Embracing the Unknown: My TEFL Adventure in Thailand

Embracing the Unknown: My TEFL Adventure in Thailand

by Milena Schembri

Embarking on this journey to a new country was like stepping into the unknown. As I landed in Thailand, the anticipation of a new chapter in my life had me feeling a whirlwind of emotions;
excitement, nervousness, and an eagerness to explore.

My introduction to Thailand began with a late-night arrival in Bangkok. What a city to make my entrance into the Thai experience! The cultural immersion hit me like a wave, full of vibrance,
chaos, and many… many motorbikes. I found myself in awe, sitting in the car on the way to my hotel, experiencing a moment of realization. It dawned on me where I was in the world and how far away I was from home. I was so proud of myself for following my dream of teaching/living abroad and doing what I knew was right for me. I had this gut feeling that I knew I was in the right place.

The next morning, I met everyone who was a part of the TEFL program (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) with Xploreasia who is partnered with Greenheart Travel. Meeting everyone was
a heartening experience. As I began to talk to everyone, what surprised me was that most people had chosen to complete this program and teach abroad on their own, just like me. It was comforting to discover the motivations behind why people chose to teach abroad, and reassuring to realize that we all shared a common journey. For most of us, it was our very first solo travel adventure. We were far away from our homes, family, and friends, but now we had each other.

Our next stop was Hua Hin, where we’d be spending the next month becoming TEFL certified. The TEFL course turned out to be a preparatory experience. The instructors provided valuable insights and guidance, making me feel more at ease about stepping into a foreign classroom. We had a fun introduction to Thai culture through our Thai language classes, Thai cooking classes, and a Maui Thai Boxing class. The group started to become quite close. We loved going to the local Night Market to purchase cheap food, and going out on weekend excursions to temples, caves and

To fulfill the requirements of the TEFL course, a component involved immersing ourselves in a Thai government school for 2 days. Despite being a teacher in Canada, entering a Thai classroom filled me with a sense of nervous anticipation. Evident cultural differences such as; Thai teaching styles, morning assemblies, the school’s layout, and of course… the students having a low proficiency in speaking English. Despite my initial apprehension, I found myself well-prepared. Throughout the day, I conducted engaging lessons, enjoyed interacting with the students, and achieved my personal goal of stepping beyond my comfort zone.

Thailand isn’t called “The Land of Smiles” for nothing. The Thai locals are truly the most warm, generous people I’ve ever met. They have the purest hearts and contribute selflessly to the wellbeing of the community. They radiate kindness and generosity to everyone they encounter. One distinctive gesture in Thailand is the “wai,” a traditional Thai greeting that involves pressing the palms together in a prayer-like position and bowing your head slightly. This gesture not only expresses respect but also reflects the collectivist and supportive nature of Thai society. Thai people prioritize community and harmony, which is the reason why they demonstrate immense generosity towards others. They welcome guests with open arms and go out of their way to ensure their comfort. From grab drivers, to 7/11 workers, to tour guides, I’ve always felt welcomed and cared for. There’s a unity and shared responsibility amongst Thai people. In my opinion, they set an example for how everyone should treat one another. The world would be a different place if we treated each other the way Thai people do. It’s a beautiful way of being that I look forward to practicing for the rest of my life.

Moving onto the navigation of the hiring process, it didn’t come without its stress. My placement coordinator (shoutout to Mile!) helped me along the way to find my placement and an apartment to live in. My patience paid off when I received the news that I was placed in my top choice city- Chiang Mai. I took my time to make a decision that felt right for me. It was another lesson learned; a testament to the importance of trusting my gut.

As the final chapters of the TEFL course unfolded, it felt bittersweet. Saying my farewells to individuals that I had formed close bonds was challenging. Fortunately, the universe was looking out for me as my roommate from Hua Hin, who had become my closest friend, was also placed at the same school in Chiang Mai. The idea of working and living in the same city together was so exciting for the both of us.

It seemed as if everything was working out for me. While there were overwhelming moments and a sense of homesickness, I’ve come to realize that these feelings are an integral part of the journey. It has also shown me things I take for granted at home that I’ll cherish when I return. As I navigate to Chiang Mai, I can’t help but reflect on the incredible journey that brought me here. My reason for this venture was to learn more about myself, other people around the world, and life itself. I felt too comfortable at home and I knew that I’d never grow if I didn’t seek to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Learning to allow life to flow, and trusting that everything will eventually work itself out has shown me a new way to live. Becoming stressed, or fearful has no purpose. I feel as if I’ve already grown so much and I can’t wait to see what Chiang Mai has in store for me.

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