Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering
“The complete service from Pod, from my initial application and throughout the project has been great. The project itself was exactly as it was explained beforehand, and I received a very warm welcome from all at Bangna College.
From start to finish, teaching English at Bangna Commercial College proved a great project to volunteer on. The placement was over a four week period. I taught between three and four hours a day (following a fixed timetable) and had Fridays and the weekends off to explore Bangkok. I taught a range of students on both certificate and diploma courses at the college. The focus was on developing speaking skills - particularly pronunciation and intonation. My groups were small - usually consisting of between six or seven students. I had a mentor in the department, who sorted out my registers and who was always on hand to help. (My particular mentor insisted on bringing me breakfast each morning and making me coffee at any and every opportunity!! Not bad, I thought!!)
The students were all very friendly and very keen to learn, although initially many lacked confidence to speak – so constant encouragement and repetition was necessary to build up confidence. The students thrived on praise, and really tried to use what they had learned. They were also very gracious, inquisitive, and had a lovely sense of humour.
The atmosphere in the college was very relaxed - and everyday I was invited both by my mentor and by students to go to the college canteen (unlike anything I had experienced before in such a setting) for lunch - which is cooked to order in front of you. Food, and the social experience of eating is an important part of Thai culture , and so lunchtime was an
important part of the day for the volunteer to socialise with students.
My mentor also arranged trips for two of the Saturdays that I was at the placement - whereby I went out with a group of students. Again, this proved an important social and linguistic experience for the students, and a great couple of days our for me. In my case, we went cycling in Bangkrajao and to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo.
On my last teaching day, the students put on a dance and cultural show as a token of their appreciation for my having been there. This was attended by the Deputy Director of the college and the staff of the Foreign Languages Department. I felt quite overwhelmed!!
What did you find most rewarding?
The most rewarding part of my experience was seeing the pleasure of the students when they felt they'd achieved something - mainly an actual and sustained exchange with a foreigner.
What did you find most challenging?
In July/August - definately the heat and the humidity was a challenge. I should point out though that both the college and the accommodation was fully air-conditioned.
What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
The placement is a fantastic experience. You don't have to be a teacher or have TEFL experience to do it - but the latter certainly helps. (There is a lot of support available). You do though need to be confident in leading group activities independently. Personally, I found watching my mentor's classes to be extremely helpful in terms of assessing what levels of productive English the students had, and what they were happy to do.
Were there any parts of the placement which you would like to see changed?
Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
This was my second Pod Volunteer placement. I chose Pod based on the superlative experience I had on my first placement - which I have to reiterate was matched on my second. My initial reasons for choosing Pod were the quality of the website (i.e the information provided before an initial enquiry) and the nature of the sustainable volunteer projects that Pod manages.
Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”
“The whole experience teaching at Bang Na Commercial College was very rewarding and worthwhile. The staff and students I interacted with during my time in Thailand were all very friendly and the students were very enthusiastic about improving their English. The Foreign Language Department at the school were very helpful and were more than happy to offer any advice regarding my lesson plan.
The area of Bang Na is very nice and the hotel is about a 10 minute walk from the BTS Train Station which takes you to other areas of Bangkok. There are plenty of Temples and other tourist attractions to visit during the weekend. Volunteers teach Monday to Thursday leaving plenty of time to explore on days off.
How would you describe a typical day teaching English at the College in Bangkok? After a short walk from the hotel I would arrive at school around 10 am in order to prepare for my first lesson starting at 11am. This lesson lasted for one hour which was followed by lunch which was very affordable (30-50 baht) and tasty. The afternoon consisted of two 1 hour lessons and finished at 4pm. Some days I would stay behind in order to prepare lessons for the following day. I went on a few school trips which I would strongly recommend volunteers should attend.
What did you find most rewarding? After spending time with the students and teachers I was able to see the impact my lessons were having as the students were so keen to learn. Also the staff asked me questions about my home and the differences between our cultures. Everyone at the school was so kind and helpful towards me and I was made to feel very welcome.
What did you find most challenging? The most challenging aspect was the language barrier but I was very surprised how quickly I could pick up some words and enjoyed the challenge of speaking as many Thai words as possible. Several staff members were from the Philippines and spoke excellent English which was very helpful at the beginning.
