Ellie Johnston - Teaching English & Other Subjects in Thailand
Deciding on Thailand
As a 30 year old career breaker, I had reached a turning point in my life. I wanted to experience something new and exciting whilst working towards a worthwhile cause. I spontaneously decided to register with Projects Abroad as I was confident that this highly regarded organization would offer me something completely different that would be challenging yet rewarding. Moreover, I was keen to travel to another part of the world and embrace a foreign country and culture.
After researching various projects, I set my sights on an elementary school teaching project in Thailand. This is definitely the most adventurous and bravest decision I have ever made and it is something now that I look back on with fulfillment, happiness and cherished memories.
Arriving in Thailand
Just under six weeks after being accepted onto Projects Abroad I was on the flight to Thailand. There was no going back. With weeks of frantic preparations behind me and my head filled with so many thoughts, fears and questions, I realized that this was the start of a great adventure. After a long and exhausting journey I was over the moon to finally arrive in Krabi and be warmly welcomed at the airport by a smiling Nou, one of the local Projects Abroad staff.
We jumped on to the Projects Abroad truck and that was when the intense heat engulfed me. Slightly overwhelmed in my exhausted state, I couldn't help smiling to myself thinking about the harsh winter I had left behind. At that moment, I suddenly felt a surge of energy and excitement about my month in Thailand. These feelings were reinforced when I was greeted so warmly by my host family and the neighbors. Apprehensions were immediately eased and I knew then that I had landed in a very loving and caring family.
My teaching placement
Having no prior experience of classroom teaching, I was quite daunted about teaching classes of 25-30 children and particularly because I don't speak Thai. However, I brought lots of teaching materials with me such as coloring books, worksheets, coloring pencils and ideas for games and activities which came in very useful! The children particularly loved when I sang with them, played simple games or did drawing and coloring activities.
My first lesson was the P2 class who were very well behaved and great fun to teach. They were very excited to have me in the school and at the end of class I was overwhelmed when they came running to me with pictures, hearts and paper objects that they had made for me. I felt very humbled and was so happy to be volunteering at that school. Not all age groups were as easy to teach but the common factor amongst all the children was that they were so happy and appreciative of my presence and the other volunteers at the school.
Lunch breaks were always fun packed with games that the children would teach us to play in the playground and the sound of the bell ringing would always bring lots of hugs and fond farewells until being greeted again with big smiling faces the following day at school. The teachers were also very friendly and made me and the other volunteers feel welcome. On my final day, the teachers organized a special lunch as a local Thai restaurant and I was presented with a certificate and a beautiful shell mirror. This was a really nice touch to end my placement at the school and it was clear just how much the teachers appreciated having me at their school.
Staying with my host family
My host family was wonderful and went out of their way to make my short stay as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. My host mum cooked lovely meals. I was always treated to wide variety of mouth-watering Thai dishes and delicacies and each day there was something different on the table for me to taste. I was given a good size and comfortable bedroom and I soon became acquainted with the Geckos sharing my room!
At weekends and sometimes during the week, the family took me to see local beaches, markets, places of interest and Buddhist Temples. I even participated in some of the family's Buddhist rituals at these Temples which I found very peaceful and calming. My host mum spoke good English and was keen to practice and improve with my help. We enjoyed chatting to each other about our different countries and cultures.
Experiencing Thailand - some of the highlights
Krabi Provence is spectacularly beautiful and there is so much to see and do in the area. I particularly enjoyed going on speed boat tours to the surrounding Islands and beaches such as Hong Island and Lagoon. On another tour to Phi Phi Island I had fun snorkeling amongst the colorful fish in the magnificent clear blue sea.
I enjoyed a fascinating trip with my host family to Ao Luk where we visited Phi Hua To Cave and saw prehistoric cave paintings of curious looking animals and people. Another memorable moment for me was climbing 1,237 steps to the golden Buddha at the top of Tiger Cave Temple. I also thoroughly enjoyed browsing around the colorful markets trying out new exotic fruits, choosing souvenirs or simply absorbing the bustle and fusion of aromas!
Whether embracing the mysterious wonders of the tropical rainforest, gazing over the dramatic limestone scenery or lounging on the white sandy beaches I was always fascinated by the breath-taking natural variety and awe inspiring beauty of Thailand. It really is paradise!
My experience teaching English in Thailand is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life - the wonderful people I met, the experiences I enjoyed, the fears which I faced and many dreams which came true. I can definitely say that it is an experience which had enriched all aspects of my life positively and taught me the importance of appreciating the simple pleasures and qualities in life.