One of the best things about teaching English abroad is that there are so many destination options! With a high demand for TEFL teachers all over the world, the list of where you could teach is endless. So, how do you decide where to start TEFLing? Start by asking yourself these questions…
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Whether you’ve got a romantic day with your significant other planned or are going to paint the town red with a group of friends, Valentine’s Day reminds us to think about the people, who are important to us in life.
When you’re teaching English abroad, you’re going to meet a lot of different people from all over the world and Cupid has the habit of striking when you least expect it.
For TEFL teachers, romance whilst travelling can be confusing, as sometimes there are fears that this falls into the “holiday romance” stereotype or fears over how long-distance relationships allegedly just don’t last. Which seems a bit strange since in the USA latest stats have shown that 75% of engaged couples were in a long-distance relationship.
But do TEFL teachers find love when abroad? And is it a love that lasts?
Meet Stef and Neil
We’ve asked around and love as a TEFL teacher is indeed in the air.
Meet Stef McLoughlin from Malta, who has been a TEFL teacher doing various jobs since 2004. She’s worked as a Director of Studies at a large chain school and is currently a freelance TEFL teacher with her own home tuition brand: Schwa Home Tuition focusing on one to one classes and small groups.
We interviewed Stef to find out how she met her significant other, Neil, while working abroad.
Where were you when you met your significant other?
I’d worked on and off in the UK from the age of 18, teaching mainly on residential courses. I met Neil while working on a short contract close to Tunbridge Wells, not the most exotic TEFL location!
We worked in a beautiful manor house in Bedgebury pinetum. We still go there for walks from time to time.
Why were you both there?
I was working at the time, teaching on residential courses. Neil was at the same school working as the Social Programme Co-ordinator.
How did you meet?
We met when I first arrived and Neil introduced himself. He then asked me out, however, I didn’t realise it was a date and I took a friend along. We got close very quickly, especially as we were working at a residential school in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to go.
When did you know it was long-term?
I was in Tunbridge Wells for a month before going back to Malta. Neil got a flight to come see me a week after I had left. We were long distance for six months where I’d pop up to London for weekends and Neil would visit me in Malta. After six months, Neil gave up his job in Tunbridge Wells and moved to Malta to be with me. We lived in Malta for two years working in language schools. We’ve now been together for 9 years and we’ve been married for two.
Where do you both live now?
How did you decide to live there?
We now live in Brighton. We decided to move to Brighton as I wanted to do a master’s degree in TESOL at the University of Brighton. We were only meant to be here for a year, but we’ve been here for almost seven years. Neil’s from Liverpool and as I’m from Malta, Brighton is kind of an in-between place (people always laugh at this).
We absolutely love Brighton, it’s vibrant, exciting and most importantly it’s by the sea!
What advice would you give to those, who think they have found romance abroad, but are worried it’s a holiday romance only?
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not the real thing or that it can’t work out because it’s a holiday romance, only you can know that. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. The world is so small, cheap flights make everywhere so accessible, just get on that plane to go visit your significant other!
Thanks so much to Stef for sharing her TEFL love story with us.
It’s amazing how the UK is one of the most likely places to find love, even Tinder has confirmed this.
But there are plenty of more far-flung places, where romance is in the air this Valentine’s Day. If you enjoy travelling and want to combine this with a teaching career or are just looking to teach to fund a trip abroad, then one of our TEFL courses could be what you’ve been looking for.
Or if you have a TEFL love story you’d like to share, comment below or share on our social channels.
Teaching abroad is an amazing experience and brings many unforgettable memories and adventures with it.
Destinations like Thailand, China, and Vietnam have great wonders and new cultures to explore and discover first hand.
Why do we feel homesick?
Yet no matter how adventurous you are and how many new friends you make, homesickness when teaching abroad can hit any of us. Just to be clear that’s absolutely okay.
It doesn’t mean you’re not as adventurous as you thought or that you’re not having a good time, it just means that you’re human and are reflecting on how your new experiences compare to the old ones.
The longing for home can be triggered by something small like a conversation that reminds you of a similar one you’ve had before with friends or family back home, or it can something bigger, like a key holiday time like Christmas, Easter or your birthday.