Were there any aspects of the placement which you would like to see improved? I personally found the whole experience amazing. The staff and pupils were so friendly and interested in me that I was very relaxed throughout my placement.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Talk to the other teachers and students and respect embrace the culture. You will be well rewarded. Everyone very friendly and helpful.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Good for personal development and a sense of week being in helping others who may be disadvantaged. Experience meeting a new people and a new culture.
Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? great range of projects and helpful and friendly coordinators.
Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes”
“I would, first of all, like to say that this was one of the best experiences of my life and one that I will not forget. From the moment we arrived the students and teachers were extremely welcoming, which was a huge help.
The area we stayed in is called Bang Na. Our hotel was a two minute walk from the school and a 5-10 minute walk from the BTS train station. This location was brilliant as we could explore the rest of Bangkok easily, using the train (train tickets range from 15-52 baht). As we taught from Monday-Thursday, we had long weekends to explore. On two occasions the students invited us to visit some tourist attractions with them at the weekend, which was great fun. I would encourage future volunteers to engage with the students as much as possible, because it gives a greater insight to life in Bangkok. Our teaching role in the school was relaxed and our main job was to have conversations with the students and to encourage them to speak as much English as possible. The students have a great sense of humour and like to have fun during the lessons. We found that interactive lessons were a great success. Overall, this was a brilliant experience which I would strongly recommend.
How would you describe a typical day volunteering at the Bangkok College teaching English? From Monday to Thursday we would arrive at the school at around 10am for any final preparation before our first class at 11am. This would last one hour and we would subsequently go to the canteen for lunch. This was perfectly decent and cheap (30-50 baht). Following this, we would have two further lessons before finishing for the day at around 4pm.
What did you find most rewarding? The most rewarding part of this whole experience was the bond that we made with the students and teachers. By the end of the four weeks, we became close friends with the teachers. Furthermore, the students really made us feel important and respected as teachers, which was a great experience.
What did you find most challenging? The initial language barrier was quite intimidating during the first few days. However, I was able to pick up some Thai phrases quickly, which was useful. As well as this, most of the students spoke good English and so this was not a major issue.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? I would recommend this placement to anybody. It is a really wonderful experience! The main piece of advice I would give - do not put pressure on yourself! It is relaxed and very enjoyable and the most important thing is to speak and bond with the students.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It provides a wonderful chance to experience different cultures and to learn new ways of life.
Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Pod Volunteer offers a huge and varied range of placements, which caters to everyone's needs. It is very well organised and my experience has been faultless.”
“At first when I arrived in Bangkok I was honestly quite overwhelmed by being fully immersed in a culture that was quite different from my own, and for the first couple of days I did not venture far from the hotel. However, after forcing myself to get out, explore, and try to communicate with locals I became comfortable very quickly, and I am so glad I made that effort early. People that I spoke to were very friendly, and always tried very hard to communicate, which was much appreciated. The attitudes of the students also put me at ease because they were so polite, welcoming, and eager to learn English. Teaching the students was very rewarding to see improvement and see them become more comfortable using English with a foreign speaker, even in the short time I was there. Exploring Bangkok and the rest of Thailand was also incredible. The scheduling allows for travel on weekends, so I was able to venture out from Bangkok and see more areas of Thailand, such as Ko Samet, Khao Yai, and Ayutthaya.
How would you describe a typical day volunteering at the Bangkok College? In a typical day I would deliver one lesson up to four times. The topics of the lessons that I gave were introducing yourself, time, directions, and who/what/where/when/why questions, and they took about an hour. The students always tried very hard at the lessons, and were very nice. During my lunch break I would eat at the canteen in the school, which gave me a chance to try many local Thai foods.
What did you find most rewarding? It was great to see the comfort level of the students with speaking English, the grammar used, and the vocabulary level improving even during the short time that I was there. I also found it very rewarding to learn so much about the local culture. Because the college is located away from the city center, and through talking to the students, I was able to learn a lot about typical Thai life.
