After obtaining degrees in English Literature and English Secondary Education, Sean Lords packed up his bags and left to Seoul, South Korea where he lived for three years teaching English abroad. Sean has since returned to the States and is currently at work on his Master's degree.
A few weeks ago I was at a work dinner and had the opportunity to speak with a colleagues friend about our jobs and how we got to where we are today. We spent a good amount of time on college and what we majored in and some of the same professors that we both had at the University we both attended. This inevitably paved the way to bring up what we did after graduation. She admitted that she is still working in the same job that she had throughout college while I went in to some detail about my ESL teaching gig overseas. Several times throughout our conversation she made statements about how she always had wanted to do something like that but her fears of living in a foreign country, cut off from her life back home, always dissuaded her in the end.
After talking to a few more people since being back in the United States, I have seen that her fears were not entirely unique, in fact, most people that I caught up with or have met since have stated things along the same line. But what about if you can get past all that? What does a job overseas offer you once you make the decision to jump past all the scary unknowing? The answer is a lot. The skills, experiences and changes I underwent during my time teaching abroad is are some of the best moments of my life. Below are five of the most beneficial things my three years overseas taught me.
See the World
I think it goes without saying that getting this chance to see and experience a part of the world that would have previously been unattainable is one of the biggest draws of choosing to teach in an ESL environment overseas. Depending on your area of choice and your recruiter, you may be given the opportunity to teach in a rural environment. All I can say to this is, DO IT! Exclamation aside, teaching in a rural area will give you experiences and the opportunity to see and do things you never thought imaginable. While teaching in a large city definitely has its perks and ease of access to a similar lifestyle stateside, teaching in a rural area has the potential to change your life in ways you never thought possible. As an added benefit, you may be eligible for a pay incentive for teaching in a rural location.
It’s no secret that the cost of living while abroad is significantly cheaper than it is in the United States. While this can be skewed either way depending on where you end up teaching, for the most part, school and teaching institutions will pay for your monthly rent, and perhaps also your health insurance, utilities and even a cell phone. Because of this, it is not uncommon for expats to send as much as 70-80% of their salary home each month to take care of bills and financial obligations back home. In countries like South Korea and Japan, expats also pay into a national pension which becomes available to them at the completion of their contract. This amount ends up being about 9% of the first year’s wages and about 6.7% of each subsequent year. For one year, the average expat can save about $15,000 if they are smart about their money.
Your Own Growth
I know I can speak from personal experiences that the person I was when I graduated college and the person I was when I returned home some three years later look nothing alike. Moving overseas saw me separated from a life, friends and a family that made up a huge portion of who I was as a person. Initially, the shock of losing these things was great. Everything that I grown accustomed to was ripped out from under me (albeit by choice). But what is interesting about all of this, is what happens to you when these things are gone. Redefining your life once these things are removed is a pretty spectacular thing.
Bolster Your Future
Getting a great paying job that is in line with your passions and expertise is no easy feat. With hundreds of people sometimes vying for the same position, it’s easy to feel like you are just one of the many who hold a degree in Journalism and also wrote on their school newspaper. Extra-curricular activities that you poured your soul into because you believed they would play a vital role in landing a job outside of college are often the same things that everyone else did. So how do you get ahead and stand out? Teaching abroad can certainly help. In every interview I landed since I returned from teaching overseas my experiences living abroad came up. Employers liked that I was capable of putting myself outside of my comfort zone. They like the leadership skills I developed and the organizational methods I used to keep my class organized. I went in to each one of these interviews ready to explain and detail why my time overseas makes me the best possible candidate for this job. Only two weeks of applying and a few interviews later, it worked.
Change Someone’s Life
Bring on the cheese. It may sound tacky. Completely cliché and trite, but teaching overseas really does give you the chance to change and impact someone’s life for forever. Many of the students that I taught came from affluent families who were involved in trade, business or medicine on the global level. In order for their children to reach the same amount of success as the parents, learning English becomes of the utmost importance. The person you choose to be each time you enter the classroom can make or break these student’s passions to learn a new language and enjoy the same accomplishments as their parents.
