I just passed the midway mark of my TESOL course in Chiang Mai, Thailand. TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. So far the course has been packed full of adventures, full days of classroom learning, and college dorm style living. We’ve visited temples, the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon, an elephant sanctuary, several night markets, too many 7-11’s to count (they’re everywhere!), meditated with monks, made paper with elephant dung, and challenged myself to find the best vegetarian food in Chiang Mai (not an easy task).
I was concerned about the dorm style living when I first applied for this program. Cringe! I haven’t shared a room with a stranger since my freshman year of college, 14 years ago. I’m also a very independent, introverted woman and crave silence and alone time after spending significant time around large groups of people. I was reassured by the program coordinator prior to my arrival in Chiang Mai that it’s actually a great experience to share a room with another TESOL student. I’m happy to say that I’m actually enjoying the experience. My roommate and I have many of the same interests and very similar personality types so it’s been really easy to cohabitate in our 20 square meter (215 square foot) room. After all, the Universe reflects back to you what you put out. Positivity reflects positivity.
I’m the second oldest in the group. Most of the TESOL students are 8-10 years younger than me, including some of the instructors. It’s refreshing to hear their stories of recent college graduations, beginning independent lives in the real world, and making some of the choices my younger self wanted to make, like traveling straight out of college rather than jumping into the corporate world because I was “supposed to.” I’m embracing my age and life experience, while holding space to learn as much as I can from everyone around me, regardless of their age. I truly believe every person you cross paths with in life has something to teach you, and you can also teach them something. Age never matters in that equation.
Last Friday we had our first teaching experience at a local school. It was an eye-opener to say the least. I had no idea what to expect, but had heard through the grapevine that “English Camp” was rough. The local school we taught at had just come back from a school break, students were anticipating an afternoon sports activity, and it was an optional school day. Not to mention low English proficiency and an intense language barrier. Put that combination together in your mind and you may be able to catch a glimpse of how much English was learned that day.
We worked together as teachers and survived English Camp. I experienced things I never thought I’d see children do. You know how sometimes they say, the best way to learn is the hard way? I know that way all too well, and that’s exactly what the first day of English Camp was. It was also an incredible bonding experience. We worked together to support each other and problem solve like our lives depended on it. I celebrated on Friday night with two glasses of red wine with the rest of the teachers at an Old City touristy bar. Drinking is a special occasion thing for me, and typically consists of 1-2 glasses of wine (and yes, I still have fun). Wine is the most expensive alcohol out here, but for my minimal drinking experiences I’m happy to pay a little extra.
Today we started to have individual meetings with the placement coordination team. The team works with Thailand schools and agents to hire each of the TESOL instructors at a Thai school. The anticipation has been extremely high among the group (imagine showing up in Thailand to teach English and having no idea what city you’ll end up, just trusting the placement team to do the best they can to place you in a desirable location). The placement team provided some preliminary information about the type of school and age group we may be teaching in, and for some of us the actual city and school. The idea of teaching English in Thailand became a reality today. Ignorance was bliss for the first few weeks, dreaming about teaching all different age groups, in all different cities. My mind has a tendency to go wild when given many potential scenarios. Subconsciously, I’ll create a life for myself in Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Phuket, and the Isan province. Stop, brain, don’t create expectations in the future, they don’t exist! It’s an ongoing challenge for me. The preliminary information I received is exciting, but confidential for now.
Stay tuned for more adventures in TESOL training and an update on my placement! Cheers from Thailand!