10 Crazy Facts About Thailand

Ah Thailand. What does the name conjure up for you? Stunning beaches, super-friendly people, a capital bursting with energy and fabulous TEFL opportunities for sure. But do you also know these 10 crazy facts about Thailand? Read on and be crazily amazed!

Thailand has fish that walk

It’s true! If you can drag your gaze away from Krabi’s laid back, white sandy shores for a short while (hard, we know!) you might just spot some mudskippers – a fascinating species of fish that really do use their fins to help them walk, climb and even skip out of the water.

And that’s just the start of Thailand’s amazing wildlife. Along with walking fish, Thailand can offer you everything from the smallest mammal in the world (the bumblebee bat) to the world’s biggest fish (whale shark). Thailand even has more species of birds than the entire continent of Europe put together. Now that’s impressively crazy!


Thai people are super proud that their country’s never been colonised

The fact that Thailand’s name translates as the Land of the Free may give you a hint of how thrilled Thai people are that their country has never been colonised. But why shouldn’t they show off about it? After, it takes some pretty nifty negotiation skills to stay independent when western powers are carving up the land all around. In fact, Thai people are so proud that their country’s never been colonised that we’re willing to bet that at least one person will tell you this fact within your first month of teaching in Thailand. Let us know if we win!

It’s illegal to drive without a shirt on in Thailand

If you’re tempted to top up the tan on your chest while scooting around Thailand’s roads, think again. While it’s not always enforced in tourist areas, technically you’re breaking the law if you drive without a shirt on – and that includes scooters as well as cars, so be warned! Oh, and just in case you fancied leaving home without your underwear instead, that’s against the law too. We’ll leave it to you to decide how that rule might have come about!

Tuk Tuk in Thailand

Thai people leave red Fanta out for ghosts

Even if you’re only in Thailand for a day, you can’t fail to spot the phi houses built outside pretty much every house, shop or office to provide a home for the spirits that live on the land. Thai’s believe that by giving the ghosts a home and providing daily offerings, the spirits will protect the people who live in the buildings, rather than trying to move in themselves. And guess what the spirits love more than anything? Red Fanta of course. Opened and with a straw, ready for the spirits to drink. So don’t tell off your English students if you spot them leaving bottles lying around the school phi They’re not littering – they’re simply offering the spirits a welcome drink, to ensure they don’t cause havoc with your classes!


You must stand for the National Anthem before watching a film

Thailand is a country that takes their king mega seriously – and this is particularly evident through the regular playing of the National Anthem. You may well hear it at 8am and 6pm in your local town square and the Anthem is always played before a film starts in the cinema. Don’t worry about learning the words – this isn’t expected from visitors. However, you definitely do need to show respect by standing up and being quiet while the Anthem plays. After all, you don’t want to be imprisoned for treason!


Most Thai men have been monks

Monks are highly respected in Thailand and if you’re up early enough (or not quite made it to bed) you’ll often see them wandering around in their orange robes at sunrise collecting donations of food for their monastery. What you may not realise is that being a Thai monk is not the preserve of the dedicated few. In fact, until very recently, almost all young Thai men would spend anything from a few weeks to six months as a monk in their local monastery. It’s a way to show respect and build up merit for their family – and it’s still a super common practice today.


Bangkok is not the real name of Thailand’s capital

You might think Thailand’s capital city is called Bangkok but this is actually a nickname – and some Thai people may never have heard of this title at all. The name most Thai people use for their capital is Krung Thep but even this is only an abbreviation.One of the most crazy facts of all about Thailand, is that the full name of its capital city is: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit which roughly translates as: The city of angels, the great city of immortals, the magnificent city endowed with nine precious gems, the city of royal palaces and the seat of the King, resembling the heavenly abode of reincarnated gods, a city given by Indra and build by Vishnukarn. We reckon King Rama I (who named it) quite liked the place!


There are 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand

With more than 90 percent of Thailand’s population Buddhist, it’s not surprising that there’s quite a lot of temples in this country – but still, 40,000 is a ginormous number! Even more crazy than the number of temples in Thailand is the size of the Buddha statues in them. Take Phuket’s 45 metre x 25 metre, Big Buddha, for example – it can be seen all across the famous Chalong Bay. Or, for the supremely crazy sized Buddha, head to Phra Maha Nawamin in Ang Thong. The Buddha statue there is a whopping 92 metres high, more than the height of 20 double-decker buses piled on top of each other. All we can say is, wow!

