Why I am Teaching English in Thailand

Beautiful golden statues of Buddha in Thailand.

When I first told my family and friends that I was moving to Thailand to teach English, most of them did not understand why I wanted to go. Granted I can’t blame them for questioning my plan considering moving across the world to a second world country at age 23 is not exactly the norm. I am glad they questioned me. When you have to defend why you are doing something it really makes you think. I felt that this was the right decision for me down to my bones, but honestly I didn’t know why I felt that way. After days of really thinking about why I needed to do this, I was able to put it into words. My conclusion was two-fold.

Part One

I don’t want to just travel the world. I want to live in a different country. I love travelling in general, don’t get me wrong. There is definitely a time and a place for being a tourist. But there is also something special about actually living in a foreign place. It pushes you way out of your comfort zone and forces you to grow. Your goal isn’t just to get by. It is to actively learn about the social norms and customs of your new home. Although it might seem simple, transitioning from not knowing a word of a language to then being able to confidently walk into a store or restaurant and order food is a great accomplishment. I can honestly say that two of my favorite memories from my time living in Spain were when 2 tourists asked my friend and I (in Spanish) how to get somewhere and we were able to tell them. The other one was when a local kid asked me for the time. It wasn’t just that I was able to communicate in a different language, but also the fact that the local kid assumed I knew Spanish. It’s simple things like that that really make you feel like you are blending in. You might not always be able to blend in due to physicality differences (i.e. I definitely do not look asian), but people can differentiate a tourist timidly walking down unfamiliar streets from an expat confidently walking to their destination. The feeling of making a foreign place feel like home is unexplainable. I yearn to be in an environment that pushes me so far out of my comfort zone, that I will have no choice but to adapt and grow.

Part Two

I also want to be surrounded by people who are like me. I don’t mean people who simply have the same interests or hobbies as me. I have friends that love sports, ones that I can talk to about the latest advertising campaigns, and ones who like the same music as me. However, I know very few people who are willing to move across the world to live in another country. There is a major difference between people who share some of the same hobbies or interests as you and people who are similar to who you actually are as a person.

When I studied in Spain, I was automatically connected to the other people in my program because we all had a strong love for the Spanish language and culture, loved to travel, and, most importantly, we were all adventurous and brave enough to leave our home country for 6-12 months.

There is something amazing about being surrounded by a group of people who might be completely different from you when it comes to what they do in their free time, how they were raised, or by their religious beliefs or political views, yet who are actually very similar to you when it comes to comparing your mindsets about life. I cannot wait to meet everyone who is taking the TEFL course with me in Chiang Mai, along with all of the other Expats I will meet on the way. Even if on the surface it appears we are all very different, there are deeper similarities that will connect us all. We are all the same in the sense that we had to take a giant leap of faith, sell most of our belongings and buy a one way ticket to Thailand. Most people will not know how to speak Thai and will not know 1 person in Thailand. We all are willing to take the risk of being extremely uncomfortable, lonely, homesick, and confused for the opportunity to assimilate in another culture, meet new people and experience a great amount of personal growth. I am very excited for the opportunity of being surrounded by people who are like me in this way again.

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