Overall Rating:/ 10My time in Chiang Mai has allowed me to experience so much more than I could have ever anticipated. I remember getting on my plane to Thailand with butterflies in my stomach, nervous because I simply didn't know what I would expect. Would I be adequate as an English teacher, especially since I had never formally taught before? Would I meet many other volunteers, especially since I was starting so late in the summer?
Arriving in Chiang Mai and getting acquainted with Love Volunteers' partner organization, Friends for Asia, first thing really dispelled my anxieties. The FFA staff was very accommodating and were more than willing to address any concerns I had during my two weeks, whether it regarded my placement to booking weekend trips around the country. From the orientation weekend the staff organized the weekend I arrived to the volunteer house I and the other volunteers were set up in, everything made adjusting to life in a new country very smooth.
Teaching English, however, was a new challenge unto itself. My coordinator at the school was the head English teacher; however, I worked directly with one of the English Teaching Assistants and taught primary school levels P1-P5 with him. My experience teaching can only be summed up as joyous, fun, tiring, and at times frustrating, but what else can you expect from working with such young kids. Overall, I loved my experience as a teacher and it was such a pleasure getting to know the students and the faculty. Since I only taught for 2 weeks, I felt like I had just started getting to know everyone at the school by the time I left. I would advise future volunteers to stay for at least 4 weeks since you do build a relationship with the people you work with at your placement.
One thing to note is that the Thai education system as well as classroom culture differs vastly from that in the US. Many times, I found the values that had been instilled in me since I was young tested whilst I taught, especially regarding cheating. I could see that this lenience towards cheating hindered the students from developing a real understanding of English, but to the students and the faculty, what I would consider cheating was viewed as helping each other out. For future English teachers, I would advise to respect the local culture, even if it goes against your home country's culture.
All in all, my two short weeks in Thailand was an incredible experience. From teaching to my adventures with the other volunteers during my free time, I have made so many good memories that I will keep with me forever.