Big Buddah, Thailand

You can’t hang the Thai flag upside down

In the early part of the 20th century, the Thai flag had a red background with a white elephant on it, symbolising strength, endurance, and intelligence. Perfect – or at least it seemed that way until the flag was accidentally hung upside down during a huge flood. The king’s solution? Why, create a new flag of course, and make sure this one is completely symmetrical, so it cannot be hung upside down. Whether or not this is exactly how the events took place, what’s definitely true is that Thailand’s flag today is a series of red, white, and blue horizontal stripes, which shows exactly the same pattern whichever way up it’s hung. Now we come to think of it, that’s just good thinking and not crazy at all!


Thailand hosts an annual banquet for monkeys

Yup, you read that right – there really is a massive feast put on each year just for monkeys. Hosted in the ancient city of Lopburi, the star guests are the mischievous macaques that normally spend their days holding court in the ruins, waiting for the perfect opportunity to swipe a hat off a passing tourist’s head or pickpocket your camera.

To celebrate these spirited creatures, once a year, the Khmer temple (now renamed as the Monkey Temple) is transformed into a banqueting hall. Long tables are loaded with everything from sticky rice to tropical fruits to tempt their star guests. Now that’s a crazy fact if ever we heard one. Our advice:  immerse yourself in this fabulous event – but make sure you’re out of the way when the food fights start!

So now you know these crazy facts about Thailand, it’s time to get yourself there straight away. Book your TEFL course or TEFL internship today or request a call back for a friendly TEFL expert to chat through your options. You’ll be teaching in Thailand in no time – and can find out even more crazy facts about this brilliant country, all for yourself.

What to do after a TEFL internship

After spending some time teaching English abroad on a TEFL internship, it’s easy to get the travel bug and never want it to end. Or, maybe you used your TEFL internship as a bit of a gap year and now you’re wondering what to do next. There are loads of routes you can go down after you finish your internship, here are just a few of our ideas:

1. Continue teaching abroad

Woman spreading her arms above Athens city

Did you absolutely love your TEFL internship and never wanted it to end? Well, now you’re TEFL qualified and have some really good experience behind you, you can get out there and start applying for permanent TEFL jobs on your own. There are 100s of countries you can TEFL in and loads of online jobs boards where you’ll be able to find a job to suit you. Having some teaching experience will really make your CV stand out from the crowd and give you the best chance at landing your dream TEFL job – what’s stopping you?

2. Become an online English tutor

Woman using laptop to teach English online


Teaching English online is fast becoming one of the most popular TEFL routes as it gives you the flexibility to be your own boss and teach English from any country in the world. So, if you still have the travel bug but don’t want to settle for one country, you can become an online English tutor and earn a salary from anywhere in the world using just your laptop! Or, you can simply teach online from home to earn a bit of extra income or as a stop gap until you find your next job. Interested in becoming an Online tutor? Download our free guide for all the information you’ll need to get started!

3. Use your travel knowledge to work in the travel industry

Woman on bed using laptop

If you loved the adventure aspect of teaching English abroad but would prefer to leave the teaching English part to someone else, a job in the travel industry could be perfect for you. You’ll already have some first-hand knowledge and experience of travelling, so you could try your hand at travel writing and blogging! We offer interns the chance to blog for us to share their internship experiences and tips – get in touch if you’re interested!

4. Join a volunteer organisation

Woman with volunteer top on holding a young child

Depending on where you taught English, you might already have some first-hand insight about the needs around the world. There are tons of organisations that need volunteers just like you, people who want to work in diverse, multicultural environments and are looking to give back in a meaningful way. If you enjoyed the giving back part of your internship, a career with a non-profit might be the perfect route for you.

5. Start a brand-new career

Woman typing up CV on laptop

Use your teaching experience to boost your CV for other career routes. Teaching English abroad shows employers you’re confident, have good written and verbal communication skills, are willing to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and you’re not scared of a challenge. Use your TEFL experience to start a brand-new career!

6. Continue or start studying

Woman reading book in library

If you decided to jet off on a TEFL internship as part of a gap year in between studying, now’s the perfect time to go back and finish or, if you never started your studies, it’s not too late to start them now! Your TEFL certificate is valid for life, so you can continue TEFLing once you graduate, or you can start working as an online English tutor to earn some extra money whilst at university – winner!

Top tips for living, teaching and travelling in China

When you think there’s no more room on a bus, there is.

Haggling is always a good idea.

