You've thought about it for a while. "How cool would it be to just pick up my life and move to some corner of the world to help broaden the intellectual life of the future generation?" I'm sure that's exaclty what you thought. Word for word. In reality, your brain is probably telling you all the reasons you SHOULDN'T do it. "There's no way that's practical. You don't know Thai/Korean/(insert any language here). You can just take a week of vacation there and get the same experience." Against all odds and with much push back from my left-side-dominant brain, I am in the 24-hour countdown to lift off for my flight from North Carolina to Thailand without a return ticket. As you can imagine, I am feeling way more frantic and scatterbrained than I need to be, but I've found there really are only four things I truly need before I board my flight:
1) LOTS of Luggage
Just kidding, don't do that. In all seriousness, as the girl who is convinced she WILL need that 4th pair of sneakers "just in case", this has been something I've been struggling with while packing. I limited myself to only packing my two checked bags half full (what?!), so that when I come back in about a year, I will have more room for things I have bought in Thailand. Keeping in mind that you can buy almost anything you will ever need in Thailand (and for way cheaper than in the U.S.), I'm learning that bringing less when you're moving across the world gives you opportunity to accept more into your life physically, mentally, spiritually, etc.
2) TEFL Course
I have never taught in a classroom on my own. Sure, I was a swim coach for many years, and I was a TA/tutor for classes in college, but standing up in front of a group of kids all expecting you and you alone to teach them something they've never learned before? Yikes. CIEE offers a 150-hour TEFL Certification for all of its teachers, whether you are going to China, Spain, Chile, the Czech Republic, or any of their destinations. The course not only taught me how to actually teach the English language, but it also prepared me for classroom management, lesson planning, and professional development. After the course, you have access to the CIEE TEFL alumni network, which allows you to share ideas with one another and get connected. Though I am not actually teaching English courses in Thailand, the course prepared me for any type of teaching scenario (and often TEFL certified teachers recieve a higher pay).
3) Thai Visa
In order to be in Thailand for an extended period of time, you'll need to apply for a visa. Thankfully, CIEE tells you exactly what you need and where it needs to go. From original documents from my university to federal background checks and bank statements, I gathered all of my documents and sent them off. Through the optional Teach in Thailand Plus program, you get extra help while you are applying for your visa and processing/expedited shipping fees included. Thank GOODNESS for that because I was feeling so in the dark as to how to even start the visa process! Once you have your visa in your passport, you start to feel like everything is coming together and falling into place!
4) Willingness to be Uncomfortable
By far one of the most important things to remember as you go to teach abroad is that your willingness to be uncomfortable will drastically affect how much you enjoy and grow from your experience. From applying to visas to the TEFL course to googling the city you have just been placed in, that feeling of being uncomfortable can start right in your own home. That feeling will probably grow as I step off the plane in Bangkok for orientation, and it will likely grow even more on my first day of school. But that is exactly where you need to be. This isn't meant to be comfortable; this is meant to help you see the world through a different lens and learn more about yourself and the world around you.