You may be teaching far away from home, where these holidays are acknowledged in different ways, but Christmas in particular is growing throughout the world, so you’re likely to encounter reminders of it wherever you are.
So, what do you do if homesickness strikes? Our TEFL teachers and interns have experience with this, so we’ve put together some useful tips:
1. Keep going
There’s a reason you were inspired to teach abroad, you just need a reminder. When emotions are high this can seem too difficult, so here are some suggestions:
a. Bucket List
Write down a bucket list of the places you need to visit or see before going back home, then try to tick as many off this list as you can. The process of putting this list together will help you get into the same inspired state you were in before homesickness came along.
b. Document or photograph
Keeping a journal of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen can be very therapeutic. So, too can taking pictures of what you see. This can be something as straightforward as going to the market or even your commute to school. Use your creativity to re-ignite your wanderlust.
2. Create a routine
A very useful quote from Jim Ryun, American track & field athlete, is: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
We all need a sense of routine. New habits and a new routine for your new home will help you feel more at home, but don’t mistake routine for boring. This is your adventure, so create the habits you want to have while here.
3. Talk about it
Talking is a great healer. Sometimes just saying that we feel homesick out-loud already makes us feel more able to tackle it. Talking with friends or family back home, or sharing your feelings with new friends or roommates or other TEFL interns is a great way to cope with homesickness.
4. Don’t feed it
Talking is important, but beware. Homesickness is a hungry beast and a phone call can turn into a weekly catch-up and then into a daily call that you get overwhelmed or can upset you if you miss it.
Keeping in touch with family and friends is important, but if you’re getting more homesick every time you speak with them or see what they’re doing on social media, then a break from it may be just the thing. No need to completely cut everyone off, but reduce the frequency of catching up and checking messages.
5. Dive in and challenge yourself
Which leads us to tip #5. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. It’s so tempting to stay hidden and feel sad, but don’t let this control your actions.
There’s so much to see and do, which you’ve been dreaming of doing. Dive into trips and activities or just get out there and meet new people. You may not feel motivated when you first start, but the activities will soon get you in the mood for more. Anyhow, everything is better with others to share experiences with.
6. Share home comforts
Sharing is caring, and with your new group of friends why not share stories of home with them, as well as the things you miss. Craving that Sunday roast? (even though you never thought you would) Do it yourself and invite others to join you.
Or have a big cultural food exchange, where everyone brings their favourite comfort food to share. You may find a new comfort food, you would’ve never known about.
7. Learn something new
People have a natural drive to gather information. We need “input” to feel good and as a TEFL teacher you’ll be passing your love for learning on, but are you enjoying it yourself?
To help with homesickness, why not learn something new. You’re in a prime location for learning a new language. No need to be fluent, just pick up some key phrases and swap some with others outside the classroom, too.
8. Use it to reflect on you
As mentioned before, homesickness can hit us very unexpectedly and can be very confusing. You may have never been homesick before, but still feel it on this particular trip.
Rather than feel bad about feeling it, why not reflect on what may be the cause. What is it you’re missing and what will you take away from this experience? You may learn something new about yourself that will help you grow in a way you hadn’t realised was an option before.
“Honest self-reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change, success and freedom”, Vikas Runwal
9. Be active
It’s not just fueling our mind that we need to stay balanced, but our bodies need the chance to get a change of scene. Getting the heart pumping releases so called feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids).
There’s a reason we feel satisfied after a run. Give getting some exercise a try, when you’re feeling blue. Running is a quick and easy option, especially running with others in an area you know and are comfortable in, but there’s also joining some sport societies or clubs.
10. Write your future self a letter
If things are getting really out of control, then turn to a writing therapy technique. Write your future self a letter about what it is you want to feel, what you currently are feeling, what you want to get out of this experience and how you plan to achieve.
Sometimes the only person who can understand us are ourselves, so talk to you and put a plan of action in place.
Basically, don’t let homesickness stop you. No matter if you’re generally feeling homesick or the holidays are getting you down, do remember that you’re never alone.
There’s plenty of support out there and very understanding people with you.
You can have a fantastic time teaching abroad even with homesickness. You’re where you are for a very important reason and you’ve got the chance to make the most of it.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to grow, experience new things and see the world while teaching abroad, then take a look at all of our travel products: https://www.i-to-i.com/teaching-internships/
Happy holidays to all our teachers abroad from i-to-i.
