The Best and Worst Parts of Teaching Abroad

Authored By:

Claudia M.

CIEE was pretty transparent that although teaching in Thailand would be an incredibly memorable once in a lifetime experience, it would also be difficult. I’m relatively open to friends, family, and prospective teachers about the hardships I’ve experienced along the way. However, whenever they inevitably ask if I would do it again I always respond with a resounding “yes!”.

In this post, I’m going to break down the best and word parts of my teach abroad experience. While I have found some similarities in the challenges and rewards between myself and other teach in Thailand teachers, each placement has its own.

The worst parts:

Life goes on at home without you, you are going to have FOMO surrounding the holidays and life events of your loved ones. The best way to combat this is to keep the social media to a minimum, remember this is only one year, and plan things you can look forward to in country.

Things take longer. There isn’t Target and you won’t have a car. Finding an item you need could turn into a whole day event, which can be frustrating and elicit some homesickness. When the straps of my sandal broke, it took weeks of carrying them around hoping to find a repair cart until I met a foreigner who knew the exact alley where all the cobblers work.

Relationships are shorter. You are in country for a set amount of time so there is an end date to every relationship you make here, which can be emotionally taxing. You will meet so many amazing people while traveling and have to say goodbye a few days later. However, I like to remind myself of the amazing network of friends I am growing around the world and how many places I can now go and visit with a place to stay.

I’m a vegetarian. Which, depending on where you are in Thailand, can be difficult. I find myself eating the same stir-fried vegetable dish over and over. I really miss the variety of options I have in America: cold food; peanut butter; hummus; Chipotle.

The best parts:

Meeting incredible people. Thai people are incredibly kind, appreciative, and helpful. I feel a sense of safety and neighborliness in my city, Khon Kaen, that I have never felt anywhere else I have lived. The friends and other teachers I have met while traveling have been so interesting. I love meeting people who share in my sense of adventure, love of teaching, and curiosity about the world. Friendships are formed very quickly here because of the comradery we feel being foreigners in Thailand.

Cheap travel. Traveling in America can be pricey and time consuming, especially on a teacher’s salary. I have been able to travel 2-4 weekends a month in Thailand, both around Thailand and to its surrounding countries. I have climbed a volcano, seen beautiful beaches, played with elephants, ran from monkeys, and eaten my body weight in noodles and mango sticky rice. These are memories and experiences that have shaped me, and I will cherish them forever.

Self-growth. I have learned so much about myself during this time teaching in Thailand. I have been able to slow down, live minimally, and learn what is important to me and brings me happiness. It is so easy to become “busy” in America, which is the antithesis of Thai life. Embracing “thai time” and their “mai bpen rai” (it’s ok) attitude has been so freeing.

I am thankful for the best and worst parts of my experience because I needed both. The worst parts helped me to grow and more deeply appreciate the best parts. I would choose this experience in all its hardships every single time.