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Getting TEFL Certified: What you need to know before committing


Okay, so you’ve decided you’re ready to get certified. Picking a course is the next step and it’s going to require some thought. Here are your first five steps to committing to the course that is best for you:  

Online or in-person?

Decide if you prefer an on-site or online course. This will be based on your learning environment preferences, finances, or work schedule. An in-person class will typically be more expensive (expect to pay $1,500 - $2,500 for a quality course) and requires time and travel commitments. The plus side is that you’re getting an immersive, collaborative classroom experience. If you’re motivated by face time with an instructor, collaboration with classmates, old-school pen to paper note-taking, then an in-person class is a great option for you.

If you can’t spare the time for an immersive in-person course, go for the online course. You’ll be able to schedule your coursework around existing commitments, and the tuition will typically cost $500 - $1,000 less than an on-site course. Some online courses even have live tutors to instruct you throughout—so you can have the in-person feeling without the in-person price tag.

Check accreditation

Don’t let them fool you! You are in the driver’s seat of your TEFL experience, so make sure you are getting the best one possible. A quality TEFL course should be reviewed and accredited by a scholarly or non-affiliated organization. Make sure the TEFL provider can provide a means for you to confirm the accreditation from the relevant entity.

Verify that the course meets international standards

The TESOL Press has identified 100-120 hours of coursework combined with a minimum of 20 hours of practice teaching as the international standard for TEFL certification classes. If a school requires a certificate, it will recognize these standards and expect applicants to meet them.

Make sure you get in the classroom

Double check that the course has a practicum, i.e. it requires you to spend time in the classroom with English language learners (ELLs). The practice teaching is a crucial part of your development as a teacher and will give you work experience to present to future employers. Furthermore, it’s the very best way to truly experience how teaching works.

Beware discounts and deals

Avoid courses offering coupons or special deals on websites like Groupon. An accredited course with valuable content, personal instruction, and over 100 hours of coursework is going to have a corresponding tuition for the value. Just like university courses that are a few thousand a pop, a quality TEFL course is going to require an investment.


Learn more about TEFL and how to pick the right course!

How To Make Money And Travel


It's the burning question many millennials are asking..how can I make money and travel? Well, we know of one option: teach English online. Sound simple? It is! CIEE TEFL recently interviewed Kristin M., a registered nurse in the U.S. who moved to Italy with her husband who plays professional basketball. We asked her all about her experience in Italy and what led her to teaching English online. WARNING: at the end of this blog, you'll be applying to teach English online. 

Tell us about yourself! Where do you live,where are you from, and what's something interesting about you?

I currently live in Pistoia,Italy, but I am originally from upstate New York! I am recently married (July 2017) and moved full time overseas to be with my husband who plays professional basketball. I would say the most interesting thing about me is that I am able to live overseas and travel the world with my husband while still working!

What led you to start teaching English online?

I learned about teaching online through a group of women who are in the same situation I am (overseas with their boyfriends, husbands) . I left my job as pediatric Register Nurse and I was in search of a job where I could work from anywhere and I can do that teaching English. What a great opportunity!



What are some common challenges associated with teaching English online and how do you address them?

One of the biggest challenges associated with teaching online is making learning English fun while teaching through a computer screen. There is also the language barrier, and depending on the age of the student you have tailor your teaching style to that student. Behavioral issues can be challenging too! While challenging, there a ton of resources and teaching workshops available on how to deal with these issues.

What are the biggest pros and cons of teaching English online?

One of the biggest pros of teaching English online is the ability to make a difference in a students life from anywhere in the world. It gives you freedom to teach wherever and whenever you want. One of biggest cons would be internet issues! It is not uncommon to have unstable internet connection when teaching. If there is an unstable connection it can make it difficult to teach the class. 


Who do you think would be a good candidate to teach English online? 

I would recommend this job to anyone, and everyone! As long as you have some sort of background in teaching, this job could be for you. If you don't have teaching experience, a TEFL certification would be a good step to getting a job like this. It is such an advantage for individuals who want to travel or have the freedom from a "desk job."Also I would recommend this to students fresh out of college who want to make some extra money paying off those student loans =)

What are your students like?

My students are amazing. I am going on month 3 of teaching and I have gained steady "regulars". They are between the ages of 5-13, all with different levels of English. They love to interact with me and see my dog =)

What is your favorite thing about teaching English online?

