GoAbroad Interview

Alex Viana - English Teacher & Correspondent

Alex Viana - English Teacher & Correspondent

After living in Johannesburg and London, Alex decided to take a leap, and fell in love with the most amazing experience he had no idea existed: teaching English in Thailand. Teaching in a one-horse town in the rice fields of Isaan as well as the vibrant capital city of Bangkok was without a doubt the most incredible experience of his life to date, and the reason why he joined the TravelBud team. During his last term teaching in Thailand, he worked to connect with all TravelBud applicants to answer questions and share his experiences. Though Alex has left Thailand, he has moved to Colombia to continue to work as TravelBud's on-the-ground eyes and ears.

You’ve spent time living in South Africa, England, and Thailand. How have your own travel experiences impacted you personally and professionally?

The biggest effect traveling has had on me personally is that I’ve become more open and understanding to different cultures and nationalities. I’ve heard their stories and their views on the world, which has helped me broaden my own views and opinions.

Professionally, it has opened up many doors in the travel, teaching, and hospitality industries and, with international work experience being so highly valued around the globe today, I have the confidence and flexibility to adjust to a variety of different professional environments.

International teacher conducting a volcano experiment with students

We had a science day at school, so here we are doing the classic volcano experiment. 

How do you use your own travel experience in your current role?

Because I have worked with and interacted with so many people from different countries and backgrounds, and because I’ve worked in such vastly different parts of the Thailand, I am able to identify with a variety of different people and assist future teachers. I offer first-hand insight into the various beautiful parts of Thailand and how each region offers something uniquely amazing. I am very excited to now have the opportunity to stretch this first-hand experience and insight into Colombia.

You have been based in Thailand for a while working for TravelBud, and you actually taught in Thailand yourself in the past. What is the best part about teaching in Thailand specifically?

As cliche as it is, my students. Yes, the beaches, mountains, and food and all of that is amazing, but if it weren’t for my students then I wouldn’t have stayed for as long as I did. But other than my students, Thais are the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever met. They want nothing more than to make sure you, the foreign English Teacher, is happy, comfortable, and well fed. They’ll help you through those tough “homesick” moments and remind you why Thailand is one of the greatest places on Earth.

Teacher fixing a students tie

On Students Day, us teachers had to dress as students and the students as teachers. In this photo I am helping the little fella with his tie.

What makes teaching abroad with TravelBud extraordinary?

They care. Above all else, they care. Where most agencies will send you off, wish you the best, and then possibly contact you a month or so into it. The guys at TravelBud have been teachers in Thailand before, so they are able to give honest, first hand advice, and they know the ins-and-out and the highs-and-lows of working in Thailand.

It’s a lot more of a personal relationship than the standard travel agency will offer when making such a big life decision. The TravelBud team really is with you every step of the way.

Why do you think international experience is valuable in the world today?

I think we are now living in a time where more and more people have degrees and qualifications in specific fields, and the global community is getting smaller. At the same time, more and more companies are looking for people that have a broader perspective of the world, someone who has dealt with people from various nationalities and cultures, has experienced life in many different environments, and has the flexibility to overcome the unexpected and bring something truly unique to the table. I think it is invaluable for anyone to be able to say that they have lived in multiple countries and have been able to adapt to multiple cultures and situations.

Based on your own experience teaching abroad, what makes teaching abroad a unique type of international travel?

The best way to get to know a country is obviously to live there, and furthermore, to work there. Teaching offers such a forgiving schedule (as opposed to the hospitality industry in which I previously worked) with weekends off and school holidays to travel. With foreign English teachers receiving a high level of respect from the local community, it makes it so much easier to integrate with the local community and very quickly removes the negative “tourist” logo that foreigners get when they go to a country like Thailand.

Preparing for the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain

Getting ready to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain

How does TravelBud make sure participants get the most out of their time abroad?

They are very big with their social media interaction, and encourage their participants to blog or post photos or videos online. With this, TravelBud becomes more than just a travel agency, but also a means to share their experience with others considering being teachers. The team has also all experienced teaching abroad before, allowing them to offer real authentic advice and transparency into what TravelBud’s programs are really like.

TravelBud also has a teacher on the ground in certain countries, like Thailand and Colombia. If prospective teachers want to connect with current teachers in the country they are soon heading to, they can Skype TravelBuds teacher on the ground to get that extra reassurance and to settle any nerves. But ultimately, they understand how important and life changing this whole experience is and they are there every step of the way to make it as memorable as possible.

In what ways do you support TravelBud’s mission?

The biggest thing with making big, long term travel commitments is having reassurance. Reassurance that the salary is liveable, the country and culture are accommodating, the experience is going to be mutually beneficial for both the participant and the local people he or she engages with when on the program, and that this is the right decision. And that’s exactly what TravelBud offers, the reassurance backed up with first-hand experience and real people on the ground to help out and give a friendly hand if it’s needed.

Students playing Simon Says

Starting the English lesson, with a good ol’ fashioned game of Simon Says

Though you have been working in Thailand, you will soon be headed to Colombia with TravelBud. Other than some incredible travel opportunities, why do you love working for TravelBud?

I’ve only known the TravelBud team for a couple of months now, but they are the nicest, most genuine group of people out there. If I ever need help with anything, they are always there to lend a hand. With them it’s all about people loving the adventure of travel and building connections with their participants, and I think that’s what is missing with most travel agencies and what I love about working for TravelBud; they want people to really embrace it all and see the world as a local, give back to the local communities, and learn through experience and adventure.