway. Diego described this experience as his first real challenge outside of his home country that helped strengthen his character. 

After, he worked at two international jobs before settling in Phuket, Thailand. The first job was with the Costa Crociere cruise line, where he worked seven days a week for twelve-hour shifts. He did this for two years until he realized he wanted to be a bit more settled on land. Diego enjoyed the hospitality industry, so he decided to seek the “Londoner” life and headed to London.

His second job was at a hotel as a night manager for one-and-a-half years in front of Kings Cross St. Pancras. Then, he transferred to The Royal Park Hotel for seven months. He got a bad case of food poisoning and was very ill. He realized he missed the good quality of food, family, and weather back home in Italy. After he recovered, he moved home, and took a couple of months to roam the wilderness (literally). He soaked up the clean air, ate good food, and then decided to find an international job in education and move to Phuket, Thailand. 

Meet Diego: 

Why did you choose to teach abroad in Thailand?

“During my previous work on cruise ships, I had the opportunity to travel a lot and visit different countries. It was a great opportunity to understand their cultures and lifestyles and was a bridge into a fully international job. 

Once I reached Thailand, and, in particular, Phuket, I felt mesmerized. The beauty of its surrounding nature and its mild weather was almost unbelievable. Above all, though, I felt delighted by the light-heartedness and humble lifestyle of the people, who are always friendly and smiling. I wasn’t wrong at all when I made my choice. Every time my students meet me, I am greeted with a smile and profound respect.”

Have you ever taught before? If not, what were you doing before you decided to move abroad?

“Although my undergraduate and graduate studies in languages and modern literature perfectly fit the impending idea of being a teacher, the process of becoming a full-time teacher in Italy was quite complex. Instead, I bravely decided to start my working career for a period of time volunteering on an organic farm in Denmark on behalf of the international WWOOF Association (World Wide Opportunity on Organic Farms). This amazing and enlightening life experience shaped my temper and made me ready to face any challenge in the future. It was also the first real-work experience that marked my first move beyond the Italian borders.”

denmark wwoof world wide opportunity on organic farms

What did you think teaching abroad would be like? Where are you teaching? 

“When I decided to take up the teaching profession, I honestly didn’t think about what it would be like teaching abroad. I had no terms of comparison before teaching in Italy. Nonetheless, I was surely aware that dealing with a culture diametrically opposed to the West would have required a different approach in terms of school organization and linguistic communication.

Right now, I am currently a foreign English teacher in Thailand — precisely in the beautiful province of Phuket.”

How did you prepare for your international job teaching abroad? What steps have you taken? 

“When making the decision to teach abroad it is good and useful to carry out online research about the country of interest. It is especially important to research all the bureaucratic aspects and prerequisites required to perform the job according to the law. 

For a non-native speaker, currently, any government school requires four prerequisites before applying:

  1. Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in any subject
  2. 120 hours TESOL/TEFL certificate (possibly with included OTP – Observation Teaching Practice)
  3. TOEIC examination (valid two years) with a score not less than 650
  4. Recent Criminal Records Check (from within the last six years) from your own country and legally translated into the English language 

Fortunately, when I began to apply, I already almost completed all the prerequisites required. 

Although my degree was in languages, ​​I needed TEFL certification. I did a lot of research to see if there were accredited schools in Phuket able to issue this certification. The great news is that this school exists, is highly professional, and is managed by an extraordinary team of qualified people. Some of the team members include Eric from Minneapolis, a passionate expert in training teachers since 2007, and Simon from London who has been training teachers since 2004.

tefl international jobs

Thanks to these people, together with my constant motivation and commitment, I was able to prepare an effective curriculum and find a school in less than a month from the date of obtaining the certificates. My visa then converted into a work visa through school support and I received the work permit.”

What are your perceptions of Thailand so far? 

“In these first two years, I have been able to notice and understand different positive and negative aspects, as one is able to do in any country in the world. Thailand is a fascinating country, welcoming and full of beautiful people. There are breathtaking landscapes and authentic traditions. However, although my desire for full integration is high (especially seeing as I’ve been with my Thai girlfriend for almost two years now and we currently live together), I currently have the perception of always being “outside the circle.”

I constantly feel like I receive harsher treatment when I have to deal with the strict regulations and laws for foreigners. Although the country has quickly achieved formidable economic goals, quality of life, and welfare, corruption is still very high. More than that, 40-year-old outdated laws remain unchanged but continue to see enforcement. Plus, the government’s support for pension funds is practically non-existent when compared to western countries.”

What are your goals while you are abroad at your international job?

“I believe my main goals are the same as most of humanity, in that there is a constant pursuit of happiness and a peaceful life as far as possible from the stresses produced by the hectic modern society. If, on the other hand, I had to refer to smaller goals, it would certainly be that of pursuing a brilliant teaching career and the ability to travel more often. I really would like to discover and learn as much as possible about this enchanting country.”

What has been the most difficult since you arrived in Thailand? 

“Apart from the classic initial food intolerances and the tropical weather impact, the greatest difficulties I have faced so far were during the initial stress of my first month. I had to stay in a hotel and face numerous expenses. It was absolutely necessary to plan everything correctly to not be in trouble.”

What has been the best experience?

“It is difficult to define the best experience during my two (very intense) years abroad. Fortunately, I was able to live through several beautiful experiences. However, if I had to choose one I’d say the emotions and excitement I felt before my first class on my first day of teaching, which were invigorating. I felt a renewed strength within myself. For the first time, I could finally spread my knowledge. I loved the idea of perhaps having contributed to the success of the future aspirations of the most enterprising students.”

teaching abroad

How do you feel about the culture so far? Do you feel like you have immersed yourself into the culture?

“I believe that I will never cease to immerse myself in this exciting and profoundly different culture. I have new emotions every day experiencing it. The linguistic aspect always remains the most arduous goal to achieve. The Thai language consists of 44 basic consonants that represent 21 distinct consonant sounds. Thai is a tonal language with five tones (and the tones matter!). The tone of a syllable is determined by a combination of the class of consonant, the type of syllable (open or closed), the tone marker and the length of the vowel. As for the social aspect, I must say that it is very easy to make good friends with the Thai people. It is impossible to stop discovering and understanding new life behaviors and habits of these smiling and carefree people.”

A New Life in Asia Because of an International Job

Diego enjoys his international job in education. His new life in Asia has brought him joy both professionally and personally. He explained some of the differences in the school calendar that impact his life. However, overall, he feels very pleased with his life and job abroad.

Thailand has a school calendar unique from the Western part of the globe. They begin their school year in May and finish in April. They have two breaks over the months of October and April. Diego goes back to Italy in October each year. He works for a government school, which is Buddhist. This means that he typically works through the month of December. He does not get the Christmas holiday off if the school is Buddhist. Some schools in Thailand give the holiday off, however, it depends on the school and its religious orientation. Regardless, Diegos’s school gets December 31 and January 1 off for a holiday. 

Stay tuned for his part two interview in January and his final interview before school starts again in May 2020. 

by Leesa Truesdell