Teaching Abroad: Landing In Your New Country
In one of my previous entries I discussed how to begin your teaching career abroad. So lets say, you've done it, you received your TESOL certification and now you're on your way to your new country. I'm going to use this space to reference Thailand since that is where I officially began my teaching career.
The day before I depart I feel scared, nervous, anxious, excited. I think, “Is this really happening?” I'm flying into Bangkok and landing without knowing who's picking me up, how to get from point A to point B, and not one lick of the language! Pull yourself together Johna, you can do this. I realize that I cannot fail, I cannot invest this much time and money into traveling overseas to land in a new place and get scared and give up because of fears, insecurities, or just being uncomfortable with all the newness. So here we go, JFK to BKK with a layover in Tokyo. I arrive at 11:30 pm in Suvarnabhumi Airport. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when landing, but remember to look for the meeting point, where you are supposed to go to meet with your contact. In my case, Kevin Meldau, the owner and managing director of Global Teaching Adventures, sent a driver to pick me up and allowed me to call and speak to Kevin to fill me in on the details. Looking back now, I would recommend that you hold a sign with the name of the company written clearly or carry the airport tag provided to you in the Welcome Pack. Don't be afraid to look for information desk, the airport is one place where you are sure to find people that speak English and they are used to providing customer support. And always remember to print out your hotel name, phone number, and location; if all else fails you just taxi cab it on your own. Hotels in Thailand will have wifi and after a long journey you will finally be able to let everyone know you've arrived safely.
From here you will be awaiting contact from a Global Teaching Adventures' team member. This is a part of the process when people usually start to freak out. The waiting.... You don't know what to do, where to go, everything's new, you're scared, you don't have a lot of money, etc. Let it go, Let it go, Can't hold back anymore ...oh, sorry, but you know what I mean. This is the exciting part. One thing you must do prior to your departure is BUDGET! Leave room for extra expenses, a 'if **** hits the fan' budget. Remember, you are going to a new place. You are not going to find the super cheap prices at first because you want comfortable, you want familiar. You also want to go out, travel and explore. This means using taxis. Because of your limited ability of speaking the language, you have to keep in mind that the first month at least, will be learning the ropes.
Day 1: Sleep, sleep, and more sleep. You are jet-lagged and confused, probably a little frustrated. Sleep it off or do some research at the hotel about your surrounding areas. Don't be afraid to ask the front desk for help.
Day 2: Hooray! The official start to your new adventure. Now this can go two different ways: this day will either be contact with a company/school representative to fill you in on details and your schedule OR the beginning of an orientation program. This all depends on which program you chose. With Global Teaching Adventures Thailand program or Camp Counselor program you will meet your representative at the airport and then check in at your hotel where you will stay for approximately a week. Camp counselors will have a week of orientation and then proceed to their first camp destination (view our other blog posts for more information on becoming a camp counselor). Paid teachers will attend placement meetings and interviews. Another tip that many people look over is the to check the starting date of schools in your destination country. Remember that you will only start working when schools are in session. If you plan to land ahead of time then you can travel a bit and have fun, but that is up to you and you will have to work that into your budget. A good way to stay up to date on this information is to like Global Teaching Adventures Facebook page.
Day 3-7: During these next few days you will most likely be on your own. You will attend some interviews and this will be a hectic process. You are traveling around a new area, you are figuring out transportation, the language barrier, and battling your nerves. Take it in stride.
Just know that they are excited to meet you and your enthusiasm and personality will be what wins them over. In many countries in Asia, its your smile and your ability to adapt that will get you places. Good manners and effort will also help you to succeed. I suggest create a lesson plan before you leave. Make one geared towards kids and one for adults. There are boundless resources, tips, and freebies on the internet for TESOL. I've never understood why creating a lesson plan is so difficult for teachers who come over and interview. You know the old say, “fake it til you make it”, well that certainly applies here. Take an example lesson plan if you can't create one yourself and adapt it to your teaching style and your personality.
Most likely you will hear a response from the school in the next week. During this time you are still acclimating, get outside of your comfort zone. Use resources like guidebooks and the internet to pick a spot, figure out transportation and then explore. If you are worried about traveling on your own then know your boundaries and account for travel time home before it gets dark.
Once you've landed a job (Hooray and congrats!) you will be taken to your new school and there your school representative will assist you in finding a place to live. Just like other places around the world, you will be asked to give a security deposit along with first month's rent (this budget should be set aside before you depart). Become familiar with your surroundings. Most likely you will take a taxi or a motorbike taxi to work. You will probably get ripped off in the beginning but ask your English speaking coworkers where they live and how they get to work. Just like the old days in school, put yourself out there, say “hello”, and make friends. Your coworkers are undoubtedly some of the greatest resources you will find and they can become lifelong friends as they probably have similar views on life and exploration.
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- Johna Hunger