Thailand’s Sights, Sounds, and yes…Smells
It is 7:15 AM but the heat outside of our door would suggest high noon. Before our morning shower, we can already hear the sounds of music honouring the recently deceased king of Thailand. Little did we know, that this loudspeaker would become our daily alarm clock.
The background music is the sound of motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and the occasional car or van circling through the courtyard to drop off the 1,300 students who attend Yuchieo Primary School. It’s time to experience the first day of teaching in Thailand.
As my roommate Louise and I walk out of our room ready for the day, we smell strongly of bug spray.
The distinctive smell of diethyltoluamide, fondly known as deet, is just one of many indicators that we are indeed foreigners. The students and 80 odd teachers will soon call us suay, and point out those other indicators with a smile.
Getting to know new students
As we pass the balcony and walk down the stairs, we are greeted by a swarm of tan, blue and forest green. Today is Wednesday, so it is scout uniform day. In other words, it’s just another day where our students are donning delightfully cute uniforms. In addition to the normal wai, we are also greeted with a two-finger scout salute.
Being none the wiser, we bowed to what seemed like every single one of the thousand plus students. To an outsider looking in, it was very clearly a frantic attempt to mumble “sawasdee ka” correctly, while bowing and giving a scout salute to every pair of legs that walked by us.
One of the Thai teachers in the English department took pity on us. She walked over with a bright smile, and in a combination of English and hand gestures, told us to only bow at fellow colleagues and not students. Phew. By this point my ears are buzzing from hearing “good morning teacher” on repeat, the loudspeaker music, and what I would classify as rush hour traffic.
Fast forward past the blur of greetings and a whirlwind of a school tour, and my stomach is grumbling noticeably. Usually this index of heat prevents me from feeling hunger, but the vat of spicy something and pre-scooped bowls of white rice had my name on it. My new name that is…Teacher Becca. Fortunately for me, Rebecca is easily shortened to a more pronounceable Becca.
Unfortunately for my roommate, Teacher Louise is confusing for the children to say, despite the lengths to which your vocal chords may go.
Lunch at school and a break
In the canteen, my ears are buzzing again. This time from the sound of small metal spoons on blue and pink plastic bowls amidst a sea of smiling faces. I will be taking the lead from the students on this one, and filling my bowl to the brim with this deliciously mysterious lunch.
Fast forward twenty minutes later, when, despite the sensation that even my eyeballs are sweating, all I can think of is what else is in store for this afternoon!
A few hours later, we are in our rooms relaxing with what I swear to be the best air conditioner I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We had spent the afternoon seeing some classes and smiling and nodding to our various welcoming committees.
After cooling down, Louise and I had a chat about some of the highs and lows of the day.
Looking back on the day
It was clear we were going to need to bring a lot of energy to the classrooms to match the enthusiasm of the children. After spending five days of orientation with our English-speaking counterparts, we had seriously underestimated the language barrier. We knew it would be important to take excellent care of our health as the climate, children, and cultural differences demanded it. That being said, we already had a sense that even if we gave 100%, the children would return that tenfold in love.
After dissecting every aspect of our busy day, it was shockingly already time for food again! So, one American and one Brit decided to wander about Kanchanaburi looking for tea…
Teacher Becca Pro Tips
• Drink water. Duh, right? But you can’t underestimate the necessity for your body in this heat!
• Get sleep. Restful sleep. Make sure you have a routine for falling asleep and waking up refreshed. Even though I am so #blessed to have air conditioning, my body was not used to sleeping with only cold air, so I quickly realized that my best overnight option was the fan.
• On the subject of routine: create one at the beginning. Yes, the teaching brings something new and exciting every day. But, you can’t give from an empty cup! Whether it’s recreating (to the best of your ability) your routines from home, or creating a new one in Thailand, go Nike and Just. Do. It.
Until next time,
If Teach Becca has inspired you to give teaching in Thailand a try for yourself, then take a look at our Thailand TEFL Experience: https://www.i-to-i.com/teaching-internships/tefl-course-internship-thailand-volunteer.html
More tips from Teacher Becca coming soon!