When I started looking in to teaching abroad, it didn’t take me long to set my sights on Asia. I wanted something different. I wanted a culture that would make me look at my own with new eyes, people that would help me learn different ways of living, and students that would let me enjoy my time as a teacher.
Vietnam, China, Indonesia, South Korea, Cambodia, Japan, and, of course, Thailand were all on my radar. If you look up teaching abroad in Asia, you’ll quickly find that the countries with the highest paying jobs are South Korea, Japan, and China. But those countries also demand more work of you (naturally) and are pickier about who they hire—not a totally safe bet for a new teacher with no teaching certificate or formal teaching experience. And making money wasn’t high on my priority list for this adventure. Sure, I felt the need to make enough money to afford my travels, but I wasn’t concerned with making a lot of money. I wanted to settle in a country that would let me make enough to live comfortably and offer me an exciting cultural experience and opportunities to travel while I worked. After months of research, Thailand emerged as my winner. It offered an interesting culture, travel opportunities, and a decent salary, and don’t forget about its
Rich history Tropical climate Friendly people (it’s called The Land of Smiles for a reason) Consistently large pool of teaching jobs Low cost of living Accessible public transportation Respectful students (so I’ve heard) Beautiful scenery Delicious food Decent infrastructure Slower paced lifestyle Large expat community Fairly good safety record
The list goes on. As you can tell, Thailand offers a lot to a young teacher-to-be looking for an adventure, and it certainly checked all my boxes.
One of my favorite things to tell myself when I’m approaching a situation that I’m uncertain about is: Do it with purpose. Crossing a rickety bridge? Put your foot on each creaking, disintegrating wooden plank as if there’s no chance it won’t hold you. Because if the bridge is going to collapse, it’s going to do it regardless of whether you step on with timidity or conviction, and the timidity will only waste time and increase self-doubt. That’s an extreme example, but it does a nice job of illustrating the meaning of my little motto. It also tells me to never do anything half way. If you’re going to do it, give it everything you have. When I decided I was going to teach abroad, I decided to take it as far as it would go. Asia, being on the opposite side of a globe, is physically about as far from the US as you can go in this world. But the culture is also a far cry from what you find in America. In choosing Thailand, I chose to go all the way, to step completely outside my comfort zone, to accept the challenge as one I may never encounter again (although I hope this will only be the first of many challenging adventures), and to use the experience for all it will be worth. I was choosing to step onto the rickety, uncertain bridge of teaching/living abroad with conviction.
As I’ve prepared for this move, I’ve developed an interesting relationship with Thailand. I’ve grown to love the idea of it and the imagined experiences it will offer me. It has become a familiar face in my consciousness—one that will soon reshape itself as I get to know the “real” Thailand and replace all the inaccuracies that accompany an idea created by an optimistic imagination. I can only hope that after meeting this place, after integrating into it, after learning about and accepting its quirks and conventions, that I will grow to love it, or at least respect it, for what it is.