To quote a friend who works at my school, after 5 months using a squat toilet, you’ll have ‘an ass carved by the gods’

Try all the weird looking fruit, vegetables and street food – some of it you may regret but most of it is delicious

Be patient. Over 1.3 billion other people live in this country, sometimes it takes longer than it should to get things done

In China, many things are not done the way we do them at home. It’s not weird, it’s just different.

To be a good teacher, all you have to do is smile, and the rest will come.

i-to-i interns with locals in Guizhou, China

If you’re bursting with nerves before a lesson, the kids don’t have to know that. Act confident!

Make lessons fun! If you think you’ll be bored teaching it, the kids will be bored learning it. Change it up to make it engaging.

I teach grade 1 and 2. My favourite teaching assistant told me, ‘grade 1 is about patience; grade 2 is about love’.

Be open minded. Embrace the foreign and exotic culture that China has to offer, don’t try and make your life the same as it was back home because it won’t be.

i-to-i intern Danni climbs a mountain in the sunshine in Guizhou, China

Be prepared to be the feature of a hundred thousand photos, and to receive second glances every time you walk down the street. It’s a big self esteem boost to be called ‘beautiful’ by every other Chinese person.

Don’t wait until it’s all clear to cross the road, because it’s never all clear. Like my Chinese teacher in Australia used to say, ‘if you wait to cross, you’ll be waiting forever!’.

If you’re thinking of doing this internship but are a bit reluctant, are too scared to leave your family, friends, job, comfortable mundane lifestyle, or think you’ll be a bad teacher I implore you to set your worries aside and just do it. I felt the exact same way – so did everyone I’ve met on the trip! A quote I read said something like, ‘if we wait until we are ready, no one would ever do anything’.

Golden Week: holidays in Guizhou

We have just returned home from our one week holiday (known as Golden Week); the longest holiday we get over the course of the internship. What an adventure it was! Steph and I decided to take the bullet train to Guizhou, a province that’s fairly “off the beaten track” rather than go to Shanghai like most of our friends. It doesn’t get any more convenient than travelling in China; all the cities, big and small, are so well connected. There are bullet trains, planes, slow trains and buses that take you absolutely anywhere. Guangzhou South Railway station may as well have been an airport it was beyond enormous! After spending the bulk of the day on trains, we finally arrived in Kaili, Guizhou. The city had great vibes, there was KTV and street vendors on ever corner and the lights that lined the road were a beautful feature. We spent our first day at Xijiang Miao Village. Guizhou is a province with a large population of ethnic minority groups. This particular village is the largest community of Miao people in the world. It was amazing. The natural scenery was stunning. Many people wore traditional Miao costumes which are very brightly coloured clothes adorned with silver decorations and a big silver crown.

Traditional clothing of the Miao people in China

We spend the day strolling through the main streets in and out of shops that sold everything from combs made of horn to bongo drums to fancy Chinese tea. There was one street dedicated to street food which had every food you could possibly imagine and many dishes you couldn’t. There was all kinds of noodles, vegetables, barbecued meats, freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, quail egg kebabs, strangle local dish that was warm sticky rice filled with crushed nuts and sugar coated in a powder, just to name a few. We strolled along the river, in and out of rice fields, and up to a lookout point that overlooked the entire village. It was the most beautiful view.

i-to-i intern Danni in front of an amazing view in China

Every building in the village was made of beautiful wood, and every roof upheld the traditional Chinese architecture of black layered tiles that flick out at the corners. An old Miao man painted my Chinese name in calligraphy script for me, it was amazing to watch him paint with such a skilled and practiced hand. We walked up into the backstreets again and came across the village bar the sold rice wine strong enough to knock you out, a Buddhist temple, an artist who painted calligraphy and Chinese style paintings who invited us onto his balcony overlooking the village for home-brewed tea, a traditional Chinese medicine shop that happened to be run by the king of the village, and many others. It was the most wonderful day. Unfortunately it took 3.5 hours to get back to our hotel, but it’s one of the busiest times of year so understandable.

i-to-i intern Danni with a street vendor who paints her name in Chinese calligraphy. Guizhou, CHina

The next day we tried to go to a place called Leigongshan Nature Reserve and climb a big mountain there. This day was quite easily the craziest day of my life and showed that the best things can happen in the most unexpected times. We got on a bus that said it was going to Leigongshan, but after a 2 hour drive (through the most magnificent mountains and terraced rice fields), we arrived at the mountain which we were then told was ‘closed’. So we asked the driver if we could stay on his bus since he was returning to Kaili later in the afternoon, we figured he had to be going somewhere. A half hour later we stopped at a tiny wooden mini mart for a toilet stop. The lady running it insisted that Steph and I eat lunch inside and she gave us the spiciest soup I’ve ever eaten, my mouth was literally on fire. Anyway, we walked outside fifteen minutes later and the bus was gone! He’d left without us! The fear that gripped me in the moment was unlike anything else. Here we were, 2.5 hours away from the city, up a giant mountain that would take hours and hours and hours and hours if we had to walk back down….

