One of the best ways to experience the world outside your window is through nothing less than full immersion. I have had the opportunity to live abroad in a country that I had previously visited on vacation, and I can tell you that the cultural enrichment you gain from living abroad cannot be experienced through a vacation. First, local people always act very differently around tourists than they do around one another. They are generally more polite, patient, and pleasant. I liken it to how differently people behave when a guest is in their home. Second, you are generally frequenting tourist areas, and if you live in or near a tourist destination, you’ll know that locals generally stay away from tourist areas. So, as a tourist, you’re not gaining a true and full understanding of what the country or its people are like. You’re seeing a highlight reel. In order to become truly culturally enriched in a foreign country, you need to go with the flow, move at the local pace. In other words, you need to integrate, and the best way to do this is to work and live there, even if only for a relatively short period of time.
Working abroad is a great way to immerse in a foreign culture. Today, through the wonders of globalization, there is no shortage of opportunities to work abroad. International internships allow you to work abroad for a pre-determined period of time, and benefit from all the supports provided by an internship provider like ICS. For example, if you are interested in being a teacher of English as a Second Language, there are countless opportunities worldwide. Thailand provides many of these opportunities. In his June, 2013 blog, Matthew Barby, a Digital Media Consultant in the U.K., explains that ‘Thailand attracts more international travellers than any other country in the world because of its growing export and tourism sectors. This has made it necessary for Thais to learn English in order to manage their day-to-day lives. As a large number of Thais work in the tourism and other related industries and many students study abroad, mainly in the US and UK, there is a demand for qualified people to teach English in Thailand.’ Barby goes on to explain that ‘Native English speakers usually get preference over Asians’, and ‘A majority of the foreigners teaching in Thailand are males. Therefore, there is always a great deal of demand for female teachers, especially for teaching younger kids.’
Depending on one’s qualifications, an ESL teacher can be paid between $300 and $1,000 USD per month plus accommodations, meals and some cultural excursions. To put this into perspective, the average monthly disposable salary for a Thai is approximately $500 USD, and a meal for 2 in an average restaurant is about $15.00, so even $300.00 USD a month, when your meals and accommodations are covered, goes a long way in Thailand.
If you have never been to Southeast Asia, the land of smiles is a great place to start. Thai people are among the friendliest and most hospitable people I have met, and their food, culture and architecture will leave you spellbound, even long after you too have become a local.