Welcome to Thailand aka the “Land of Smiles.” The country where the people are lovely, the food is spicy, and the temperature is hot; and, in addition have beautiful landscapes, very clear waters and amazing food.
Figuring out what to pack for the next year of your life, experiencing culture shock, and being homesick is everything I went through in the past 2 weeks. Let's start with the preparation for Thailand.
I started gathering all my supplies to pack (medicine, shampoo, conditioner, contacts, clothing, face wash, ect) the weekend before I left. I made sure I had enough products for 6 months and contacts for a year because I was told that getting these products in Thailand would be hard to do. When I arrived I was able to find the same brand products that I use at home (Pantene, L’Oreal, and Tresemme) were just a few of them that I was bale to find. There are some brands that I have seen in the US that I haven’t really seen in Thailand yet (Ogx and Aussie) for example. I have found some face wash as well just not the type I use so I am grateful that I have the 6-month supply I had. I wish I had known I would have been able to find some of these products before I packed them all because my suitcases would have been lighter. Oh well, I now have room for souvenirs to bring back home with me. Packing was hard because what do you pack for the next year of your life, how much clothes, how many shoes, what other supplies do you bring. I packed more to be on the safe side because I have never been to Thailand before and did not know what to expect. Learn from me and pack a little less. If you are coming to teach, like I am, than I would recommend:
Polo Shirts with a collar: 3/4
Shoes: 2/3 Flats, 1 Sneaker/Hiking Shoe, 1 Sandal, 1 Flip-flop
Sweater (A lot of places have AC): 1/2
Each person packs differently based on things that they like and what they want to wear. Make sure you are comfortable, happy, and look professional. Remember you can buy elephant pants for cheap in Thailand, esp in Bangkok. If you are tall or overweight at all than you might have more difficult with what you find in regard to clothing.
Once you arrive in this beautiful country you will be hit with a wave a heat and hear people speaking a language that you do not understand. It will be okay everyone understands miming and pointing, Google Translator will also be your best friend. You will be experiencing a lot of new foods that you can’t pronounce and hear a bunch of people talking in a foreign language around you, this can be overwhelming for anyone, I know I was super overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed by new experiences and new foods made me miss being home and being able to order anything without having any difficulties. The first week in Thailand was hard for me, I was calling home almost everyday and I cried a few times when things got hard. I was afraid of what I just got myself into. I could not understand the language, I had no idea how to teach, and orientation was throwing a lot at me, all useful and helpful but a lot. I was so nervous, overwhelmed, anxious, and homesick that I barley anything for the first few days I was in Thailand. If you are planning on coming to teach in a foreign country or just arrived in a foreign country to teach you might experience what I went through and that is normal and okay because remember YOU ARE HUMAN AND HAVE FEELINGS!!! There are a few ways to help combat these feeling and go from anxious, nervous, and homesick to happy and excited.
At orientation one of the group leaders experienced the same thing I was feeling and she helped me by just listening to what I was saying and telling me some of her experiences. So, make sure you talk to someone a parent, a new friend, or someone at orientation but make sure you talk to someone because they might be feeling the same thing, know how you are feeling, and can help make you feel better. I know talking about what I was feeling helped me feel better, calmer, and ready to tack this experience.
Another thing to do is keep busy; do not wallow. When you wallow it is all you are thinking about but if you stay busy, join people on adventures around the city, hang out by the pool, read, or go for a run you are focusing on something else and before you know it things will get easier for you. When I arrived at my location I only spent time in my apartment to put my clothes away or make lesson plans otherwise I went out and explored, walked around, kept busy, and get situated into my new accommodations.
I have been teaching for 3 days already and do not regret my choice to move to Thailand for the next year. This adventure will be full of new experiences, people, and food. Even through I spent the first week feeling overwhelmed, homesick, anxious, and nervous once I saw the kids I am teaching and was greeted by their smiles it all felt better. I know this will be a challenge; it is a challenge that I am ready to tackle head on.
Remember: pack light, you will be able to find things here, it is okay to miss home just make sure you talk about how you feel and not bottle it up, and enjoy!! :)