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Teaching English in Thailand

A New Home With an Array of Choices

My first 28 years, most of them spent in a small town in Oregon, did not prepare me for Bangkok. The first night I didn’t sleep at all. I wandered the streets, amazed by the strange mix of the ancient and modern, Thai and Western. My obscure goal was to find an elephant. And believe it or not I found one—complete with a flashing red light attached to its tail.

After a few days of exploring Bangkok I heard about a language school called TEFL International in a small coastal town called Ban Phe, about 120 miles from Bangkok. After signing up on their web site, I spent four weeks learning how to teach English to non-native speakers. In the process I realized just how much fun teaching could be and began to acquaint myself with Thai language and culture. I made new friends and began to understand what it was I was really looking for—and what I was beginning to find.

After graduating, I spent a few agonizing weeks weighing job offers. There were many jobs to choose from all over Thailand; some of my classmates were choosing more lucrative posts in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. I could have gone virtually anywhere in the world, but I finally decided to accept a position at a small school in Rayong, a town not far from Ban Phe.

I worked mainly weekday evenings and all day Saturday—a total of about 20 hours per week. I became friends with the local motorcycle taxi drivers. I spent time with an ice cream vendor who spoke English quite well from his days working for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. I met a local English teacher who had received her master’s degree in Australia. And I was befriended by a wealthy student who is the CEO of a successful Thai company. All of these new friends gave me a perspective on the world and on myself that I had never had before.

After my first year came and went, when, according to my initial plan, I should be returning to my home in Oregon, I found that I had a new home—a home I had no great desire to leave. So I have spent the last few years exploring. From the rugged terrain and rich history of the North, to the gorgeous islands and beaches of the south, to the friendly countrysides of the Northeast. Despite four years of teaching, I still feel that I have learned more than I taught. Here’s wishing you the same grand adventure.

For More Info: TEFL International offers a TESOL certification in an intensive, 4-week course. I chose them because they are the largest school of TESOL in Asia, because of the many positive comments by graduates of the program, because of their low price (which even includes a private air-conditioned room with private bath), and because of their location—only 100 meters from the beach and a short ferry ride from Samet Island. Visit: TEFL International.

DAVE ABERNATHY is still teaching English in Rayong, and is an aspiring freelance author.

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