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7 posts categorized "*Pre-departure tips"

a comfort zone is a lovely place, but nothing ever grows there

I like to think that I have a really good intuition. 

Sometimes, I just get these ideas in my head and once the thought enters my mind, I find it really hard to let go of it. At first, the ideas were subtle changes I wanted to make..like I should die my hair blonde (shout out to my college roommate for talking me through my tears and dying my hair back brown with a box dye - you're the best), I should move to the Seacoast, or I should study abroad in Germany, and most recently, I should quit my full-time job and go teach English in Thailand. Clearly, the magnitude of the changes has varied over the years, but the results are always the same. Change is terrifying, exhilarating, nerve racking and wonderful all at once, and I can't get enough of it. 

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If you're still reading this, my name is Alysha. Up until two weeks ago, I was an Assistant Store Manager for a grocery store chain in the Northeastern part of the United States called Hannaford (owned by Ahold-Delhaize for anyone out there in the grocery industry), and living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (picture snow and cold six months of the year). Now, I'm in sunny, sometimes swelteringly hot, Thailand, living in a coastal province in the Eastern region, where I'll be teaching English to 7th-9th graders.

Wait, I thought you just said you were a manager, not a teacher. And you would be correct in thinking that. The qualifications for teaching English in Thailand requires a Bachelor's Degree, and it does not have to be on with an education concentration. But, do you speak Thai? No, but I am trying like hell to learn. Props to an app called nemo Thai, I get daily notifications so that I can eventually say more than Sawatdee-kha and Khawb khun kha (Hello and Thank you). So how will you teach English if you don't speak the Thai? CIEE and OEG put together a week long orientation in Bangkok that kicked off my semester in Thailand! At orientation, I had classes on teaching English as a foreign language, Thai culture classes, language classes, etc.

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We visited the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha, Death Railway, and went on two beautiful river cruises. Best of all, I was surrounded by all these wonderful, beautiful people who signed up for the same program! We all went to our respective placements yesterday, and I'm already missing them like crazy. My official first day at my new school, Banchangkarnchanakulwittaya School, is Monday and while I'm sure there'll be bumps and bruises along the way, I simply can't wait. 

Sooo..if you're starting to think, hey, that sounds like a pretty amazing opportunity to travel, enrich your life, cultivate new skills and build new relationships..then well, you're right! Tell yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to, and start researching how you can move overseas and teach English! Or better yet, comment with any questions or hesitations you may have. Every day is a new chance to reinvent yourself.

Stay tuned for more.. 

Alysha

 

Today's the day!

This is it: today is the day I finally depart for Thailand! For as long as I have been looking forward to this day, it really feels like it snuck up on me.  As gathering documents and obtaining my visa were acquired a few weeks prior, I spent the past week saying goodbye to friends and family as well preparing for the trip. I mostly just had to gather last minute essentials, teaching materials, and teaching clothes. I found it difficult to decide exactly what to pack, so after I am settled in for a few weeks and see for sure what I wish I had packed and what I could have gone without, I will post a definitive packing list as I would have found that helpful. Right now I’m sitting in the Philadelphia airport, waiting to board my 12.5 hour flight to Qatar and my 6.5 hour flight to Bangkok. My emotions are definitely heightened as I prepare to embark on this dream that I set my sights on a long time ago. As I try to navigate through exactly what I’m feeling, excitement undeniably sticks out the most. I am beyond grateful to be granted this opportunity and I am so looking forward to the amazing experience it is going to be. I know there will be challenges and adjustments made as well, but for now I choose to giddily await the adventure ahead!

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5 Underestimated Truths of Teaching Abroad

This will be my final post, even though I could talk endless amounts about this experience, and I want to leave a reflection about the majority of what I was feeling during my last week in Thailand.

1. Everything changes

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Photos taken: West Railay Beach and Phra Nang Beach, Krabi

Your perspective of the world, yourself, your place in the world… everything. It’s beautiful. I stopped wearing makeup as often; I wasn't afraid to stick out or fit in; I found my focus shifting towards things that really matter.

