16 Things I Wish I knew Before I Taught Abroad In Thailand

By: Nikki Gonzalez

I currently teach in an all-girls, Secondary Government school in Suphanburi, Thailand  which is located in the central region of Thailand. This is only based on my experience. Remember that everyone’s experience is different.

I recommend either getting your passport photos done in Thailand where it is a lot cheaper or if you do get them done in your home country make sure to wear a collared shirt in your pictures as it is necessary for all Thai documents, wear your hair out of your face/ears, and do NOT smile (I learned this the hard way). You will also need 2×2 and 1×1 photos for immigration purposes.


1. You do NOT have to go through a company or organization to teach abroad. You CAN do it independently!  

I think that companies out there that help get students placed in schools abroad to teach are amazing but also are expensive due to having to pay a {large} fee to use the program and getting money taken out of your paycheck every month.

If you use a placement organization ONLY sign up for one semester through them!

Because afterwards if you decide to extend your time at your school you can do it independently and sometimes make more money and/or not get money taken out of your paycheck every month which, should, make you more money in the long run.

They are great though because at orientation you make friends, they ease you into the culture, and prepare you for pre-departure and your time abroad.

If you decide to go the independent route just email your school of interest and send your resume and teaching experience. They should help you with housing, guide you through the visa application process, and with any questions you have pre-departure.

2. You do not always need a TEFL to teach abroad 

In Thailand you do not need a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. However, for most other countries you need a teaching certificate and/or an education diploma. What most schools do require is for you to pass your criminal background check and have a university diploma. I recommend getting a TEFL certificate from Groupon as they are legitimate and cost around $40 USD instead of the usual $1000 USD.

3. Get your vaccines done in Thailand

Getting vaccines in America  is soooo expensive! Get them done when you get to Thailand and you will save up to 80%. I got my Japanese Encephalitis, Hep A+B, and Typhoid shot for $78 USD in Bangkok at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. I know some people who have been here for 1 year and haven’t done any of them and they are okay. Since it is so cheap I recommend getting them just in case. A rabies shot isn’t necessary due to it does not prevent rabies but gives you an extra day or two to go to the hospital to get the necessary vaccination if you are bitten. NO YOU DON’T NEED MALARIA PILLS! 

4. The school structure is very lenient in Thailand 

Don’t expect any strict lesson plans as your school lets you teach what you want, when you want.  You get sooo nervous beforehand but, as the Thai’s say, Mai Pen Rai (means no worries).

Everything will be okay and the kids are excited to be taught by a foreigner that has solid English.

5. The clothing standards are stricter in Thailand 

Ladies at work cannot show their shoulders, no low cut shirts or dresses, sandals must be worn with straps, t-shirts or pants are not allowed, and skirts must be knee-length or longer.

My school is a little lenient about this and my skirts are allowed to be a little bit over the knee and I can wear sandals with no straps.

BRING HALF A SUITCASE OF CLOTHES! You can find amazing and cheap teaching and regular clothes at the many night markets throughout Thailand.

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6. You CANNOT fail students!  

Watch while all the slackers suddenly move to Thailand haha Even if one of your students does not show up all year you can’t fail them. Thai teachers told me that you just have to give that student make up work to get some points.

My friend told me that two of her male students never showed up and she gave them all zero’s and the Thai teachers said they would deal with it. Not sure what ever happen to them.

7. Don’t always expect your co-teachers to go to class 

A co-teacher is a teacher at your school that sits in your class to help you translate to the students. For example, some of my co-teachers show up late, leave early, or do not show up.

8. You will sometimes have up to 1,000 students a week! 

Yes that number is very high. Your class size varies depending on whether you are teaching in the English Program, which have smaller classes due to a high program fee, whether it’s a government, public, or private school. I have a total of 848 students with 21 classes.  My class size range from 22 to 48.

You will have a substantial amount of teaching breaks.  As a teacher you may teach 14-22 fifty-minute classes a week with a total of up to 4 hour breaks a day. Additionally, you will have days off for holidays, etc.

LOOK UP FUN GAMES TO DO IN YOUR CLASS. The students will love it and you will like the break from teaching.

