Beth Young was born in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Teesside, United Kingdom at a young age, where she spent the remainder of her childhood. She grew up in a small town where she went to school. Beth, like most of her generation, experienced first-hand the rise of social media. As a young teenager, she felt the negative impacts of what hiding behind a screen had on young adults both inside and outside of the classroom. Beth had continuously been cyberbullied and was seeking shelter away from the known. In 2013, she left her secondary school at 14 and decided to attend an art college. Beth wanted to get away from classmates who had been bullying her. In 2015, when she was 16, Beth completed her studies at the art college. She headed away from Teesside, UK in order to experience a different way of life.
Beth went to Northumbria University and earned her Bachelor of Art (honors) in Fine Art. She didn’t know it at the time, but her soulmate and partner from Phuket moved to Newcastle, UK. He would attend the same university where they would eventually meet. Beth’s life has been forever impacted by her decision to attend this school. Ultimately, she made the choice to teach abroad in Thailand. Her partner’s family lives in Phuket. She is, each and every day, learning more and more about Thai culture.
Why did you choose to teach abroad in Thailand?
I chose to move abroad to teach because I had always felt that there was so much more in life than what is outside of your front door, so to say. I’ve always had the drive to see and experience new things — to learn from the differences of others. I love being enriched by immersing myself in new situations. Ultimately, I decided to come to Thailand specifically because I’d heard about the atmosphere, lifestyle, and cultural values. I knew these were things I could learn from and use to evolve myself for the better.
I had visited Thailand a number of times before I took the plunge and moved here properly. My other half is Thai (born and raised in Phuket) so I had come to visit several times. Over the years I had visited Thailand, I realized that I was a better version of myself when here. I acquired the tools to make myself a better person. By taking the time to learn about the philosophies, people, and the Thai culture, I was able to step back and look at things objectively. This, in turn changed my opinion and understanding of a lot of aspects of my life.
I wanted to live somewhere where I actually felt like I was living. I wanted to live somewhere where I could enrich myself in all aspects of my environment. Somewhere where I would genuinely be happy. Thailand offers me all of that, and even more. I am discovering new, wondrous things about this country every single day.
Have you ever taught before?
I had never taught professionally before moving to Thailand. However, I had previously accepted leadership roles when attending weekly groups and clubs. I guided younger people in selected activities (such as dramatic arts, visual art workshops, and as an acting coach).
If not, what were you doing before you decided to move abroad?
I decided to move abroad once I graduated from university. This decision to relocate was taken almost a year before graduation. Even before moving abroad, I knew that I always wanted to teach. Specifically, I wanted to teach visual and creative arts.
What did you think teaching abroad would be like? Where are you teaching?
At first, I had built my expectations based upon the few blogs and video diaries of fellow TEFL teachers. I didn’t truly have any solid expectations. I knew that every experience is individual and different, depending on your own mindset and approach to the situation. Also, I knew that I would have a learning curve. I’d have to learn to be an educator and a person living in a new country and cultural environment. I was very fortunate to find a position with an International Program teaching Visual Arts and English Language. It is something that doesn’t come often to new teachers, especially to someone as young as I am.
I am teaching at Satree Phuket School with the International Program. In my school, I have received the utmost support and guidance by the management and my colleagues. We all learn from each other and work together to create a positive learning atmosphere for our students. I think it’s important that we don’t have any real expectations set in stone. Without expectations, we can only build an honest opinion from own our experiences, rather than those that we hear from others.
How did you prepare for your teach abroad job? What steps have you taken?
Firstly, I signed myself up for a TEFL course in Phuket. The TEFL Campus in Phuket provides prospective teachers with the tools they need. Their goal is to prepare teachers for the real classroom environment. With this course, I was not only prepared to teach, but also to work in a professional environment. The support from the trainers at the TEFL Campus was brilliant. They have experience in the career as well as teaching/living in a new country. They really go out of their way to provide a solid foundation for you to start your teaching career.
Blogs from Other People Living in Thailand Are a Great Help
Personally, I prepared myself by reading a lot of blogs from other people living in Thailand. I also searched for groups of teachers and expats in Thailand. I was able to connect with people already here and ask them any questions I had. Additionally, I researched all of the legal requirements for living and working in Thailand. I felt fully prepared for the visa process, a critical aspect of moving abroad. Though, I feel my experience may have been different from others. I already had connections to Thailand and the Thai people before moving here permanently. I already knew what to expect in terms of culture and climate. Nonetheless, the professional teaching atmosphere was something I was completely new to, and I can say that being able to interact with people who can share their experiences and what they have learned is very beneficial.
What are your perceptions of Thailand so far?
I honestly see Thailand as a stunning country with beautiful cultural values. There are aspects of the culture and daily life which I needed to adapt to, and some that I still don’t fully understand all of the time. It is important to remember that I am living in a land very different from that of my own. I am grateful and so fortunate to be able to enrich myself and broaden my horizons in such an amazing environment.
The sheer kindness and welcoming nature of Thai people is something that I admire. While you may not feel this in every circumstance, I have learnt that if you approach everything which a good heart and a smile, you are a thousand times more likely to receive the same back.