As mentioned above, each ESL teaching destination offers different salaries, housing packages and demographics of students you will be teaching. It’s important to ask your recruiter or school every question imaginable in order to make sure you are going to wind up in the best possible situation.
Ready for the next step? There are a variety of starting points, take a look at the job forums on Dave’s ESL Café or if you’re looking into teaching in Europe head over to Oxford Seminars to look into getting the necessary TEFL credentials for your work visa. If you're interested in Teaching English Abroad in Asia, check out all the schools where you can work and get paid on the GeoVisions website.
Each week, GeoVisions posts an actual email from a Conversation Corps tutor, a Conversation Partner or a full time teacher abroad on a GeoVisions program. We call the series, Help Me Teach Abroad.
Our Help Me Teach desk is manned by Betsy Bruneau, a full time ESL teacher here. She gives teaching assistance to GeoVisions' participants by phone, email and Skype. It is a FREE service that GeoVisions provides to all of our participants and they can have access to Betsy before they depart and during the program. If we can help you be an amazing teacher or tutor, you will be happy, your students or host family will be happy, you will tell people they should try this out and we will have a repeat family and school. And that's how we want to roll.
You can find a lot of these posts by clicking on the Help Me Teach tag. You can find that over on the right side of this screen. The tag box looks like this one. We put all of our Help Me Teach posts right there. And who knows...one of these days we'll have enough to make up our own E-Book, which of course we'll give away for FREE.
I've just arrived in Thailand to teach a mother, grandmother, and her young grandson .... Ages 11 to 60....there might be some other people coming too.
I have no idea where to start and looking at the resources. It doesn't seem to help me to assist with people who speak zero english and me no Thai. They really have no English so I can't even rely on one to translate or to lead...they look to me...I have an iPad and am using Google Translate which has been my saviour...so far we are concentrating on greetings and body parts...I've also shown them YouTube videos of Australia. They are all absolute beginners with no confidence and no English.
I'd appreciate any kind of suggestions, assistance, resources, anything you can suggest....
Wow, Kieran, you are really brave. I think there is a lot you can do so please don't worry so much. I am an ESL teacher in Connecticut where I also teach high school social studies and special education. I have worked with children of every age and have taught a few years of night school. Every age group has something to offer and I found the adults one of the most fun groups with which to work.
You will find out very early what each member of your group is capable of. Many new speakers of English know some words but feel funny speaking. Many can read or understand, but not speak. You will probably find that there will be a leader, of sorts, in your group for which you can rely to translate or give you an indication of what the others are capable of or willing to do.
Since you are teaching adults, you need to assure that your lessons are high interest. So begin by talking about the culture from which you come. What do people do there for fun? Where do you live? What is the geography like? Share pictures, magazines, photographs, postcards, etc. Show them pictures of your family and friends (if you are comfortable with this). Show them what an 11 year old might be doing or what school is like. Write key words on a board or piece of paper. Use maps to find distance from Thailand to your hometown. Take note of what countries you would travel over or through. YOu can include other things like oceans, rivers, mountains, etc. This will undoubtedly spark some discussion from which you can glean who your stronger English students are. Do this kind of thing for more than one day. You can ask them to write about what they like about Thailand or where they have traveled. If they can't write it in English tell them to write in Thai or to draw a picture. Trust me, this is not babyish. Your subject matter is not juvenile, that's what makes the difference.
Next, bring in pictures and photographs of famous people and places around the world. Ask them to name them and then write them on the board. This also should spark some interest. They can be pictures of current leaders of the world, pop stars, athletes, musicians, dead presidents, whatever. Do the same with the land marks. Then give a brief written description of each person or place. When you are finished ask them to choose which person they would like to most meet or which place they would like to visit. Ask them to explain why they made this choice and to write a brief explanation. Focus on the conversational piece of it.