My favorite thing about teaching online is the ability to have a job that I can take with me overseas and back in the states and how rewarding it is.


How much do you work each week?

My hours vary from week-to-week, but I usually teach anywhere from 5-8 classes per day. That is what works best for me at this point. I am able to work more or less depending on what I have planned for the week - I make my own schedule (yet another perk!).

Do you find teaching English online rewarding? What have you learned from your experience?

This is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I am lucky enough to have found two careers where I am able to make a difference in peoples lives . There is nothing better than when your student who was struggling with a sound, word, or sentence pattern, finally gets it! It's amazing to watch them progress over the weeks,and to know I am the one helping them along this journey is a wonderful feeling. I have learned so much from this experience. You engage with a student from a different country, culture and language and learn all about them. It opens your eyes to the world and you really do gain a new perspective! 


Thank you, Kristin for sharing your story! 

Interested in other ways to travel and make money?! Learn more here

Destination TEFL Thailand - What life is really like

 This week we spoke with Matt B., a Destination TEFL Thailand alumni turned full time teacher! Matt is currently teaching in Thailand at a school in Khon Kaen. Read more about his experience in Thailand!


Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you got TEFL certified with CIEE?

A: I studied finance in college and had worked for two years in Connecticut and then Maine. Thinking back on my experience studying abroad in Spain during college, I realized I wanted to have the experience of living abroad again sooner rather than later. I wanted to see more of the world before I settled down in a long-term career in the United States.

Q: What inspired you to get TEFL Certified, then teach abroad?

A: My time studying in Spain definitely had an influence, and made me want to spend more time abroad. I also worked as a camp counselor when I was younger, and I loved working with kids. I’ve always loved anything involving languages—so teaching English abroad really made sense for me.

Q: What drew you to Thailand specifically?

A: I had done some research and Thailand kept coming up. I saw that my transition after completing my two week practicum on Destination TEFL would be easier in Thailand—there were a plethora of teaching jobs available and a large expat community to use as a resource and eventually join.

Q: What pieces of advice would you give to someone considering teaching abroad?

A: I would definitely say to make sure you have a passion for teaching, and that your idea of the experience isn’t all about travelling. Traveling is a huge bonus, and of course living in a new culture and experiencing new things is part of the draw of the job, but at the end of the day, it is a job, and you can’t leave your teaching responsibilities on the backburner. If you just want to see the world, there are definitely other ways to achieve that goal.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as a foreigner living and working in Thailand?

The biggest one is definitely “Thai Time.” In America, we are very accustomed to timeliness and efficiency, but here, those things are not as important culturally. The best thing to do is to go with the flow and not get frustrated. There are a lot of cultural differences, and they can be pretty vast and sometimes hard to navigate, but the best thing to do is to be present and accept them as part of the overall experience.

Q: What is your experience of budgeting and money management living abroad?

A: Definitely make sure you set yourself up well before you leave. Most teachers go over budget in their first month as they familiarize themselves with their new location, income, etc. You probably won’t end up saving as much as you think you will, and sending money home can be difficult due to work permit requirements to open bank accounts and other restrictions. Doing things like getting your student loans adjusted for your income as a teacher can make a huge difference in the financial outlook for teach abroad.

Q: How are you finding the people in Thailand? Your students?

A: Thailand is truly the land of smiles. Everyone is so friendly and polite. Being in a new culture and learning so much every day is really incredible. My students are amazing, and while dealing with them requires a lot of energy, they make all the effort worthwhile. It’s definitely a humbling and awesome experience overall.

Q: Do you find it difficult to socialize? Who do you hang out with outside of work?

A: I have a pretty robust social life with plenty of friends, both Thai and foreign. If you’re the least bit social and outgoing then you’ll meet people that you can connect with. That said, I live in a large city of 300,000-400,000 people that has many schools, and two big universities so there’s no shortage of young people and nightlife etc. If you’re in a very small, very rural area, then you might need to go out and really actively try to meet new people. Sort of like you would if you moved to a small town in the US, it won’t just fall into your lap.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

Exercise is a great way to use your time and maintain a good mental state. Planning trips and learning the language will also go a long way in helping you make the most of your time abroad. A lot of people like to play soccer, or tennis, and going out and finding cool restaurants as always fun as well. Keeping in touch with people at home is also very important, and can help when you’re feeling homesick.

