The beginning of April was fast approaching and our final number of 19 trainees had been confirmed. Our TAP trainees, together with the UniTEFL trainees all merged in one room. The course was about to begin…
The initial meeting at the airport was a bit stressful and even though Chiang Mai International Airport is small, it is easy to get lost. We told the trainees that if they got lost they should wait for us at a certain meeting spot. We found one! She looked nervous, scared and excited at the same time. This was going to be a great course. We dropped the trainee at the hotel and then headed back to the airport. After an hour of the estimated arrival time, we couldn’t find him! We split our team into 3 separate paths to continue our search for the trainee. It was nearly 2 hours when we decided to email him. He had the wrong arriving date. Phew! The rest of the pick-ups went well.
Week 1: Monday morning 08:30am, the trainees looked eager and excited to begin this new journey. The introductions went well and everyone settled in really well. The course had kicked off well and the trainees were getting to know each other. Fear started to kick in when they started planning for their first lesson as an English teacher. After monitoring and observing their first teaching practice everybody did really well.
For our first excursion we took a tour around Chiang Mai visiting all the monumental temples in town. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and things ran smoothly. A slight delay in the lunch break left us short for time at Doi Suthep Mountain, one of the most prestigious views in Chiang Mai. However, we made it up to Doi Suthep and had some fun. As we made our way down the winding roads of Doi Suthep Mountain we stopped at Huay Kaew waterfalls. The short little hike down a streaming valley led us to a waterfall where we could swim and jump off the rocks. The day ended off with a great vibe and positive feedback from the trainees.
Week 2: Monday morning 08:30am, the trainees look a bit tired from the weekend events. At this point they have formed friendships. I’ll admit that even our TEFL team has started to form bonds with this group. The panics of planning for the teaching practices were still visible in week 2 but they got through it.
The second excursion went very well. We took the TEFLers for an authentic Thai cultural experience at a Rice Farm. We spent half the day riding buffalos and being taught how to plant and farm rice. What a drastic process for small grains of rice. You’ll never take rice for granted again. After the Rice Farm, we drive 40 minutes out of Chiang Mai to the Mae Tang Elephant Sanctuary. Our lunch was pre-booked and overlooked the Mae Tang river. After lunch we headed down the mountain for a quick hike. We reached the river and 4 Thai elephant carers brought a few elephants into the water with us. We fed, bathed and swam with the elephants. It’s definitely one of the most memorable moments of my time in Thailand. The Thai staff then gave us each a tube… We got into the water and tubed down the Mae Tang River for almost 2 hours. What an adventure. Chatting with friends, tubing down the river, splashing of water and getting in the way of the river rafters. It was a great day out.
The next day was the beginning of the Songkran Festival. Songkran is the Thai New Year and it is basically a big water fight. There is (ice) water being splashed around from every corner of every city. Water guns, buckets and bottles of water are available on every street. On the eve of Songkran, we decided to take the TEFLers out on the streets to introduce them to the water festival. It’s not normal for the festivities to begin on the day prior, but after people saw how much fun we were having, it spiraled out of control. More people started to join our group and eventually the entire street was chaotic. Songkran is by far the best festival in Thailand. Be sure to make your way to Thailand during April to catch the Thai New Year.
Week 3: Monday 08:30am, the trainees look drained and suntanned after having a few days off for Songkran. They had too much fun in the sun with the elephants, tubing and a few days of water-gun fights. Everybody kept talking about the amazing weekend they just had. But as soon as the novelty of the prior week’s shenanigans wore off, they got back to normal. They were ready for teaching practices, they knew how to prepare lessons and it’s become like second nature to them.
Week 4: Monday, 08:30am, the course was coming to an end. I was planning visa runs for some trainees and arranging jobs for others. By now, some of the other trainees (UniTEFL) had made some awesome friends on the course and decided to stay in Thailand for a semester to teach. By the end of the week, ALL of the trainees had passed the test and graduated. I’ll admit that it was sad to say goodbye to this group, as they really were an amazing bunch.
Despite the diversity of nationalities, age groups and previous travel experience; everybody came together and formed one team. It was truly a successful course, on so many levels. All our hard work, planning and organizing this training course had paid off. I’m proud of my trainees and our TEFL team for successfully completing this course.
Good luck on your new adventures of being a TEFL trained teacher in Thailand!