How CIEE Helped Me Prepare for Thailand
One of the most daunting parts of the move to Thailand is the visa. Getting tourist is easy, but getting an Immigrant Non-B visa is more complex. It requires loads of paperwork, FBI background checks, official school documents, and countless other details. Many of which seem inconsequential, but are actually quite consequential. For this reason alone, I would recommend using CIEE. They give you step by step instructions and offer you support by phone or email. We regularly bombarded the CIEE staff with questions. You can go the process alone, but I don’t regret the assistance CIEE offered.
As I’ve written in another article, we got TEFL certified, and we did it through CIEE. To us, it just made sense. We trusted CIEE as a legitimate operation and a name that would be recognized on our certificate. Plus, they offered a totally online course, which we needed in that season of life. We moved across two states and to Thailand before completing our course, while we were teaching overseas. The flexibility and reliability they offer in their service were fantastic.
Before shipping out, you have to complete an online cultural training course. At first, I viewed it as just another thing to get done because it was. But, by the end of the short course, I saw it differently. Nothing can fully prepare you for moving into a new culture, but this course did get me thinking. It helped me to consider the underlying differences between cultures, which helped me to start acknowledging my own biases. For example, in America being direct is generally considered better than being indirect. In the West, if you have questions regarding your job, you should go to your supervisor to get them answered. This is not true in Thailand. In Thailand, it’s better to ask around, trying to get information from friends and coworkers. If you go straight to your boss, you likely won’t get a straight answer. The training helped me to process what it would be like to exist in an indirect culture, especially highlighting some professional factors I hadn’t considered.
Finally, they offer an excellent In-Country orientation. For the Spring orientation, about 60 incoming teachers will gather just outside of downtown Bangkok, in the Fall it is much smaller. The orientation consists of different seminars covering the basics of Thai culture, living as a Westerner abroad, and TEFL training. In fact, they even give you additional hands-on TEFL classes and basic language training. You will be placed in a group led by a Western teacher with experience working in Thailand. The orientation is really fun, other than the classes and seminars, you also get to go on a field trip to Bangkok’s most famous temples and observe a cultural dance ceremony. And don’t worry if you are looking to make friends, it’s essentially college orientation week all over again. The week definitely helped us ease into our experience in Thailand.
Let me offer you a metaphor in conclusion. If moving to Thailand was like getting up in the morning, going without an organization would be like stepping into the shower before letting the water heat up. It’s a stark and difficult experience. Will you make? Yes, but it isn’t pleasant. Going with CIEE is like stepping into the side of the shower, while you wait for the water to warm up. Are you going to feel some cold and discomfort as the cold water bounces of the tiles? Yes, but overall when you do step into the warm water of Thailand, it is going to be a much more comfortable experience.