Stella, 26, is currently working in Surin, Thailand as a TEFL teacher. She started in October 2016. Here is her story.
Stella, what made you go travelling?
I have always wanted to travel and see parts of the world that are completely different to England. My life was thrown off course a bit and so I thought it was now or never.
Oh no, what happened?
I had been on a steady enough track in London, living with my boyfriend of 5 years and working in a good arts job which I enjoyed. When my relationship ended and my father sadly passed away I realised I needed to make a change, I didn’t want to just carry on living the same life like nothing had happened. I left London which was hard because I had a great group of friends, and I left my job which was scary because in a way it was my dream job. I then moved back home and began saving up some money to travel around Asia. The year spent at home saving up certainly had a few moments; I often questioned what I was doing with my life and whether I had made a big mistake.
‘I can happily say that it would have been a mistake to stay in London and that I am happily riding the wave…’
Has travelling helped?
Yes, travelling has definitely helped. I can happily say that it would have been a mistake to stay in London and that I am happily riding the wave of my quarter-life-crisis*. There have been some tricky moments, it’s not all smooth sailing but I wouldn’t change it. After a rough 18 months I am finally starting to feel more like myself again.
Oh good! What were your expectations before you left?
This might sound strange but my expectations were really low to be honest, I was not excited about leaving at all. In the lead up to the trip I was not in a great place and so I was not able to get excited about it. Also, I felt very ill-prepared and expected everyone else to be far more prepared and professional. What I actually found was a great group of people, almost as ill-prepared as me and all the lovelier for it.
What was your favourite city/country?
I do really love Thailand, I haven’t travelled much since arriving in Bangkok 2 months ago. We went to Kuala Lumpur recently to arrange working visas and it was a great city. I loved the exotic vegetation amongst the cityscape and many people preferred it to Surin. I however am a big fan of Thailand as it is very friendly and chilled out. I have never been so relaxed in my life, it is a massive contrast to the fast paced intense life of London. Bangkok was cool, but we didn’t get to see much of it sadly as we were doing orientation for most days and the city had just begun its mourning after the Kings passing.
What was your least favourite?
I think my least favourite place so far is actually Kuala Lumpur, as much as I liked it I didn’t feel as safe there and it was more Western than I would like. We are travelling to Kho Samet for New Years which will be fun, and I also hope to travel to Chang Mai and Cambodia before I leave in April.
You’re working abroad, what is your job?
I am teaching English as a foreign language in kindergarten as an intern. This means that I get a good level of support from both the school and the company I booked with, but less pay. It is so cheap to live here that the lower salary doesn’t really matter. The accommodation is covered in my internship fee, we just pay for our electricity and water.
‘My advice would be to just do it.’
How did you find work, was it challenging?
I paid a fee to a TEFL company to arrange a work placement and coordinate my Visa application. For this reason finding work was very easy, although I did not know where in Thailand I was going to be based until a few days before I left. Things tend to be very last minute here. I know a fellow intern who has independently found other schools around Thailand and has had positive responses so far. Most places require a degree, but I do know of one teacher in Thailand who is teaching without a degree. There is a lot of TEFL work in Thailand, and other countries in Asia. They prefer experience so an internship is a good option to begin, but it certainly isn’t essential. It is reasonably easy to complete a TEFL qualification at home.
And how are you finding work?
The days can be long, I arrive at school before half 7 and leave at 5. I also tutor on Mondays and Tuesdays. In kindergarten the days themselves are very relaxed and the staff that I work with are very kind and supportive. Other interns have far more challenging roles and less support, I think they can find their days quite challenging.
What other jobs (if any) did you apply for?
I was offered an arts job in Cambodia about 6 months before I booked this internship. I couldn’t take it as I had not completed my Masters dissertation at the time.
What advice would you give to people looking to work abroad?
My advice would be to just do it. Obviously do your research and get a good idea of what to expect, but sometimes you can over think these things. The more I thought about it the more I didn’t want to come, I ended up in denial that I was coming at all. It has been a great help to be with a company that takes care of our accommodation, visa’s etc, but it does also mean that we have been a bit molly-coddled so it all depends on your style.
*Read about how my Quarter-Life-Crisis made me decide to travel