Q: What was the biggest advantage of doing Destination TEFL before you started your job?

The actual journey to Thailand was much more doable. I was going with a group, and spending two weeks being guided through my practicum experience and being introduced to Thai culture. I also felt so much more confident and prepared for the job on day one, having gotten TEFL certified.

Q: What made you choose Khon Kaen over a larger city like Bangkok?

A: It’s really the ideal balance of urban and rural Thailand. Bangkok is bigger and has more going on, but it’s also much more hectic and expensive. Khon Kaen has less tourists, which I prefer, and living there makes me feel more like I’m more purely immersed in Thai culture.

Q: What advice would you give to newly-arrived teachers in their first couple of weeks or months on the job?

A: All you can do is try your best for the kids you’re responsible for. There will be flaws in any system, so be easy-going and try not to let frustrations get to you. You probably won’t change the entire system as one person, so the important thing is to focus on what’s in front of you—your kids and your classroom.

Q: What are your plans for the near-future?

I’m teaching for one more semester here and then returning the U.S. to further pursue my education in finance. If it weren’t for my desire to go back to school, I’d probably either stay here in Thailand or try to teach somewhere else.

Q: Any final words of wisdom for those considering teaching abroad?

A: A few things!

  1. I’d say, it’s important to make sure you’re OK with living on your own/out of your comfort zone. Living alone, especially in a distinctly foreign environment, can present challenges that might be new to you: don’t be afraid to consider the possibility that you’ll run into scenarios you haven’t encountered before!
  2. Do it for the right reasons. Don’t just sign up for Teach Abroad as a quick way to get cash while you travel. You are there for the kids first and your travel goals second, so always remember that when you consider teaching abroad.
  3. Don’t get too wound up over the education system. It’s not your job to fix everything and there’s only so much you can do. That said, do your best so that your students get the most of what you can give them.

Thanks again to Matt for taking the time to share his experience with us!!

Learn more about this program, and how YOU can be a part of it! 

3 Ways Anyone can Make Money While Traveling


Guest post written by Raj Shah at TakeLessons

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” -Bill Bryson


The three most powerful objections that deter us all from traveling and taking longer trips are language barriers, time, and costs. Some of us get nervous about conversing with the locals, some of us are limited by our (lack of) paid time off from work, and some of us worry we don’t have enough money for it to be a worthwhile trip. If you could overcome these concerns, would you book a flight and pack your bags?


If we felt more assured that we’d have enough time and money to make each trip in any part of the world be as rewarding and meaningful, we’d all channel our inner globetrotter more regularly.


All you need to know is that it’s possible.


How? If time and money are holding you back, a practical solution is to make money while you’re traveling, so that you can buy yourself more time for the trip. In addition, working overseas gives you the opportunity to truly immerse and forge meaningful relationships with locals. Here are 3 ways to make money:


1) Teach English Overseas


Get a TEFL Certification, and tap into the thousands of available opportunities around the world. As the great Trevor Noah writes in his book, Born a Crime, “English is the language of money.”


The ability to speak fluent English is not only a commodity, but a tool you can use to empower people all over the world.


Countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, for example, not only pay you handsomely, but they also provide free temporary housing and transportation. That covers two of the biggest travel expenses that deter people from exploring the world.


Another option - teach English online from anywhere in the world with a computer and internet access and earn money to live your nomadic lifestyle! (TakeLessons gives you a chance to teach English online.)


Learn more about getting TEFL certified with CIEE!


2) Start a Travel Blog


You might not attract thousands of visitors overnight, but if you diligently write good content and share it with other fellow travel bloggers, you could earn enough exposure and leverage to earn yourself sponsored opportunities to travel.


Follow and learn from established food and travel bloggers who document their experiences, and think about how you can offer a different perspective. If you reach out to them for help, be super precise with your questions, and make sure it’s not a topic they’ve already covered on their blog, in order to increase your chances of getting a helpful response.


Check out these blogs for inspiration: Dukes and Duchesses, Nomadic Matt, Where’s Sharon?


Start with digital advertising and/or sponsored content. As you establish yourself and write more interesting and helpful topics on your blog, you can monetize with additional or alternative sources of income, such as affiliate programs and e-commerce.

