4 Lessons from an English Teacher Abroad
Preparation is Power
One thing that’s going help you is knowing some basic Thai language before you arrive. Your new home isn’t going to be like the tourist clad streets of Phuket or the chilled island of Koh Tao. In my placement town, Suphan Buri, the odd Thai person will speak English, but most people won’t understand what ‘no meat’ means (warning to vegetarians). Besides, it’s just polite and will help with your confidence and speed up the transition time if you know some basics before arrival.
Live in the Moment
When arriving in your new town, if there’s something you want to do, don’t wait, just do it, especially if you’re only here for a semester. Weeks turn into months rapidly when you’re teaching in a foreign country. I was weighing up the idea of renting a scooter for a week or two before I bit the bullet and went for it. Having a bike means I can do the things that I want after school. I can see explore and get to know where I am. It has added value to my experience. I am eco-conscious and usually walk and cycle everywhere at home, however, this city is a lot more spread out, not to mention hotter. If you’re also somebody that doesn’t value convenience over environmental health, you can add balance by only using your scooter to travel places that would take more than 20 minutes to walk.
Everything is new, so stop expecting it to be the same. Initially I was apprehensive about how my usual routine would pan out here; I didn’t know what to expect. Would there be a gym? Back home I would go to the gym 3 times, sometimes even 5 times a week. But being here has evolved my outlook. I don’t want to spend so much time slaving it away at the gym. I’m somewhere new and want to be outside in the environment rather than in a gym, which look the same in every country. An alternative I’ve found, is skipping. I picked up a cheap but practical skipping rope at one of the Moshi Moshi stores and it works as a good cardio and muscle strengthening exercise. As a bonus, the heat intensifies the workout, making you feel extra cleansed. Mind you, you will look like it’s Songkran all over again.
Photo by m.thaifranchisecenter.com
Being in an eastern culture, I’ve absorbed new ideas, such as lighter exercise being better on the joints. You can pick up a yoga matt and listen along to online yoga videos in your room. I haven’t ever lived on my own so having the space has afforded me the freedom to this. These suggestions will save you money, meaning more cash for your travels.
I try to explore different restaurants every week but there’s nothing like having a regular place that feels a bit like home. You’ll find that Thai culture is super chilled when it comes to work. People don’t live to work; they work to live. There are a couple of restaurants in my town that I love going to because it feels like a group of friends hanging out. It’s like you’re in their living room or back-garden. There’s no awkwardness order taking or waiter/customer role. You’re just a friend coming to have dinner. Bear in mind, not all restaurants are like this; I’ve been to some restaurants where it wasn’t so relaxed. If you explore your town enough, you’ll get into the nooks and crannies and I’m sure you will find a place that becomes your favourite. My regular has become the little restaurant/café across the road from my apartment. It’s so unique. It’s off the main road and is situated between the carparks of the buildings. It’s like a little haven to the residence. It’s called 3teen and is run by a husband and wife. They have a few workers who seem more like family. Each night the same friends are around, and they have a couple of kids, so there’s always children quietly playing around. They’re so warm and welcoming. It’s nice to know that I can go there whenever and feel like I’m part of a community, no matter how small.
The boys don’t like the camera – they’re a lot happier in person. 🙂