Special Education-Elementary Education Dual Degree
Teacher Leader and Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Location of Study Abroad
Phang Nga, Thailand
Why did you choose this location/program?
I chose this location based on the program I found through GVI. I also heard such wonderful things about Thailand and its beautifully rich culture and landscapes. Thailand is also a very kind place to be where everyone has a basic trust of everyone.
What did you learn about yourself during your time abroad?
When I first arrived in Thailand I was there to teach and learn as much as I could about the culture, but while spending time with the people around me I began to make friends and connections with people I would have never met if I did not go to Thailand.
What was your housing situation?
In Thailand, I lived on what we called “base.” We had dorm-style rooms that had three bunk beds with mosquito nets. There was no hot water or air conditioning, but it was so hot the cold showers were never really a problem and we each had our own fans for when it was hot at night. Every two weeks we would get a new intake of volunteers, so every two weeks I got to meet new people and have new roommates. It was a fun experience to get to know so many people in just six weeks. We also had a common room with a projector, a kitchen, and lots of seating. Every night we would meet back on base and eat dinner together and talk about the work we did that day. On weekends, most people (including me) would travel around Thailand. Doing this I got to stay in nice hotels and experience places I never could in the United States. Staying away on the weekends made the base feel more like home because I would come back and see familiar faces. On base, we always had at least one staff member, so if there was ever an issue there was someone there to support you.
What is your best memory from this experience?
One of my best memories was the weekend we went away to Krabi. The first night we stayed on Railey, which is an establishment where you must cross a body of water to get to Au Nang (the main town in Krabi). I loved Railey because there were no cars here and had a very interesting vibe to it. The beaches were also so beautiful on Railey, and the sunsets were breathtaking. The first night we stayed in a hostel, and this was my first time in a hostel, so it was quite an experience. In the morning we woke up and went rock climbing on the side of a mountain. Railey is known as one of the best places in the world to go rock climbing, so it was quite an amazing experience. One of my best friends I made in Thailand was Niamh, she adored rock climbing and convinced me to go, and it was an amazing experience. I think that is the beauty of traveling with others because they can push you out of your comfort zone and let you experience things you never thought you would. We traveled to Au Nang that evening and set into our next hostel and then went to one of the best night markets I saw my whole time in Thailand. There was live music, food, and more vendors than I could count. While that weekend was my favorite I had so many amazing weekends while I was in Thailand!
One of my best friends I made in Thailand was Niamh, she adored rock climbing and convinced me to go, and it was an amazing experience. I think that is the beauty of traveling with others because they can push you out of your comfort zone and let you experience things you never thought you would.
What was the greatest challenge during this experience?
My greatest challenge was getting used to being in the minority. I knew that in Thailand, I would not be a local, but when I arrived on base, I did not expect to be one of two Americans on base. While everyone I met was lovely, it was an adjustment to have conversations with people who did not understand my culture and people whose culture I did not necessarily understand. Most other volunteers were from the UK, so it was very new to me. Also, in the schools, we taught European English and not American English, which is not too much different, but did cause a little discomfort for me, but I learned it quite quickly and definitely caused me to learn new things about the UK as well and Thailand while I was away.
What do you know now that you didn't know before about Thailand?
Something I did not know before going to Thailand was how kind and trusting the people there are. While I knew it was a relatively safe place to be I did not expect to feel safer in Thailand than I do in the United States. The level of trust that the community has for travelers is something I could never have expected. To travel, I rode in a lot of Taxis, and the drivers would not collect your money until they dropped you back off at your “home.” In the United States, you are expected to prepay or at least pay per journey. It was lovely the level of kindness and trust there was, but it took me a second to unlearn the mistrust for others I have for strangers from being in the United States.
What did you learn about Thailand that you think people would be surprised to learn?
Something I learned about Thailand I think people would be surprised to learn is that they have these cement buildings that are about four stories high that play on a speaker’s bird noises. When I originally saw them, I was worried as to what was in them, but it is a way for the people in the village to collect the spit of these specific birds. The noises attract the birds to make nests up high in these buildings, which is a very creative and intelligent way to get this spit. The spit is used in energy drinks in Thailand because it has some chemical in it that is good at boosting energy, so if you are ever in Thailand and are uncomfortable with drinking bird spit, I would recommend staying clear of energy drinks!
Why would you encourage others to study abroad in Thailand?
Yes, I would recommend others to study abroad in Thailand. However, what I did was a teaching internship in Thailand with GVI (a volunteer organization). Thailand is such a beautiful place with such kind and welcoming locals. Everyone I interacted with was extraordinarily kind and I loved every minute I was in Thailand!