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta


3) Sign up for Gig Platforms


As a digital nomad, you can travel indefinitely by using your acquired job skills to find readily available opportunities as a freelancer. You can do microtasks on Fiverr.com, for example, in your spare time while traveling. You can sign up as an expert on Clarity.FM, set your own hourly rates, and offer consulting services for a wide variety of technical, creative, and business skills. You can privately tutor students online on academics, music or foreign languages, and get paid by the lesson on Takelessons. If you can get independent work, check out And.co, which offers you free access to freelance service contracts, the ability to create invoices/expenses, and to bill clients by Paypal or credit card.


Final Words


All you need to know is that it’s possible.


In today’s world, a good laptop, a good phone, and your basic travel luggage are all you need to find work and keep money coming in every week, but of course, there’s always part-time work you can dabble in while overseas that can help prolong your trip. When it’s all said and done, you’re there for the experience, the stories, and the profound impact that the world has to offer.


A life of routine back home in the US constraints us from travelling beyond the typical 7-day, 14-day, and 30-day trip lengths. Unfortunately, that’s not always enough time to immerse yourself in the local culture, to learn the local language, and to do meaningful work. Yet, there are plenty of Americans, just like you and I, who have been able to make enough money and carve more time, and maximize their experience. Some, like TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie, even uncover business opportunities in their sabbatical because they were there long enough to spot them. Others discover their life’s calling is to perform service for others by doing volunteer work, or founding non-profit organizations to solve local problems.


Worst case scenario: you bring back a renewed and broader perspective, and some great stories, and pick back up where you left off on life. Make it happen.


Raj Shah is a senior marketing manager at TakeLessons Live, a new and affordable way for anyone to learn music and languages.  

Teacher Feature: Shannon, TEFL Alumni and Teacher in Spain


This week we took some time to catch up with Shannon, who took our TEFL certification and went on to teach in Barcelona Spain for a year. She had some great insights about her experience teaching abroad, and valuable advice for anyone considering getting a TEFL certification and starting their teaching abroad journey! Have a question that you’d like one of our alums to answer? Let us know!


        1. When and where did you complete your TEFL practicum (i.e. which school, language center, etc.)?

I taught at a school that had both middle school and high school students, called Escola Pia de Nostra Senyora. It was a really impressive school. Courses at this school were taught based on vocation. The classes I taught were not only students of all different ages and levels, but they were also very specific. This really challenged me to work hard in order to meet the needs of my students. It was awesome to witness how a high school could prepare these students for the university (let alone, their careers) by organizing classes based on their vocational dreams and goals. A majority of the students also went to English language schools where they would be taught nothing but English. I was very impressed! 

        2. What made you decide to do Destination TEFL Barcelona?

2When I returned from a semester in Seville, Spain, I had a better idea as to what I wanted to do with my future. I had the chance to volunteer in an EFL classroom in Seville and tutor my host sisters English weekly, which helped me realize how much I enjoyed teaching English. When I returned from Seville, I applied to graduate school to get my Masters in TESL. While waiting to hear back if I was accepted or not, I learned about Destination TEFL Spain. While I knew I was going to get my Master’s in TESL, I realized the benefits of this program were two-fold. First, being TEFL certified would look good on my resume and confirm (or not!) if getting a MA in the field was really what I wanted. Secondly, this program would give me the chance to go abroad over the summer and teach ESL. I thought to myself, “Why not give it a try? I need to get my feet wet in this field in order to see if I really want to pursue this as a career.” I’m so happy I did this program! Although it was extremely challenging, I learned so much from it and it definitely confirmed my passion for TESL/TEFL. I have the opportunity to travel the world, and most importantly, form relationships with people while teaching them the lingua franca and see them reach their potential to the fullest. 

        3. What makes Barcelona special?

3Barcelona has a special place in my heart. I lived in El Raval - it was artsy, multicultural, had vegetarian and vegan restaurants (since I’m vegetarian trying to be vegan again), and so much more. Barcelona itself is simply beautiful. It’s clean, and it’s unique because Gaudi and other artists designed this city unlike any other city. There’s shopping, food, people from all over the world. Simply put, you’ll never get bored of this city. I will never get sick of Spanish culture: they actually stop to smell the roses, they emphasize the importance of family, and so much more.

