Finding a TEFL job in Hanoi, Vietnam!

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Finding a job in Hanoi, Vietnam was incredibly easy. Much easier than those days we spent strolling from school to school in the sweltering heat trying to find a job in Thailand! I’d heard Vietnam is the place to be if you want to teach English but didn’t realise just how much of a demand there is for native English teachers. Looking online before I left Thailand, I was amazed at how many job vacancies I saw. However the reviews were less than impressive. I’ve heard awful stories where people have taken jobs before they’ve arrived and realised they work for a horrible company. Or working so many hours teaching to then not get paid by their employer. I’ve heard of bad experiences so was not looking forward to this one bit!

I decided to post a speculative message on the Hanoi massive facebook group to see if there were any upcoming vacancies for reputable companies. I had a loads and I mean loads of message telling me to send my resume but I wasn’t convinced they were reliable companies. You see the same people posting their vacancies over and over again and you start to become wary of them, so I decided to steer well clear. One girl recommend APAX English so I applied and had a Skype interview scheduled for the next week, whilst I was still in Thailand.

Passed the interview and I was so happy to have been offered the job. I had to have training for a week which was pretty intense. It’s for a language centre working with children from 5-15 years old which is perfect for me and my previous experience. No lesson planning, I don’t know if you quite got that, NO lesson planning! When I heard this I was sold! I spent so much time in Thailand planning lessons and developing my own curriculum for some classes that this seemed like a massive relief!

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Using a smart board so there’s no lesson planning!

I’ve been working in my centre now for the last 2 months. It’s a new centre I’m based in which is great because the kids are all new to it too. I was promoted to become the Head teacher there so I now take on a lot more responsibility but with less teaching hours. I love this role but it’s so strange because I’m now Lee’s boss (My boyfriend) so I have to critique his lessons along with the other teachers in the centre.

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Decorating my new classroom!

I have to say working for a language centre is great. I already feel much more appreciated than I did in the school in Thailand and the hours are perfect. We work from 5pm-9pm Tues-Sun and an additional 3 hours during the day at weekends. Sounds like a lot but actually we have all the days free to explore and we don’t have to turn up to school with a hangover which helps! I miss the two consecutive days off like I had in Thailand but then the salary is twice the amount so you know, I can’t really complain!


Heres a few tips to help you get started:

  • Language centres are everywhere in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, the most reputable ones are:

-APAX English

-Apollo

-Language Link

-ILA

  • You’ll need a few essentials before you can get a work permit

Degree in any field

Teaching certificate (TEFL, CELTA, TRINITY etc.)

Police check dated within the last 6 months (Don’t worry, you can have a Vietnamese one if you don’t have one already).

Experience – It’s good to have but not essential in Vietnam.

Business visa which allows you to work in the country (they only last for 3 months so be prepared for regular visa runs – you can avoid this by getting a residence card but they come at cost of around 200 USD).


Have you ever thought about teaching abroad?

Or are you thinking of Teaching in Vietnam or Thailand? 

Leave a comment and share your experiences too. Or check out my post on finding a job  teaching in Thailand!

Don’t forget about the all important tefl checklist either!

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Class selfie!

 

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Moving to hectic Hanoi, Vietnam

Having lived in Thailand for 1 year and 3 months, it was definitely time to move on and experience somewhere different. We wanted somewhere similar to Thailand’s cost of living and culture. So after 6 weeks living in Phuket, one of Thailand’s stunning beach destinations, we decided to move to Hanoi in Vietnam.

Flying from Phuket to Hanoi, we had to make a stop over in Bangkok for 11 hours. Such an annoying amount of time, Do we stay in the airport overnight? Or do we book a hotel and checkout at 3am in the morning?  Deciding it would be very uncomfortable and strange to sleep out in the airport overnight, we checked into a hotel just 800m from the airport and sought out our nearest 7-11. These little shops are a life saver in Thailand! The humidity can get beyond unbearable at times, so usually we search for the nearest 7-11 and run inside for the aircon! The beauty about Thailand is that your always around 100m from a 7-11, they’re everywhere! Anyway, taking advantage of our last trip to 7-11, we stocked up on Thai ready meals and toasties, anything that we knew we wouldn’t be able to find in Vietnam.