Leigonshan nature reserve, Guizhou, China

Some middle aged Chinese ladies who happened to also be at this place came to our rescue. They said that they lived in Kaili where we were staying and would drive us back at 4pm. In all there was about 12 of them, all friends, who invited us to have lunch with them. They didn’t speak a word of English, they all peeled young bamboo shoots together, and cooked up a spicy fish and bamboo soup. We all sat on tiny wooden stools around a tiny wooden table with a hot plate and the soup was eaten. It was delicious. One of the men started teaching us some interesting points about Chinese characters, and another was telling us that his daughter was studying in America. The blue sky, the peaceful mountains, the river and the kindness of these people made it the most spectacular day. After a couple of hours of having lunch (which was 20% eating, 80% trying not to swallow fish bones), we all drove to another Miao village.

Mountain view in Guizhou, China

Unlike yesterday’s, which was a giant tourist attraction, this one was authentic. The architecture was the same – wooden with tiled roofs, but the main square was filled with rice and chillies drying in the sun. Kids were playing in the water on bamboo rafts, old ladies in traditional clothes were sitting by the street, people were working in the enormous rice fields. It was a very humbling place to see.  Our last stop of the day was a mini waterfall that we hiked down to, crossed a few streams and enjoyed being in the natural environment. Then they drove us home. If it hadn’t been for them we might still be wandering around those Chinese mountains, but everything always works out in the end.

i-to-i interns at a waterfall in Guizhou, China

The following day we took the bus to the capital of the province called Guiyang, which was a thriving metropolis compared to Kaili! We spent the remainder of the day and the next day at Qianling Park which was beautiful. We wandered through bamboo forest, along a river covered in blooming lotus flowers, among a large temple from the Ming and Qing dynasties and I had my palm read by an old Chinese man who, after 10 minutes, told me it was ¥100! I forgot about the importance of negotiating a price beforehand….. The other place we wandered through was the JiaXiu Pavillion. This was where the best scholars of the province studied in ancient times.

Traditional Chinese scenery in Guizhou, CHinaWe ate fresh fruit and drank Chinese tea overlooking the water that was lined with willow trees, their vines draping into the water like curtains. It was so peaceful. The pavilion was beautiful, we met another Chinese artist and watched in admiration as he painted a Chinese fan with delicate flowers. We wandered the path of the willow trees, ended up in a market selling fruit, vegetables I’ve never seen before, meat, noodles and street food. We tried some fried rice, roasted chestnuts, sticky rice stuffed with black beans and deep fried, and rice buns made with rice and sugar. Before we knew it, we were boarding the train back to Foshan. We had a wonderful time away but I was not sad to be returning home, throughout the week I missed my students and although I would have loved to continue exploring Guizhou, I was excited to see my kids the following day.

i-to-i interns and locals enjoying a meal in Guizhou, China

What to do in China in your spare time!

What I love about China is that no two days are ever the same. It may seem to be a long 5 month repeat of the same thing, teaching day in, day out, but it definitely isn’t. Every day at school is different. I deliver new lessons, new songs, every class responds to different activities in different ways, every kid has something new to offer me. I am always learning here – how to continue becoming a better teaching, new phrases in Mandarin, small points of cultural difference, that, when listed altogether, show how the Chinese way of living and thinking is quite different to Australia.

