Volunteer Review: Teaching in Thailand – Erica Cavanaugh
During the second year of my Bachelor’s degree in Boston, Massachusetts, I became confused and anxious as to what I wanted to do with my life and if what I was doing was the right thing for me. I was rushed right into university after high school and felt like I was not given a chance to decide what I wanted to do for myself. Volunteering abroad in an exciting and interesting place has always been a dream of mine, so when a friend told me about Projects Abroad I knew that I wanted to take a semester off and volunteer with them. I decided to volunteer in Thailand because I had never been to Asia and I had heard wonderful things about the people and culture. So, in September 2011 I was placed to volunteer in the English Camp for children in Krabi, Thailand for one month. It was a very spontaneous and significant decision at the time and looking back on it now it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Arriving in Thailand
After saying goodbye to my friends and family, all of them much more nervous than I was to travel to the other side of the world (with a huge eleven hours’ time difference!), I boarded the first leg of my 4-plane trip to Thailand. Feeling delirious and nervous at the same time, I was greeted by the sweetest Projects Abroad staff member holding my name on a sign and excited to welcome me to Thailand. At that moment I knew that the month ahead of me would be one of the most exciting times of my life and that I needed to experience everything as fully and actively as possible.
Pasha showed me around Krabi on my induction day. That day was jam packed with information, senses, experiences and sites that I had never seen before. First, the weather was among the most extreme I had ever experiences, with extreme heat and sun one minute, and then a torrential down pour the next. The street food was delicious, the smells of the curry and spices filling the air around me. We visited a mosque, which was also a first for me, that sat on the top of a hill with what seemed like thousands of stairs spiraling up to reach it.
After the tour of the city, Pasha explained to me what I would be doing in the English Camp and what I could expect of my trip in general. At that point, I was so excited and anxious to meet my fellow volunteers and start working in the camp.
Because the English Camp did not start until a few days after I arrived in Thailand, I was able to meet my fellow volunteers and get to know each other while spending our weekend on the gorgeous beaches of Ao Nang.
The first week of my placement, we met at the local Projects Abroad Office in Krabi to make our teaching plans for each day of the camp. We created posters, games, songs and different teaching topics that we thought the children would benefit most from. The Projects Abroad staff was there, guiding us on how and what we should teach the children. This week also was important for the volunteers to get to know each other more and build teamwork so that the two weeks teaching in the English Camp would be the most efficient and beneficial.
The English Camp was open to children on school vacation between the ages of around 7-12. On the first day of camp, I was extremely nervous because I had never taught children before. However, my fears quickly vanished when all of the children arrived and I saw their happiness and willingness to learn. Each day, one of the volunteers was the MC, meaning they were the ones that guided everyone throughout the entire day with the schedule and facilitated a game in the morning.
The children seemed to enjoy the camp and learn a lot, while the volunteers felt accomplished and as if we made a difference, I know I did. I will never forget the last day of the camp when all of the children’s parents came to pick them up to leave, and the children were hugging us and speaking short sentences in English such as “thank you!” and “I miss you”. That day I knew that I made the right decision to volunteer in Thailand with Projects Abroad.
The host family that I stayed with consisted of a woman and her mother in a house in the center of Krabi Town. I also lived with a fellow volunteer of the English Camp, a Danish girl that I became great friends with and am still am to this day. The daughter was a bit older than we were and spent a lot of time with us when we were home. She cooked dinner for us each night and made me feel comfortable at all times. I believe that the family that I was placed with along with living with a fellow volunteer made my entire experience that much better. I am so thankful for the place that I called home away from home.
During the weekends and other down time, I made sure to experience as much of Thailand as possible. The other volunteers and I often visited Ao Nang, where we rented hotel rooms, ate out and swam in the crystal clear waters. Another weekend I ventured to Phuket with some other volunteers where we saw elephants roaming the beaches, exciting nightlife and went bungee jumping!
During my time in Thailand, I became very close to one of the Danish volunteers. It was clear to me from the day we met that I wanted to get to know him more. The day we left Thailand for our own countries was a sad day; however, we made plans to visit each other very soon. I visited Denmark one month after our Thai adventure. I then moved to Denmark and enrolled in University there. Four years after we met in Thailand, volunteering in an English Camp, we are still together living in Denmark. I will forever be grateful to Projects Abroad for giving me the opportunity to volunteer teaching children, in the most beautiful country I have ever seen and to meet the person that I love. Projects Abroad gave me the start to the life that I have always wanted.
Since Thailand, I have chosen a career of international humanitarian and development work. Volunteering with Projects Abroad has opened my mind to this work and has given me the experience I needed to choose what I wanted to study, which internships I wanted and which career path to take. I will always be grateful for this experience and would highly recommend Projects Abroad to anyone that I meet.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.