Waking up at 3am and boarding the plane at 6am, we arrived into Hanoi around 2 hours later. Taxis were expensive on our own, so we met some other travellers and got a taxi together. Dropping us off at our guesthouse 30mins later and stepping out onto a busy main road, I realised just how crazy Hanoi is! The traffic here is insane! Crossing the road is so scary, you literally have to look in every possible direction when crossing and walk across slowly to avoid every driver.

 

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Chaotic traffic in the capital

What strikes me as absolutely crazy is that most motorbikes here have no mirrors, a taxi driver told me the Vietnamese remove them as they don’t want to be seen as uncool! Although, the only way around is by motorcycle so my boyfriend and I unwillingly rented one for just $50 a month. He loved driving in Chiang Mai, Thailand but here it’s completely different, it’s the opposite side of the road for one! It definitely took some time getting used to, trying not to drive up the wrong way.

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No mirrors and five people on one bike!

 

After staying in a guesthouse for the night, we went flat hunting. Contacting an agent seems to be the most common way of finding somewhere to rent here. We followed the agent to several properties and found two we fell in love with. Took an extra day to decide which one to go for, but when we moved in, it was definitely the right choice. Much bigger than the flat we rented in Thailand, with brand new furnishings and living by a huge lake, all for under £400 a month. Accommodation is a bit more expensive than in Thailand and you don’t really find the added amenities like a swimming pool or gym but we found a gym just minutes from our apartment so it’s perfect!

There’s a local fruit and veg market about a 2 minutes drive from our place, we’ve taken full advantage of this and actually started to cook more now too. It’s definitely more expensive to eat out in Hanoi than Chiang Mai and to be honest, by now we’re craving some of our home cooked English dishes!

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Lovely little fruit market

The biggest difference I’ve noticed in Hanoi compared to Chiang Mai is the cultural differences. In Thailand, everywhere we turn there is a Buddhist temple or shrine, whereas in Hanoi it’s there, but it’s a lot harder to find. However, there’s so much character here due to the French ruling years ago. Many buildings have a European design and everywhere sells French baguettes. One of my favourite dishes in Vietnam is Banh Mi, a twist on both French and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s a French baguette filled with pork, pate, fresh coriander, salad and hot chilli sauce, delicious!

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Finding culture in busy Hanoi at Chau long temple

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The European influence at St. Joseph’s cathedral

We’ve also completed training at our new jobs and are now officially employed again. This time we’re both working in language centres instead of a school like we did in Thailand. Our classes are in the evenings and at weekends so we have all the days free in the week to explore. We work just 4 hours a day in the week and a bit more on the weekend but it’s perfect for me and Lee.

Overall, it’s been a good three weeks settling in to our new home in Hanoi. We’ve got a bike, a lovely apartment and a new job. And it gets even better because we’re off to Hong Kong in two weeks for a visa run!

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Vietnam’s culture

 

 

 

 

A very Thai sports day!

When we think of sports day, we think of getting the children lined up and running in an egg and spoon race, trying not to let their eggs fall. Or tying two children’s legs together for the three legged race! Well not in Thailand! Sports day is nothing like that at all. Its an event, a huge event, booked in a grand stadium with 3 different teams all competing against each other.

Yes, Sports day was not what I imagined, although this is Thailand so I knew it would be an event of some sort! The location of the event was being held in the main stadium at Chiang Mai University! When we arrived I couldn’t quite believe the size of the stadium! There were banners all around, children wearing their brightly coloured tops and others practising their cheer leading performances!

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Huddling around with a group of other teachers in temperatures as low as 12 degrees, we posed for a photograph and I was off to find my students. Finding them running around so excited for the day, it was lovely to see how much fun it was being out of school for the day.

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Just like the Olympics but on a much smaller scale, we had to parade around the whole stadium in our teams. Waving flags for different Asean countries, cheerleaders at the front leading the way, the kids were all very excited!

A marching band played the Thai national anthem whilst we all faced the sun to watch the flag being raised.

