Expat Life Lately: 4 Months in Thailand

By Alexis

At the back of Wat Monthian in Chiang Mai’s old city

Now that we’ve been living in Thailand for about 4 months, I feel like we’re really starting to get into the swing of things. The cultural adjustment doesn’t feel so huge anymore, I’m picking up a little bit of Thai, and it feels like we’re really starting to settle in. We’ve been doing a lot lately, so here are a few updates…

English Teaching and Freelance Writing

I’m still teaching English at a primary school, and I’ve switched from being a homeroom teacher in first grade to becoming the Phonics and Conversation teacher for 6 classes in grades 1, 2, and 3. It’s a totally different ballgame, but I really like it.

There’s much less responsibility since I’m not in the classroom with kids every hour of the day like the homeroom teachers. Right now, I’m physically teaching for just 12 hours a week and lesson planning/grading/hanging out for the rest of my time at school, which is nice.

There are definitely good days and bad days for me at school.

Some days I really feel like I’m seeing progress with the students…I’ve had a couple kids go from barely being able to read at all to being able to sound out short words, which feels like a huge accomplishment.

First grade chiang mai

Field trip day with my adorable first graders

And then there are other days where the kids are out of control and my voice is hoarse from trying to talk over them and I feel like it’s just a waste of time — for me and for the students. There are days when I feel like my lessons are way too boring or way too stimulating. These are the days that I come home completely exhausted, questioning my abilities  as a teacher.

But this is the only job I’ve ever had where I feel like I’m okay taking the good with the bad.

The kids can be crazy but they redeem themselves by bouncing back to being little angels so quickly. Sometimes they are so adorable I can’t even stand it! Especially the tiny, innocent first graders!

It’s helping me realize that I enjoy teaching the younger grades the most. Third graders and above have a little too much attitude for me. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about going to get my master’s degree in education once we get back to the States. I think I’d like to teach pre-k to second grade.

David is still rocking his freelance writing gigs. As he mentioned in his post about working in Thailand, he mostly gets his opportunities through oDesk and it’s been nice to see how consistently he’s been getting the jobs.

His hourly rate is slowly climbing as he gets more experience, and even though there are downsides from working at home, overall I think he’s much much happier doing this than if he were to be teaching like me.

Studying for the FSOT

On top of our full time jobs, we’re also in the process of studying for the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) because we’re insane and like to take on a million things at once. We take the exam on October 4th (just a few days away, eep!) here in Chiang Mai.

My buddy Scott from ficklomat.wordpress.com just got into the foreign service, and we’ve been using his FSOT study guide tips religiously, watching all the Presidents documentaries on YouTube, doing practice tests, reading tons of news articles, and more.

I’m going to go ahead and qualify this though by saying that the FSOT is really really hard to pass. And even if you do pass, getting through the other stages of application is a huge accomplishment. People try multiple times and never get in, so I don’t want to get my hopes up for anything.

For us, getting into the foreign service hasn’t been a lifelong goal by any means, so I don’t think we’ll be heartbroken if we don’t get it, but Scott just makes the career seem so attractive! Travel the world, all expenses paid, doing a job that’s actually valuable. The test is free and we’re always open to new adventures, so we figured we’ll apply and see what happens.

Who knows?

After Thailand

We talk a lot about moving to Europe someday and I actually just had an interview with a volunteer teaching program in Austria for spring/summer 2015. I’m not sure if I’ll get the job, and even if I do, I’m not positive that we’ll take it (it would require a lot of time away from David and I’m not confident that we can even afford to live in a euro-currency country anytime soon).

But that’s something we’ve been mulling over.

We also want to move to Switzerland. So. Badly. But from what I’ve been reading, you really need a CELTA to teach there and I don’t think I can afford to pay for that certification. Can any of you European TEFL teachers confirm this?

I guess Switzerland is off the table for now unfortunately, but it’s always in the back of our minds.

Date night attire in Chiang Mai, complete with Swiss braids

Date night attire in Chiang Mai, complete with Swiss braids

My teaching contract is up at the end of May, but the actual school year ends in March, so I’m really hoping that we’ll be able to take advantage of those couple months of summer vacation to travel around more of Asia.

Speaking of traveling Asia…

Borneo, Bali, and Southern Thailand Vacation

Our next big trip is coming so soon! I can hardly stand it! We leave on October 11th, and we are still in the process of booking all our accomodations, researching activities, and planning the finer details.

So far, the only place we have accomodation booked is a little bamboo bungalow we found on Koh Lanta, Thailand called Lanta Roundhouse, which we found via travelfish.org (btw, have you guys used travelfish before? I feel like I’m way behind in discovering this site, but it’s amazing!)

If you have any recommendations on budget-friendly places to stay everywhere else on our list, we’d love to hear them! If you’ve written blogs about Malaysian Borneo, Bali, Lombok, Gili Islands, or Krabi, we’d love a blog link roundup! Feel free to post links in the comment section below.

General Life

We’ve been doing a surprisingly good job of sticking to our 30,000 baht (about $950 USD) per month budget. That includes everything for us both: food, entertainment, rent, electricity, etc. One of these days we should write a complete budget breakdown for you guys… We do tend to spend most of our time just hanging out, like we would in the States, which helps to keep things cheap.

Unfortunately, that means we haven’t had much extra income to spend on fun weekend trips like we thought we would. But to be honest, with full time jobs, we’d probably be too tired to go somewhere new every weekend anyways.

That’s the thing nobody tells you about living abroad: It’s still your regular ol’ life, you just happen to be living it in a different location.

We still watch movies on Friday night, catch up on all our favorite American TV shows, hang out at coffee shops, and spend hours internetting. We’re lazy and we like it that way 🙂

But don’t get me wrong: We have been able to do fun stuff like trying new restaurants and we’ve visited dozens of beautiful Buddhist temples around the city, which is something we obviously couldn’t do in the States. And bonus — temple visits are free!

Wat Pa Prao Nai

The gorgeous Wat Pa Prao Nai near our home here in Chiang Mai

So that’s the update on our lives! Hope all you other expats are loving life as well!

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4 thoughts on “Expat Life Lately: 4 Months in Thailand

  1. Good to see that you still have a good time over in Chiang Mai. Anyway, it is sad to hear that your “dream” of moving to Switzerland most likely won’t come true. Even for us Germans living in Switzerland is not really affordable as anything is so expensive. I hope you’ll have the opportunity to work in Europe oneday 🙂

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    • I hope so too! Yeah, Switzerland is SO expensive. I remember not being able to get a meal for less than like $20 USD. Crazy, but so worth it. Love that country. We’ve also been considering Germany as well! We’ll see what happens!

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      • I know that feeling, we paid something like $17 USD at Starbucks for just one coffee in Zurich, that was just crazy. Germany may be another choice (I would prefer Switzerland anyway) because it is way cheaper. Most likely it all depends on what job you’ll get 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Expat Update: 6 Months in Thailand | Roses on the Road

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