Kim Staflund - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

Around 18 years ago, a friend of mine called me. She was unhappy with her career in Canada and debating going abroad to teach English in Taiwan. At age 26, she'd never traveled anywhere before; and she was a bit daunted by the prospect of traveling halfway around the world all alone. She wanted my advice. Should she do it?

I had a six-year-old son at home at that time, so I wouldn't be going anywhere like that for at least another 15 years. He was my priority while he was growing up. However, she was a single woman, with no children at that time. I told her, "Do it! Go now before you get married and have kids!" I told her I would live vicariously through her adventures.

Songkran celebration in Hua Hin, Thailand

Songkran 2016 in Hua Hin

She did it. She initially planned to be there for only six months, but six months turned into two years, and those two years opened her up to a new world of possibilities. I watched her grow into a confident world traveler who has been to countless countries on pretty much every continent now. Many times, I told myself, "Maybe someday I'll do that, too."

Skip ahead 18 years. My friend and I have switched roles. Now, she has a six-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter at home. Now, my 24-year-old son has grown up and graduated from university. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a great job, and a stable life of his own. An opportunity for me to go to Thailand to teach English presented itself shortly after he moved out, and it put a huge smile on my face: "My someday has come!"

I paid for my trip, made arrangements for my business back home, and began my adventure!

Why did you sign up with XploreAsia?

I chose XploreAsia's 120-hour in-class TESOL training and certification to help myself find a good job teaching English in Thailand- and I am so glad I did! The benefits of taking this course right in Thailand, rather than studying it online are numerous, and XploreAsia's top notch team of professionals is amazingly supportive all the way through.

During the first week, XploreAsia provided an in-depth look at Thai culture and politics, while also providing their TESOL students with a few hours of basic Thai language classes. I can't begin to explain just how helpful this was a few weeks later, once I began my teaching contract at a Thai school in Bangkok. The staff at the school really appreciated my extra bit of knowledge and understanding compared to other Westerners who didn't receive any cultural or Thai language training at all.

The remaining three weeks of the course were filled with not only the same theoretical review of teaching methodologies that one learns through the online course, but also many hours of practical application within the classroom. We learned how to create and present various types of lesson plans, and we were able to provide and receive feedback from our instructors and each other in a safe environment while we learned. This in itself is priceless, but it didn't end there.

Following this, we also got the opportunity to do a practicum at a two-day English camp at a nearby Thai school. So, again, we received that all-important first-hand experience of dealing with Thai children in their natural school environment, which further prepared us for our real jobs to follow.

As I said earlier, studying this TESOL course and teaching abroad had been a "bucket list" item of mine after watching my friend do it 18 years ago. However,  I don't know how well I would have done this if I had just moved to Thailand on my own. I think I would have experienced quite a strong sense of culture shock if it weren't for the safe cocoon of XploreAsia staff and my fellow TESOL students around me for that first month. It really helped me to acclimatize to a new country, so that once I was on my own a month later, I was that much more prepared.

2016 Songkran celebration in Hua Hin, Thailand

Songkran 2016 in Hua Hin

What was your favorite part about Thailand?

I love the people in Thailand. I've met so many good people, both in Hua Hin and Bangkok. I also really like the food.

What did XploreAsia offer that made it unique?

XploreAsia took us on some great excursions during our TESOL training month. During one excursion to a Buddhist temple, we got to watch a young monk's ordainment ceremony. How many times in your life do you get to see a Buddhist monk being ordained? And then, after watching the ordainment ceremony, one of the senior monks taught us all how to meditate. It was a very special day.

How would you describe XploreAsia’s local staff?

I explained earlier how XploreAsia provided such tremendous support during the TESOL training and certification. Then, my new employer, a school in Bangkok, took over the reins by helping me find a great place to live right after I signed my new employment contract with them. My new boss even helped negotiate my monthly rent and acted as translator between me and my new landlord.

I honestly feel that everyone went above and beyond in terms of helping me feel safe and comfortable in Thailand. The level of hospitality I've encountered has been amazing; albeit, I'm not sure if my experience is the norm or not, so I don't want to set everyone's expectations too high on here (I highly doubt every employer will help negotiate your rent for you! This one is extraordinary).

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

Nothing. This has been a wonderful experience, and I'm so glad I did it.

How was your TEFL training organized?

The TESOL classroom days were busy ones, but we also went on many memorable and wonderful excursions during the course as well.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I loved walking by the beach, walking through (and shopping in) the markets, and going to places like Monkey Mountain. I love the food; there is a lot of good food in Thailand.

Bubbles and soap flooding the streets of Hua Hin, Thailand, Songkran 2016

Songkran 2016 in Hua Hin

Where did you stay during your program? What did you like best about it?

The accommodations I stayed in during the TESOL course in Hua Hin were comfortable. We stayed at a nice hotel with a pool, and there were many great and affordable restaurants nearby. It's pretty nice to have a pool nearby when you live in a warm climate.

Do you have any words of wisdom for future program participants?

In my opinion, it is unnecessary to go through a third party to book your TESOL training and certification in Hua Hin. I recommend booking your course and placement fees direct through XploreAsia, and then pay for your plane ticket. XploreAsia will give you the best advice to help you prepare for your trip and also take good care of you once you're in Thailand. You just need to get to Thailand, and that's easy enough to do for yourself.

How has your life changed after your experience in Thailand?

I'm not home yet. I'm still in Thailand. I'll be here for a little while yet. :)

Would you recommend XploreAsia to others?

Yes, I absolutely recommend XploreAsia to everyone for all the reasons mentioned already.