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Marching band

We took our seats, I was part of the yellow team! Watched an awesome dance performance by the older Korean students and a few other dances and shows to get the teams and onlookers all warmed up for the race.

Running races were to start, each race had finished before I could even recognise which of my students were taking part! The cheering was pretty much non-existent, the weather had heated up by that point so everyone was pouring with sweat being directly in the sun.

Next was the relay race with a baton, in which every child in the school got to take part. I saw the children from my class running to their parents to show off their medals, having just stood on the podium in their winning positions. It was a very proud moment being a Teacher! One of my students wasn’t given a medal even though she came third place, so I had to sneak around trying to find a spare medal for her, so was so happy when she received it!

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The day was long, there was a lot of waiting around for dances, performances and races to start. I managed to go out for my lunch for an hour which was a nice break away from the heat and the chaos.

In the afternoon the secondary students and teachers were moved inside to watch the chair ball and basketball matches. I had never heard of chair ball before sports day, its not a sport in England. One child from each team acts as the goal keeper I guess, they each stand on a chair holding a basket and their team has to shoot the ball into the basket. I’m not entirely sure who created the sport, but with chairs repeatedly breaking beneath the students, I’m not sure it was as well thought out as it could of been. Maybe that’s why it isn’t a sport in England!

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Chairball

The supporting teams had significantly reduced in size by this point, with still 3 hours to go. We continued to watch and support our teams, all of my class has gone home by this point. Right at the end, the winners were announced and the medals were given. I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t have a medal to take away myself if I’m honest. Maybe I’ll try and sneak another spare when were back at school!

All in all, it was a very grand event and an excited day for the children taking part. Maybe it was a much bigger event than necessary but this is Thailand after all. We even got some team photos at the end to prove we were there!

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Team Yellow!

The hardest part is saying goodbye.

When you live abroad, you often think about those you’ve left behind at home, family, friends and a completely different way of life.

I love living in Thailand, it’s only been 10 months but it feels like a new home. I miss my family but I wouldn’t change what I’m doing because I love it. Yes there are down days of feeling home sick, but I can’t think about that too much, because my family are happy for me. I know they miss me, my mum tells me all the time, but being away just isn’t the same. Sometimes you just want a hug or to complain about your day. Don’t get me wrong, I can do that over Skype, but the 7 hour time difference is such a pain, there’s no opportunity to ring home midweek.

Weekends are great, I can catch up with family and tell them what awesome things I’ve been doing. Driving around Northern Thailand, visiting waterfalls and having a crazy school week at work.

Inevitably, the time comes where you need to go home and see your family, when Skype just doesn’t cut it any more. That time came for me this Christmas. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere but England for Christmas. I’ve heard stories of trying to find a restaurant that does an English style Christmas dinner and it just not turning out right, not feeling like Christmas at all.

Walking past the biggest shopping centre in Chiang Mai and seeing a huge Christmas tree is lovely, but it just didn’t feel right. It should be cold and rainy at Christmas, shops should be full of people buying last minute presents and the house should be lovely and warm by the fire, drinking mulled wine and wearing slippers! Not walking around in shorts, t-shirts and sandals or swimming in an outside pool. I mean I love it, but it just didn’t feel like Christmas at all. Even with the school Christmas play, singing Christmas songs with my students or exchanging gifts with them, making Christmas stockings for the class or decorating our class Christmas tree. It was enjoyable but I knew where I had to be. Home.

Around came the dreaded 13 hour flight home, losing 7 hours and trying to adapt to a change of scenery, catching up with people, whilst also conquering the horrendous jet lag that had suddenly grounded me to my bed for 3 days.
Going home was great though, you only realise when you do how much you have at home and how much people really care about you.

My parents dropped me at the airport and we all knew the hardest part was coming. Saying goodbye. Knowing that it’s probably not going to be until next Christmas before I go home again, it’s hard to say goodbye and have a year to wait to receive another hug.

Have a really emotional goodbye, horrible seeing my family upset because of something I have chosen to do, but I know they are proud of me for what I’m doing, despite the fact they probably hate that I’m going away again.

