After gaining my TEFL certification I was lucky enough to find great positions abroad, both had pros and cons to them but overall it was an experience I will be forever grateful for.
I started my teaching journey on the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand and ended my in-class teachings in Ha Long City, Vietnam. The differences between both countries and the job positions were surprisingly more diverse for both being Asian countries. Regardless of how they differ it was one of my greatest adventures and one I would do all over again.
I taught at an International School on the island of Koh Phangan, being one of the only International Schools here, a lot of Thai children that had money and foreign children that were living on the island attended this school.
It was a Preschool through Kindergarten school so all of the classes I taught had kids ranging from 2-7 years old. The school day started at 8AM and ended at 4:30PM.
The school was very well put together and in a nice area, for the most part there were lots of teaching resources and a nice outside play spot for the kids to have recess. All of the staff knew a little bit of English and some spoke fluent English. They were nice, caring and some I am still friends with today.
Everyone had their own core class and then helped out with other classes during the course of the school day if needed. The school day ended at 3PM and all staff stayed after school for programs such as sport, nature or craft until 4PM. The last half hour was dedicated to lesson planning.
Each class had an English teacher, a Thai teacher and 2 Thai aids to help with keeping the kids busy, ready and understanding of English lessons for translation. We as teachers were in charge of creating the lesson plans and had no curriculum to go off of. This was nice in a sense because you are able to run your classroom how you want.
Overall it was a very well organized and put together school day and seemed like any other full-time job back home in the States.
My core class that I was in charge of were what they called the “Rabbit” class, they were 3-4-year old’s and honestly the cutest little things ever. I had 20 kids in the class.
Since it was an International School half of the class was taught in English and half was taught in Thai. I loved this aspect of it because I was able to learn basic Thai along with the kids. It is extremely interesting to see the foreign kids who speak their own language, Thai and English all by the age of 6!
This was the main reason I left the school, I know I speak for a lot of Thailand schools when I say the money isn’t great but especially for an International, well known school where I was working 42 hours a week, I should have been getting paid more.
I made 850 USD a month. Granted living in Thailand is much cheaper then say America but I still had student loans and bills of my own to pay from home as well as rent, food and fun while living in Thailand. It was just not enough for the lifestyle I wanted to live.
I loved the culture. Thailand is for sure my favorite country. They call it the land of smiles for a reason! It is the friendliest place I have ever been. Getting to experience the Thai culture, food, traditions and make forever friends from all around the world while getting to teach the cutest kiddos wasn’t bad at all!
My overall experience with teaching in Thailand was a good one. I would have stayed longer if I made double the money. I loved my kids and at the time I had no idea I could make more working less, so it seemed like a win, win.
I was making friends from all over the world, going to parties constantly, getting my tan on, exploring the islands of Thailand and all around living the island life. It honestly couldn’t have gotten much better then that!
I taught at an after-school language center. This was a totally different experience then my school in Thailand. The school offered a variety of different classes for kids ages 4-18.
Most of my classes were beginner (4-6 age) I had some intermediate classes ranging from 8-11 years. Classes were an hour and a half long, each one with a Vietnamese aid to help with translation and organization of the classroom.
The school was in a good area of the city but traffic to get to school was sometimes bad. That is a big adjustment from living the beach life in Thailand, I had a hard time living and working in a city where traffic was chaotic and life was never chill.
I was in a wealthier city then some of the other Vietnamese Districts, so I was lucky enough to have some teaching tools such as wipe off boards, overheads, video equipment etc. The curriculum they gave to us was a UK based learning book called Learning Stars. We had to create our lesson plans the week before based on the curriculum and add in interactive games to make the lessons more intriguing.
The staff I worked with were for the most part very nice. Every Vietnamese teacher had to speak fluent English which made it much easier to speak and follow along with procedures.
The Vietnamese aids all had to have a little background in English so they could better help to translate during classes. We had 5 English teachers and 8 Vietnamese Teachers. Everyone in the school got along well and hung out outside of school.
What was nice about teaching in Vietnam at a language center was the hours. I only worked 20 hours a week! I had plenty of time for fun, but I will admit at times it was very boring not having to work so much, especially in the winter when it is cold.
Since I was working at a language center, everything was run very differently. I was working 6 days a week but some days I only worked an hour and a half class and that was it. Weekends were our longest working days. Everyone had classes starting from 8AM-4PM with only 15 min brakes in-between classes. Once a week we had to go in for 3 hours to do lesson planning as well.
The reason I took the job in the first place was the major pay increase. I went from making 850 USD for 42 hours a week in Thailand a month to making 2,000 USD a month working 20 hours a week. This did not include the 200 a month in housing they also gave us on top of that. If you stayed your year long contract you also received a 1500 dollar bonus.
It was also very cheap to live in Vietnam, chapter to live there then it was to live in Thailand. I was also doing a lot less because it was winter and my social life wasn’t a nightly occurance.
I loved the kids. They spoke amazing English and it was really fun to teach the older kids because they could hold legitimate conversations with you and were always excited to tell you about their day and laugh with you.
I had a harder time at this school then my last one due to problems with the owner of the school and her putting me down as a teacher. The biggest change I came to find when working in Vietnam is that often times the Vietnamese think they are right about everything, even when it’s your core language that’s being learned.
Living in a big city has never been for me so having to drive a motor bike in crazy traffic to work every day in the winter was a downside for me. If you do not like the cold weather (which I hate), you may want to plan around where in Vietnam and the time of year you are going. It was a cold as 43 degrees, which may not seem that col but when you are driving a motor bike everywhere, let me tell you, it’s totally freezing!
I really enjoyed my freedom, the money I was making for such little hours and the ability to still experience a culture that was different from my own. The apartment I lived in was also very high class and extremely cheap! There were lots of other schools in Ha Long so there was never a shortage of expats to meet which made for meeting people easy.
There is always going to be places you like teaching better than others. In my class I fell in love with the country of Thailand. I love the atmosphere, the people and for the most part, my job but at the end of the day I was not making nearly enough money to support myself and the lifestyle I wanted.
Vietnam on the other hand was my least favorite places to live but I absolutely loved traveling the country. I liked the school I worked at, I loved the kids as well as the people I met. The best part was the pay for such little work and living in an inexpensive area. I would go back to Vietnam in a heartbeat but not to live, the cities are just not my scene.
If you are in-between these two countries to teach, weigh your pros and cons! Think about how you are as a person and what you want out of your teaching experience.
If money is your top priority then go to Vietnam, if having a cultural experience and living where the beaches aren’t far away, then Thailand may be more of the place you want to be. Regardless of which country you choose you will always have ups and downs you will go through, your living in a foreign country after all!
No matter where you end up going, I can promise it will be an incredible experience and one you will be forever grateful you choose to take on.
You can find my Guide to teaching English abroad for more help here!