What did you find most challenging? While it was rewarding to be far away from tourist areas, it was a little intimidating at first to try to communicate with locals and adjust to a different way of life. However, so many Thais are willing to try very hard to understand and talk to English speakers, which I greatly appreciated. Although it may be difficult to communicate, putting the effort forward really creates a much better travel experience.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? I would strongly suggest stepping out of your comfort zone and trying to experience local culture early, even if it may be intimidating. I remember it took me three days to work up the courage to buy something from a street vendor, but once I did I realized that trying to speak with locals or even just buying food through gesturing and smiling is not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. And then I was able to try so many more delicious foods! I would also recommend travelling to other areas of Thailand on the weekend, and trying to experience as much in Bangkok as possible.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? In addition to assisting the people who you volunteer with, volunteering abroad gives you a chance to learn about other cultures in a way that you never could just by travelling to tourist destinations.
Why did you choose Pod? The favourable internet presence that Pod has was a good sign, and the testimonials of previous volunteers really convinced me to do the project.
Would you recommend Pod to your friends? Yes”
“I have to admit that being my first ever volunteering assignment and having never taught as a profession I was somewhat unsure as to what I should expect turning up to Bangna Commercial College for the first day to teach English language. However the college staff, students and support given were all excellent and made my stay a memorable and pleasant experience, one I never want to forget. My assignment was for four weeks and I was given four topics, one per week, around which I should create an hour's lesson - which in a full week I would deliver up to fifteen times to different groups of students. A typical class size was around ten students although on a couple of occasions I taught groups up to thirty strong. The students were brilliant. Respectful, happy, hugely encouraging and keen to learn. During my time at the college I learned a lot about about the students, about teaching and about myself. I hope the students found my time with them of value because I certainly found the experience both immensely rewarding and insightful into the Thai way of life. I have been to Thailand on many occasions and each time try to see more of a country and culture I have grown to love but this is the first time I can say that I've really got beneath the touristy veneer and I found the real Thailand even more enjoyable and endearing than the professional image created for the outside world. I hope to return to Bangna Commercial College and look forward to renewing many of the friendships struck up during this short stay.
How would you describe your typical day at the Bangkok College in Thailand? On a typical day I had several hours free. I chose to spend my free time in the college mixing with the students and assisting with questions and homework that they might want to share. In a short stay I wanted to make myself as accessible as possible and therefore was onsite from about 8.30am to 4.30pm most days. This was a personal decision and clearly I could have done what I wanted with my free time but for a short stay for me it worked.
What did you find most rewarding? There were so many rewarding aspects of my volunteering placement at Bangna Commercial College that knowing what not to mention is the biggest problem. It was hugely rewarding to asked for help by students who were looking for support and accepted me as a teacher. The warmth and friendly way I was accepted into the college by staff and students was incredible and the sadness that I felt and that the students demonstrably shared at my leaving leaves me with feeling and emotions too difficult to put into words.
What did you find most challenging? There were two challenging elements to my placement. 1) Finding the students comfort level with English. Once I had an understanding of what they did and were likely to understand and the pace at which I should talk / take things this challenge became a pleasure. 2) Leaving, I should have committed to a longer stay.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Leave your inhibitions behind and make your time a fun educational experience for yourself and most importantly the students.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? If you have the time then the opportunity to share your valuable education and experience with those to whom it could make a big difference to says it all.
Why did you choose Pod? Found Pod on the internet, already wanting to volunteer, and their web presence sold them to me.
Would you recommend Pod to your friends? Yes”
“I really enjoyed my experience in Thailand. Teaching the children in Bang Na was educational for myself as a volunteer, as it enabled me to enjoy the culture and spirit of the Thai teachers and students. The placement spans over four days, therefore giving time to explore the beautiful country on the weekend. The teachers and students were welcoming, this made the trip extra special and rewarding!
How would you describe your typical day? A typical day consists of three lessons per day, teaching the students basic English words and phrases to start off with. What did you find most rewarding? The students appreciating the volunteer's time and effort.
What did you find most challenging? Language barrier.”