Coming back to Thailand, I saw everything in a new light. I thought I’d be more excited to come back but it felt so strange. I guess that’s because I’d just been home, my flat no longer felt like my new home, more like a holiday.

The longer I’m here, the more I get used to my new way of life. I still miss home but I know I will never get this opportunity again. So for now, I’m happy, I’m content, I’m living an awesome life and I’ve never felt better in myself! Here’s to the rest of my adventure Teaching abroad! 

 

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My Family

A day in the life of a TEFL teacher

5:45am – Alarm goes off. Stay in bed until 6:15am. Get up, get ready, make my morning smoothie and leave at 7:10am.

7:15am – Get on the back of the bike, along the Super highway, passing school kids driving motorbikes and Monks walking barefoot to the temple.

7:30am – Arrive at school, greeted by a child hiding in my class. She’s taken all the chairs down for the students and turned on the lights. I make a joke that’s she’s now the Teacher at six years old, to which she falls about laughing! Another Teacher comes in to give me one of his Aloe Vera plants as I’ve been after one for ages! Was just expecting a small plant but it’s HUGE!

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7:45am – Load up my lesson plans for the day, starting with English and then Maths. Add words to my vocabulary tree. (Great idea to help the kids think of new words too!)

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8:10am – Make my way downstairs, greeting children and parents along the way. Position myself ready for assembly and the flag ceremony. Children sing the Thai national anthem whilst facing and watching the Thai flag being raised. It is a very respectful thing to see and a lovely way to see Thai traditions. Practice the Loy Krathong festival dance in assembly. Never thought I would be doing a Thai traditional dance in front of 300 kids when I came here!

8:30am – Bring the children up to the class, settle them in and welcome teachers. Another of Thailand’s respectful traditions. Children wai to Teachers (by placing your hands together near your face and bowing) and say good morning in unison to everyone.

8:45am – Start my first lesson of the day, English. We are learning how to describe our feelings.

10:15am – Line the children up ready for morning break. Count down from 5 – 0 and the kids scramble to be in the line and in the right positions including the line leader and caboose at the back. One of the children has brought in some snacks from his recent visit home to China, so the kids patiently wait for their snacks before break.

10:30am – Start my next lesson for the day, Maths. Learning all about ordinal numbers so play an interactive game on a great website called IXL. Loads of games for all grades and keeps them occupied for 15 minutes or so.

11:15am – I separate my class ready for our Christmas dance practice. Can’t explain how exhausting it is. 25 kids, all between 5 and 7 years of age, trying to organise them and get them to memorise a dance in time to the music! Very difficult but great fun though! It’s nice to take time away from our lessons to do fun things with the children. Sometimes it can be all about work and completing books, it’s nice to do something different which we all enjoy. I quite like playing choreographer too!

11:45am – Get ready for lunch. Take the children down to the canteen and meet my boyfriend. He works at the same school as me so it’s very convenient to go out for lunch, well I need him too as I don’t drive the bike myself! Drive to Big C – nearest shopping centre to school with a Thai food court. Had a delicious chicken fried rice dish and shopped for school supplies.

13:00pm – Sat down to address my huge piles of marking! Got through about 20 minutes to then find a Teacher is sick so I have to cover the lesson. Nothing like being fed information at the last minute like in Thailand. Gave children a worksheet and tried to explain the work as best I could, then continued with my marking.

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14:00pm – Call 3 children in to my class to complete our dance. Then realised I am running late for my break duty so scramble out of the door and down the stairs just in time! Catch children throwing a ball to each other so have to put my Teacher voice on and tell them to go outside!

14:30pm – Afternoon lessons at my school are Thai lessons as it’s a bilingual school so they have English lessons in the morning. However they also study Chinese but being a homeroom Teacher, I have to stay in the class during their lessons. Try to block out the noise with my earphones and start to create the next midterm tests. Never thought designing tests would be part of my job description here too!

15:10pm – Chinese lesson finished early so we decided to have some fun. I put their Christmas play song on loud speaker and the kids went crazy! We’re doing the Grinch this year, and although I have never seen it, they kids are in great spirits ready for practising. They love singing the song; I had some children pretending to be conductors using pencils, and others on the drums using a table.

