Amelia Hoffmann - 2014 Program Participant

American teacher with Thai students in Thailand
Some of my wonderful Prathom 3 students

How did you decide to apply for an international program?

I'd always wanted to teach English abroad for the opportunity to travel. There was little luck with the lottery, so teaching and earning money was a great fit for me. As I was just graduating, the timing was perfect. I was new to working abroad, so I desired an international program to walk me through the steps starting out. It can be intimidating getting a job, visa, and making the move all on your own, especially when it's a country you've never been to before.

Why did you choose TEFL Heaven?

I did an amazing amount of research and finally decided that Thailand was where I wanted to be for my first teaching experience. I also knew I wanted to take the TEFL course in the country, and have practice among real people. While taking an online course would have been far cheaper, I felt that since I did not have actual teaching training, a course on the computer would not properly prepare me for the day when I would be standing in a Thai classroom.

From there, I began researching programs that were fair financially. Many I looked at took a great portion of a teacher's' earnings while working, after the teacher additionally was paying for their course. I also wanted a program that would assist in placements because I was nervous about finding my own job.

I chose TEFL Heaven for their fairness of pay (I was being paid for what I was earning), their services regarding locating their teachers around Thailand, and because the three week course seemed like it would prepare me adequately (which it did).

Mountain view in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

A Samui reunion in Kanchanaburi

What was your favorite part about Ko Samui?

Although there were other locations available, like Krabi and Ko Chang, Ko Samui was fantastic. The resort we stayed in had a pool, was a short walk from a beautiful beach, and was a twenty minute walk from the nightlife. My favorite part of the location was the gorgeous beach, of course! We spent many a day laying out or playing volleyball there after class.

What aspect of your program made it unique?

While there are some great aspects about it, the best is the network that is immediately there for you. There is a bit of a big family atmosphere. For example, the founder of the company stopped by with his family and met all of us.

So to lay it out, there are about 25 participants in your program who you become quite close to. There are two other islands with the same amount. Once everyone is placed around Thailand, the different groups of people were mixed in together. On weekends or holidays, people would post on Facebook that a group would be going a certain place and everyone could go and join. I probably ended up meeting about two-thirds of all program participants.

This network is so important when you are abroad, as being bored or lonely away from home can make the experience less enjoyable. While it's absolutely possible to find a job and move to where you know no one, I found I enjoyed my time so much more having that support system/network.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Before the course, I needed my hand held, frankly. While I'd done plenty of research, I was still a bit at loss in regards to certain aspects of the process, such as Thai visas (which was taken care of for me). I felt in the loop as to what was going on.

During the course, they were phenomenal. Aside from classes, there were meetings set up to discuss any issues, hesitations, or concerns. Staff were so approachable and were more so friends than staff.

After the course, I found staff to be great as well. I never had any big problems and things went smoothly for me; but any questions or concerns I had were promptly dealt with. Staff also checked up on me occasionally to ensure that everything was okay. Overall, I felt supported.

Tourist with Lopburi monkey in Thailand

A friend I made in Lopburi

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

Worried less. Packed less. Taken more pictures.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

At around 8:15 a.m. I would wake up, get ready, and go down for a buffet breakfast with the other program participants. I'd run back up to the room to grab my notebook and a pen before class starting at 9 a.m. The classes covered a variety of different topics and incorporated activities we would need, such as warmers, games, teaching methods, and teaching practice.

Lunch was around 12 p.m. or 12:30 p.m., and we could eat at the hotel or go somewhere nearby. An hour later we'd reconvene, and continue with our Thai lesson and whatever else was on the schedule for that day. Around 4:00 p.m. class ended, and it was everyone to the pool or beach. When we got hungry, we'd grab food nearby or in the busier part of the island. Usually we went out at night to the bars and clubs with the majority of the group.

What is something you enjoyed doing on your free time?

Over one of the weekends, the staff arranged for a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park. We were able to kayak, swim, do a little hiking, and swim around an amazingly beautiful area. I also enjoyed discovering all the different restaurants and food, and going out at night with the group.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

We stayed in a lovely resort. Everyone shared a room with one other person. It was very nice, and I loved the fantastic pool area. No complaints!

Swimming at Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand

Group picture at Ang Thong National Marine Park

Now that you're home, how would you say your program has impacted your life?

Getting my TEFL certificate is the best thing I've ever done, honestly. It gave me the opportunity to live in an awesome country, make friends that I'm still very much in touch with today, and have so many adventures that I never would have had otherwise. Through teaching abroad, I gained direction in regards to my "home" life, and while I am subsequently working towards my masters, I am also teaching English online.

By far the best experience I have ever had, and I am thankful that it was with TEFL Heaven. I recommend them to anyone.