For example, why Chinese people prefer to eat meat with bones, stories told at various festivals e.g. The Mid Autumn Festival, meanings behind Chinese song lyrics, different methods of education, etc. It’s not better or worse or weird, it’s just different. Each day I love my students more and more, I walk out of nearly every class beaming. On Friday afternoon when all the kids were getting picked up by their parents for the weekend, I genuinely felt a bit sad that there was no school for the next two days, because I love my job so much. However, the weekends are also fantastic!

i-to-i China intern Danni teaching her class in Foshan, China

Some of the foreign teachers working with us are quite narrow-minded, constantly complaining about the culture, not being able to be understood in the streets and that it’s not like home. My philosophy is that there’s no use in coming here if you aren’t going to embrace the foreign and exotic culture that’s on offer and  endeavoring to make it feel like your home country we it never will be. Steph and I want to experience absolutely everything that China has to offer us! We befriended a Chinese English teacher at our school and she has taken us under her wing. Friday evening she took us to Chinese medicine, and I had cupping done which is very popular in China. Small suction cups suck up the skin on your back and shoulders. It was a very weird sensation, but afterwards my body felt so relaxed. The lady giving me the treatment was really wise, she knew things about me and Steph that seem impossible to know. For example after about five minutes she told me my stomach was unhealthy; she was absolutely right; it is because I have coeliac disease. The next morning my back looked like a pepperoni pizza with red circular marks all over it, it was hilarious.

The teacher also took us to visit Shun De village on Saturday. It is a tiny water village that foreigners seldom go to because not many people have heard of it. It was a hidden treasure of the Chinese countryside.There was a small winding river around the whole village. The streets were quiet and peaceful, in stark contrast to the clogged roads and bustling streets of Nanhai where we live. There were trees and greenery everywhere – willow trees with their vines draping into the water like curtains, frangipani trees, bright green banana trees, a million different types of tree all adorned with red lanterns. Stone bridges built 800 years ago in the Song Dynasty were built across the water. We had the most wonderful and tranquil day taking a river cruise around the whole water body in a small wooden boat, wandering the streets, each shop selling strange yet wonderful goods. We sampled the local cuisine which included double steamed milk of a thick consistency with red beans, Chinese red bean ‘cupcake’ made from water chestnuts and a black gooey paste made from crushed rice,nuts, sugar, black sesame and water.

i-to-i China interns with locals in Sung De water village, China


I actually had a go at making the last one, by sitting on a stool and turning and old wooden handled around and around to crush the ingredients and blend in the water. While I did this, the area was suddenly packed with local Chinese who thought it was hilarious and took pictures with me. An old man and his wife ran a small restraunt in their garden, he was the kindest man and made us the most delicious dishes of fish and vegetables bursting with flavour. While we enjoyed our lunch he told us about his life. From the outside it looked as though he had lived this simple life since birth with his grubby apron, but in fact he had been in Chairman Mao’s army in the 1970’s and also served in the navy. He had lived in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Tianjin. He showed us pictures of himself from his years of service and said that after he retired he had returned here to the village of his birth. It was very moving to hear about his life. There is so much to see and do here, the weekends allow us time to discover and explore all the hidden gems Foshan has to offer. There are mountains to climb, ancient temples and structures to explore, markets to wander, people to meet and we are so excited to learn as much as we can about this fascinating county with all its rich history and traditions while we are here. No two days are ever the same.


Five steps to teaching English abroad

So, you know that you’re ready for a change; a brand new start. But you’re not sure what shape that new start should take – should you get a new job? A pet to care for? How about move to a new town? Take up an exciting new hobby? Or move to the other side of the world to experience an exciting new country and gain skills for life teaching English abroad?

Teaching English overseas is an unbeatable way to discover all the wonders of our vast world, whilst getting under the skin of a brand new culture in a way no tourist would be able to. Uprooting and moving to a new country may sound scary, but if you’re ready for a new adventure it could be just what you need – and the process can really be quite straightforward.

We’ve distilled the journey of teaching abroad into a simple five-step plan; it really can be this simple.

Do your research

As with anything in life, it’s important to approach TEFL with your eyes open and with a realistic point of view. There are different requirements for TEFL depending on what your aims are: for example, to take on a paid job you may need a university degree and a passport from an English-speaking country. Also, when you’re handing over money to a company to help you achieve your TEFL dreams, you’ll need to make sure they’re everything they’re cracked up to be.
Unfortunately there are plenty of dodgy agencies and companies around, but you needn’t get caught out; the internet is great for a lot of things, and digging up dirt on dodgy companies is one of them! Check out teflcoursereview.com for detailed course reviews, and sites like Trustpilot and Reviews.com, give your chosen companies a ring and have a chat to them so you know you’re buying wisely.