15:20pm – Kids go down for their PE lesson so I finally have a free classroom and some peace and quiet for the first time today! Finish that mountain of marking and complete the background for our new around the world display! It took me ages to colour in the letters in different flags but I finally got there!

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15:40pm – One child comes running into the classroom, ‘Teacher Kirstie, this person won’t play with me and kicked me!’ So I make my way down stairs to sort out their disagreement, to find both children had completely forgotten about it and are there happily playing together. Love teaching six year olds!

16:00pm – Time for home, pack everything away and write myself a list of reminders for tomorrow! We’re only on Tuesday but already the week is going really slow! Children come stumbling into the classroom fighting over who gets to clean the whiteboard first! Finally, Children say Thank you and goodbye to Teachers.

16:15pm –  Order a new school T-shirt and then its back on the highway for 10 minutes. Reach my condo and find I have a parcel waiting for me. Take a lovely walk through the gardens of our condo to the office and find my new bag from Zalora has arrived! Great website for clothes, apparently they have a big sale on the 12th Dec so check it out too! 

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17:00pm –  Change out of my work clothes and get ready to go down to our huge pool to relax before the sun sets. Complete 15 lengths in the pool, then relax in the Jacuzzi area. Become terrified when I see 3 spiders literally crawling across the water, I never knew that was possible! Realise that I am never going to feel as comfortable going in the pool again, spiders are my worst nightmare, especially ones that walk on water!

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19:00pm – Head out for something to eat, come back and watch Masterchef on demand. Can’t miss out on UK TV whilst I’m here! Then relax, write my blog and iron my clothes for tomorrow. On certain days at school we have uniform to wear which makes choosing an outfit for the next day much less stressful! Set my alarm for 6am and silently nod off to start it all over again in the morning!

Join me on twitter @TEFL_abroad for more!

10 tips for teaching in Thailand!

Becoming a Teacher and teaching English as a foreign language can be a daunting experience for anyone. Especially if you have never professionally taught before or handled a class of 20+ students. Here’s some top tips I have learnt since becoming a TEFL teacher 6 months ago, hope they may help your experience too!

  • Enjoy it! There’s nothing less motivating to children if their Teacher isn’t happy. I once had a student from a different grade tell me they didn’t like a particular lesson because their Teacher was always angry. Motivate your students by motivating yourself!
  • Expect informality – In Thailand, Parent’s view Teachers very highly and are often happy to bring you gifts from their children or take you out for dinner. They want to let you know if their children aren’t coming into school so may ask for your phone number and email address, just give what you’re comfortable with.
  • Dress appropriately – Thailand is a Buddhist country which includes a very respectable dress code. Males need to wear a shirt and tie to school and females are required to have their shoulders covered and wear skirts no shorter than knee length. Don’t turn up for school or interviews/demo lessons in your normal clothes, you need to make a good impression!
  • Have good classroom management strategies – Nothing worse than have 30 children running around in the classroom or refusing to work and talking to their friends instead. Have some good management strategies lined up before you start. Don’t worry though, it takes a while to gain control over a class, just keep at it. I have a few strategies I’ve learnt since becoming a teacher that might help if your teaching Kindergarten to grade 3:

– Good job tickets reward scheme (if children do a good job for someone or do well in their work, they will get a good job ticket. After 5, they can exchange for a prize, be it a toy or some stickers. If they haven’t been on their best behaviour, give them a warning and then take away a good job ticket if they carry on – work’s wonders!

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– Faces on the board (The green face is happy, yellow is a warning and red is the angry face. If children have done well, they go on the green, if they have been given 2 warnings about the same issue (such as talking whilst the teacher is) they will go on the yellow. If they are told a 3rd time, their name will be placed on the red face and they will lose out on golden time (free time) or short class games/activities.

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– Classroom jobs. I’ve made a few class jobs for the children and they love the responsibility. The quiet crew, distributers (to hand out books), 5 minute warning, lights (my students love this one as they know they might be watching a video or playing a game!) and the cleaners (erasing the whiteboard and making sure everything is away ready for their next lesson). They have these duties for a week but if they haven’t been good, I will erase their name and choose someone else.

