I have written previously about how CIEE prepares you to live and teach in Thailand and I am forever grateful for everything they did and continue to do for me. However, it is impossible to be fully prepared. CIEE has teachers all over the country of Thailand and each placement is unique thus making it difficult to prepare each person individually for their specific situation. I am also a firm believer in no one can listen until they're ready to hear. So there is a good chance some of CIEE’s advice wasn’t absorbed in my brain amidst the chaos of leaving my life in America.
That being said, here are some general things I wish I had known. I hope they help you as you pack and prepare for your big move!
In America, having taught at the lower elementary level, dress code is pretty casual as you are spending time sitting on the floor with your students and boogers on your clothes are a daily norm. In Thailand, teaching is a very respected profession and has societal clout. Thus, the dress code is more business attire that I am used to or expected. When packing I was focusing more on buying more conservative versions (length and chest coverage) of my usual work attire when I should’ve been buying pencil skirts and blouses.
I have way more down time than I expected to have. In the last 6 months I have read 37 books and a concerning amount of Netflix. I would highly suggest bringing a Kindle or e-reader and getting a library card. Your home library should have e books available to borrow online; which will save you a lot of money rather than buying them off Amazon. I desperately wish I had brought Uno or a deck of cards. I have had trouble finding games here and the ones I have found have been very expensive. Uno and a deck of cards are something you could use in your classroom, passing time in bus stations and airports, and when you are trying to make new friends at a hostel on a weekend trip.
The combination of the washers and extreme heat in Thailand results in a shortened life span of clothing than I am used to. I would highly suggest not bringing any clothing you care about. I would recommend a lot of basic items in a variety of colors and to stay away from white or anything that will show sweat. Bring extra underwear and bras, they’re very difficult to get here and you will want new ones. I have had every visitor so far bring me new pairs of shoes. As a women’s size 11 I am SOL when it comes to buying shoes here and with the amount of walking in my daily life I have been wearing down pairs at light speed.
It is possible to get mail! It is a slow process but it will come! However, you need to be careful and follow these steps so that you are not required to pay taxes on what you receive. (See: me handing over the rights to my first-born child when I had my contacts 2day shipped via UPS.) If you are being sent a package the sender should: use USPS, declare the goods at a VERY low value, write GIFT all over the package. I would recommend getting things shipped to your school rather than your accommodation and the sender writing TEACHER ________ (your name) . Special shout out to everyone who has sent me Lara Bars- you’re the real Thailand year MVP.
Bring pictures and small items to decorate your room. I didn't think much about making my living space feel like a home until I arrived in Thailand and realized how much time I would spend in my room during the week. Having pictures on the walls of my family and friends helps me not feel lonely and more at home. It has also helped me to put up pictures of where I have been and where I want to go. These serve as a daily reminder of why I made this decision to move across the world for a year and why it is so worth it.
Your time in Thailand will fly by. Do not worry about money, things at home, or what you’re going to do next. Enjoy this time and soak it in for all its worth. Go on all the weekend trips. Make a list of your must sees in Thailand and prioritize making time to go to them before your year is up.
If you need travel inspiration or want to chat follow me on instagram! @cmargaroli