Keely Bonser,
from the UK,
teaching in Bangkok, Thailand.

Keely sightseeing in Thailand

Keely sightseeing in Thailand

Which School did you previously teach at and in which town/country was it?

I previously taught at Stretford High School in Manchester, UK. This was a placement through the Teach First scheme.

What did you teach and to what age group?

I taught ICT to Year 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

What gave you the idea to teach internationally?

I have always wanted to work and live abroad as I love travelling and experiencing new places and cultures. When I was accepted onto the Teach First programme I realized that teaching was a great way to do this.

How difficult was it for you to find a job and what route did you take?

I found searching for jobs internationally no more difficult than searching for jobs in the UK. I frequently searched on the TES website, but was struggling to find schools in the UK and abroad due to the current economy. A friend discovered TIC on the Internet and forwarded me the website. I then signed up and it was TIC who contacted me with my current job.

Did you move abroad alone or with a partner/family and how did this impact your move?

I moved abroad alone. I found this very difficult as it meant my long-term partner staying behind in the UK due to his work.  As working and living abroad had been dream of mine, my partner was very supportive and stood by me. It was also a big challenge for me living in a different country on my own as this was something I’d never done before. However, one of the reasons I accepted the position was due to the fact that accommodation on site was included in the salary and benefits package. I found this a very comforting factor.

How was your first term at Harrow International School Bangkok?

My first term at Harrow International School Bangkok was like a roller-coaster ride. It had many ups and downs. Luckily, the teaching side of things was all ups which kept me going. My personal life however was very up and down. The accommodation was not as expected in terms of furnishings – I’ve had to furnish it myself due to the poor furniture provided. The school was further away from local supermarkets and town than expected. This means a lot of taxis, which is difficult when you don’t know the language, but as soon as I learnt how to give directions in Thai this became much easier. I joined the school late due to being appointed late and thus already have prior commitments in the UK – this meant I didn’t know many people to socialize with at first. I was also finding it difficult being away from my partner, family and friends. As time passed though I began to find my feet and by half-term I had settled in well and loving my new life abroad!

What age group do you teach in Bangkok?

I teach Year 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. I also teach Business Communication Systems (BCS) in addition to ICT.

What kind of curriculum do you follow and is this any different in the way you taught before – if so, how are you coping with this change?

The curriculum is slightly different to what I was teaching before, but not too much. My department is very flexible which is great for teaching. Year 7 (prep) is much more fun in terms of the software we teach and we also introduce ICT theory which the UK curriculum doesn’t do. Year 8 and 9 (KS3) prepares students for IGCSE ICT in Year 10 in terms of software used and basic theory taught. Students who choose to study the IGCSE in ICT take the exam in Year 10 and if they pass, they go onto study GCSE BCS in Year 11. This is fantastic for the students as they get the opportunity to get 2 GCSEs instead of 1 through taking only 1 option. Next year we are planning on altering prep and KS3 through introducing more business concepts and thus linking the ICT and BCS subjects more closely and preparing those students who opt to take ICT as an option in Year 10 and 11.

Keely sightseeing in Bangkok

Keely sightseeing in Bangkok

I much prefer how my department teaches the subject in comparison to the UK who tend to stick to the curriculum much more rigidly.

How do the ITC resources differ from the UK?

ICT resources in terms of equipment are not as widely available as my old school. However, we are catching up. Resources in terms of lesson materials are no different though.

What are the children and staff like at your new school?

Like my previous school, I find staff fantastic and very supportive. The children are lovely and very different to teach, but they come from very different backgrounds. My previous school was in a very deprived area and the students were very challenging at times. Students at Harrow International School Bangkok are very affluent and have a different attitude towards learning. Both have pros and cons though. Students in lower English sets tend to be very passive in lessons which can make lessons challenging at times.

What have been the best and worst (if any) experiences you have had over the past few weeks in school?

Term 2a has been great. As a form tutor in Year 8 I get to go on Expeditions Week with Year 8 to Pranburi. This has been a great week getting to know teachers from other departments and meeting all Year 8 students – I only teach 1 Year 8 class plus my form. I had the most enjoyable week! The week after Expeditions Week was half-term and my family came out to see me – a great ending to term 2a!

What has the experience been like for you socially – have you made friends out of school and if so how, have you joined any groups or social activities, what are your favourite things socially about this new experience?

I have been very lucky and made some fantastic friends out here who are a similar age to myself and are either single or also in long distance relationships. We often socialize in local restaurants or in town and go away for weekends/long weekends in Thailand quite often. I haven’t joined any groups as I find I am busy enough. My favourite thing socially is being able to go away somewhere other than Bangkok for a weekend so cheaply. I also love being able to stay in 5* hotels in Thailand/SE Asia as they are so cheap in comparison to the rest of the world. It is very much a ‘work hard play hard’ ethos for those who do not have families at my school.

What are the most striking differences about living and working in Bangkok?

Bangkok is a city which you will either love or hate. Luckily I’d already visited Bangkok on holiday so knew that I already loved it. Bangkok is a very lively and busy city, especially with regards to traffic. However, Thai people are very sabai sabai (relaxed and chilled out) and if you can adopt this approach to life you will adapt much easier to living in Bangkok. I find life much less stressful as a result. The only downside to this way of life though is if you want something doing sooner rather than later – it doesn’t always happen!

What advice would you give to people in the same situation as yourself who are considering teaching internationally?

My advice would be to consider it seriously before accepting and to discuss it with your partner first. Make sure that it is something you definitely want to do. Whilst I love my new life out here, it is very hard being in a long-distance relationship. Luckily my partner is very supportive and we communicate via email and Skype every day. We also see each other every main holiday whether that be in the UK or out in SE Asia. Saying this, I’ve had friends who have not been so lucky and their long-distance relationship has ended, so you definitely need to consider what you are wanting out of life and weigh up all of the pros and cons.

In general terms, I would also recommend speaking to people in your department, before accepting any offers if possible, but definitely before moving abroad. Find out as much information as you can with regards to the school, area, local transport and amenities, accommodation, socializing etc. This will make the move easier once reaching your new destination.

Keely Bonser enjoying Christmas at Halong Bay, Thailand

Keely Bonser enjoying Christmas at Halong Bay, Thailand

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