October 18th to 24th
Island TEFL Scam: Orientation
When Matt and I realized we wanted to teach English in Thailand, we learned through some Google research that we had to work with an agency that would then get us a job. They would give us our certificate in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), help us find jobs, and help us with any documentation we need before and during our teaching.
Matt and I signed with the agency called Island TEFL. If you recall, we thought that, although expensive, they were legitimate and helpful (according to their reviews and website, anyway).
So, yada yada, we arrive at our orientation in Bangkok. They paid for us (with our money) and ninety others to stay at this rather shady hotel called Suda Palace Hotel. Every day during the week, we attended “class” in the morning and just killed time the rest of the day.
However, throughout the week, there was a plethora questionable acts that confused us and made us irate.
Here’s a list of the top ten most astonishing/infuriating occurrences during our orientation (if you could even really call it that) with Island TEFL that made us aware that it was a scam.
10. The two head guys were constantly late
The agency’s two head hanchos, Phil and John, were consistently late to every class that we had. Although everyone is late all the time in Thailand, their excessive tardiness made us question their legitimacy, especially when they showed up three hours late to our last session. They were late because, according to fellow aspiring teachers, they were out binge drinking the night before. Hey, I’m all for that, but not when it’s the two fellows handling our money, teaching us how to be teachers, and responsible for getting us jobs. Well, supposedly.
9. They sent us away to Koh Samui without a job
The main purpose of having an agency is so that they will find you a job teaching in Thailand. They had promised us that they would find us jobs by the end of the orientation. However, they failed to do that. On Friday the 24th, we were being kicked out of our “free” hotel and shoved on a bus to Koh Samui…with no future job. This would be lower on the list, but we were going to Koh Samui, which is one beautiful island, so we weren’t too upset.
8. Lack of information
Throughout our orientation week, we had a ton of questions regarding our placement agency (a different agency that was responsible for finding our jobs. So many agencies, but I’ll get to this one later) and other things. We had constantly tried to talk to Phil and John after every “class,” but they told us over and over again that they would “let us know.” Well, they never did. For anything. They even blatantly ignored our problems. We harassed them via e-mail, since in person they were horrid at explanations and help, but they ignored everything we sent. This was especially awful because surprise: we’re in a different fucking country and have no idea what we are doing! And, their lack of information certain did not make us feel any better about that fact.
7. Our placement agent wanted us to go to Satun, Thailand, which is on the highly dangerous border of Malaysia
Fun fact: the uttermost Southern part of Thailand near the Malaysian border has constant terrorist bombings every day, and I mean every day.
Our placement agency, which for some reason is different from Island TEFL, wanted us to work in Satun, Thailand. We decided to look it up and realized— hey, there’s a massive amount of unrest there! When we told our agent this, she simply brushed it off and said it was fine there now. Oh, okay, that’ll make us feel 100% better.
After that, we told Phil and John that we didn’t want to work with that placement agency anymore. John then told us he would place us (he was placing 90% of the other future teachers in their schools).
6. John wasn’t aware of our placement agency
Ah, yes. John, by the way, had absolutely no idea who the hell we were talking about when we mentioned our placement agency. He actually had no clue who they were and was confused why we were with them.
This did not help us have any confidence in this guy or agency at all.
5. They didn’t teach us how to teach
During our orientation where we were supposed to learn how to teach, we didn’t learn how to teach. At all. The most we did was give a twenty-minute lesson to five other people from our program. That was about it, but even that was shady because it was a sort of last minute thing and it didn’t give us the proper teaching experience we needed prior to actually being in a classroom and teaching for real.
This made us real angry because, I mean, what the hell did we pay all of this money for exactly if we didn’t learn how to teach? I swear, we left that orientation knowing less about teaching than we did going in.
4. “Just travel around for a while and we’ll contact you.”
This phrase was a very popular phrase with Phil and John and possibly the most disconcerting one. Every single time we had asked about our placement around the end of our orientation (after leaving the other placement agency, of course), we were simply told, “Don’t worry about it. Just travel around for a while and we’ll contact you.”
Oh, okay, no problem. We’ll just travel around a country and not worry at all about our teaching placement, which was the main reason we came here in the first place.
3. No internationally-accredited certificate for us!
On the second to last day of our orientation, we were supposed to receive our internationally-accredited TEFL certificate for our completion of the online course we took over the summer and the week of orientation.
But, while waiting to receive ours in the hotel lobby, one of the people in our agency approached us and told us that all of our certificates turned out to not be internationally accredited. Apparently, there had been complaints about Island TEFL previously and, whoever the hell accredits these things, denied them the accreditation for their TEFL certificates.
Wonderful. Our certificate—the main reason we signed up with these people—is officially not an international certificate, so we wouldn’t be able to teach English in another country. Well, at least we’d receive a TEFL certificate.
2. We didn’t receive a TEFL certificate
When we approached Phil to receive our certificate, he said he didn’t have a physical copy of the certificates and that, when we got our placement school, that they would just send it directly to them.
This was definitely one of the most infuriating things that happened. We signed up with these people so that we could be certified to teach English in Thailand (and other countries as well)! And that just didn’t happen. It was at this point we had fully realized that it was a scam.
1. We spent a dumb amount of money on this agency
I know that this wasn’t something that happened specifically during the orientation, but it was something we were pissed off about the entire time: we spent a ton of money on nothing.
We collectively dropped about $3,000 on these guys. Yeah, talk about dumb. We spent this money thinking—hey, at least we’ll learn how to teach, get internationally accredited certificates, and teaching jobs in Thailand.
Well, so much for any of those.
However, we hopped on a bus with several other people from our program that Friday and cruised along Thailand for twelve hours (definitely not an enjoyable journey, in case you thought it would be) to Koh Samui. Fortunately, the bus ride was “free,” so that was good… I guess. We also couldn’t wait to go and finally be able to relax on a breathtakingly beautiful and magical beach.
In case you wanted to check out their very impressive website (don’t fall for it like us!!!!), here it is: http://www.islandtefl.com/
It looks so legitimate, it infuriates me.
Update: I’ve been told that Phil Dunne has an alias, which is Philip Crabb. Don’t trust either name!
Thanks for reading, guys! I hope that you won’t make the same mistakes as we did and trust this scam! And please, NEVER pay an agency to help you find jobs in Thailand!