Teaching in Tropical Schools - Volunteer reviews

THAILAND

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Teach English in Tropical Schools project

Pooja - 2017

“This is an amazing project where volunteers can make a difference and help improve the local children's English skills. Having a native speaker is very beneficial to the children in correcting their pronunciation, building vocabulary and introducing grammar concepts. English is a business language and increasing the students knowledge of English can help them gain access to better opportunities in the future. Pod was very supportive throughout the project, they had a clear interview process and were regularly in touch with me over the placement to check how I was doing. It is a new country and it takes time to adjust but the school provides a great atmosphere and guidance throughout the placement.

What did you find most rewarding?
When students were able to demonstrate their understanding of the topic when I tested them. It made me feel happy to see them understanding and applying the concept.

What did you find most challenging?
The weather (can be very hot), food if vegetarian can be hard to find, language barrier with the students and knowing their current attainment.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
It is a very different environment and it takes time to adjust but you will adjust. Keep in touch with the pod placement manager regularly and if have any queries then to contact the host teacher in the school as they are very helpful. Make sure to take a few bottles of antibacterial gel, a first aid kit and drink plenty of water. Can also buy food from the market to ensure you still eat healthily.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
I read an article where ethical volunteer organisations were listed and I saw pod on them. After exploring the website, I found a project that excited me and went ahead for applying to it. The website was very clear and showed me the project was well supported and organised. This was very important to me.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer?
Yes, thank you for an amazing opportunity and I would love to volunteer with you again. Thank you for all your help”

Leah - 2014

"I really don't know where to begin in explaining the impact the students and teachers had on me or how amazing this experience was overall. This wasn't my first time volunteering abroad, but it definitely was the best trip, most enriching I have ever done. From the teachers at our school to the staff at our accommodation, the people didn't just welcome you, they made you part of the family. By the end of the 6 weeks I was in tears as I did not want to leave our students, the teachers or the staff at the resort. The same goes for my friendships with the other volunteers, who knew you could be so close with people after a matter of weeks!

I have worked with and taught children before, both in the UK and America, but the children in Thailand have to be the most grateful, enthusiastic, determined, fun-loving children I have ever had the pleasure to teach. Yes they were shy to begin with, they were nervous that their English was not good enough. But after the first day of teaching they were making thousands of loom bands for us, begging to play games and just wanting to sit and eat lunch with us. I have never felt so loved in my life and they are the main reason why I want to go back to the school next year. What makes the Teaching in a Tropical School programme so amazing is the ability to see rural Thailand, while still being a ferry ride away from some of the popular, and most beautiful islands, in Thailand. It may be the biggest cliche, "you get to see the real Thailand," but without sounding pretentious, it is the absolute truth. Visiting students' houses, participating in religious and national holidays, even going to Buddhist funerals outside 7/11! You don't just see Thailand, you live it.

What was a typical day at the project? Pick up from our accommodation was at 7:30 and we would have breakfast at school during the morning assembly. At 8:15 one class each day came for homeroom at which point a pair of volunteers would play a game that would further help their English. The rest of the day would be split into 8 periods of 50 minute lessons, but we would only teach between 1-4 lessons a day, doing no more than 9 periods in total between Monday-Thursday. Therefore on the days that we did not have many lessons, we would use that time to plan future lessons. Lunch time was at 12pm and we would go to the canteen with the students (where the food was incredible and was only 25 baht! I wish my school served lunches like that!) Depending on when all the volunteers finished their lessons, we would then be taken back to the resort around 2-3ish - not before making stops at 7/11, the post office or anywhere else we needed to stop. The teachers were so nice and would ask us if we needed driving anywhere after school to save walking or taxis.

What did you find most rewarding? Definitely seeing the improvements in the kids. I told myself beforehand to not feel disheartened if I didn't see a drastic improvement because it was only 6 weeks and helps more in the long run. But, by the end of the project the level of participation by students was outstanding as it wasn't just the same students answering questions, but the students who had previously tried to hide at the back of the class. It made me feel like I had achieved something, even if it was just improving their confidence.

What did you find most challenging? There were different challenges for different ages. For the primary school it was maintaining energy levels! The cutest little kids you will ever see but their energy is limitless and so it can be difficult at times to keep their focus while keeping your energy up. For the older students, as can be expected, the challenge was to get them engaged and make lessons fun without treating them like little children and treating them like 16/17 year olds. However, after the first week and a half we managed to find activities that worked for both age groups and therefore this wasn't a problem.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Have a few ideas for lessons before you arrive at the school, but don't worry too much about planning structured lessons. You may find lessons go slower or quicker than anticipated so just have games and activities you can whip out at any time. The atmosphere in the schools are extremely different to the ones in the UK, it is very relaxed and students and teachers have real friendships. So enjoy your time and don't worry about having to adhere to a strict class schedule, as it's always changing and that's half the fun!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's a chance to explore other cultures while making great friends and giving something back to a community that so deeply cherishes your time and effort. Volunteering anywhere, whether at home or abroad, is extremely rewarding and sometimes life changing. So if you are going to volunteer, why not do it abroad and visit some of the most beautiful places and meet some of the friendliest people out there? It was one of the best experiences of my life and worth every penny I paid!