You should focus on their interests even though they are different ages. Google Translate is lovely and so is youtube. Are you from Australia? Why not show them pictures of your family and friends and introduce titles at the same time. Then ask them to introduce their family and friends through titles.
You can provide a writing prompt every day. There are many on the internet. Make sure they each have a Thai/English dictionary. Tell them that they can answer first in Thai and then translate it. Writing prompts are high interest and usually involve their own opinions about something.
Find articles in the newspaper and use google translate to develop questions for you to give to them. I think you are on the right track. Play simple games together, like card games. Remember every time you talk to them you are using English and displaying proper usage. Do jigsaw puzzles together to talk about colors or landforms. Have them create books of geographical land forms by looking for them in National Geographic or on line. My students love this activity. You can do it at the same time, using Thai.
You can also focus on what they would need to know if they were to travel to an English-speaking country. They would need to be able to ask for directions, order food, follow directions, take a bus, etc. Ask them what they would like to know how to do and role play.
I have lots more ideas, Kieran. Write me when you know more about the members of your group and the levels of English. I can't wait to hear.
If you have comments for this tutor on Conversation Corps-Spain, feel free to use the Comments section below. This is an open community and we're all eager to learn.
It all began on Sunday January 8th, 2012. The January intake group for GeoVisions' Teach in Thailand program met Kevin and Jaco in the lobby of the Ratchada Hotel in Bangkok for their debriefing. After a little question-answer session, the group headed back to their rooms in preparation for the journey to Hua Hin on Monday morning. All of the students shared 2 minibuses for the two-hour drive down the coast. As soon as they arrived, everyone had a choice between three different accommodations. 12 of the students chose the Hillside, while 3 chose accommodation closer to town. For the rest of the first week, the group had Thai language classes, culture and politics lessons, as well as getting bank accounts, sim cards, and scooters sorted out.
In honor of the group’s successful first week in Thailand, we held a Braai on one of the most beautiful beaches in Hua Hin. On their first Friday evening, the staff, our January group, and even some of our friends from the Wildlife Rescue Centre joined to celebrate their new adventures. Everyone was telling stories about home and anxiously asking questions about Thailand or motivations for coming here. After one full week the teachers are settling in well and starting to build the type of connections that will last a lifetime. As the night went on, the food was served, drinks were finished, and the conversation dwindled.
As a supplement to the practical portion of the TESOL course, students get to observe an English lesson at a local middle school. The class is currently working on their food module. The teacher, a native Thai woman, revisited vocabulary from the day before, and had the teachers create bubble charts (one main idea in the middle circle branching off to other ideas) for the various types of food. An example was “Brainy Foods” and vocabulary that fell underneath the category was blueberry, banana, strawberry, and milk. The students were divided into groups, but sent an individual to present the bubble chart to the class. Through observation, these soon-to-be teachers get to see different forms of classroom management as well as how to teach older kids.
Throughout the TESOL course teachers are given many opportunities to practice presenting lesson plans. We encourage our teachers to act as if the classroom is filled with Thai children, giving instructions and eliciting vocabulary much like they will in their teaching placements. There are three main types of lesson plans, but teachers can be creative with the activities that will help the children learn vocabulary and conversation skills. Our teachers this month are all doing very well, and we cannot wait for them to get out there and teach!
For more information about the "Teach In" programs offered by GeoVisions, check out our Teach in China, Teach in Korea, Teach in Thailand and our newest, Teach in Vietnam programs to learn how you can travel to Asia, become a teacher and earn a great full time salary with excellent benefits.
We have this amazing program in Thailand (for degree holders or not) to Teach in Thailand. You will earn a full time salary and have great benefits.
Or, you can join the Conversation Corps and live with a family and teach them conversational English on Conversation Corps-Thailand.
Or, you can come to a summer camp and be a camp counselor (coming soon) and during all of the activities with the kids, you'll speak English.
And maybe learn a little Thai.