        4. Where were you able to visit during your two week practicum?

4I arrived to Barcelona a few days prior to my practicum to recover from jet lag and explore the city a little. I had the chance to walk around the city and explore La Rambla and the Passeig de Gràcia: two of the main streets. I also visited La Pedrera and Parc Güell, two of Gaudi’s many creations.

        5. What advice do you have for future TEFL students?

5I would advise them to take the online class seriously, but not too seriously. Let me give you my reason quickly before CIEE doesn’t let me follow through with this survey, haha! I took this online class too seriously as I had never taught English before and wanted to know everything! But guess what - I didn’t know everything, despite how much extra time and effort I put into this online class. Being put in a classroom is a totally different environment. During my practicum observation, my tutor explained to me what TTT is – Teacher Talk Time. Turns out I was making my class very teacher-centered and not so student-centered. I always told myself that it would be about the students and not me! With this being said, of course,  take the class seriously, but focus on your experience while teaching- and eventually all of the pieces will come together from what you’ve learned from the online class.

Another piece of advice I would give is don’t be afraid to ask questions! If it weren’t for my TEFL tutor and his willingness to help and guide me during my practicum, I would’ve fallen on my face 10 times as opposed to 5 (I say this because yes - you will make mistakes! But we learn from them :-) ). Pay attention during those classes when the TEFL tutor shares his/her experiences with you, because they will most definitely help you in the end!

        6. What will you do next with your TEFL certification?


I’m really not sure yet! I might go to Spain next summer to teach English or be a tutor. I really don’t know! What I do know is that I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, and now I am confident that I can go out in this world and teach English because of the amazing opportunity CIEE offered me! I start my Masters in a few weeks, so that will be my focus for now. The future is big and is full of endless possibilities. I always wanted to go to Chile…hmmmm… we’ll see. :-)

Greetings from Sanpatong!


Wow, two months certainly flies by FAST. Turns out I still have a blog, fancy that! I suppose it’s time to dust off the cobwebs here and give a little bit of insight into my life the past few months. To be honest, I cannot believe it is already December 28th. I’ve celebrated my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and it’ll be the new year in a few days. Utter craziness!
I’ve grown to love and cherish my hometown in Sanpatong, Chiang Mai (didn’t take much, or long). My daily routine consists of biking to school with the three other “farang” (Thai word for foreign) teachers, signing in, going to morning assembly with the other Thai teachers and students, and starting our teaching day at 8:30am. Monday’s are tough for me with 6 classes. I teach nearly the whole day but I also get a jump start on my week so I don’t mind. I’ve come a long way since day one of teaching. You learn a lot about your students as learners and yourself as a teacher every single day. Our school structure goes like this: the farang teachers all teach an entire grade. For example, I teach Mattyom 4 or the equivalent of 10th grade in America. Each Mattyom is broken up into 10 separate classes: 4/1 - 4/10. I wish I could say that 4/1 is the best and 4/10 is the “worst” but the science behind the groupings is not perfect and there are lots of outliers. My 4/1 class is certainly the most advanced but my 4/10’s have some quite gifted students as well… I only mention this to expose the vast amount of learner levels and abilities you can be faced with teaching an entire grade by yourself! Some students can speak so well and others can’t tell your their name in English. Again - crazy! You learn and you adapt though the best you can. Oh and did I mention we all teach 400 students each?! It’s a crazy, challenging, frustrating, wonderful, rewarding and
unforgettable experience. It’s all the things. And I couldn’t be happier to be here doing it!

