How I got out of teaching

I gave up the classroom but still managed to stay in Thailand

So like a lot of people coming to Thailand in their early 20's, I was here originally for my 21st birthday, I fell in love with the place. I spent the next 2 years between working in the UK and traveling around South East Asia and dropping out of university in the process.

Early days

I never really decided to live here but after getting lots of work as a TV extra and finally becoming an ESL teacher I stopped calling the UK home and was living in Thailand. From around 2004 -2010 I worked full time for a few different schools - my main job being on the Nonthaburi English Project with Ramkhamheang University. I stayed with the program for nearly five years and by this time had seen many people either generally drop out of life or just return home to a "real job".

It must have been around late 2009 when my Mum and dad came to visit me and my long term girlfriend (now my wife), of course they loved it and it was actually their second time here but they had their concerns. I had now spent the majority of the last 7 years or so living away from home and not really working towards a career plan.

Parental guidance

They weren't being pushy but the idea of being 60, in Thailand with no pension and no real accomplishments really scared me. Before they left to return home we decided I would look into studying for a new degree.

I chatted to a few friends over the next few months and tried to make something work with my employer. Don't forget they were a university and surely they would be able to help. You would have thought they would have actually wanted educated teachers with degrees working for them but they didn't help.

So then I started to look at the options. I could work all week and study at the weekend or study full time and work around my studies. Either way I needed a lot of money - around 200,000 in the bank to cover my first few university payments and then to cover the drop in income I was going to make.

At this time I was working 7 days a week so whichever way I was going to get a degree, I was going to be working less.

After a lot of debate and searching for the right course at the right price, I ended up enrolling in a full-time degree at a private university in Bangkok to study international business. It might seem an odd choice but it couldn't have worked out better. All these choices took a long time to decide on and going into all of them would make this story way too long.

Back at uni

It was hard at first going back to university at the age of 28 but the first year flew by. I pretty much had to re-learn mathematics all the way up to calculus level which was tough but rewarding. I had a great part-time job that filled my evenings, weekends and other time off.

I originally planned to make all my money in the holidays teaching summer classes but when I enrolled, I found out that the international faculty was going to follow international term dates, so I ended up studing all day,  nearly 5 days a week.

I also travelled a lot, worked late and did assignments in the early hours. It was a killer and for 4 years I didn't stop. Looking back, I must have come over as quite crazy and I wasn't the nicest boyfriend to be honest.

The four years flew by and I graduated top of my class with first class honors and more importantly a completely different set of goals. I had gone into university to get educated and try to beat the tightening of the rules on teaching in Thailand, but once I was out I wanted to go in to business.

Looking for a new direction

My partner and I had already been running a small business for 5 years and now I wanted more. I did apply for some teaching roles just to be safe but I was looking for a role in a company to start off my new career here in Thailand. It took in total around 6 months to finally sign a contract. In that time I was offered around 5 non-teaching jobs, all with good wages, well good enough for a novice starting out. A few jobs fell through due to visa problems but the one job I had been holding out for suddenly fell in my lap.

I have now been working for a famous British company for over 4 months and in that time I have taken eight different trips to around seven different countries, including the UK to visit head office and luckily see mum and dad for the weekend. I have an amazing boss and fellow team.

I never worked in a big international school so maybe my view of teaching in Thailand is unfairly bias but when you have spent years teaching in government schools, your views of the industry are pretty low.

I wanted to write this is show others that there are other options out there. Some people love teaching and that is great, other people just love living in Asia and just teach to stay here - and that was me.

My advice

Many of the people I met along the way asked me how I managed to study and work at the same time or how I got such a cool job, or where to look for a job and so on....... and there are a few simple answers.

1: I planned around 2 years in advance all of the time and ran a tight budget (but I still some had some fun)

2: I worked every hour possible, which meant doing test prep and reports at crazy hours but it was worth it.

3: I studied hard and was rewarded with part scholarships for 3 of my 4 years for having the best grades (that really helped because they were basically 50% of what I had paid for that year)

4: My partner was an amazing rock for me and kept me fed when I had no time to do anything else but stare at a computer screen

5. I knew Mum and Dad were there if things got harder, but I didn't use them!

6: I treated my employers at my part time job really well and was always very friendly. I never complained and I knew if I lost classes or even the job it would ruin my whole plan. You have to learn to smile at Thai people. They like nice people.

7: I have my own motor bike and without that it would have been impossible to travel between Nonthaburi where my work was and university in Bangkok. I even had to teach sometimes while still wearing my university uniform, but if I had been using buses, I wouldn't have even made the classes and taxis would have exhausted all my savings.

8. After graduating I kept the same job and spent my days wading through job sites and newspapers. On average I must have spent 5 hours a day searching for jobs and sending off my CV (Have a good CV).

Richard Davis


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