Get TEFL qualified

This is an essential first step to have in place when you start getting excited about where you want to teach. Not only will you need to know your stuff, but most overseas establishments will ask for a qualification of at least 120 hours too. There are lots of different types of TEFL course ranging from 120 hour online courses to heavy duty CELTA qualifications, but unless you’re seriously looking to make a career out of TEFL, you’re probably best sticking with an online course that can be completed relatively quickly in your spare time. Our 120 Hour Online TEFL Course is accredited by the ODLQC and can be studied anywhere, on any device – and you won’t pay through the nose. You could qualify in as little as six weeks with the help of an expert tutor, so that you’ll feel totally prepared for the reality of teaching English overseas.

Secure your position

Now, it’s time to decide what route you want to take in your TEFL journey. Are you ready to uproot for a year or more with a paid teaching job? Or would you simply like to visit a new location for a few months whilst getting some great experience for your CV? There’s all sorts out there for aspiring teach-and-travellers; here at i-to-i we offer paid jobs in China, Thailand, Indonesia and Spain, as well as a series of fully supported TEFL Internships that offer up to six months of hands-on teaching experience in colourful locations like Thailand, Colombia and South Africa.
Great placements will usually offer accommodation included in the price you pay (so that’s one less thing to sort out) and you may even receive free meals during teaching at your school. With paid jobs, it’s really important to thoroughly read your contract to make sure you’re happy with all the stipulations, and to raise any concerns before you’ve signed.

The boring (but important) bits

All this preparation will be for nothing if you don’t remember to tick all the appropriate boxes before you travel, so don’t put off getting the ‘boring bits’ sorted. Vaccinations are a must when you’re travelling to a new country, so get booked in nice and early with your doctors and be prepared for a bit of extra expenditure. Your doctor can help you organise any prescription medicines as well.
Visas are also essential; depending on where you’re from, you need particular paperwork from the government of your host country to confirm that you’re able to work in the role you’ve taken on. Assistance with your visa is available from I-to-i when you travel with us, so don’t be put off by the thought of all the admin. Failure to sort your visa out before you travel could easily result in being refused access to your chosen country – and working illegally will cause problems further down the line. Then – last but not least – you’ll need to get your flights booked!

Get packed & go!

You’re nearly there! Just remember that over packing will only cause you a hassle once you touch down. Pack, unpack, re-pack and do this all again until you’ve slimmed down to the bare essentials. You may want to get in contact with any fellow travellers if applicable to see if there’s anyone you can make the journey with, and remember to stay hydrated on your flight so you feel fresh when you touch down. Your adventure is just beginning!

We hope that this simplified list has given you a more realistic idea of how easy teaching English abroad can actually be – there’s nothing to it!

A day in the life of a TEFL teacher in China

Today officially marks exactly one month since I arrived in China. How the last month has flown! It feels like so much longer with all that’s happened. It made me reflect and reminisce on all the thrilling experiences I’ve had in China so far. From the TEFL classes in Beijing, to sweating my way to the top of the  mighty Great Wall. From tearing up when the time came to farewell my new friends, to driving into Foshan, my new city. From walking through the gates of Nanhai Guicheng Foreign Language School receiving cheerful waves and enthusiastic ‘Hello’s’ from all the students in their bright yellow uniforms to teetering with nerves as I walked into my very first lesson; my grade 2 class gazing up at me expectantly.

Students learning English at school in Foshan, China

From taking three hours to plan one lesson unsure if it would be engaging enough or long enough, to taking only one hour because I now know exactly what comprises of a good lesson that is fun and captures the attention of the students. From walking down the school corridors as an unknown random foreigner nervously to walking down them being smiling widely being bombarded by my little students shouting my name, their little faces lit up with excitement to see me.


I teach Grade 2 International English, which is extension English for the brighter kids who come from well off families. My Chinese Teaching Assistant who observes my lessons and helps maintain order in the classroom is quite a harsh critic. I delivered my second lesson which I thought went quite well. I went to speak to her at the end and she disagreed, she said, ‘Danni, your lessons have to be more wonderful!’ I didn’t quite know what she meant from that but I endeavored to try my best to plan more ‘wonderful’ lessons. I racked my brain thinking up more and more ways to teach the content that was more interesting than mundane, cliche games that are fine to play in my regular English classes. I delivered lesson three, which was an improvement.

i-to-i intern Danni at school teaching a lesson at school in Foshan, China

Then I delivered lesson four, after class in which my Teacher Assistant came to me at the end of class, smiling,  and said that this was a good lesson, and to make them all like this in the future. I can’t describe how happy her comments made me. I felt a soaring pride for finally receiving her approval, proud of myself for getting it right and thrilled that my students were enjoying my lessons so much more. It’s a very strange sensation to be enjoying my job. I am no longer living for the weekend. If I am at school or at home I feel the same level of contentment and joy. If it’s Monday or Saturday my feelings towards the day are mirrored. I love my work life and my personal life. Which is so strange because at home I don’t think I could highlight anyone who loves their job as much as they loved their weekends. It’s astounding, I never thought I could be so happy.


