My time teaching English in Chiang Rai [Northern Thailand] this summer was an amazing, exhausting and rewarding experience. It was a challenge and a rollercoaster of emotions, but looking back now I cannot think of a better way to spend my summer. All my advice in this case study is relative to my own experience in School but hopefully it can give you a taste of what volunteering in Thailand is like.
I packed light for this trip, taking about 1 or 2 weeks worth of clothes with the hope of washing them for the rest of the project. Be prepared to get rid of clothes after and during the project because you will not want to keep them. Try to pack your bag with as many resources as you can, the school and the kids will thank you for it!
Keeping covered is important in Thailand but it is not essential. When teaching you need to make sure your shoulders, chest and knees covered (just as if you were teaching in England). When on weekends or after school you can choose to wear what you like but I would advise nothing too short or revealing because of the attention you would get. My hosts were not bothered by what we wore but other hosts were not so liberal.
Take as much as you can! My partner and I bought things while on the project to use in the lessons as well as the stuff we brought. Making the resources you bring reusable is helpful as one resource can then last the whole 6 weeks i.e. a ball, skipping rope and laminating sheets of paper to use as a whiteboard.
The food in Thailand is very good, I loved it! Though the Thai people like spicy food they do have a lot of things that weren’t spicy i.e. vegetables and rice, Phat Thai (fried noodles) or noodle soup. There would always be fried eggs and omelettes on offer as an alternative. Thai people in our area drank bottled water, so don’t drink the tap water. Our host loved it when we were eating and even more when we enjoyed it so be prepared to be saying “Aroy” which means delicious!
We were very lucky and were given bikes. This meant we could cycle to school and back on most days, it also helped that our school was only 10 mins away. Our host had a car and was very generous with lifts but it was always nice to find your own way around. Getting a bus was relatively easy, you could flag them down on the road and return on the same service. Getting a tuk tuk (a little taxi) was a little expensive but it is always nice to know you’ve got a plan b.
A day in school
The first lesson was at 8.30am. The children got to school very early and cleaned till 8.20am when they all stood for the national anthem and general notices. The day was divided into 6, 1hour, lessons with 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. Lunch was at 11.30 till 12.30. This meant the children left school at around 3.30pm to 4pm. Again this was my experience, yours maybe slightly different.
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