Chapter One: First Steps

Just over three years ago, I moved to the other side of the world, to Thailand. I had decided during my final year of university that I wanted to get out of the UK by any means necessary so I searched online and went to careers fairs and discovered that teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) was a way to do just that. I applied to countless online ads for jobs in every corner of the world, finally settling on Bangkok.

Choosing where you’ll move to is obviously a huge decision but I hardly gave it a second thought, Bangkok just felt right for me. Before I even accepted the job, I could imagine the sweet smell of coconuts filling my nostrils as I sat back in pure delight. I decided to decline jobs in Beijing and Northern Spain even though they were offering better salaries. Something drew me to the Land of Smiles and it hasn’t let me go yet.

The first thing I did was turn on the television 1377573_10202173634766080_951244549_nand put on The Hangover 2, which I later
found out didn’t accurately represent the country at all well. I had about a month to get everything ready between getting the job and flying; visas, inoculations, insurance and, of course, flight tickets. The hardest thing about leaving was saying goodbye to my family and friends. I’m an only child and leaving home to go 6,000 miles away for an unknown period would put an incredible strain on my family as well as me. It was going to be hard work, so I knuckled down and got to planning it.

Having done an online TEFL certification, I felt ready. I wasn’t. My first day as a teacher was terrifying. With beads of sweat on my brow, I slid open the rickety glass doors into the Grade 6 classroom and instantly thirty-something little Thai faces stared at me. I hurriedly introduced myself and tried to tell my new students about me. “I’m not another boring teacher, I’m hip and cool like you youngsters”. Fuck, I was that guy.

After three periods of back-to-back lessons with different classes, I was a sweaty, ink-stained heap of haggis. I was under the impression that teaching was about me imparting my invaluable knowledge into the porous, spongey minds of the next generation. It wasn’t. Teaching English to a group of children who, most of which, can’t understand a single syllable that you’re saying and have nicknames like Airbus and Gundam is horrifying. But I learned what it is to love your job (did ye, aye?) over the next two and a half years at Patai Udom Suksa School and I have been a teacher from that day on.

My first favourite class

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