My name is Ashley, I’m 23 years old and I’m from Northern Ireland. I graduated from University in June 2010 with a one way ticket booked to set off on the trip of a lifetime, first stop… Koh Tao. My plan had accounted for 3 days on the island but that quickly turned into a month, a great month! Of everywhere else I have travelled, Koh Tao provides everything you could ever need and want while still retaining its beauty and charm. Prior to this trip I had gained my Open Water certification and was keen to get back in the water. A few fun dives in beautiful Koh Tao left me wanting a lot more and as my travels progressed, the decision was easily made to complete the Dive Master course which I undertook in Indonesia before heading off to Australia. Although I travelled extensively throughout Asia and Australia, my heart always lay with Koh Tao and I found myself back there in June 2011.
A catch up with a friend led to a chance meeting with Course Director Jeff. I had always dreamed of working as a dive instructor but for someone from a little village in the countryside, it never seemed realistic. Within minutes of being introduced to Jeff, I knew it was possible and I could not wait to start. Picking apples in the outback of Australia meant I had not been able to dive for a few months so I was keen to do some extra preparation before the start of the course. Jeff made himself fully available to help me with any problems I was having with theory, provide past paper exams and to practise skills. I never hesitated to call Jeff with a query as it was obvious he was always happy to help.
2nd August 2011, first day of my IDC and I was nervous. “Morning Instructor” was Jeff’s greeting to me on the first morning and the butterflies disappeared. My IDC group was made up of 3 girls and 5 boys, all of whom I am still in regular contact with and some of the best friends I have ever made. Despite a substantial curriculum to work through, the structure of the course was one of its best aspects. Days were split between being in the classroom and being in the water, therefore preventing monotony. On a more individual level, Jeff was consistently a fair assessor both in classroom and water presentations, even if I had not gained top marks, the feedback he provided was so clear and concise that I was confident I would always improve.
Relating topics to real life for ease of understanding, encouraging and involving all members of the group, and having fun were techniques we were advised to apply to our teaching styles, all traits Jeff naturally demonstrated when working with my group. Once completing the IDC it was onto the 2 day Instructor Exams (IE), now it was down to each candidate to put into practice everything we had been taught. One thing that set Jeff apart from other Course Directors was how he still supported us throughout each step of the IE and was always waiting until each of us had finished each section. Since successfully completing the IDC and subsequent IE, I immediately gained employment on Koh Tao. It was only natural to be a bit nervous before teaching my first solo course but the training I had received during the IDC ensured I was more than able and prepared. Now 4 months on, I am ever growing in confidence and can happily say I am living out my dream. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending both Koh Tao, as the place to complete an IDC, and Jeff as Course Director. Life on the paradise island of Koh Tao, world class diving, and a top trainer in Jeff… what more could you ask for!