When I decided to teach in Thailand, I came through a program called CIEE. They employ a program here in Thailand called OEG Teach Abroad. I had a billion questions when I was shopping around for programs, so I figured I’d write a post for anyone else who is considering the same.
Note – I titled this post Teaching in THAILAND through CIEE. I think the benefits of a program vary by country – for example I also applied to teach in Spain when I applied to teach in Thailand, and I didn’t even consider applying through CIEE. There were other programs that were less expensive with almost equal benefits. If you’re thinking about teaching abroad in a different country through CIEE, this post may be a little helpful, but you should still browse the web a little more.
There are pros & cons to teaching through a program. Technically you could just get a TEFL certificate and come on your own, but then you’re left to battle with immigration alone. So I’ve outlined some pros & cons below. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
Pro: You get a network of potential friends
This is the most important thing that you pay for. My biggest fear coming to Thailand for a year by far was meeting people. CIEE sets you up with an orientation program in Bangkok where you meet other people who are teaching. For most people I know, this is where they met their best friends here in Thailand.
HOWEVER – I came “late” to Thailand, as I started in June instead of May, so my orientation was only 10 people, as opposed to the usual 180. It sucked; everyone was teaching in different parts of Thailand. Everyone was nice, but I only made 2 friends that I’m still in touch with, and I only see 1 of them because the other one is all the way in Phuket.
I was still able to meet people from the May orientation and make friends, but it required a bit more effort.
Whenever I’m at a major event in Bangkok or even just at a popular hangout, I run into fellow OEGers. It makes the country much smaller.
Con: You get paid less than coming on your own
Every semester a chunk of my paycheck goes to CIEE/OEG. My housing is included in my contract, however between 2,000-3,000 baht gets taken out of it to cover my housing. So it’s not really included, it’s just taken care of for me. After all that, I get 25,000 baht/month.
My friend who used to teach at my school moved to Bangkok and works at a private school. She gets 50,000 baht. Although that’s is a good salary for teaching in Bangkok without a teaching degree; I’ve seen pay ranging from 30,000 to 50,000.
Pro: CIEE deals with immigration for you
Notice I use the words “deals with.” Dealing with immigration takes years off your life. I have friends who have extended past OEG and every single one of them has had a plethora of issues with their visa, including:
- Visa runs to Laos/Myanmar
- Rejection of college diploma (necessary for the Non-Immigrant B Visa you need to stay in Thailand) because it “wasn’t in English.” It was written in LATIN, I mean cum laude now. My friend had to pay to get it translated.
- Paying 4,000 baht for overstaying their 30-day tourist visa after Non-Immigrant B visa application was rejected
- The fee for overstaying your visa in Thailand is 2,000 baht per day, or $60
- Getting rejected at immigration for not dressing nicely
Government workers seem to be the same in every country. They’re cranky in the US and they’re cranky in Thailand.
Immigration in Thailand is a pain in the ass.
Con: The FEES
CIEE Program Fees:
1 semester – $1700
2 semesters – $1900
If you’re contracted with CIEE for one semester and you want to extend for two, you have to pay another fee. I forget the exact number but it’s something absurd, $500 maybe? I don’t know.
I was set up with travel insurance when I came here, I had someone waiting at the airport to pick me up, and I had people to show me around the city when I landed in Bangkok. Thailand is a confusing country to navigate if you’ve never been here before. I also have someone to e-mail and a Facebook group to post in whenever I have questions about anything.
Con: You can’t pick your placement
I’m lucky in that I loved my school and my boss. If I didn’t live with 2 other Americans and have an awesome boss that literally treats us like her children, I would be miserable. My town is tiny, and while going to Bangkok is possible, it’s a trek.
I didn’t want a rural placement. I specified urban on my application; however I made my decision late and got the leftovers from people who submitted their application at a responsible time. Everyone wants to teach either in Bangkok or the South. If I didn’t have such respect for my boss I would’ve bailed on my contract after one term and moved to Bangkok.
You can deny your placement, but when you deny it you forfeit teaching. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Pro: My phat bonus
This only applies to people who come to Thailand in May and stay for 2 semesters. It does not apply if you stay at your school and extend for a semester. I get a 20,000 baht bonus that’s supposed to help cover my flight home.
So what does it all boil down to? Money, of course. And your ability/desire to make friends. If I did it again I would still do it through CIEE just for the network. Meeting people on your own in a country you’ve never even been to before is definitely possible, but difficult. Same with the visa situation.
If I did it again I would only do one semester with OEG, and then find my own better paying placement in Bangkok for the second term. Not that I regret living rural, I definitely saw more Thai culture here than I would in Bangkok.
I also wouldn’t get TEFL certified through CIEE. The certification set me back $1,000, and there are cheaper TEFL options on sites like Groupon. I’ve seen as low as $300. But if you use a service like this, make sure it’s legit. You also don’t need a TEFL to teach in Thailand, something my CIEE liason failed to mention when I asked her about the TEFL. Still salty.
My advice to you: if you do a program, apply EARLY.