2. The country isn’t how its perceived by people who have never been there

 

My students' performance embodying the experience of losing their King

Living in a place is completely different than any amount of photo scrolling or video watching. It’s the same comparison to learning from a textbook versus learning from experience. Both are good, but you can’t fully comprehend the reality and full truth until you experience it! Moral of this story: go to Thailand!!!

3. You’re a real teacher, so you impact the students accordingly

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If you come for one semester — especially if you teach older students — they’re craving consistency, and the students might even have abandonment issues with teachers coming and going. It’s hard for me to include this one, but even though you may see it as a means to travel, your students see you as their teacher.

4. Leaving is painful

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My seniors gave me this with a heart-felt "thank you" message on the last day of school [followed by a group hug]

That being said, leaving is incredibly hard to cope with. There’s guilt from the realization that you’re ditching your students when you can see that a consistent teacher would benefit them. There’s love for your students that you didn’t think was humanly possible for someone else. There’s a sense of loss when you have to say goodbye to that. There’s simply the feeling of missing the individuality, personalities and charm, of not only your students, but your coworkers and new friends as well.

5. You miss out on things at home

When I thought about coming abroad, I felt like this was better than anything else going on at home, and I didn’t think I’d feel like I really missed anything. I figured, if I missed anything at all, it would feel minor and that my present life would feel way more exciting. The reality is that you can miss things like an election, the Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years, and marching for women’s rights. You have to be ready to lose touch with these events that will inevitably happen while you're gone. However, if you’re like me, the pros of going abroad outweigh the cons of missing out on things at home.

One of the many reasons I chose to move to Thailand - to go to an elephant sanctuary!

I can’t convey how hard it was to leave Thailand, my coworkers and new friends, and my students. It was so hard that I knew I might pull a Rachel Greene and not get on the plane… except, instead of Ross, my love is Thailand. I felt like, if I didn’t know the next time I’d be back to SE Asia, my heart would rip in half. That’s why my boyfriend and I booked our tickets for a six week backpacking trip in July and August! I hope to teach abroad in SE Asia again in the future too because the Land of Smiles leaves an incredible imprint on your heart and soul.

This adventure has been the gateway to many more. Thanks to everyone who has read my posts!

-G

Stay a Little Longer

I'm not good at making decisions. I get buyers remorse with everything, from ice cream flavors to nail polish colors. For the most part, I try to act using logic rather than emotion. Sometimes I fail at following my instinct and I kick myself for not going with my gut. Suffice it to say, I'm constantly analyzing how any given scenario could play out in my life. 

Something about deciding to teach in Thailand was different for me, though. This is the job I always had my sights set on immediately post-grad. It was never my plan B. The only thing I second-guessed about the decision was that I never second-guessed it. Naturally, moving across the globe came with a lot of risks. Yet, I had a hunch from the get-go that Thailand and I would be a fitting combination.

They say all good things must come to an end, and Thailand has been very good to me. I’ve gained lifelong friends I would have otherwise never crossed paths with; I’ve learned how to control a classroom and teach with equal parts poise and playfulness; I’ve had the privilege to travel throughout parts of Thailand that are breathtaking beyond belief.

I’m not ready for those opportunities to end. After a lot of careful consideration (and a couple of sleepless nights as a result) I am happy to say I will be staying in Thailand to teach for a second semester! This decision was incredibly difficult. It required a lot of self-reflection and a long list of pros and cons. Even after seeking advice from others, I realized the only person who can make this decision for me is me. My gut is telling me I’m not done in Thailand just yet, and for once I’m going to listen to it.

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Turning my can'ts into cans and my dreams into plans! Click photo to enlarge.

Of course, being away from my friends and family for another term will be challenging. However, there is more I want to see, do and – let’s be real – taste test before I go home. Staying in Thailand is something I didn’t originally foresee myself doing. Any teacher knows the challenges associated with the education system. Teaching abroad presents its own set of additional obstacles. By staying in Thailand a little bit longer, my aspirations aren’t changing. I still want to grow my own interpersonal communication skills. I still want to feel as if I am learning as much from my students as they are learning from me. I still want to explore Thailand and surrounding Southeast Asian countries. An additional six months in Thailand will ensure that I get the chance to accomplish all of those goals.

With each life-changing decision I make, I think of my brother, Richie, who lost his battle to cystic fibrosis while I was in middle school. Although nine years have since passed, every milestone in life is bittersweet since I can’t share it with him. My birthday is especially hard. I can’t help but feel a tinge of guilt that I’m growing another year older without him. If you had the opportunity to know Richie, you would know he’d want me to stay positive, live my life to the fullest and set out to do things he never got the chance to do. With that in mind, I celebrated my 23rd birthday Thai-style.

I’ve been lucky to make a lot of valuable connections in my town, and I felt so loved the entire week of my birthday. Last Monday, my favorite group of 4-year-olds surprised me with a rainbow-clad ice cream cake, balloons and the sweetest rendition of happy birthday I’ve ever heard.

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These kiddos are too pure! Click photo to enlarge.

Those little munchkins hold such a special place in my heart and I could not have been more touched by the effort that went into making me feel like a birthday princess. On Tuesday, I took my biggest risk in Thailand thus far – I got my haircut! For the price of 100 baht (less than $3) I trimmed off 2 inches and proved to myself I can make it through a haircut without crying at the end.
 
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Balloons are almost as fun as birthday cake... almost! Click photo to enlarge.

I must admit – having a birthday abroad isn’t so bad! Due to the time change, it almost felt as if I got to observe it twice: officially on Wednesday, and again the next day when the calendar turned to the 25th in America. It was so heartwarming to hear from friends all over the world wishing me a happy birthday. 

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Birthday lunch with two of my spectacular students! Click photo to enlarge.

One of my classes even ambushed me with a dessert platter complete with pink candles and a chorus of applause. I truly was caught off guard by their sneaky skills and I was so honored they went out of their way to make sure it was a remarkable day!

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Surprise! Click photo to enlarge.

By the time Friday rolled around, I was ready to get to Bangkok and meet up with all of my friends! I kicked off the festivities by telling everyone the big news that I am officially staying a second semester – all the more reason to celebrate! The fun-filled weekend included relaxing on rooftops, poolside jam sessions and rainbow drinks. The weekend wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the movies, which was my last stop before heading back home to Chachoengsao. I am so thankful for the people who traveled from across Thailand to help make my birthday unforgettable.

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Besties in Bangkok for Bryna's birthday - say that three times fast! Click photo to enlarge.

Year 23 is certainly off to an eventful start. I cherish all of the wonderful memories I’m making and I’m grateful for everything I get to experience. I know that not everyone is allotted the privilege to teach and travel abroad. I worked hard to get here and I don’t take it for granted. I am passionate about authentically documenting my time in Thailand and I am proud to share this chapter in my life with others through my blog. I’m thrilled I’ll get the opportunity to do so for a few months longer!

Bryna also blogs about her Teach Abroad journey at http://lifeofbryna.blogspot.com

10 Reasons to Explore Thailand in 2017

If you’re like me, traveling is at the top of your list of New Years Resolutions. Obviously, there are so many reasons that Thailand is arguably the most magical place on earth, but in case you need more convincing, here are my top 10 reasons to get yourself on a plane to Thailand this year:

  1. To hop from place to place without needing more than the contents of your backpack. The year-round mild weather makes packing for spontaneous trips super easy. Whether you’re headed north to the mountains, or south to the beaches, deciding what you need is a breeze. Check out my go-to packing list for ThailandImage
  2. To get the most for your money. This is the most practical reason on my list. Simply put, your money can go incredibly far. I typically spend 30 -50 Baht on a full (delicious) Thai meal. That’s around $1 USD! The hostels that my friends and I stay at range from $4-8 USD per night, and the train from my city to Bangkok costs 12-20 Baht (around 50 cents) each way. If you want to travel to a new place, and you’re worried about money, know that you will be able to see and do much more here in Thailand than anywhere in Europe, for example.  Image
  3. To venture beyond the tourist spots and find the hidden gems. It’s easy to get sucked into tourist traps like Khao San Road and Patong Beach. Those are great places to start, but if you look hard enough (and get to know the locals), your efforts will be rewarded in hidden Thai tea houses, breathtaking views, forgotten temples, and instagram-worthy train rides. Image
  4. To feel the magic of a Thai music festival. This weekend, my friends and I went to a semi-obscure indie music festival in Saraburi. It was unlike any festival I’ve been to in the US. Think Christmas lights, camping, and chilled out Thai acoustic bands… all in a green valley surrounded by mountains! Image
  5. To savor the sunsets. As you can probably tell, I’m a sucker for sunsets (and sunrises, for that matter). In true Thai “mai pen rai” style, pressing pause for an hour, sitting down, and taking the time appreciate a sunset will never disappoint you here in Thailand.​ IMG_0514
  6. To experience the pure kindness of the Thai people. This one goes out tco the many locals who have flagged down buses for us, the amazing family who helped us push our motorbikes up a steep hill, and the countless people who have pointed me in the right direction. These type of stories are not rare in Thailand! The kindness of the Thai people cannot be overstated. Image

  7. To witness every type of landscape you can imagine, all in one country. I live for the views, and the more variety the better. In Thailand you’ll find city life, chilly mountainous terrain, sprawling rice fields, ancient temples, sandy beaches, and literally everything in between. The sheer variety of landscapes was one of the main reasons I decided to move here… And everything is only a train ride away! ​ IMG_2218
  8. To taste the food. Everybody goes on and on about authentic Thai food, and for good reason. I’m not going to try to explain the deliciousness… you’ll have to come try it yourself! Image

  9. To make a difference. I came here to teach, and I have never felt so valued in a job position. My coworkers and students are incredibly determined to learn English, and their energy is contagious. My job has turned into so much more just a job! English is becoming an increasingly important skill for Thai students. You have the skills they need. So why not come here and change lives for a semester? Image
  10. For the friends you make along the way. Nothing brings people together like sweating side by side on a crowded train, enduring smelly hostel roommates together, or getting lost following each other on motorbikes (especially when you have no motorbike experience). Whether you’re coming here with your best friend, your partner, or diving in solo like I did, prepare to meet your soul sisters (or brothers) and create lasting friendships. ​ IMG_0831

So that’s my list… and believe me, I could go on forever. A bunch of people have contacted me since I’ve moved here, asking how I did it and if it’s something they could do. The answer is YES. Once you make the decision to do it, it’s easier than you think.

Next stop: Lopburi!

My First Week in Thailand

Sawatdee-kha (Hello)!

Welcome to my blog. I've only been in Thailand for one whole week now, but I have already learned a lot. This past week has been a crash course in everything Thai.

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My journey began when I touched down in Tokyo, where I was able to meet up with Stephanie & Pa Ger via the CIEE Facebook group. I thought that we would just fly to Bangkok and ride to the hotel together, but they quickly became my "orientation BFFs".

We had one day to adventure on our own, and we totally took advantage of it. In Bangkok, we took a taxi to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, Thailand's busiest and largest outdoor market. We ate fresh coconut ice cream and had our first authentic Thai meal. Then we hitched a ride on a tuk tuk and made our way onto a private little boat to explore the Chao Phraya river and its canals. For the next five days of orientation, we took classes about the Thai language, classroom management and Thai culture.

At the end of the week, we took an overnight trip to Kanchanaburi. I got to see mountains and greenery and have dinner while floating on a raft down the Kwai River.

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Here are a few crucial things I learned in the past week, in no particular order:

1. I'm not in this alone. At my orientation, there were over 150 other teachers. Everybody had the same mindset, and I wish I had known that making friends would be so incredibly easy. It was comforting for me to be in the same place as 150 other people who had quit their jobs, moved out of their houses and said goodbye to their friends and family to set off on this adventure just like me.
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2. There are a million ways to get around. Boat, tuk tuk, taxi, elephants, you name it. Drivers here are totally insane, and every time I'm riding in a car I'm scared for my life.

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3. Seat belts and other safety measures are just a suggestion.

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4. It's only a little bit scary to attempt to speak Thai to the locals. Even when I butcher every single word, they smile and appreciate the effort... or just laugh at me. The language is totally intimidating at first, but after taking a few lessons during orientation, I can almost hold a casual conversation, as long as it doesn't go beyond "How are you?" and "What is your name?"

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5. My favorite word is "Na Rak." It means cute, and it's the perfect word to use when referring to the many dogs and cats you see on the streets.

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6. Breakfast food is essentially lunch or dinner food. This was a surprise to me... and it is taking some getting used to.

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7. Coconut is EVERYWHERE and it is amazing. Coconut ice cream, coconut pudding, coconut everything.

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8. Thai people are super welcoming. Yesterday, I was greeted in Bangkok by my school's computer teacher, and taken to my house in Don Tum, Nakhon Pathom. When we got there, a bunch of Thai and Filipino teachers were waiting for me. Luckily, a few of them can speak amazing English. After taking me to dinner, two of them came over to my house and we talked for hours. I immediately felt at home. Even though I am an hour away from any of the other English teachers in my program, I don't feel isolated at all.

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This is the beginning of a very big adventure. I'm totally nervous for Monday, which will be my first day of teaching. My director at the school (who woke me up this morning and insisted on meeting with me right then, pajamas and all) informed me that I'll be teaching 1st-5th graders, four classes per day. I'll also be the captain of an intramural sports team (I requested purple team). Apparently I'm also expected to sing in the choir. She also stressed to me that I was chosen because of my background in Art, and that they would really like me to incorporate art projects into my English lesson plans, which I will so gladly do.

Right now, I'm sitting in a coffee shop in my little town by myself, and I just successfully ordered an iced green tea. It's funny that doing this in the US would feel totally normal, but right now it feels like a massive accomplishment. Baby steps!

See more at https://thaiandstopmenow.wordpress.com/ 

 

Pre-departure relaxed anxiety

Hello, readers. Welcome to my portion of the Teach in Thailand blog!  I am very excited to be a contributor amongst the rest of these very talented/intelligent/hilarious/adventurous writers, and I pledge to try and live up to the high expectations.  However, there are no guarantees and I imagine my contributions will primarily consist of what the rest of my life possesses: humor, learning, uncertainty and all of the delightful [and often eccentric] experiences that tend to follow. 

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Nevertheless, my departure date is quickly approaching, and I keep wondering when this is all going to hit me.  I do get little bursts of the realization that I am soon moving to Thailand… acquiring my visa in the mail, getting those [not so fantastic] shots, receiving that illustrious email stating that I completed my TEFL certification, or simply witnessing other people’s reactions when I tell them about this upcoming endeavor.  I find that their reactions usually fall along the lines of elation, or pure terror. 

And my theory for these reactions is this: If you are scaring other people with your life and your goals, you are absolutely doing something correctly (**the exception here is if you are a serial killer). And, if you find people who don’t think you are insane for moving to a foreign, unknown, mysterious place by yourself, it’s probably a very good idea to keep them around.  I am so looking forward to being surrounded by others who have similar goals and aspirations. 

And more importantly, I promise to try and terrify you all for the rest of my life.

Now, that’s not to say I am not nervous or anxious about this upcoming move to mold young minds abroad.  I am indeed nervous, and similar to my sudden bursts of moving-to-Thailand-realizations, I simultaneously have bursts of anxiety that arise.  They often pop up while I am driving or running or smack dab in the middle of the night — Should I bring two suitcases? What if I break my ankle while hiking a mountain?  Will I be a good teacher to these students?  Is my voice too quiet for me to pursue teaching?  Should I maybe consider miming?  Will I still be able to consume inconceivable amounts of coffee? Will the pad thai be as delicious as I dream it will be?  — And then I return back to Earth and remind myself to breathe and calm down, and I continue to daydream about pad thai (and more often than not, I’ll just email Ally and she’ll remind me that it is not a big deal. [But no really, big shout out to Ally for being awesome]).

Although there is anxiety, it is absolutely overshadowed by my excitement and how humbled I feel to have this opportunity at all.  My excitement and anticipation overshadows any significant fear, and as strange as it may sound, I am kind of scared of the fact that I am not scared of this. 

Not being scared is kinda scary.  

So, thank you for this opportunity.  Thank you for reading my sarcastic [and what I expect could be a wildly entertaining and adventurous] blog.  And thank you to my students, past and future, for motivating me to do this in the first place.

See you in Bangkok! – Probably with two suitcases and an extra ankle brace just in case.

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