And learn all about Mai-Pen-Rai.
Watch the video and contact us. We have families along the coast waiting for you, and 150 full time teaching jobs available each month.
Enjoy the video. It only takes 3 minutes and it's amazing!
It's always great to see positive results, especially when you're involved in projects that can really help people. This weekend I returned to Asia and attended an event with some of our teachers and volunteers, and ... even better ... some of the students we work with from the "Children's Village" orphanage in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. A vanload of children from this unique educational community, complete with their Thai traditional instruments, came to Bangkok and entertained us ... actually wowed us with their self-confidence, their charm, and their English skills.
are children of poverty, children of neglect, and children of abuse. They learn from volunteers on our programs. It is great to have engaging conversations (in English) with 11-14 year olds that many people would have given little chance to develop skills to succeed ... but these students are making giant strides.
Moo Baan Dek ("Children's Village") is a very special place. The children are active members of the community. They participate in decision-making, rule-making, even discipline when necessary. It's self-described as "experimental", and "alternative". I describe it as "wonderful"!
You don't need to be a specialist, an educator, have teaching credentials to be a successful volunteer on a GeoVisions program like this. You just need to care, and be ready to give of yourself. One thing that was all our volunteers agreed on -- you get back a lot more than you give!
GeoVisions has many opportunities in Thailand for you to give of yourself. You may want to work on one of our Volunteer Projects or teach conversational English to a family or a business or community group on our Conversation Corps and Conversation Partner Programs.
The photos on this page were taken by Phillip Chappell, who coordinates our programs in Thailand. We thank him for his photos and the help he gives to all of our volunteers and teachers in Thailand. More pictures can be found on the Moo Baan Dek Facebook group page.
Suck My Nation! The newest addition to the GeoVisions family of volunteer Blogs. Read Don's Blog here.
Conversation Corps member, Don Deerie, is writing an amazing Blog with the most unique photos of life in Thailand I've seen. Don is volunteering to live with a family in Thailand, and teach them English around 15 hours each week. In return, he's getting free room and board with the family. At GeoVisions, we call that Conversation Corps.
How many people get to actually live with a Thai family for a month? It is a rare opportunity, and Don is making the most of it. Here is an entry from June 15:
All smiles in the ราชอาณาจักรไทย
-2nd week in Thailand
-3rd day as an English tutor to 2 students
I'm living with my host family for a month. I have my own room (a room larger than my parents'). The family owns a motorbike shop.
Don is a student at Bates College in Maine and speaks Spanish, Dutch and is learning Czech. He brings to the Conversation Corps a great sense of humor and tons of excitement for Thailand, his host family and teaching them some conversational English.
If you have any interest in Thailand or what it's like to live with a family in that stunning country...or if you have questions about joining the Conversation Corps, you will enjoy reading Suck My Nation.
Do you worry about not being able to teach English? Leave us your comments below! The Conversation Corps is about teaching conversational English. Anyone can do it. What are your thoughts about Don's Blog or the Corps? Please leave them below.
Happy New Year! It's Songkran. April 13-15. The Thai New Year. We have GeoVisions teachers, volunteers and staff in Thailand now.
In Bangkok there is political turmoil. Red shirts trying to bring down the government. Red shirts being manipulated by an outside force.
But ... it's New Year. Songkran. The Water Festival.
The water will wash away past transgressions.
The sprinkling of water on friends and visitors is a way to appeal to the higher powers to bring water to the fields for a new rice crop. The sprinkling has turned into splashing. The splashing has turned into dousing. In Thailand ... at New Year ... you are going to get VERY wet. Thais will spread a floury paste on your face ... on your neck ... it wards away evil.
The fun of the New Year lasts for three or four days. How wet can you get?
Happy New Year. It's 2553! Come to Thailand. Teach. Volunteer. Discover. LIVE!
GeoVisions in Thailand includes Teaching, Volunteering, Conversation Tutoring in a Classroom or with a Family. Join us.