What are your goals while you are abroad?
In the long run, I would like to create a foundation for my partner and myself. I want to start a future and build a family here in Thailand. At the moment, my aims are to develop my own professional skills as well as to continue to evolve personally, learning from everyone around me. I want to enrich my students and allow them to know that they can achieve anything in life, no matter what tools they have or where they come from. It’s important to me that I am making a positive difference in the lives of the youth that I have been entrusted with. I want to inspire my students to be the best version of themselves and to reach for the stars!
What has been the most difficult thing since you arrived?
I have been thinking about my answer to this question for a while, and I honestly can’t think of one thing which I would consider as the most difficult. Of course, whenever you move somewhere so far away and so different from your home, there are adjustments and things to overcome. Adjusting to the distance between myself and my close family members was something that I knew I would struggle with. However, I have come to understand that the distance is only physical — we don’t have to let that affect our hearts. Another aspect that was challenging was learning how to adjust to how I deal with and respond to certain situations. We cannot always act or speak like we would in our home countries, as something that is perfectly fine at home could be taken or misunderstood as rude and insensitive elsewhere.
Living and Working in Thailand
While there are aspects of living and working in Thailand that some foreigners may find difficult to accept or adjust to, I don’t think that resisting change helps anyone. It’s important to ask questions about the culture and social interactions so that we are not inadvertently being rude or offensive to those around us. Having the willingness to adapt and listen to other points of view is a priceless characteristic to have.
What has been the best experience?
My best professional experience are probably the school trips I have been invited on throughout my time at Satree Phuket School. Every year, all of our IP students go on a five day trip to different parts of Thailand. We call it ‘Outside Classroom Learning.’ On the trip, the students learn about the culture, history, and needs of the community which they are visiting. We also have an annual camp which we arrange for our younger students, aimed to target leadership and team building skills.
The aim of these trips is to provide students with critical life skills, while learning in a fun and engaging environment. I love school trips because we get to see our students tackle new activities and working together to grow. We also have a teacher’s retreat trip coming up soon, where we will be working together to build our teamwork skills so we can be the best foundation for our students.
Experience New Parts of Thailand and Thai Culture
Personally, my best memories include getting to see and experience new parts of Thailand and Thai culture. Some favorites include swimming in waterfalls and trekking through mangroves, learning to make Gapi-Goong (shrimp paste) from scratch, and attending the wedding of one of my friends or family members. I cherish every new experience I have. I consider myself very lucky to be able to see so much, at such a young age
How do you feel about the culture so far? Do you feel like you have immersed yourself into the Thai culture?
As my partner is half Thai, I feel that I have had a ‘head start’ in learning about the culture and beliefs of Thai people. I have spent the best part of four years learning about the culture, the history, and the lifestyle of Thailand so I can understand their way of life. I think the culture is beautiful: the philosophies of life and spiritual beliefs are something I love to discover. The sense of family and belonging is something that I have never experienced anywhere else in the world, and I wouldn’t want it to be any different.
That being said, some aspects of the Thai culture took me a while to fully understand at first. However, remaining open-minded and willing to see things from another perspective is crucial to being able to adapt and evolve with the culture. Especially as someone with a Thai partner and family, it is so drastically important to me that I do all I can to learn about, understand, and respect the world that I am living in.
Ask Questions and Educate Yourself on Thai Culture
Taking the time to ask questions and educating yourself on the culture is important. No one is expecting you to change yourself if you don’t wish to, but it’s important to respect and be open to the culture of where you are living.
I have tried my best to immerse myself in the culture and spirituality. One of my favourite aspects of that include helping and spending time with my partner’s family when we go to visit them in Krabi. We help them to get the fish or fruit ready for their market stalls, help prepare dinner for the family, and finally sit together and learn more of each other’s languages. It’s the best when we are able to just sit and chat. It gives me that true sense of being a family.
I love when we visit them because we are able to shut off from the busy Phuket life and rewind for a few days in the relaxed atmosphere of Grandma’s house. It is beautiful to feel fully accepted and part of a family here. I cherish each and every one of my family members. It truly makes Thailand feel far more like home.
Immersing Yourself into the Thai Culture
Beth has started her first year as a visual arts teacher at a public school in Phuket, Thailand. She knew before she graduated from her university where she wanted to live and what she wanted to teach. She took the chance to move to Phuket and is thriving alongside her partner and his family. Some of her best memories so far are experiencing Thai culture and learning about it with her class.
Over our conversation on the phone, her desire to learn more about others and especially other cultures was apparent, especially considering her experiences of being bullied. She spoke about being bullied throughout her studies in Teesside and the root cause of why she was bullied. She explained that when she moved to the UK after living in Baltimore with her dad, that her classmates used to tell her to go back to the US. They told her she was different and did not belong.
She didn’t specify how exactly the bullying occurred other than that it was on social media and that the children were even crueler behind the screen than to her face. Ultimately, Beth chose her profession based on her previous struggles and what her teachers did not do for her. She wants to be a mentor and positive role model in her students’ lives that she never had. Stay tuned for more on Beth’s first year of teaching English in Thailand!