A day in the life of the China internship goes along the lines of something like this:

I wake up, bouncing off my springy mattress to get ready for work. I select from my small range of corporate skirts and tops, and slip on my new leather-look shoes to top off the formality of the outfit that still subtlety pinch at my toes. I walk to the bus stop, grinning about what’s in store for the day ahead, admiring the lush greenery and frangipanis on the streets, and being extra cautious as I cross the road at the zebra stripes because the inferred meaning of ‘give way to pedestrians on the zebra stripes’ isn’t given the same meaning here as at home. A bus timetable doesn’t seem to have been invented yet here, I just wait and sometimes it takes 30 seconds for my bus to arrive and sometimes it takes 10 minutes, it’s a bit of a gamble. I sit on the bus and observe the streets and notice how this city’s appearance and spirit is different to my own. Sometimes people take pictures of me on the bus, and children point to me in the sheer amazement at seeing a foreigner. You can’t blame them since seeing any foreigners is an extremely rare occasion. At school I spend the morning planning lessons in my office. (I can’t believe I have my own desk in an office!) We have been told to deliver lessons using PowerPoint so I fill them with colour, animations, games and songs to give my students a break from drilling which of course gets tiresome and dull.

i-to-i intern Danni in Foshan, China, where she is teaching on the Paid TEFL Internship

Around 12pm we have lunch in the canteen and sit with the other teachers. I’ve never seen such a big pot of rice as is in this canteen. It is enormous! My lessons are usually between period 5-8 which are after lunch, and my favourite part of the day. I bring in realia, props, we play all kinds of games, I make sure I have songs relevant to every topic to sing, to get them all up out of the chairs and having a sing and a dance. I walk out the corridor getting flocks of kids waving at me and hugging me, then I pack up and walk back down to the bus stop with Steph. Steph and I discuss all the happenings of the day, what we did in our lessons, which songs were a hit, which games took off and which ones didn’t. We have a laugh about funny things the kids said to us during the day and talk about our lessons for the following days. We journey home from the bus and always have our umbrellas handy in case the sky opens on us and decides to have a big storm and get us soaking wet (which has happened on multiple occasions). We have dinner, then we chill out in our apartment relaxing after a long day, speak to our friends at other schools, Skype people from home, go walk around the streets, practise mandarin together, read books, do some domestic chores like washing (which is new to me) or hang out with the other foreign teachers. We make plans for the weekend and upcoming holidays.  And you have it, a whole day in the life of a TEFL teacher in China. It’s fantastic.

How to feel settled in China

Walking down the street to take the bus to work today, I was grinning for no specific reason. The sun was warm, the locals were friendly, my lessons were prepared and I was excited to deliver them to my kids. It suddenly struck me that I’m really happy here. I love my job which I work hard at all day Monday-Friday. I love my new found friends and buzzing social life. I’m such a short time I’ve made such strong connections to so many people on the program, on the weekends we forget about work and all hang out together, explore the city, discover small hidden corners bursting with authentic Chinese culture and have wild nights out in the Chinese nightlife.

i-to-i TEFL interns enjoy a group meal in Foshan, China

I’m just happy with my life here, and I didn’t feel like this at home in Australia. I hated my job at the supermarket, I didn’t have good group of friends to connect with and I just felt isolated and discontented most of the time. I was desperate to get away from that and start anew. And pretty well everyone else on the program is doing the exact same thing – escaping from their problems and doing something exciting and different with their lives. We all have the same story, we were sick of our mediocre lives at our homes in various parts of the world and did something about it. In China we are taking life by the horns. As I cross the street while simultaneously weaving around a few cars and miraculously surviving (the traffic is absolutely insane here, road rules are more life suggestions), I board the bus and gaze out the window.

i-to-i China interns together at school in Foshan, China

I still have to pinch myself sometimes because I can’t believe I’m really here, that I’m really packed up and left my old life behinds. I never knew I could feel so happy all the time. I’ve never loved every aspect of my life before, but here I do. School is fantastic. I teach grade 2, and they all know me now since we’ve had a few lessons so whenever I walk down the grade 2 corridor dozens of kids run up to me shouting, ‘Danni! Danni! Hello Danni!’ They high five me, kiss my hands, wave to me, hug me, it’s adorable. When I walked into class the other day the whole class was chanting, ‘Danni! Danni! Danni!’ It was crazy, I adore them all. Lesson planning is hard work, it is very time consuming to put tons of pictures, animations, songs and colour into a PowerPoint for a class. My creative juices which were pretty non-existent at home have been forced to start flowing to think up games, games and more games to keep the kids motivated and entertained to work hard at their English.