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  • Expect disorganisation – Thailand is known for being the ‘land of smiles’ but it’s also known to be very last minute. If you expect this before you come, you’ll fit right in. I struggled at the beginning, not being told about wearing a particular colour until the last minute of school the night before, therefore having to go out and buy something that night! There’s quite a separation being a Farang member of staff, in that Thai’s will often know important information before Farang’s. They will always let you know, it might just be right before something happens!
  • Be prepared – Sometimes you may be given a class to teach without much notice. This can be difficult if the Teacher’s lesson plan is basic and you haven’t taught the class before. Be prepared by having a few back up lesson ideas for all ages or games children can play to help in the lesson.
  • Be consistent – Children have a great ability to remember things you wouldn’t think they would. If a child misbehaves, explain your discipline method and why the child is being disciplined. Stick to it – if another child does the same thing, make sure to discipline them using the same method. Children will remember that you ‘didn’t punish him but your punishing me for the same thing!’
  • Don’t be too harsh on the kids – Learning a new language is difficult, particularly one that is so different from your native language. Children in Thailand learn a foreign language from such a young age, they are incredible, don’t forget that! I have 5 year olds who can speak fluently in English and Thai and are learning Chinese too!
  • Thai children can be timid – A lot of Thai children feel shy and timid in their lessons, often unwilling to put their hands up to answer questions aloud for fear of getting them wrong. Try and encourage them to get involved and that any answer is a good answer.
  • Have fun! Nothing is worse than sitting behind a desk 6 hours a day and writing in books. This is important and their work has to be completed but try to teach the concepts in a fun way! Think of ways children can work with their friends or use objects to help them get creative! My class had to learn about patterns for maths, so instead of looking at different patterns in the books all lesson, I took them on a walk around the school to draw any patterns we see. Simple but effective!

The all important TEFL checklist

Before leaving the UK for Thailand, I wanted to find a checklist that told me everything I needed to know or bring with me. I found this eventually but by using multiple different sites. So I thought it’d be a good idea to put it all in one checklist! The first thing you need to have is a bit of money to tide you over for the first few months. You will need to leave the country to get your visa and then your work permit which can be unforeseen costs so be prepared! You will also need to make sure you have your paperwork ready before you leave your home country:

  • 120 Hour TEFL course

I chose a groupon deal for £29 with LearnTefl the equivalent of 1,500 bt, for a 150 hour online course. It took around 3 months to complete whilst working full time and was simple to understand. I had 3 assignments and 1 exam. When you pass, your sent an online certificate which certifies you for life. Schools require a minimum of 120 hours of learning from your course. Some schools prefer you to have a hands on TEFL qualification or actual classroom experience, but I found many schools just need that 120 certification.

  • A university degree in any field

Every school I applied to wanted to see my degree certificate, I think it would have been difficult to get a job without one. Make sure to bring photocopies too and scan them into your computer for safe keeping.

  • University transcript

Along with your degree certificate, most schools want to see your transcript too. Make sure to bring them with you as you’ll need it not only for school but to secure your work permit and visa too. Some schools want two sealed transcripts but I wasn’t asked for this when applying so think it’s quite rare in Thailand.

  • A criminal record check from your home country

This is very important to get before leaving your home country. Schools want to make sure there’s no reason why you can’t work with children and again for your work permit. In the UK I applied and received my basic check in 3 weeks, I know from other teacher’s experiences it’s much harder to get when you’re in another country.

  • A tourist visa

If you’re from the UK, you can get a 30 day tourist visa for no charge. If you want to stay longer in Thailand you’ll need to apply for a longer tourist visa. I didn’t know how long it would take to find a job and thought 30 days wasn’t long enough. So I travelled to my nearest Thai consulate in Birmingham, UK and brought a 60 day tourist visa for £25. This gave me enough time to find a job and then leave the country to apply for a Non-immigrant B visa.