“The project involved informal English conversation classes with groups of students from the Foreign Languages department of the college. Groups were generally 8-10 people and the age range was 16-19. Accommodation (effectively an air-conditioned 3 star hotel room without breakfast) was very near the college in the south of Bangkok and was very good - private facilities, TV and room cleaned each day. There was a laundry service on request. The college and accommodation are located in a southern suburb of Bangkok where there are virtually no tourists. That has the advantage of enabling volunteers to mix with local people and benefit from local prices. The nearest main road, some 250 metres from the college, is a haven of street food by day and night: quality is high and prices low since customers are entirely Thai. There is ready access to central Bangkok by Skytrain (about 20 minutes) or by bus. There are three main English teachers in the Foreign Languages Department. All are from the Philippines and are very helpful and supportive, organising the volunteer's time so that good relationships can be developed with small groups and effectiveness maximised. The mainly female students are extremely friendly and, after some initial reticence to speak English, become more confident to the extent that some will want to take the volunteer to lunch at the college canteen or to visit local attractions at the weekend or to continue in correspondence after the placement finishes.
How would you describe your typical day? The college canteen is open from 6am and is a good option for breakfast at low prices. Volunteers can expect 4/5 sessions per day starting no earlier than 9am with groups of students from years 2 (17/18), 3 (18/19) and the small number who stay on for a fourth year for a special diploma. Topics for conversation are largely at the volunteer's discretion by agreement with the permanent teachers. Volunteers are not expected to work beyond 4.30pm. There are usually two free periods per day plus a one hour lunch break (timing variable).
The placement is very suitable for those who may be uncomfortable with the prospect of teaching full classes and younger students. It enables genuine progress in conversational English to be achieved in an informal and relaxed setting with students who already have a reasonable command of the language (albeit often weak at the spoken word) and who present no behavioural problems. People should be aware that, unlike other placements, they are likely to be on their own at this one and will need to find ways of filling their time at evenings and weekends.
What did you find most rewarding? Developing relationships with many very friendly students, watching their initial reticence fade, and learning about their lives, families and culture in a way that would not be possible as a normal tourist.
What did you find most challenging? It was sometimes difficult to encourage students (generally the younger ones) to shed their inhibitions and have a shot at English. That apart, the only really challenging aspects of the overall placement were the unseasonably humid weather and finding things to do in the evening other than sampling the wonderful local food.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? To benefit from direct contact with real local people and to learn about their lives, customs, culture, food etc. in a way which would otherwise not be possible. To make a contribution to the education of local people who would otherwise have little or no access to native English speakers and thereby to assist in improving their employment prospects.”
"This is a great placement and I thouroughly enjoyed myself and felt that both the students and I benefitted wholly from the trip. I made some great friends and was introduced to the Thai lifestyle, language and cuisine (the best bit!).
The work is not easy and the days are long but the way of life in Thailand will surely captivate you and leave you wanting more. It was so interesting to see how another education system works and to not have to work within such tight constraints as we do in the UK. Students and teachers can openly be friends and the students at Bangna will look after you with whatever you need.
This is a great way to see Bangkok in detail as excursions are planned for you every day of the week and you also have evenings free to either relax or explore. The language barrier is severe but with perseverance and some comical acting communication is possible.
This placement is good for confident solo travellers but for those a little less sure it would definately suit a couple or best friends wanting to work together. As an English teacher I found this experience incredibly valuable and would recommend it to anyone wishing to expand their horizons. It really does put life into perspective for you. Pack light, try as much food as you can and embrace the heat. Enjoy!"
"I had a fantastic time volunteering over the summer. The college is very close to the accomodation and the people at the accomodation are really friendly. It also feels really safe and secure, so no worries about property being stolen. Thailand is a wonderful place and the reputation of "land of smiles" is absolutely true.
Teaching at the college was a fantastic experience, it was good to get an idea of how Thai schools work and they are all very keen to learn. The students are all polite and friendly and make the experience. They are keen to take you out at the weekend if you want to and on my first weekend they took me to the ancient city in Bangkok. It's definately worth going out with the students at some point over your stay, firstly it helps with their English to spend the day with you, but it also means that you get a real experience of Thailand rather than just the tourist one!
