While in Hua Hin, Thailand, I had the opportunity to intern for XploreAsia, a company that taught TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), and placed teachers around Thailand. Now, as I learn to become an English teacher myself through International TEFL Academy Nicaragua, I’ve been able to experience the other side of these types of courses. It has been incredibly eye-opening. Here are a few of the things that I have noticed:
- You will bond with your classmates incredibly quickly. While I doubt this is true of online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) courses, taking a course in a foreign country makes for very close group of people. I was always impressed by how quickly the teachers in Thailand bonded, and loved seeing how they supported each other throughout the course. As my course is much smaller, I was worried I might miss out on this atmosphere. However, I have found that I genuinely like each of my classmates, and have made quite a few good friends who I am sure I will stay in touch with for years to come. Sharing the experience of not only being dropped into a new culture, but also of the vulnerability of learning to teach together is a very powerful thing.
- The intensity of the courses can vary. The TESOL students in Thailand took their courses over a three-week period, and seemed to have a pretty busy schedule. However, I would often run into some of the teachers on weekday evenings, either enjoying the beach of the market. The course I am taking in Nicaragua has a schedule that is a bit more intense. On days when I observe or teach, I am at school from 9:30 AM to 8:10 PM. While this can be pretty exhausting, it also has its upsides. At XploreAsia, most of the practicum was concentrated at the end of the course, with teachers spending two days teaching at a local school. At ITA Nicaragua, we teach for two hours once a week, starting in our second week. We receive in-depth feedback after each class, which allows us to improve week to week. While it is stressful at times, I personally prefer this approach. However, for someone who works better with more downtime, XploreAsia would be a much better fit.
- The people are passionate. At both XploreAsia and ITA Nicaragua I have met people who are truly passionate about their jobs and genuinely care for the students. Both companies employ people who have taken a course and taught overseas themselves, which gives them unique insights and empathy. The staff at both companies make a real effort to get to know the students, which I have really appreciated from both sides.
If you are someone looking to take a TEFL/TESOL course, I don’t think there is a clear best company to do it through. Rather, as long as you find an accredited course, I would recommend choosing your course based on where you would like to teach. I am going to be teaching in Colombia, and taking the course in Nicaragua has allowed me to learn more about Latin American culture and practice teaching with native Spanish speakers. The teachers in Thailand were able to similarly get a good feel for Thai culture, and the unique challenges of teaching students in Southeast Asia. If possible, I would strongly recommend taking an in-person course, preferably in a foreign country. I don’t think I would be learning nearly as much in an online course, and taking the course in a foreign country allows you to adjust to a new culture with a support system already in place, so culture shock may be less intense when you actually begin teaching.
All my love ❤