Lucy Richards - General Teaching Projects in Thailand
Leaving For Thailand
On Sunday 2nd June 2013, there I was, sitting in Heathrow Airport departure lounge, absolutely quivering in my boots. I was about to face the most nerve wrecking experience of my life so far: heading off to Thailand for 2 months to teach English, totally on my own. To top it off, I had zero teaching experience! After enduring a tedious 13-hour journey, I then arrived in Krabi, with no reason to have ever been nervous.
The amount of smiling faces I was welcomed by were enough to put the most nervous person at ease. The Projects Abroad staff were eagerly awaiting my arrival at the airport, and swiftly got me on my way to meet my host Mother. The journey to her house, in the back of an authentic Thai bus, was extremely exciting.
I was very apprehensive on what to expect, although again, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. My host Mother’s name was Pi Nong and she was well and truly the most caring and generous woman I had ever met. The other volunteers I was living with were also so welcoming and lovely, and we sat straight down to a gorgeous home cooked Thai meal and chatted all night.
My first couple of days in Krabi were spent with the Projects Abroad staff, having in depth inductions to the area, being informed of Thai culture and receiving plenty of tips and tricks related to teaching. After all of this, and plenty of reassurance, I embarked on my first day at Ban Ao Nammao Primary School. My placement school was very small, having only 1 class per year and only 100 students in total!
After introducing myself on the megaphone to a very excited group of children, I got stuck straight into my teaching role. The level of English within the school was extremely poor, and English programmes were only provided for the older children. Nevertheless, in what can only be described as a game of charades, we managed somehow to communicate!
I attempted to teach the children a bit of everything. From animals to sports, and from telling the time to taking part in role-plays, I tried my best to constantly develop fun and interesting tasks to keep the children interested and ultimately, help them learn.
Helping the Community
Once a month, the Projects Abroad staff would organise outreach projects. During these, all the volunteers (from all the different programmes) would come together to take part in a scheme to help the community.
The first one I took part in was decorating a local school’s English classroom. After planning how we would transform the room and buying tons of materials, around 30 Projects Abroad volunteers and a P4 class worked their magic on creating a fun place for the children to learn. The final result was absolutely amazing!
The second outreach was very different. To help develop another local school, the plan was to plant 100 trees in their grounds. However before hand, we had to teach the children various amounts of gardening related vocabulary. For this task, I was in charge! It was my job to get up on the microphone in front of around 200 volunteers and children, and conduct the English lesson. This is something I could never have imagined myself doing, yet the enjoyment I received from it was absolutely incredible.
As well as plating trees, we made our way to a local Buddhist Temple. At the time it was Buddhist Lent, so therefore, we took part in various prayers led by the monks and made offerings of various parcels. It was so interesting to be able to have an insight into their culture, and it was certainly something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do!
Most Memorable Experiences
Although my travel time around Thailand was something I will never forget, my most memorable experiences always involve the amazing children that I was awarded the privilege of being able to teach. Waking up on a morning before school was never a chore, as the thought of all the smiling faces awaiting my arrival honestly made me excited for every day ahead.
One evening, a fellow volunteer and I had the opportunity to take a number of the children to the park. After piling them all into a tuk tuk, (with one of their teachers keeping us company) we played for hours, bought the children ice-cream and dropped them all back home to their lovely parents. Being able to see where all these children I taught came from, and being able to meet their families was incredible. This day was by far my most memorable day of my whole stay in Thailand.
My Last Day in Thailand
Leaving Thailand was one of the saddest days I’ve ever had to endure. On my last day of school, the teachers and children gathered together, read speeches and gave me presents: I absolutely cried my eyes out! Saying goodbye to Pi Nong however, proved even more difficult. She wasn’t just a host Mother to me, she was like my real Mother, and I miss her so much still to this day.
Anyone in the world can travel wherever they want. Anyone can travel to Thailand and see the beautiful islands, wild parties and pretty beaches. But the experience I had there, not many people can come close to witnessing half the stuff I did. The amount of real life Thai culture I was exposed to when living in Krabi is something that the majority of people are never going to see in their entire lives. When you go on holiday there, you're never going to see the real Thailand, and it's such a shame! I wish everyone could experience just a tenth of what I did! It really opens your eyes as to what's important.
I cannot put into words how incredible my stay in Thailand was. The way it has developed my confidence, the way it has opened my eyes and the people it has led me to meet has made it the most worthwhile experience of my life and I would encourage anyone to get involved. I’m also on the way to becoming a fully qualified Primary School teacher, a career I never even considered but now couldn’t imagine living without. So I guess I have Thailand to thank for that!