I've been in Thailand for about 6 months now, so I felt it was time to give a little back to ajarn.com. The site was a very big part of my research process prior to my arrival, and has been very a huge help since. Here is my Thai success story.
Before Thailand I was teaching in Korea. Like many South Africans, I wanted to do some traveling after finishing university. Before university, I spent a year in the UK. I then worked in South Africa for 2 years & then spent a year in the USA. I was keen to see something of Asia & so the government program to bring ‘native speakers' to South Korea seemed perfect. It was not. Don't get me wrong, I did not hate Korea and I made some awesome friends. I just hated my bipolar Korean boss, and she hated me...most of the time.
My Dutch girlfriend came over after about 2 months and started looking for work. Because she is not a ‘native speaker' she had a tough time finding work, even though her English is better than a lot of English teachers I know. We had a really good network of friends in Korea but my boss was ruining my job and was really beginning to make me hate life. The gf was also feeling unhappy about not being able to land decent work, and so we decided that we wanted to see South East Asia.
After relatively little debate we picked Thailand as our next destination. We already had some friends there (here) who were loving life, so we figured ‘why not'? Everyone, and I mean everyone (except my Mom, so thanks Ma), told us we were crazy to leave the Korean money. Lucky for me, and mostly very annoyingly for my family, I usually do what I want anyway.
All the advice we read on forums said you should just arrive & look for work (although I still know SO many people who use agents and have a bad time), so we did! After grey Seoul we wanted sunshine and beaches 24/7, so after a week in Bangkok we headed down to Krabi. Man, did we fall in love with that place. It seemed perfect...except it was school holidays and no one was sure if they needed teachers yet. As it turns out, they didn't. We didn't stick around long before we headed to Phuket. I had read a lot of mixed reviews about the place, but having a friend of a friend there sealed the deal.
We had saved up some cash in Korea so we could ‘holiday' a little and acclimatise ourselves with the island before hunting for work. Patong had some really cheap accommodation available that turned out to be great, although Patong itself was/is a bit much. And by a bit much I mean constantly pumping. We took a few beach days (away from Patong) before looking for schools, and when I say looking for schools I mean as many as we could physically find in a day. It was a lot of driving, a LOT of getting lost, a lot of smiling and a lot of being turned down. During our search I dropped off my CV at a local university & had a nice long chat with the farang admin lady who handled my CV.
The gf ended up getting a call back from one of the private schools, while I only had miserable offers from language centres. She accepted the 33,000 baht offer (55 000 baht after some extra classes) and I stuck it out, and out and out... She started work and I still had nothing. I was literally about to start selling time share on the beach when the university called me for a demo lesson. They had a sudden opening and so after nailing the demo lesson I accepted the 30,000 bht offer.
Did I mention that in Korea I found out that I quite enjoyed teaching and that working at a university was pretty much a dream job? Sure, it doesn't pay a lot but the hours are great, there is lots of time for extra lessons, the farang staff are cool, it looks good on my CV and I really enjoy being an ajarn.
Two more friends of mine have come here simply because we have been enjoying it so much. One is still looking for work & the other has gotten a great gig as a sports teacher at the same private school as the gf. Who knew a sports teacher could make 46,000 baht AND get a free, amazing lunch every day?
We've both been here about 6 months, have only done 2 visa runs, had both our employers apply for our work permits for us, have started saving money as we actually make a little more collectively than we did in S.Korea, and are both loving life again. Life really couldn't be much better.
I know I sound smug but I have a point (I hope). My point is that too many people arrive the wrong way (through an agent) or don't go about finding work the right way (they do not get out there enough), but that if you have a little brains (arrive with enough cash) and a little balls (no employment agent, just go) you can have an amazing time here. You also need to be able to distinguish between naysayers and those offering genuine advice.
My other point is that bad luck can simply screw it all up (as I was unlucky with my Korean boss) and you can be left in a really bad situation (note: I've still got many friends loving their time in Korea). If you are trying to get settled in Thailand, and are having a hard time, you need to decide if you are simply unlucky, or if you need to change tactics.
I have a friend here who is now unemployed, has literally "had to" disappear from two previous jobs around Thailand, has not saved a thing, is broke, has a fake degree and no TEFL. He's just so unlucky, and he can't understand why nothing works out. So so unlucky...
Anyone is welcome to write a one-off article for the ajarn guests section as long as it's something related to either Thailand or teaching in Thailand or teaching in Asia. We would really love to have your contributions and we'll give it a good plug on the ajarn homepage and also our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Please send your articles by e-mail if you'd be so kind.