Now that we’re at the end of our teaching internship we’ve been looking back on the experience in terms of how it’s allowed us to step onto the ladder of a new career and turn our lives around but not everything has been plain sailing so here’s our good points and bad points of having completed a TEFL internship in Thailand.
- By agreeing to work through I-to-I TEFL and by proxy IES Global in Thailand it enabled us to not have to worry about the legal side of moving to Thailand. All of our visas, work permits and teaching license waiver was fulfilled by IES and the idea was that this would give us peace of mind and a group of people that we could speak to (in English) who knew the process of teaching in Thailand.
- Muang Loei School is a lovely government school where the kids are happy to see you and you become a bit of a mini celebrity as they rush up to you just to say hello or to offer to carry your books. Our contact at the school who spoke English was a life saver and a constant friendly face at the lunch table or around the school in general. Although most of the other teachers couldn’t speak English or very little, they always had a friendly smile or a hello for us all which at times made the language barrier not a problem.
- Loei is a small community filled with very friendly locals who often just want to say hello or ask where you’re going if walking through town. The first few weeks aside when we were seen as unknowns, we rarely had someone try to rip us off for being white and we made friends easily with some of the restaurants and road-side vendors.
- Our school happened to be the one place in Loei that offered up its grounds to the local community and this meant we had a much larger amount of time off than the other schools. This allowed us to travel to places such as Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Phitsanulok as well as allowing us time in February to job hunt.
- The ability to set-up private tuition due to a contact based at the school was fairly easy and meant that we could add another bullet point to our CV and get to know a few of the students more and help them with their English in the meantime.
- Christmas at the school was a very strange event. It began with a headache as to what was supposed to be happening and what little we’d been told but in the end it was an enjoyable day where we spent the morning celebrating with the students and singing songs and in the afternoon teaching about Christmas and New Year. It’s certainly a Christmas we won’t forget.
- IES lost my University transcript and held our documents to ransom for fear that people would otherwise abandon their posts to seek alternative employment once they realised they could receive a much higher rate of pay… anywhere in the country. We were told upfront that we would only receive enough money to cover us for food (12,000 BHT a month) but when you meet people who are also on internships in the same town as you but with a different company and they’re being paid 30,000 BHT a month it can be difficult to swallow.
- Although Loei is a nice community there’s also very little to do especially if you don’t have transportation. We were reliant on long public bus journeys to get anywhere interesting – even Udon Thani was 4 hours away by bus and there’s only so much one can take of the Thai bus system.
- Our accommodation – Yotsarin mansion, is designed with a single, Thai man in mind. It is not an ideal situation for a newly married couple nor is it ideal for the party loving people we were completing our internship with. Yotsarin had no windows, just grates in the wall, no real light coming through and was freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer. The shower was inappropriately hot and cold at the wrong times of the year and our toilet regularly broke. Noise carried through the corridors to the point that we had to whisper all the time in our room if we didn’t want the whole floor to hear what we were saying and the other interns having 3am parties blasting music and whooping became old real quick. The accommodation was assigned to us by IES and is quite possibly the worst aspect of our whole experience.
- The classroom layout at Muang Loei is such that you have between 45-53 students per class squeezed into little cave like classrooms with heavy wooden desks that are impossible to move due to the lack of space and with no Thai classroom support it can get very rowdy as the back rows decide to talk over you, run in and out or even around the classroom, shoot spit balls at other students or just ignore you and complete homework from other classes. If you had half the number of kids per room or you just had a Thai speaking teacher sat at the back (even just marking papers) it would help, but sadly this wasn’t the case and we constantly were fighting a battle with some of the naughtiest classes.
- The timing of the internship has meant that we are not synched with school/University intake in China or Europe and the only viable work options for us are learning centres which although can pay well, they keep unsociable hours and some contracts can be decidedly ‘iffy.’ This has required us to do a massive amount of research into what we do next as we had hoped to synch with the school year.
Overall, we could have come to Thailand without the help of I-to-I or IES Global and rocked up to Bangkok on tourist visas and knocked on doors looking for work and potentially been paid a substantial amount more for the same if not less amount of work. However, we wanted the peace of mind that someone would collect us at the airport, arrange our visa, set up a job for us with a school, find us accommodation and be there if anything should happen. Jack and I joke that if we had come to Thailand on our own we would never have made it to Loei as why would anyone venture here if they could get work in any number of larger towns and cities? If we were to do it all over again with the benefit of hindsight we would have arrived without a company backing us and arranged our own jobs either in Bangkok or down south, mostly because any stress or anxiety that we’ve suffered whilst completing the internship has been down to decisions that were made for us rather than something we agreed to e.g. our accommodation.
Having said that hindsight is a brilliant thing and our situation whilst we were in the UK was one of uncertainty. Will we enjoy Thailand? How will the language barrier affect our time there? Will we be good teachers? Questions such as these didn’t matter as much when you’ve already handed over a large sum of cash to a company to look after you and you know that if you don’t try then you’ll never know. Thankfully, we’ve both really enjoyed working as teachers and hope to build a new career for ourselves. Ultimately, we were in a now or never situation and I-to-I allowed us to jump into this new lifestyle and career feet first, but we had a real baptism of fire when we landed and I’d never recommend anyone to go through an internship or a third-party, instead just go out there and do it.