We just celebrated Christmas in Sanpatong and wow - they just may celebrate Christmas bigger and better than we do in America! We had the entire day reserved for Christmas-y festivities. The students all practiced and prepared skits (nativity!), singing, dancing, playing instruments and much more on the main stage at school. It was SO impressive. Seriously, these kids are incredible. And, it was all in English! I probably I heard “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran performed 3 -4 times in a new capacity every time. Thai’s absolutely love western music so incorporating music into your lessons can be pretty helpful. We all did a music lesson with our respective grades and they went really well. I did a “cloze” activity to the song “Love Story” by Taylor Swift and the students went bonkers - literally bonkers. Later on Christmas night we had a Christmas party with all the teachers - also quite the event. All the Thai teachers dressed in traditional Hilltribe (colorful, flashy, knit Thai clothes) and danced to traditional Thai melodies. There was a buffet, Chang (Thai budweiser ;)) and a huge raffle giving away gifts to the lucky winners. Our Thai coordinator won a refrigerator. The other three farang teachers won a rice cooker, Tupperware and a Towel. So very practical.
Anyway… Sanpatong is beautiful. We have a lake near our apartment complex that we often bike to at sunset. It’s “Suay Maak”, which means "very beautiful" in Thai. There’s an outdoor gym there as well (quite common in Thailand). I’ve gone… once. Not exactly working on that 6-pack here. Oh and have I mentioned the food here? It’s unreal! First of all, my apartment complex has a bubble tea shop attached to it. Our landlord is the best. Her daughter Ning runs the shop and has a little son running around all the time named Pa Porn. He’s a delight. Ning makes the best bubble tea. We have the Som Tom (papaya salad) lady on our right. We have the Cow Soi (coconut soup) lady on our left. We have the pad see ew (drunken noodles) lady across the street. And not to mention the Chicken Pad Thai/Curry/Pad Pak Ruam (mixed veggies w/rice) lady, the coffee man, the night food market down the road, and I could go on and on. We are well fed, to say the least. I’m not sure what I’ll do without Toey’s friend chicken and sticky rice, Anee’s special salads or the rotee (thin fried dough with drizzled condensed milk) all from the night market here. I’ve also failed to mention that all our meals cost 30-35 baht locally. That’s just under $1. So… ya. Lunch at school costs 20 baht, so much variety and it’s delicious. We also have fully morphed into geriatric senior citizens and eat dinner at 4pm. This is Thailand man. Oh and 7-11 is the greatest gift to Thailand since rice was discovered. Just go easy on the pork buns, trust me.

Thailand is a such an interesting way of life and you learn more about it day by day. We comfortably travel into the city 50 minutes by songtaew (trucks with cabs and benches on the back) for 20 baht (60 cents). We stay in hostels for $6/night and don’t think twice. We enjoy massages for $8/hour. We take photos with Thai people upon request but also frequently without consent or awareness; it’s pretty funny. Thai people love farang, especially our skin. We are the white celebs in Sanpatong. However, Chiang May city is filled with backpackers giving you ample opportunity to meet some pretty cool people on the weekends. Chiang Mai is the place to be, really.

Ah, what else?! Teaching in Thailand is an adventure. I can’t believe I’ve already been here for half my term. I live a happy, healthy and simple life here. I’ve actually learned a bit of Thai, too. I can order food, tell a driver where to go and certainly get along with the pleasantries. More Thai than I ever thought I’d know! I have the time to improve my teaching practices at school and at home. I try out new topics with different classes. You learn which classes can handle certain material and which can’t. I sometimes change my powerpoint 5 times before I get it right. Sometimes it changes every class! The learning curve is pretty steep so it’s empowering to realize how much you’ve progressed since day 1. My very first day teaching I was given my schedule and a classroom told to set sail. I didn’t know how to use the projector, how to read the attendance sheet (ALL in Thai), or even when the period ended and you know what? … it was okay! Something about being so autonomous in such a foreign place is exciting and thrilling. It's all you. It can be tough but it’s so worth it. Teaching in Thailand allows you to be on your own, learn on your own and become who you want to be as a teacher and as an individual while you’re here. It can be a new beginning or merely a chance to shine.

This blog post is so very long and I apologize for that, but one last update… we’re off to Phuket tomorrow for New Years! The beach… I can’t believe it. While my family and friends back in Maine await the negative feels this weekend I’ll be dipping my toes in sand and turquoise water. Sorry guys! Come to Thailand! ;)

I will try to write a bit more often from now on…’til then.



P.S. check out some pics below of the good times and beauty here




5 do’s and don’ts for traveling abroad

Temple of Heaven  Beijing


1. Your research

The last thing you want to do when you are living or traveling in a foreign country is offend the locals, trust us. Take some time before you go abroad to google culture norms for country you are about to go to – we are very confident you will be glad you did.

2. Learn the language

Learning how to say hello and thank you in the local language goes so much farther than you can imagine. The more you learn of the language before you go, the more comfortable you will feel. If a simple greeting and pleasantry is all you can handle, the locals will appreciate it!

