Ajarn Street

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. 

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".

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 my age 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 four 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


Your article gives me hope. I had been to Thailand a few years back and fell in live instantly. I have been trying to find a teaching position but Indians don't seem to have a chance there unfortunately. Especially for teaching English.

By Jaya, India (22nd February 2020)

I could only skim this. So much extraneous information. Strikes me someone that's a bit new to it all.

After six years, I'm making good money, for the most part enjoy teaching, have my license and have become - a teacher. I've seen writer's jobs I feel well qualified but what about that environment? I've heard a few horror stories there as well.

Most of all, while I'm not in need of a wp and visa to remain in Thailand, schools and even two miserable agencies I'd worked for have all be great for wp.

I'm personally satisfied with the second career I've built. I love my kids and teaching. But the first three years were tough to be sure, I might have taken a editor's job.

I love the long holidays. Never get that at a desk job.

By Bob Dobbs, Church of the Subgenius (10th April 2019)


An interesting read, it would appear we have had some similar experiences and some different ones.

I came to Asia a bit later in life, but like you without any degree. I ended up doing three degrees climbing the educational ladder within Asia and I did my second (Master’s Degree) here in Thailand, at I suspect the same university you studied at. I did have some scholarship money, from previous employment, which helped.

Many people have claimed (on this site and other places) a Thai degree is worthless, especially for a foreigner, but I have not found that to be true in my case and apparently neither have you.

I spent time, mostly during times of my earlier studies, like you, teaching English to pay the bills. I had a wife and children to support at the time. So we were not living high on the hog then, but unless my memory is worse than I think it is, we did better than just scraping by.

I didn’t find it easy to move on from ESL teaching, after finishing my second degree, like you, I probably spent around five hours a day applying for different jobs and working on my resumes and cover letters. I spent longer teaching English than I had wanted to, but I was eventually able to move on to other work, in management positions in NGOs, international organizations, private companies, being somewhat of a digital nomad and then on to “academic” and research based work throughout Asia. I don’t know if I am considered a professional success in the eyes of others or not, I am surely not “wealthy” by first world standards but I have achieved many of my own personal goals and earn an “international” level of income and like you, for whatever reason, I have found I love living in Asia.

Having earned enough to live in relative comfort for more than a couple of decades in an interesting part of the world, send my children to university (in my home country), and having so many amazing experiences traveling around the region was more or less what I set out to do when I started on this adventure.

I think your advice at the end is very solid, maybe it needs a little adjustment for every person’s unique situation, but you laid out a solid blueprint in my opinion. I followed a very similar, although not identical path.

The path you followed was obviously not easy, but your story shows some of the “myths” found in the ESL community here in Thailand probably should be reexamined.

Myth 1- There are not jobs here or in other locations in Asia except teaching English. Obviously teaching English is the easiest job for NES to get, it requires little more than the ability to speak one’s native language. But your story shows it is possible, with a well thought-out plan, a lot of hard work, developing you skills (often including learning the local language) and also with a little luck, it is possible to move into other types of work over a period of time.

Myth-2- A degree from Thailand (or other Asian country) is worthless. In some situations it might be considered a disadvantage, while in other situations it might be an advantage. Having studied in a local university might send the message to employers you could make a good bridge between the home and host country or region.

Myth-3- Younger teachers are lazy and only here to party. It is hoped you did SOME partying in your younger days, it would have been a boring youth if it was all work and study, but from what I read it appears you put in effort into your teaching, even when hoping not to make a career out of it, and obviously planned and worked for your future.

Thanks for sharing

By Jack, LOS (27th March 2019)

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