  • Work attire

Don’t get me wrong, you can get work attire in Thailand and some good bargains too. Just make sure you are aware of the Thai culture before you buy your clothes. As a female, your shoulders have to be covered and its tradition to wear skirts no shorter than around knee length. I didn’t find any information when searching that you need your shoulders covered so I learnt the hard way and brought loads of sleeveless blouses. Anyway for males a shirt and tie is appropriate. I’ve heard stories where people have turned up for interviews in full on traveller attire, shorts and vest tops with elephants on the front. Not the greatest first impression.

  • Motorbike licence

If you can, get a motorbike licence before your leave your country. I wish I had been told about this before coming out to Thailand. Driving a motorbike is the most convenient way to get around, especially in Asia. You can rent a bike without a licence but for police reasons, its best to get one. You have to get an international licence from your home country, you can get a Thai licence but then that doesn’t cover you to rent anywhere else in the future.

  • Medical Insurance

I came out to Thailand with long term travel insurance, but it’s probably a good idea to get a separate medical insurance. If you make a claim on travel insurance, your insurance is then void. Most schools offer some kind of insurance but you may have to add that to your list of monthly expenses too. I know people that have ended up in hospital and have no insurance at all, therefore ending up with a huge medical bill at the end of their stay. Better to be insured just in case.

  • Choose the right time to come out to Thailand

The school term in Thailand starts in May so recruitment starts in April. They have a break between semesters in October so again recruitment starts in September. There is a high demand for Teachers in Thailand and most jobs are based in Bangkok. Chiang Mai is an amazing place to live but jobs here are sought after, so can be a challenge to find a job.

This is just a basic check list for becoming a TEFL teacher in Thailand. Some countries and schools may have different requirements so it’s always wise to check beforehand.

A disastrous demo lesson

photo 2 (1)Your first ever demo lesson is going to be a nightmare for anyone going into teaching. Funnily enough, I had already been given the job offer before doing the demo lesson (it still didn’t take any of the pressure off though!). Observing teachers during summer school and getting to know the children, I thought a demo lesson would be relatively easy. Being given less than 24 hours to come up with a 90 minute lesson is terrifying! Especially when you have never taught before!

So I start off by explaining my name to which the kids struggled to pronounce! Teacher Kristie was close enough (some of my colleagues call me that now so I’ve just gotten used to it). Started off with a warmer – every lesson needs a warm up activity to begin with or the kids will lose concentration, (I soon learnt that kids lose concentration no matter what!) My lesson involved a new phonetic sound (my children were Grade 1 by the way) so we played a game using the sound. Next I showed them a worksheet on the projector.

  • Top tip – check that the projector works with your laptop beforehand.

I wasn’t given enough time to check, so standing in front of a class being observed wasn’t a great feeling. Finally get the projector working to find the children had already finished the work, so there was no need for the projector anyway, typical!

One thing I underestimated was classroom management. When children do not recognise you and have never been taught by you, they have little respect for you so it’s fair to say that lesson wasn’t going to run as smoothly as id hoped. Children running around, out of their seats and others surrounding me to get their books marked, it was chaotic for my first time teaching to say the least. Not only that, but a child then came to me 10 minutes before the end of the lesson to say he doesn’t have a pencil so hadn’t done the work!

Finished off the lesson by playing a short video on my newly working projector! In Thailand it’s traditional to thank teachers at the end of each lesson, which is a lovely and respectful tradition to experience.

So a few lessons were learnt:

  • Make sure the projector works
  • Check everyone has a pencil
  • Expect the worst, as it can only get better from there.

That said, it does get better, much better! My homeroom class have so much respect for me and their other teachers. And class management comes naturally after a few weeks. Let the children get to know you and know your rules and your onto a winner!

A short trip to Laos for Immigration

We arrived in Thailand on a tourist visa so we knew we would have to change it as soon as we got a job in a school. To get the Non-immigrant B visa, which allows us to work as Teachers, you have to leave the country and visit immigration in another country. The nearest Thai consulate from Chiang Mai is in Vientiane, Laos. We had to wait a few weeks for all the documents, finished school one day at 4pm, given our documents, went home, packed and were on an overnight bus to Udon Thani by 7pm. Udon Thani is still in Thailand but its 10 hours away by bus, a very long 10 hours with little sleep, light shining in your eyes and a desperate need for the toilet without waking other passengers up!