Why did you choose Pod? Pod's projects looked extremely organised, which is comforting as travelling abroad alone can be extremely intimidating. Their support both before and during the trip is second to none. The staff at Pod are amazing and help you with any little query or problem you may have. However what really sold it to me was the reviews from previous volunteers because they are the ones who have experienced Pod and their reviews were glowing and now I am more than happy to add my review for future volunteers."

Ellie - 2014

“My time volunteering was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Even in just 6 weeks teaching it is easy to recognise the difference you have made in the children's confidence to engage in conversation and their ability to understand the English language. The teachers at all the schools are incredibly welcoming and kind, going out of their way to help the volunteers settle into the schools and have the most fantastic time possible whilst teaching. The accommodation is a wonderful home base, with a wonderful team of staff who became a kind of extended family during our stay there. Pod were also a great company to volunteer with, due to their efficiency with answering emails or queries genuine desire to help and care for local communities and their volunteers.

What was a typical day at the project? A typical day involves being picked up at 7.30am at the hotel, breakfast at the school and teaching for anything from 1-4 lessons a day. Volunteers are provided with a 'Volunteer Office' (with air conditioning!) where volunteers can sit when they are not teaching and relax or plan lessons After we had finished teaching our lessons a teacher would take us back to the resort where we could relax with the other volunteers and plan our future lessons. Lunch is had at the school where there is a wide variety of food which suits every kind of spice level. However, one of the things I enjoyed most about volunteering is how few of these 'typical' days we had- the children were always preparing for a sports day, or heading off to a local temple to donate food or money to the monks. For these kinds of days the volunteers would be taken along as well and get to not only teach such fantastic children but also experience the rich Thai culture with the students and fellow teachers.

What did you find most rewarding? Being able to see the difference in the children's ability to communicate in English by the end of our stay was the most rewarding. Their confidence with approaching us to have a conversation improved hugely which was fantastic to see. It was also incredibly rewarding to be welcomed into the school family and treated like an old friend by everyone.

What did you find most challenging? The most challenging thing initially having to work out what level the children were at, especially when teaching several different ages. However, the other English teachers helped and gave us advice, and we were also able to make a general, loose lesson plan which could then be tailored more specifically to each classes needs once we were in the classroom.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Expect to spend more than you think you will; tiger balm is incredibly good for mosquito bites and can be bought cheaply in 7/11; try to learn some basic Thai (if we had known how to say the word 'circle' in Thai it would have saved a lot of time and pointless hand gestures); always take loo roll with you; try to avoid chipped ice in drinks; think of a lot of games to play with the kids as they love them and they're a great way to consolidate learning; Thai people tend to work on 'Thai time', it will always work out all right in the end, things may just happen a bit later or more disorganized than you would like them too! Above all, just go with an open mind, try (most) things once and just enjoy it!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It gives you such a unique opportunity to be part of a community whilst you are there, meaning you will be involved in local funerals, religious holidays, sports days, visiting children’s homes and a thousand other amazing opportunities that you can't get if you just visit a country. By volunteering you are opening yourself up to a whole new way of life, and a whole new family that will make you feel so welcome you'll wish you never had to leave.

Would you recommend Pod to your friends? Yes, I chose Pod because their website looked clean and professional, they appeared to (and really do) care about all their projects and volunteers, they are very organised and efficient when it comes to replying to emails and because their volunteer opportunities were wide ranging and all looked equally good.

Thank you so much for providing me with the opportunity to teach abroad- I had a fantastic time and made some incredible friends. I will never forget my experience and will recommend you to absolutely anyone who will listen to me.”

Katherine - 2014

"It is really hard to sum up this project in a few short paragraphs, it exceeded all expectations. I have never felt more welcome or more appreciated and I was overwhelmed by how friendly everyone was. The children at the schools were so excited and enthusiastic to learn both inside the classroom and when walking around the school, it was noticeable how much their English improved and their confidence grew over the six weeks that we were there. The teachers were so generous, making us feel like part of the school family and going out of their way to help us with anything that we needed. The Director (Head Teacher) of the Secondary school, Mr Prayong is incredible, he really cares about his school and community and was so appreciative of the volunteers. He made us feel safe and part of the community.

The accommodation was beautiful and the staff were exceptionally welcoming and would do more than was expected of them to help with any problems. We all made such strong friendships and I learnt more from the other volunteers and everyone involved with this project than I could have imagined. I would recommend this project to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Thai culture, whilst living in a beautiful part of Thailand and teaching in a school where the teachers are passionate and the children are excited to learn.