Angkana is an excellent mentor and is keen for you to get the most out of your time in Thailand. She is one of those people who will go out of her way to her you, even taking me round to her house so that her sister could give me a Thai cookery lesson! She is very proud of her country and helped advise me on places to go. I did cram things in at the weekend but with the Friday off, you can really get to see alot.
It was a completely worthwhile experience and is definately something that i'll repeat in the future. I'd love to go back to Thailand and visit the college but with so many other options for volunteer projects, maybe i'll try somewhere else."
"Overall the placement is very good, and in my opinion was a worthwhile experience. The students are friendly, polite and respectful, and eager to learn about English, and my life in the UK! The staff are helpful in general, and on a few occasions took me to various festivals and events within Bangkok. Angkana was kind enough to provide me with travel and other advice whenever I required it. I would have liked it if there were other volunteers at the school, as there are very few English speakers in the local area.
Teaching itself ranged from quite simple listening exercises for 1st year students up to more conversational lessons for 3rd year students. It would have been nice to see some progression in the English standard of the students, however given the large class sizes and short duration of my placement, this was difficult to achieve. Teaching a foreign language was a novel experience for me and I learnt a lot about teaching and the difficulties in studying English as a second language. I also enjoyed learning about Thai culture and picking up some of the language!"
"I really do recommend the programme as it is a most worthwhile experience. You don't need to have a degree in English or be a trainee teacher to do it – you just need a good standard of English, some patience, and a willingness to help .... and a sense of humour helps too!
The placement is in a large government business and commercial school and most of the students who come to English classes are either studying foreign languages or logistics (import/export, transportation etc). The students are generally between the ages of 16 and 24 and are mainly female. Class sizes are quite large by UK standards, averaging around 45. All the students are well behaved, polite and respectful and are generally speaking eager to learn.
The teacher, Angkana has an excellent knowledge of English and the focus of her lessons is mainly grammar tuition. There is a great need for conversational practice with native speakers and that is where volunteers come in! The class usually divides into groups of around 10 students and you spend most of your time moving between the groups and communicating with the students using stencils and worksheets prepared by the teacher beforehand, or you simply sit and listen to students reading their 'self introduction 'to you in which they tell you about their family, hobbies and interests, music they like (one sweet looking girl adored Johnnie Rotten and the Sex Pistols!) and dreams for the future – many want to be tour guides and flight attendants (one young guy simply wanted to be a super star!).
The accommodation provided is in an apartment block just a few minutes walk from the college. It is clean and secure and the manager Miss Tan is always willing to help and advise you. There is a lovely roof garden and restaurant there where you can relax when not at school. It is also just a few minutes walk to the local high street where there are lots of small shops and eating places; small supermarkets; convenience stores such as 7 Eleven, Tesco Lotus Express and Watsons (the Thailand equivalent to Superdrug); The Pizza Company and a bank where you can easily change currency and traveller's cheques with no fuss (the staff there are far more efficient and helpful than UK banks!).There is also a cheap internet cafe behind the Big C supermarket – just 20 bahts for 1 hour (that's around 30p!).
You have long weekends free to go sightseeing and travel around Thailand as you only go into school from Monday to Thursday. The students and staff are happy to advise you and help you make plans for your free time and if you wish to sightsee around Bangkok they can even take you! Central Bangkok is not too far away from the college – it is just a short taxi ride to the skytrain system which takes you into the heart of Bangkok – shopping, restaurants, cinemas and sightseeing galore!
The placement has been a valuable insight into the Thai educational system and I have helped many students with their English. I have made many new friends too and discovered lots about Thai culture and lifestyle."
"I would like to thank everyone at Pod for a very well organised and thoroughly enjoyable placement! I spent an amazing six weeks in Bangkok and really wish that I was still there... the students at the college were lovely, very friendly and very eager to learn.
I would definately recommend this project to others, it is certainly great preparation for anyone thinking of embarking on a teacher training course. It can be challenging at times but everyone at the college is very friendly and eager to help in any way they can. The college is also in a very good location to explore the rest of Bangkok, and the long weekends allow lots of opportunities to explore Bangkok and go further afield. I can't believe how much I managed to fit into my time here."