The adventure of a lifetime in Thailand: Sophie’s story

The adventure of a lifetime in Thailand: Sophie’s story

Where do I start? It’s taken me, I believe, 4 years to convince to myself to become a teacher, let alone do the TEFL course. This was mainly because I didn’t believe I could do it, let alone handle the big leap of moving abroad. I had three boring options back home in England and one amazing option to give this career a try. 

Option one: stay at home. Keep going round in circles, being on government benefits to support funds for finding work and paying utilities at home, staying with my parents until I hit 30? Didn’t want that to continue! 

Option two: find a partner, get married, have a house, settle down, play wife or stay at home mum? I like the partner and house part but I am nowhere near ready for marriage and being a mum. I’ve still got so much to do and so much to see before that happens! 

Option three: do a TEFL course with The TEFL Org, apply for teaching abroad and see how it goes. That option was something I was unsure of at first, but a part of me wished I applied sooner. I would say, only do it when you are really bored of the situation you’re in. If you don’t want to have a “normal” lifestyle, you keep getting headaches over decisions of what to do and you’re bored at home being aimless, do a TEFL course. 

In late 2017, being fresh out of university, I was offered to teach in China . But a part of me just didn’t feel it would suit me. I wasn’t ready to go to China or move abroad and teach, since they take education very seriously and for a first-time nervous teacher and someone like me who’s fresh out of university, it wasn’t ideal. University was a very negative experience for me, I was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and had later developed very bad depression and anxiety. So, I spent my time focusing on getting better again before I could think of taking a big leap in life. 

Most Asian teaching contracts are 12 months long, which to me was overwhelming, whereas in Thailand their contracts go on for 5 and a half months. Or, you can stay longer if you want to. So really, it was a trial run to see if I like teaching or not - I could come home if it didn’t work out, or stay out there longer. 

The Beginning 

In November 2019 I decided to take the plunge and do my 120-hour TEFL course with The TEFL Org and immediately I got into it. Some units and assignments were so hard, to the point I called customer service asking “what does a perfect present mean again?”. How very embarrassing! 

I had moments when I felt I wasn’t cut out for teaching, let alone learning how to be a teacher and taking in feedback which was frustrating to understand. But on the journey of this course, I enjoyed learning my native language in more depth. After finishing one unit and one part of the course at a time, and receiving positive feedback on my writing assignments from my tutor, I started to feel confident. I was more sure of this movement in my life. 

After finishing the course in early March 2020 and getting the hard copy of my certificate through the post,  I was so excited. I was now fully ready to go out there, teach English, travel the world and change someone’s life! But then: Coronavirus and lockdown.

The Tedious Waiting Game 

We all remembered thinking “when is this going to end? When can we travel and get back to normal?”

For many, the lockdown was really tough and for some it was revolutionary. For me, it was an opportunity to research countries I wanted to go to and teach in. After lots of researching on what I wanted out of this experience - was it finance or was it self-discovery and adventure? - I chose Thailand! 

I’ve always loved Thailand. Ever since I visited in 2016 for my birthday trip, I wanted to go back and go there, but not as a tourist. It was an opportunity of a lifetime and I couldn’t resist but take the plunge and go, once the lockdown and restrictions eased. 

The Beginning of the Adventure of a Lifetime 

We were back in lockdown in January. That really hit my patience button, but luckily I found a company in Thailand on my Instagram feed. I immediately contacted the founder of the company who has been supportive from the very beginning. 

As soon I applied I knew I was in safe hands and was going in the right direction for the adventure of a lifetime to teach and live in Thailand! 

Preparation took 7 months: visas, knowing where I was going to be placed, being totally anti-social from my friends and being super careful with Covid. It was then, in October 2021 I finally got everything ready after a year-long wait. When the pandemic was moving forward and the restrictions eased a little bit, I finally was on my way to the land of smiles. 

Finally, after going round in circles with no direction from no work, little to no enjoyment in life, suffering from mental health wobbles and accepting defeat: this was the opportunity to go out there and make something for myself and live the life that I wanted, which is here! 

The good thing the contract was that it was shorter - 5 months, compared to doing a one-year contract in countries like South Korea, China, Japan and Vietnam. So if teaching wasn’t for me, the months go by very quickly and I could choose to stay, or go elsewhere.

I saw this opportunity as a starter package, since it’s a short contract, it’s a very laid back lifestyle and easy approach to work.

Teaching in Thailand 

Teaching in Thailand is lots of fun, and easy work. If you make teaching fun for the kids, it’ll be fun for you too. It’s a nightmare. though, if you don’t enjoy teaching, or can’t cope with the heat, the bugs and the idiosyncrasies of Asia! 

In terms of salary, wages aren’t exactly the highest, but there are opportunities to earn very good money in Thai international schools and at universities. However, I didn’t move to Thailand because of money. I moved here because I can, and life shouldn’t be dictated by finance.

For me, being here is about relearning, growing into the new person you craved to be, improving and overcoming mental health battles and seeing the world away from negative influences. 

I’m currently placed in a small, sleepy town up in northwest Thailand. That’s ideal for me, since I grew up in Cornwall and I’m accustomed to a slow pace and steady approach in life. 

What’s next?

I do plan to carry on teaching because I feel this is the direction I was meant to be in.

This is what I should’ve been doing years earlier before the pandemic. I should’ve said “yes” when I was offered to teach in China, but at the time I wasn’t ready. I just finished a very negative experience during my time at university and had a lot of emotional baggage to clean up. 

As I mentioned before, it took me years to get me to say “I’m going to teach abroad” and I regret not doing it sooner. However, at the same time I’m glad I finally took the plunge and get out of my comfort zone. It is daunting, it is frustrating, it is hard work but it’s truly rewarding and the end result is I am the happiest I have ever been in a very long time! 

The course itself was a challenge, but I’m thankful I did it with The TEFL Org. I feel a sense of doing them proud; their 120-hour course, which was full of challenges and tasks I was unfamiliar with, has given me the direction I needed, getting my life back on track at last! 

Will I be staying in Thailand forever? I would love to stay in Thailand longer because I love it here so much, but a part of me is ready for a new chapter somewhere new. What I do know is, now I have experienced teaching here, I feel the world is my oyster and I can go and do anything with open arms! I don’t know exactly where I want to go next. But I’ve got a feeling it’s always going to be a new adventure, and something amazing and challenging is awaiting ahead on the horizon. 

Want to get TEFL qualified and start an adventure of your own like Sophie did? Check out our range of TEFL courses !

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