3. Try the food

Really though, just try it. Unless you have an allergy – don’t ask, just try it. The look, smell and taste of ethnic food might be totally different than what you are accustomed to, but don’t let that stop you! A dumpling in China, tapas in Spain, and curry in Thailand is nothing like you have ever had before. Give the strange looking dishes a try too, and ask what they are after you taste them. You never know until you try!

4. Disconnect from the internet

It is no secret that we are all addicted to Social Media today, and there is nothing wrong with that. We are not suggesting you don’t share your pictures, videos, and blogs with your friends and family back home – just don’t spend all your time abroad behind technology. Be in the moment, experience what is happening around you and just enjoy it!

5. Make local friends

If you want to know what life is really like in Chile, who better to show you than a Chilean friend? You are living abroad for a reason – practice your language skills, cooking abilities, and immerse yourself in the country you are in by surrounding yourself with the locals as often as you can.


1. Over pack

You can buy things abroad! Some items might be hard to find abroad: deodorant, ibuprofen/vitamins or your favorite spices should make it in your suitcase, but leave the extra pair of uncomfortable shoes at home. Regardless of your budget, you will find things to bring home with you, and you will need the room in your suitcase for those items – trust us!


2. Stick to your plan

Following a pre-planned agenda is boring! Having a plan is fine, but be prepared and on the lookout to stray from it. If you see a cool alley, building, café – throw your schedule away and check it out. The best part about traveling is bumping into things you didn’t even know existed. Embrace it!

3. Say no to (almost) anything

Isn’t stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new things what traveling abroad is about? You won’t do either of these things if you say no to opportunities. Unless it is dangerous in any way, definitely say yes and do it.

4. Expect the locals to cater to you

This might be the most important don’t of traveling. Are you expected to know everything about every country you visit? Absolutely not. However, when you are in another country, you should (and want to) adapt to the culture you are so lucky to see. Remember, it is not the local’s responsibility to adapt their daily life to make you comfortable, it is your responsibility to understand enough to make yourself acclimatize to the culture you’re visiting.

 5. Have regrets


No matter what you do, enjoy every second of your time abroad. Will things go wrong? Probably. Will you get ripped off somehow? Maybe. At the end of the day, your memories should and will be the positive ones. 

5 things I will do better next time I teach abroad


Nothing in life is perfect; we all know that to be true. There are always regrets, and the "what if" scenario is something we always consider. This list is most certainly not a list of regrets, rather a list of future goals for the next opportunity I have to teach abroad.

1. Spend more time in my local community

This one is huge. While living abroad, I was so focused on seeing as much as I could see that I missed out on so much by not spending time in my local community. Next time I teach abroad, I plan to take full advantage of the amazing opportunity to make myself a part of the community I live in. Tourists never get to do that!

2. Be more of an adventurous eater

This one I got back and forth on. Do I wish I had eaten a snake’s heart and blood immediately after it was killed when I had the chance? No, I am not disappointed that I chose not to do that. I do, however, wish I could go back and be more open-minded to trying everyday delicacies that I passed up at the time. While living abroad, do as the locals do – and that means trying everything, whether you like it or not!

3. Give my students more attention

Teaching abroad is not the same as traveling abroad, or even studying abroad. This is something I learned very quickly when I started teaching, but not something I really considered before. The main reason to teach English overseas is to help give your students the skills to have more opportunities in life. I am not a qualified teacher – I had no experience in the classroom before going overseas (I did get TEFL certified, which helped a lot!). I did the best I could, but I always wish I had done more for my students. Years later I don’t know exactly what “doing more” for them looks like, but I hope to find out one day!

4. Spend less time being mad and annoyed at things I can’t control

I don’t know about you, but I am not all smiles all the time! I try to have a positive outlook on life as often as possible, but I definitely get mad and annoyed at times! Next time I teach abroad, I hope not to get irritated or angry at things that are completely out of my control, and really not a big deal. Things will go wrong, that is inevitable, and if the situation at hand is not life-threatening, it is a small problem that can probably be easily resolved. I wish I had this mentality the first time I taught abroad and will strive to have it next time I do. 