This week, close to 500 university students from Thailand arrive in the US on the GeoVisions Work and Travel Program. GeoVisions is designated by the US State Department to sponsor exchange students who come to work in seasonal jobs in the US. This year, while there are fewer jobs, and, thus, fewer students, there's still a good chance you might run into some of our students -- especially if you are visiting a major theme park, or even a national park. You might have some of them serve you at a McDonalds in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio or Florida. These students are from Thai universities, and the State Department gives young people the chance to learn about America by having the ability to work for a couple months during their school vacation. Thai students have a vacation from March to June. So ... if you see a Thai student in your travels, be sure to say hello (Sa-wa-dee Kap --- or Sa-wa-dee Kah if you are female).
If you prefer to meet Thais in Thailand, you might want to consider our Conversation Corps-Thailand
program. You can go to the "Land of Smiles" and live with the family of one of our exchange students and help them improve their conversational English, while you learn Thai, discover Thai customs or culture or history, or just enjoy sightseeing in your free time -- for one, two or three months.
For now ... WELCOME TO AMERICA to our Thai Work and Travel Students.
One of the joys of travel for me is to see how people move about cities -- we don't do it so well in my country, America. On our Volunteer and Teaching programs, our explorers learn so much about how cities and countries really work. I had the opportunity to live in Bangkok and meet our volunteers - great people doing great things. But, they needed to move about the city ... and sometimes it could be exciting. Bangkok has taxis, skytrains, subways, tuk-tuks ... and my favorite, the Motorcycle Taxi. For a little over a dollar you can get just about anywhere, AND enjoy a ride that any theme park would be "thrilled" to host. Enjoy the video!
GeoVisions has many programs to give travellers a chance to discover the wonders of Thailand, and get a chance to experience Bangkok - Teach in Thailand, Conversation Corps and Conversation Partner, Volunteer in Thailand. Can't make it to Thailand? Maybe you'll run into one of our hundreds of Thai students who come to the US every year on our Work and Travel Programs.
Do you have some hair-raising stories to share when you have been zipping around a city?
If you can take away something useful from this post, please consider leaving a comment (below) or subscribing to the feed (above) to have future posts delivered to your feed reader. You can also subscribe via email (in the upper right corner). Over on the right we have made it easy for you to become a Fan of GeoVisions on Facebook and to Follow Us on Twitter.
The flight to Chiang Mai from Bangkok takes only one hour. In that short amount of time, I left behind a bustling, urban, major-city and arrived in a smaller city surrounded by mountains, lush forests, and over 300 Buddhist Temples dotting the sides of the local hills.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second-largest city, but that fact never occurred to me as I walked along the quiet streets and in and out of meticulous gardens. In Thai, Chiang Mai means “New Walled City.” New, in this case, means 1296, when Chiang Mai was founded.
From there, I traveled 3 hours further North by car to the Phayao Province, virtually enveloped by mountains, valleys and National Forests. The city of Phayao was founded in 1096. With only modest facilities and conveniences, it is an enchanting community with delightful natural beauty and fascinating religious sites. It is 45 kilometers from here, into an even more rural area, that I arrived at a very unique GeoVisions volunteer project.
Any attempt to categorize the site is going to be tricky. Baan Kru Mookda (in Thai it means “house of Kru Mookda”) can best be described as a camp for underprivileged Thai students run by Kru Mookda and her family. Mrs. Mookda, seen here in the bright yellow shirt, received the 1999 Race Against Poverty award from Kofi Anan on behalf of the United Nations. Here on our web site, you will soon be able to view an excerpt from a documentary filmed for the United Nations Development Project about Mrs. Kru Mookda. The film was premiered at the awards ceremony in New York.
Spending part of a day with Kru Mookda was an honor and experience I will not soon forget. Mrs. Mookda and I met first, sitting on mats beneath a tree, shoes off, sipping water and eating fresh fruit. From there we walked around the camp talking with the children and looking at the camp’s rice paddies, which are cared for totally by the children, the fish ponds and the buildings where classes are held, the computer center and radio station. It is from the children’s radio station that 8,000 households get news and local information.