Arriving in Udon Thani, we then get a mini bus to the Thai/Laos boarder to leave the country. Pay the equivalent of £35 for a Laos tourist visa and make our way to the consulate. Get ripped off by a Tuk-tuk driver, although Tuk-tuk’s aren’t the same as in Thailand, they are proportionally longer and have an awful smell to them! Hand in our documents to immigration, had previously heard we’d be queuing for hours but there was a Thai holiday the next day so queues were empty. This meant we had to spend 3 days in Vientiane, with little money, lessons to plan and not really wanting to be there in the first place. We had only moved into our new condo 2 days before!

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Having looked around, there wasn’t much to do there either but we wanted to make the most of it, so we ticked all the tourism boxes! Visited Buddha park, which was stunning I must say, full of old Buddha ruins! Visited the Putuxai monument, a French war victory gate which looks identical to the Arc de Triumph in Paris! And finally we took a very hot walk to view some incredible sand art as part of a sand art festival, they actually had a festival for sand art, however we were the only ones there! Evenings were spent walking to the river side and exploring the very busy night market and stopping off at overpriced restaurants, not really being able to find Laos’ own cuisine, it was mainly Thai, American or Indian.

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After spending 3 days lesson planning and sightseeing, we decided to go for a pizza for our last night. As delicious as it was, my boyfriend and I became very unwell in the morning. Too ill to walk, we got a tuk-tuk to pick up our new Thai visa’s and then a mini bus back to Udon Thani. Went to queue for a taxi to the bus station (feeling dreadful), when we overheard a group getting a taxi to the airport. Decided to jump in their taxi and paid a whole £20 for a 40 minute flight straight back to Chiang Mai! More expensive than the 10 hour overnight bus but the way we were feeling, we’d have been foolish to get the bus again!

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Having to leave Thailand to go to a consulate in another country is not going to be high on anyone’s list of things they want to do. We had the option to go to Laos, sort our visa’s and lesson plan for the upcoming semester. Or we could make the most of our trip to Vientiane and become tourists again for the weekend. The second option seemed much better and to be honest, even though there is little to do in Vientiane, I actually had an enjoyable time there (although I won’t be rushing back anytime soon!).

Becoming an Expat and adapting to Thai life

Getting a job in a school was the hard part, looking for somewhere to live was easy, we managed to find an apartment and move in all within 24 hours. I think that’d be a record for anyone. So the day consisted of five apartment viewings, all of which needed to complete the checklist my boyfriend and I had put together. If you’re going to live in a foreign country, you have to go as big as you can afford and live somewhere you could only dream of living back home. To be honest, with the weather like it is in England it would only ever be just that, a dream! Our checklist consisted of: A pool, a mountain view, a balcony and a gym on site so we could never have an excuse not to go to the gym (oh how naïve we were!). Life can’t get much better than waking up to see the view we have out of our corner flat, where there are amazing views whichever way you look.

So once we had the employment and the apartment, the next step was to rent a bike. Now I was never crazy about the idea, especially when you see the Asian style traffic. However it was the only feasible option to get around in such a big city. That said, I will never be the one driving, being left-handed and trying to drive an automatic motorbike which is designed for right-handed people would never work, and apparently I have the balance of a four year old so that wouldn’t work either!

The final step to becoming an expat in Thailand is settling in to the Thai way of life. Four months on and although we feel very settled to life here now, there are always surprises. Take a few weekends back for example, we went for a drive to some hot springs about an hour and a half’s drive from our condo. On the way back we hit another annoying set of traffic lights, go to pull off and guess what, we get a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere. No shops around, no people around, nothing! So we pull over and start to push the bike, traffic stops at the lights and we are gestured to walk down a small road. We start to walk and push this really heavy bike, some local Thai’s see us and pick up our bike in their pickup truck and drive us to the nearest garage. Bear in mind that we speak very little Thai and these guys spoke no English at all! We were amazed at the generosity; they didn’t want anything for it, purely there to help us out.

So that’s that, my journey to becoming an expat living and teaching in Thailand. Undoubtedly, there will be more surprises along the way but one thing’s for sure, this country will never get boring!