5. Be prepared that life will not be the same afterwards 

Everyone tells you that you are not the same person after living abroad, and I truly didn’t believe that until it happened to me. I wish I was more prepared to be antsy all the time to go abroad, and I will always be planning my next adventure before my current one was done. As is life, my friendships and relationships changed after being 6,000 miles away for three years. However, I became independent, open-minded, and adaptable from my time teaching abroad, and I am so grateful for that. I only wish I had embraced these changes sooner. Next time I teach abroad, I will be even more open to the personal changes I am bound to make.

Five ways a TEFL certification can help any career

60-hour course

We think there are endless reasons why you should get TEFL certified, but what benefits can it give you if you're not sure about teaching? At least five! 

Better understanding of English, whether you’re a native speaker or not

It is no secret that English is the global language. Chances are a Frenchman and Japanese native will use English to communicate. So, whether you speak another language or not, getting TEFL certified will give you a deeper understanding of the language you are likely using with most friends, family, and colleagues, regardless of your chosen profession.

Intercultural training

Remember that Frenchman and Japanese native we just talked about? Surprise! Their cultures are very different from each other. How do they have a professional conversation and ensure they are respecting each other’s culture? Intercultural competence and understanding, your best friend when talking to people from other cultures or backgrounds. A good TEFL certification will talk about intercultural training, as it’s so important when teaching English to non-native speakers. Use this training in any field you go in – if you’re working with other people, you’ll need it.

Gain management skills

Okay, you won’t be managing people directly while getting TEFL certified, but you’re going to learn about classroom management and how to manage your students while teaching them. How can this help in other fields you ask? Well, management is management. Once you have the skills to manage a classroom, or students, you’ll be able to transfer this expertise to any job where you manage people.  

Options to volunteer in your community

Wherever you are in your career, adding a line to your resume about volunteering will always be a good thing. Get TEFL certified and teach English in your own backyard to immigrants or refugees. Use your intercultural skills to help them acclimate to life in a new country. Great for your resume, and for your conscience. Who doesn’t love helping people?!

Shows employers dedication and respect

Whether you’re teaching abroad, at home, or online – a TEFL certification will show future employers you took your work seriously. There is a common misconception that speaking English means you can teach it..every English teacher on the planet can tell you with certainty that’s not true. A TEFL certification teaches you how to teach something that comes so naturally to you. By getting certified (whether it’s required or not), your future employers will see you take your work and job seriously, and that goes a long way in any field!

Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong
First day in Chiang Mai! Orientation is over and now onto real life. We took an overnight bus to get here. The busses are so different from the U.S. *ahem, unlike Greyhound in particular* There is much more space between the seats, the seats recline far back for comfortable sleep, a hostess serves food and drink throughout the night, and the bus stops once at a rest stop for food/beverage/bathrooms. Although I wasn’t exactly looking for another long ride, these bus perks certainly made the ride less painful! We got in at 6am and it’s 3:12PM as write this… I am TIRED. 

Our school coordinator, Waree, rode the bus with us overnight and arranged for a car to pick us up at the bus station in the city. From there we drove to Sanpatong - my new home for the next 5 months.

Sanpatong is much more bustling than I’d imagined. The photos looked rather quiet, but there are actually a lot of little shops, restaurants and food stands around the area as well as several bright and colorful primary schools! Waree took us to the school we’ll be teaching at - it’s in a really beautiful area. The campus is definitely something I could get used to… I think! We met April, another foreign teacher from North Carolina who arrived here just a week ago. She told us not to be nervous about teaching and that it’s already fun and interesting for her. That puts me a bit at ease although I am definitely still a bit anxious! I just hope my TEFL practice and theory pay off :) I definitely feel a bit more prepared than others going into this without any training. We’ll see though as I have 6 classes on Monday! Diving right in!

My apartment complex is quite nice as well. The two other CIEE teachers, Claire and Nicole, are living here right across the hall and April is on the 2nd floor. We all have studios with queen size beds, a bathroom, dresser and mini-fridge. The heat is still an adjustment so I do feel better with the AC on at this point, but hopefully I’ll require it a little less as time goes on. Disclaimer about Thai beds - they are HARD. I have to buy a mattress topper. I just can’t do it. I'm not sure sleeping on the floor would feel much different...!

Tonight is the Loi Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai city so we’re going to try and partake in the festivities. From the pictures we’ve all seen, it should be pretty magical… see pic above!