What was a typical day at the project? A typical day at Paprek secondary school would involve Mr Prayong (Director) picking us up around 7.30am. He would stop at the local market to buy us some breakfast which was always a surprise, or he would have something ready for us. We would arrive at school and sit in his office to eat breakfast and have some coffee whilst the students had assembly. We would then take home room for 15 minutes with a different class each day outside the office, informally teaching them conversational English and recapping what we had previously taught them. We had a timetable which gave us anywhere between 1-4 classes each day. When we weren't teaching we were in the office that Mr Prayong set up for us, planning lessons, or students would come up to us and practice their English and play games with us. The students were encouraged to approach us informally outside of lessons to ask to take photos, or to attempt conversation to help with their confidence. At lunch time we would sit with students and eat the food at the canteen, which was delicious. Sometimes the teachers would surprise us with some food from outside of school as a treat, or with weird and wonderful desserts. After teaching the afternoon lessons we would be taken back to the resort by one of the teachers and we would plan lessons for the next day or socialise with the other volunteers and the staff at the resort.

A day at Wat Nok primary school started the same, being picked up at 7.30am by Teacher Pen. She would provide us with breakfast and coffee in the staff room, whilst eating breakfast the children would shout hello at us through the window and ask us how we were that day. We would have anywhere from 3-5 lessons a day in the English classroom teaching all ages. Between classes we would play with the children outside of the classroom. At 12 we would have lunch with the other teachers and students and they would always give us an incredible feast. We would teach again in the afternoon, with the lesson plan and timetables constantly changing due to the children practising for sports day.

We had weekends free to explore the local area, the teachers would take us to the nearby city Surat Thani or to the local beach, waterfalls, surprise day trips. There was never a dull day.

What did you find most rewarding? The receptiveness of the children, seeing that they were really listening and putting into practice what they had learnt and the generosity and appreciation we received from the teachers and the local community.

What did you find most challenging? Being thrown in at the deep end and having to teach on the first lesson of the first day, however this was the best way of being introduced to the constantly changing teaching style and schedule of the schools, every day was a surprise.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Go with an open mind, outdoor living comes with lots of bugs and nature that you are unfamiliar with, but its all part of the fun. It is normal for there to be geckoes in your room or in a Thai house, you will learn to love them. If you have the opportunity to do a home stay, take it! The family are so lovely and it is such a unique experience. Learn as much Thai as you can because the locals don't speak very good english and it will help when you are teaching the children.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Others should volunteer abroad because it is the best way to travel, it immerses you into the culture of the country that you are in and allows you to see how people really live. You can really see the impact that your volunteering has on people and it is incredibly rewarding.

Why did you choose Pod? I chose Pod because it was recommended to me by a friend and the project looked perfect for the volunteering that I wanted to do. Thank you for accepting me on this project, for giving me the opportunity to meet such incredible people and to have such an amazing experience"

Rebecca - 2014

“Volunteering is such a great way to travel! When you volunteer, you become more than a tourist, you find yourself warmly welcomed by the locals and you get to truly immerse yourself in a new and different way of life. Having something useful to do makes a vacation that much sweeter and more rewarding, and the friends you make are beyond comparison. The challenges you face will make you a better person as you learn to let go of worries and take things as they come!

What was a typical day at the project? On a typical day we would get picked up for school between 7:30 and 8 am. At the school, we would teach anywhere from one to four one-hour classes per day. We ate lunch in the school cafeteria where the food was cheap and delicious! There was plenty of "down time" between classes during which we could plan lessons, hang out with students, or relax. Once classes were finished, a teacher would take us back to the hotel were we would have a drink, read, or relax together until supper time. The fine people at the hotel loved introducing us to delicious new foods, and we ate well! Sometimes after supper the owner of the hotel (a cool 20-something guy) would show us films. Occasionally there were community events going on in the afternoons and evenings, such as celebrations for Buddhist holidays.

What did you find most rewarding? We learned as much as we taught! We learned so much about Thai culture, language, cuisine, Buddhism and politics. It was very rewarding to immerse myself in such a different way of life. Some of the students (and other locals!) grew very attached to us and some made clear improvements in their skills and confidence, and this was also rewarding to see.

What did you find most challenging? Just like in any school, there are kids who are excited to learn and there are those who'd rather be anywhere but in class. It can be difficult to engage these latter kids, and you need to try to find ways to get them to participate.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? I would have so much advice: bring casual clothing as well as smart clothing for teaching; try to learn a little bit of Thai but don't worry about it too much until you arrive; bring some sunscreen but trust that you can get just about all your toiletries and most OTC medications in Thailand (the bug spray is better); the secret to peeing in a squat toilet is to squat on your heels, not your toes; bring a couple books to read; Wi-Fi coverage is good but strongly consider buying a Thai SIM card for your phone as the deals are pretty good (I wish I had done this); there are ATMs everywhere and they're super convenient; budget to spend more than you think you will; bring some loose, long-sleeved and long pants garments for the mosquitos in the evening but be sure to leave polyester at home!; don't be afraid to eat at the street stalls in the markets.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's a great way to get "more bang for your buck" while travelling. You can immerse yourself in the culture and local everyday life. You will meet and befriend locals and learn a lot more from them than you ever would as a tourist. Having a bit of work to do makes relaxing and having a drink that much sweeter.”

Find out more about the Teach English in Tropical Schools project

AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal