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Teaching and Volunteering in Thailand

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Written by: Helen Bray

A Placement in the Land of Smiles

Taking a gap year was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. I was fed up of learning facts just to regurgitate them all in exams. I wanted to learn about people, the world, and get a grasp of the bigger picture. So I set out looking for a way to fulfil my dreams.
My highest priority was that my experience should be as full and productive as possible, not just a break from studies.
After much preparation at home and a two-week teaching skills course in Bangkok, all the volunteers and I set off to our designated schools. Leaving the security of the group in the hotel to go off in a minibus with a group of Thai teachers was… terrifying! As was introducing myself to the whole school over a microphone! Not to mention the first time I stood at the front of the class holding nothing but my carefully coloured-in flash cards and a beanbag!
A school in Thailand

A sense of achievement

But that initial fear is soon replaced by a much warmer and more satisfying feeling of achievement. The children were so excited to have us teaching them – we were bombarded by lots of little hands, smiles and ‘hello’s every time we stepped out of our door! After being awoken by the school anthem played at full volume through the speakers in our room of course! Before long, the place had become our home, the people our family. The Thai people were so generous, thoughtful and selfless. They’d give you the world if they could, and by the end I wanted to give them the world too.
Our day-to-day routine consisted of between two and five hours of lessons and activity groups, a lunch (how many of your friends can say they’ve lived on Thai school dinners?!) and rounded off with aerobics and dinner. Speaking of food – it really is aroi, or delicious in Thai! I lived by the sea, which meant huge fresh fish, shrimps and oysters, literally plucked out of the sea and served (generally with a bit of cooking in between)! My teaching partner and I were even given cooking lessons from the restaurants we went to on a regular basis!
I have so many fantastic memories of my time in Thailand, ranging from skydiving to hearing my class of forty ten-year olds shouting ‘red lorry, yellow lorry’! I’m so glad I took a gap year. I’m a more confident, more independent person. And in a bigger way, it made me realise how much more there is to see in the world! It also showed me just how vast the range of opportunities available to everyone really is, as long as you’re willing to put the effort in to get where you want to be. It’s a good lesson to learn, and I can’t think of a better way of learning it!

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