When applying to Teach Abroad, one of the hardest decisions is where in the world you should teach. The list of countries hiring English Teachers is extensive and every country comes with its unique culture, beauty and cuisine. Then you finally decide and share the news with your friends, family, co-workers. The very first question will typically be, "So, why Thailand?".
Why Thailand? I chose Thailand for a number of reasons, but the main reason was because I knew how different it would be from my home country. It has been a dream of mine to live abroad and I knew that was because I wanted to experience a brand new culture. I wanted to understand new perspectives. I wanted to try foods that scared me. I wanted to see places that would be nearly impossible to get to with American PTO. So what better place than Thailand? 8,500 miles away from my hometown, a native language that you can't even find on Duolingo, and famous for its street food. It felt like the biggest leap I could take and I wanted to take this dream by storm.
After choosing the country, I started to research the different regions. That's when I started to build an idea of what my experience would look like. "If I go North, I'll have the mountains and hiking", "If I go South, I'll have the beaches and night life", "If I go Central, I'll have the cities and it will be easy to get around"... if this is your train of thought: STOP. I put every region into a tiny little box before coming to Thailand and I somehow believed my stereotypes were accurate. The hard truth is, you don't know what you'll get until you're here. So drop your expectations and come ready to experience the journey that you are thrown into with an open mind.
After all that, I was placed in Khon Kaen. A city in the North Eastern region. Notice the North Eastern region wasn't even on the list above? I didn't even consider that Khon Kaen would be my placement, but I am thankful.
I was hesitant. It's a city. I prefer mountains, hiking, camping... the great outdoors. Yet, here I am in an apartment complex 3-minutes walking distance to the nearest 7-Eleven. They really threw me for a loop, huh? So why am I grateful? It's not what I put as my top choice, it's busy roads, crowded streets, there are big malls and it would take 45 minutes on foot to get to my friend's apartment that lives in a different part of the city. I am grateful because every location has its perks and I've found some of the wonderful perks of Khon Kaen. Don't let your visual of your "life in Thailand" dictate how your experience should have gone and just embrace what you do have. What I have is: a room with air conditioning, access to hundreds of restaurants (representing cuisine from all over the world!), a mall with everything you could possibly need, a 15-minute walk to a lake with a running trail and palm trees, constant opportunities to meet new people and friends, and night markets galore! Living in the city has also pushed me to try motorbiking. I rent a bike from a local shop and it gets me around everywhere. It was terrifying at first, but once I learned, I feel confident driving all over town. Annnnd with the motorbike, I have access to the neighboring national parks. So that nature craving is still being met as I drive just 1-hour this weekend for a 6-mile hike.
So, don't compare your experience to your friends' from orientation. Make with what you've got and find the reasons to love it!