Teaching English Abroad as a Parent: Serena’s Story

Ever since I can remember, I have had an obsession with travel. From the airports to the smells when you get off the plane, the food, the culture and the people.

There was always a thought in my mind that I would one day load up a backpack, and I’d be off.

My adult life didn’t start quite the way I imagined. As a single teenage mum at the tender age of 18 I had experienced more rock bottom moments than I care to remember and other than my beautiful son had very little to show for it.

In 2011 I had a particularly rough year and was at a low point. My dad, who was living in Thailand, could see I was struggling and suggested I took some time to see a bit of the world.

It was a crazy idea. I had a job, and my son Matthew who was then 9, was at school. It was impossible. Wasn’t it?

In March 2012, Matthew and I returned from the trip of a lifetime. We had spent three months travelling Thailand, from Bangkok down to the Islands and back again, and it was unreal. All the money in the world could not buy the memories we made in those three months.

From dream to reality, thanks to TEFL

Once back in the UK, I couldn’t shift the niggle of wanting more. I had experienced a whole new way of life, and I now knew that there was so much more on offer for Matthew and me than the mundane lives we were then living.

Whilst travelling Thailand, someone had put the idea in my head about going over there to teach English as a foreign language. Although I couldn’t stop imagining how amazing this new life would be for us both, I refused to allow those feelings to settle for too long as it was a crazy idea way above my station, and so I tried hard to sink back into a routine.

Except I couldn’t. I loved the idea of teaching English, and I knew I would be good at it.

It was a cold November morning in 2012. My alarm went off, and I genuinely looked outside and thought, ‘I can not live this life anymore.’ I’d honestly had enough.

The fear of continuing to live the way I was had started to outweigh the fear of taking a risk and trying something new. I was ready, and at that moment, my mind was made up.

When I got home from work that evening I started sorting things out. I contacted several people through social media who worked as teachers in the area I was keen on, asked them their advice and started to put the feelers out for work.

I had £395.00 in my savings account, and I used all of it to book my 150-hour TEFL course. In December, I attended a two-day intensive classroom course. It blew my mind, and I finally knew I had found my people. From this point onwards, I didn’t doubt my decision. I completed the course in January, booked my flights in February, and on March 8th 2013 I packed up our lives into two suitcases and with only £2k to my name. I pulled my big girl pants up and took a giant leap of faith.

It was Matthew and me against the world, and despite all odds, family concerns, and the occasional ‘what the hell are you doing Serena’ moments, I was finally doing it — living my life on purpose. I had nothing to lose, everything to gain and was so ready for the challenge.

Arriving in Thailand

I quickly found a lovely little condo to rent, got myself a motorcycle and within days was making enquiries at all the local schools and meeting up with the people I had linked up with on socials.

After a week, I had been offered private 1-2-1 work at an English centre in the province as and when, and there was a full-time role if I was interested, but it was six days a week which wouldn’t have worked with Matthew.

In less than a month, I had landed a job at a local government school teaching primary aged children. I worked Mon-Fri teaching 11-14 hours a week. I had a regular monthly salary and had all of the holidays off PAID! It was perfect! The kids were terrific, and it was so fulfilling seeing their progress with learning the language. They were as excited about their English classes as I was about teaching them.

Matthew was primarily home-schooled, and he also took Thai lessons a couple of times a week with a teacher friend. He also joined a local school football team and was quite the player. In terms of good school education, the province where we lived didn’t have anything suitable, so we decided to home school for the first 12 months, and after that we found a private school 8km away, where he went for the rest of the time.

I underestimated the bureaucracy involved in becoming a legal teacher over there, and it was expensive as I had to pay for everything twice. Children don’t come free when it comes to legal documents. There were many boxes to tick, but once it was all done, it was fine.

Quite honestly, the entire experience was phenomenal. The job was great, the cost of living was low, I made friends, Matthew made friends and rather than weekends away to Blackpool, our weekends away were scuba diving in Koh Tao or trips to Bangkok to get our western fixes; Mcdonalds and Dominoes, haha.

And for all the kids out there, here is a note from my son Matthew in his own words:

“I loved every minute of my time in Thailand and it taught me everything I know about life. The lessons I learned over there were amazing. At first I was very nervous and upset leaving all my school friends and family but once I got over there and settled I never looked back. I would love to go back there definitely as it was such a good experience in an amazing country”

We certainly lived the dream.

If it was so great, why did you return?

I had news from the UK that my Nan was very poorly and didn’t have long left. Naturally, I wanted to be there to say my goodbyes. I flew back to the UK, intending to return to my life in Thailand; however, the universe had other ideas.

Soon after arriving home, I met someone. We fell in love, moved in together and later had a baby girl. I never made it back there to live, but I did take my daughter there for a month when she was 18 months old.

I didn’t quite manage to settle back into the rat race life for long, though. Living in Thailand made me realise many things: with the right mindset, faith in the universe, and a good dose of determination, ANYTHING is possible.

I have since set up my own business as a life coach working with ambitious yet unfulfilled parents struggling with life-changing decisions… such as relocating abroad. I help them smash through their own self-limiting beliefs, learn the benefits of putting themselves first and turn them into decisive, confident individuals ready to go and fulfil their dreams without hesitation or apology.

If you are reading this thinking you would love to do something like this, and I could give you one piece of advice; it would be this:

Once you decide to go with something, don’t give yourself too much time to think about what could go wrong. The fact is things WILL go ‘wrong’. It’s par for the course. However, experience has shown me that there is no such thing as failure. Only lessons. It depends on how much you’re willing to learn.

If my story resonates with you and you would like to chat some more, then let’s connect. There is nothing I enjoy more than hearing peoples ambitions – the crazier, the better!

You can learn about me and my story by visiting my website.

You will find me here on Linkedin here.

And on Facebook and Instagram.

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