The pampered traveler might find day-to-day living at Baan Kru Mookda a challenge. In fact, I’m not sure the pampered traveler would even find Baan Kru Mookda or even Phayao for that matter. GeoVisions volunteers, however, find it relaxing. There is no English television or great shopping destinations in the near vicinity. GeoVisions volunteers pamper themselves with lots of reading material, a deck of cards, travel-size board games and a sense of exploration. The surrounding area is breathtaking. One also gets a very real appreciation of the Thai culture since Phayao is not a tourist destination.
The camp (also referred to as an orphanage) does not have many of the conveniences that we are accustomed to. For instance, there are only cold showers, squat toilets, and mosquito netting over all of the beds. The food is 100% Thai. Thai food revolves around rice. Many Thai’s will start a conversation with, “gin khao yung,” which means, “have you eaten yet?” Around rice you will find pork, fish or chicken and the addition of hot spices, coconut milk, vegetables, Thai curry, and lemon grass. The living conditions are absolutely fine…they are just different than what many people are used to and they take some adjustment time.
The boys are all around 12 years old (the oldest being 15), while the girls have a slightly higher average age of 13 to 14. The girls live in a single, long dormitory with adjoining squatter toilets and showers. Female volunteers live in the dorm building with the girls. The boys live in groups in huts that border the rice paddies and fishponds. The area also contains an empty dormitory for visitors, a building with a radio station and ten computers (all donated by Microsoft), a meeting hall, a recreation center with basketball hoops, an outside kitchen and dining room for the children, various fruit trees, a long canopied table area for dinner guests or studying at night, and a beautiful sala for relaxing in at night.
In 1989, Kru Mookda established this project to provide accommodation, education, and a better quality of life for local children and children from nearby mountain tribes whose families are unable to support them. For over a decade, Kru Mookda has been taking in children who have been abused, are extremely impoverished, or face other hardships. Initially the objective of the project was to educate and provide opportunities specifically to young women in the area. Thailand’s notorious sex trade is fueled primarily by young, poor girls who come from the countryside because of parental pressures to help the family earn enough money to survive or, if uneducated, to survive themselves. Kru Mookda has devoted her life to doing research in sociology and community development, as well as teaching throughout Thailand.
The project, which includes volunteers from GeoVisions, strives to make the children live as independently as possible. Thus, they are responsible for farming rice, picking fruit, fishing, buying meat or noodles, cooking their own food, cleaning the camp, washing their clothes, walking to school, and setting up their own living rules. Every night before bed, the children meet in the gathering hall to pray and discuss any new issues or problems. It is a sort of miniature government with a set of representatives (usually the more elder children) who meet with Kru Mookda. The children all adhere to the rules and carry out their responsibilities. Every morning they will wake up at 5:30 to begin preparing breakfast or doing chores, walk or ride to school at around seven, come home at around four, begin cooking dinner and do chores, maybe play some soccer or games, and finish the night with homework and a gathering in the meeting hall.
There is a saying in Thai that if it isn’t Sanook (fun or from the heart), it isn’t worth doing. When we opened the program to GeoVisions’ volunteers, I thought about naming the program “Sanook in the North.” OK, that isn’t true. But what is very true is how much the children enjoy the volunteers and how touching it is to listen to them describe how much they miss them once they are gone. I left Baan Kru Mookda ready to tell the story and committed to sending as many GeoVisions volunteers as I can to the orphanage. Kru Mookda has made a difference in lives for many years, and through her vision, GeoVisions’ volunteers have an opportunity to impact young lives and an entire rural community forever.
For more information about Baan Kru Mookda and the region, I have provided Internet links, below.
Best wishes on your quest for Sanook,
You can also click here to watch a video about Baan Kru Mookda. You will need QiuckTime to view the video.