The 10 Reasons To Spend Your Gap Year Teaching In Thailand

by Michael Park

The notion of a ‘gap year’ has something of a mixed reputation. There are those who treat it as a year full of fun and games, sometimes with Mum and Dad footing the bill.

Then there are those who leave home with a clear understanding of what they aim to achieve. Some target personal development, volunteering, paid work, or even all three. Whichever category you belong to, Thailand has plenty to offer. If you’re keen on making an impact, however, there are still plenty of reasons to spend a year in the country of Thailand.

1. Thailand needs English

Competent English teachers are in high demand and short supply in Thailand. In 2015, the country is due to join the Association of South East Asian States’ (ASEAN) common labor market and has a vested interest in remaining competitive in English. It currently lags behind the leading states at ninth overall. Particular attention is paid to training existing teachers and secondary school children.

Pay isn’t great, but that shouldn’t matter to you if you’re there for the right reasons. The cost of living, particularly in rural Thailand, is low enough for a modest salary to be easily sufficient. Moreover, you can teach yourself some digital skill sets that will be useful for entrepreneurship or for transitioning into the 21st century workforce.

2. Thai life

The Thai approach to life is wholly different to the consumerism and wealth creation endemic to Western societies. Thais are extremely relaxed about most aspects of life. Things happen, but at the native’s own pace. This can be frustrating for those unfamiliar with the country, but also immensely eye opening, offering an alternative outlook on the purpose of human existence. The Thai people are also hospitable, generous and nice to a fault.

3. Children

On the whole, Thai schoolchildren are a delight; even if they have trouble learning English, they are generally willing to learn! A great deal of respect is accorded to teachers, which means delinquency in the classroom is almost non-existent. What’s more, you can be a hugely inspirational figure in the eyes of children of all ages - a quality so valuable it’s difficult to overstate.

4. Buddhism

In large parts of Thailand, particularly in rural areas, Buddhism (or one of its variants) is the predominant religion. Based on introspection, reincarnation, self-scrutiny and eventual passing into the afterlife, Buddhism centers on the notion of karma. Buddhist beliefs underpin many of the fundamental cultural characteristics of the Thai people - in particular, their lack of urgency!

5. Cultural mobility

Thailand is on the move. Though certain characteristics of Thai culture are very deeply embedded, the rapidity and verve with which Thailand has promoted itself make the younger generation (notably the kids) much more receptive to new ideas. A shift away from unquestioning deference to elders, towards a more adventurous curiosity about the outside world, is taking place.

6. Opportunities galore

Spending a year in Thailand will give you a unique insight into the opportunities that the country is poised to take advantage of. Hotels, resorts and spas have all been done before, but Thailand’s true potential lies beyond the restrictive realm of consumer tourism. One major opportunity in Thailand is to take advantage of the cheap cost of living to bootstrap your startup in Bangkok.

7. Elephants

Most of the tourist industry centers on the major cities of Bangkok and Phuket. The northern hills of Thailand around the city of Chiang Mai present an alternative: working with elephants. Elephants in Thailand are frequently subjected to mutilation, punishingly heavy loads and training by torture, often driven to insanity and depression. In the Chiang Mai area, dozens of NGOs and charities dedicate themselves to rehabilitating and raising elephants in a protected environment.

8. Thai Cuisine

Thai food is often very spicy and always delicious. The staple meats - chicken and prawns - are usually fried in palm oil and served with rice, together with a host of wonderful sauces. Fried or steamed vegetables are common, as are freshly made spring rolls and a variety of exotic fruits, ranging from the scarlet, tentacled rambutan to the notoriously odorous durian. Chilies can be found almost everywhere. Just don’t try eating one whole!

9. Nature

Being largely covered by thick jungle, the rural areas of Southern and Northern Thailand alike are astonishingly picturesque. The humidity and heat are entirely outweighed by the sheer beauty of the surroundings. Lush green rainforest canopies accompany raging waterfalls and sparkling rivers. Intricately decorated Buddhist temples and golden statues of the Buddha himself dot the countryside. Best of all, there is so much to see in Thailand that a year of traveling would barely scratch the surface.

10. Insane Nightlife

There is a reason that the Hangover II is based in Bangkok. Everything you have heard about Thailand's party reputation is true - and THEN some. Grey Goose bottle service at high-end clubs for $100. Drop dead gorgeous, model-esque women everywhere you go. Insane full moon party raves and concerts on the beach. Endless summers that also mean endless summer love. You'll fall in love with this country and never want to leave. Stay focused though! It's easy to fly off the handle in paradise...

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