Expect the Unexpected
As I am nearing the end of my journey in Thailand, I am feeling all the feels and I also feel like giving generic advice on how to travel and how to pack is not serving me as a writer. So instead, I look back on all I have learned and share it with you. One thing I have gotten the chance to journal and reflect on is the unexpected nature of living and teaching in Thailand. It has allowed me to realize just how much I’ve grown in this process and have been pushed way out of my comfort zone. As a human of habit, I was in a very solid routine at home, doing my mundane activities and planning out every single moment. As soon as I arrived off the flight in Thailand, I soon realized that doing that here was going to be close to impossible. I had to trade in my old ways for a new one which is what this journey is all about and despite it not being what I am used to, it has helped me so much in exploring my true self. There are five things that I have compiled and reflected on looking back on my time here that I think are great pieces of advice/insight to pass along to someone looking to teach abroad in Thailand in the future.
Expect the unexpected.
If there is one thing I have learned, it is to expect the unexpected, meaning you should never assume anything because chances are it is not going to be what you think. For example, coming here I thought I was going to be placed as a kindergarten English teacher. Alas, when I arrived, my school had an opening for a primary aged science teacher and that was the position that I filled. Did I study science in college? No. Have I ever taught science before? Bigger no. Have I ever even taught ANYTHING before? Biggest no. So assuming things will get you nowhere, and if you take everything with a grain of salt and are ready to adapt on the fly, then this may be the place for you.
Another example would be the typical changes in schedule. I have a weekly schedule that I follow so you would assume that I would teach those classes everyday, right? Wrong. Many times I show up to class, the students are working on a project, practicing their instruments, or are not even in the classroom. In my typical life before, this would make me upset. At first, I would think to myself “why didn’t anyone tell me?” or “now we are going to be behind in class.” But as time has gone on I have realized that this is just how things are going to be here, or at least at my school. So you really have to adjust and roll with the punches.
You can take whatever is thrown at you.
This one is for the sake of life inside and outside of school. You may get on the wrong bus. You may buy more food than you had wanted because of the language barrier. You may struggle to communicate. There are going to be struggles but if being here has taught me anything, it is that you can handle whatever is thrown your way. You have to have a brave personality to embark on this journey, so you can definitely be brave enough to whip out google translate when you are in a situation where you do not know the language to use. If you get lost during your travels, know that there is ALWAYS going to be a way back to your home.
Have grace with yourself.
This one, even four months into this journey, I have to remind myself everyday. Have grace with yourself. Being hard on yourself during your time here will ultimately ruin the experience. I have to tell myself often that it is my own journey and not anybody else's. If you don’t want to go somewhere, then don’t. If there is somewhere you really want to go but no one else does, then go yourself. If you are having a hard time adjusting to the culture, give it some time.
I remember when I first got here, I was riddled with food poisoning and was so stressed out by culture shock that I was so convinced that this was not the place for me. Four months in and I have never felt so at home. Give yourself a chance to adapt and adjust. It might take longer than other people and that is okay. But it is your own journey and I promise you will learn so much more about yourself if you just have a little grace with yourself.
Don’t take anything too seriously.
If you take anything too seriously, I will be honest, things will be difficult for you. Yes, teaching is a serious job and there is a lot expected out of you. But there is no reason you should be taking the stress of work home with you after school. It is not worth it with the little time you are spending here. There will be times where work is much more busy than normal, but there is still no reason you should be overworking yourself. Thai culture is pretty laid back and if you explain why something may be causing you stress then I promise someone will understand. Just focus on the positives and have fun with it because that is what it is all about!
You are capable of so much more than you may ever know.
It honestly took me a while to realize this one. I don’t think I understood completely just how much I had learned until my boyfriend came to visit me. I think that not only he realized, but I had realized just how much I have grown personally since being here. I can now speak a couple of Thai phrases, I can get around the country so easily, I can hop on a motorbike taxi, I can go on trips on my own, I can make friends with people of all different cultures and backgrounds, I can teach a class of 25 rowdy first graders. I am capable of SO much. I would have never known how much if I did not come here. I know that I am going to be able to take all of this knowledge back home and be a bigger and better person because of it.
Those are my main pieces of advice and insight I have for someone looking to travel solo on this journey and explore the world. So before you decide to travel on this journey to teaching abroad in Thailand, remember to expect the unexpected, you can take whatever is thrown at you, have grace with yourself, don’t take anything too seriously, and never forget… that you are capable of so much more than you may ever have known.
Trying to figure out what to pack for Thailand and wished for a more comprehensive list? Here is what I brought from home, what I could have done without, and what I wished I brought. Hope this helps!
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