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Learning, Teaching, and Caring: Gemma Describes her Activities in Thailand


By Gemma, YES Abroad 2011-2012, Thailand

School is one of the most interesting parts of living in Thailand, and is the best opportunity for me to learn about Thai culture and people. Thai school is very different then schools in the US. To me the students seem to act much younger. Thai teenagers have a very excited admiration of Western culture; everyone wants to be my friend on Facebook or take a picture with me. I found it shocking and confusing at first, but I’ve found I’m happy if I just go with the flow!

In school I take Thai language classes, sewing, Thai leaf folding and fruit carving, art, music and dance, as well as Chinese arts. I am also attending standard classes that are taught in Thai language.

In addition to school, every Wednesday I work at Cantong orphanage. Working here is one of the most exhausting things I have ever done. By the time I leave I feel like I have just run a marathon but I am also very joyful. The first week at Cantong I was able to feed only one baby lunch in the time it took the others to feed three or four. Now I am not only able to feed three babies, and I know each of them and their personalities as well. I look forward to Wednesday every week. In Thailand it feels like everyone is always taking care of me; I am happy to have the opportunity to be the one “taking care” for a change. It’s also the ultimate homesickness cure!

After I work at the orphanage I walk down the road to a grade school where one of our volunteers is an English teacher. I have a late lunch with her and then help her teach English to her fourth grade class. Every week I prepare a song and game that uses simple English to teach to the class.

I also teach an English class for the teachers at my school on Tuesday morning. I have about seven “students.” Teaching adults is surprisingly similar to teaching young students. I always have a lot of fun doing this. Since coming to Thailand I have had many opportunities to teach, which has been a good experience for me. I find myself considering becoming a teacher one day.

When I’m not at school or volunteering at the orphanage, I spend a lot of time with friends and family. On the weekends I usually go with my host family grocery shopping or to the Temple. Every Sunday morning my family and I go to Church together. I really enjoy church, though I cannot understand the sermon. Thailand has a more defined class structure than in the US, but in church I have the opportunity to meet many different kinds of Thai people. It’s also a good chance to practice Thai as most of the people at my church speak no English at all.

Every day, a year abroad seems shorter and shorter, and I want to make the most out of every second!