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9. Stop comparing everything to the educational system in America   

America and Thailand are polar opposites so don’t expect the school systems to be at all similar. Class sizes are bigger, activities and sports are different, and the grade levels are different. Kindergarten-sixth grade are in Primary school and seventh-twelfth grade are in Secondary school.  Things are a lot less strict here.

10. Cheating is very common among the students

This is one thing that infuriates me because it won’t even be one or two students it could be up to a whole classroom of students that copy off of one students paper. I tell them it is wrong but to them they don’t see it as wrong. So I have to do more work and give them a whole new assignment and make sure they do this one on their own.

11. Do not expect your school to hand you all the supplies you need and you will not have just one classroom    

If you had a teacher in your place before you hopefully they left some supplies behind because if not you have to make a quick run to the nearest supplies store or Tesco (Thai version of Walmart) for teaching supplies. I recommend buying white board markers in America because they will last you longer.

We are used to teachers having their own classrooms in grade school but in Thailand you will move to a new classroom every teaching hour. So buy a cute handheld that lets you put all our markers and paperwork into because you will have to lug everything to each class. BRING YOUR OWN WHITE BOARD MARKERS! The ones you buy at the store in Thailand run out of ink very fast. Also, bring a USB to use for your teaching lessons or buy one at a store in Thailand. It is not always guaranteed if it will work in your classes computer. You might need to bring your own toilet paper and hand soap to school as not all schools provide this. 

12. Some students will have great English and some will barely know hello  

How they separate students into levels is by GPA not by English level so get used to some students having conversations with you while other students will only be saying hello to you.

I know my students understand when they all collectively say “Oooohhh.” When they say “Okay” I know that they did not understand anything I said.  Lol or as the Thai’s say “5555”

13. You will celebrate American holidays      

Even though Thailand is about 94% Buddhist they love celebrating American holidays, such as, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. They especially go all out for Christmas with decorations and a Christmas day party but they give out presents for New Year’s.

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14. You may be one or part of a small group of foreigners in your city    

Thankfully there are about 20 total foreign teachers in my city ranging from America, Canada, and the Philippines. But we definitely stand out and when I walk by they love to hardcore stare and sometimes even ask for a selfie, this happens a lot to the blonde girls in our group.

15. Don’t expect all your classes to have air conditioning  

The one thing I really don’t like is not having AC in all the classrooms. I only have AC in one classroom. I have five overhead fans in my classrooms with four big fans over the students and one little one over me, which is not helpful at all. I will sometimes go sit next to my students because their fans are way better than my tiny, moving overhead fan.

16. School lunch in Thailand is 1000 times better American school lunches!   

At my school we call it The Canteen and it’s amazing! Everyday you can try something new and have it prepared right in front of you. I can choose from 10 different sellers at my school’s cafeteria. It ranges from noodle soups, rice, fruit, smoothies, and dessert all for 30 baht or under. (That’s equivalent to less than 1 USD)

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The language barrier is hard but it WILL be the most rewarding experience of your life!!! 


Going into this I knew to keep an open mind but this experience has become one of the best things I’ve done in my young 23 years. It’s all definitely how you make this experience because other teachers at my school are having great, good, or okay experiences while I love mine. I sit with my students at lunch, try to get to know each one personally, talk to them about America, ask them questions about Thailand, and try to always be positive.

Just be open to trying new things, learning the language, and embracing everything around you because time-flies and once this is over you will be a changed person . . . but for the better! 🙂


I HOPE YOU ENJOYED MY FIRST BLOG POST 🙂

Follow Trekking Nikki on Facebook and Instagram for tips and destinations around the globe on a budget!

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5 comments

  1. Hello Nikki, Congratulations very well done. Travel to new places and learn the culture of different countries is one of the best experience in life. Your blog speaks enthusiasm and positive energy.
    Congratulations again and keep informing the world of your experiences.

    Like

  2. Baby I’m sooooo proud of you!!!! I’m so happy to see you HAPPY and see how in a short amount of time you grew so much. I love how you want to help people to have the same experience that you are having now. And how everybody should follow their dream . Like YOU. I remembered when you were born like yesterday, you were so tiny, beautiful, cute with strong personality when you want something you let us know. That is you when you want something you do it. I love how you are and how you see everything. You always said to me mami don’t worry it’s ok relax and you hug me. I can’t wait for your next flog. Love you very much. Mami

    Liked by 1 person

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