But when I walk into class and they’re all so excited to see me, all the preparation feels worthwhile. I used to be a tiny bit nervous walking into class, I could feel the butterflies stirring and starting to flutter; but now I look forward to teaching, it’s the best part of the day. There is no better feeling than walking out of a class that went really well, the kids buzzing the whole time, watching them having fun as a result of my lessons makes me so happy. The other day was Teacher’s Day, which is a very big celebration in China. My Chinese teacher at home in Australia always said teachers in China are very highly respected. So many gifts and flowers were given out that day, but the highlight of the day for me was a little girl in my class. I finished teaching and I knew it was a really good lesson and that all the kids enjoyed it, and as I was leaving a little girl came up to me, all shy, and looked up at me saying, ‘happy Teachers Day’. My heart melted a bit then.

i-to-i China intern enjoys fresh fruit at a restaurant in Foshan, China

I am in love with China, I learned it at high school in Australia and China and I have always had a bit of a love affair, however this experience has already accentuated my love for this county and culture tenfold. The people, the culture, the city, the history, the architecture – it never ceases to fascinate and thrill me. This internship is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life; I hope the next four months crawl by very slowly as I never want to day to come where I have to board the plane back to Australia.

TEFL in China: arriving in Foshan, China

After the grueling 22 hour train ride from Beijing, pulling up into Guangzhou station was very exciting. The train moved slowly through Guangzhou for about twenty minutes before it stopped as the city was enormous. My friend who was placed here mumbled to me, ‘I don’t think five months is going to be long enough to explore this place.’ We all disembarked from the train, and representatives from our school came to collect us. All of a sudden, we found ourselves saying goodbye to each other and setting off in different directions.

My turn came to go, and suddenly our group was down to just four. It was sad, but the sadness at leaving the others was mingled with excitement at finally beginning our new lifestyles and getting into teaching. Luckily, most of the people I’d become really close with were living between 30 minutes – 2 hours away so we promised to catch up on weekends. The four of us drove for about forty minutes to Foshan. We were the new foreign teachers for the Nanhai Guicheng Foreign Language school.

Nanhai Guicheng Foreign Language school in Foshan, China

There are two campuses, one is the middle school in the heart of the Nanhai town and the other is the primary school a twenty minute bus ride away. The foreign teachers all live at the middle school for convenience so that they can walk to the town, the supermarket, the train station, etc. Steph and I were told we would be teaching at the primary school and the two Danish boys we were with, Johan and Jonathan, would be teaching at the middle school. We moved into our new apartments, our English contacts were very welcoming and told us on many occasions if we needed anything or had any issues, to ask them and they would fix it. They held a welcome lunch for us in the next couple of days which was a really nice gesture.


Foshan itself is really lovely. It’s so green, there are trees everywhere, lush grass and an abundance of frangipani flowers. One of the foreign teachers who had been working for this school for a year gave us a tour of the centre, showing us the train station, supermarket, shops, where the local Chinese hang out, etc. the weather is very different to home in Australia, it’s quite hot and the humidity is very intense. You walk outside and ten minutes later without even realizing your whole body is drenched in sweat! We have arrived just in time for the rainy season, the first few days the weather was nice. The next few days it rained like I’ve never seen before. I didn’t think it was possible for so much rain to fall at once; the term ‘bucketing down’ isn’t strong enough to describe it. The climate is very interesting here that’s for sure!

I’m really excited to embrace my new lifestyle here and take up every opportunity Foshan has to offer! Steph and I went to explore Foshan and rather than going to the built up ‘westernized’ mall and shopping centers, we went to what is known as The Alley. The Alley is authentic China, a strip of shops and street vendors down a grubby winding alleyway that has absolutely everything: tea houses, mini restaurants, street food, mini marts, massage palours, $2 shops selling everything, cheap clothes stores, cheap knock off shoe stores, a Buddhist temple, fruit and veggies stores bursting with produce, pool tables, basketball courts etc. It was fantastic.

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