Volunteering Abroad: Jane Nay

 

Name: Jane Nay
Major: B.A. in Economics ’13
Hometown: Salisbury, Maryland
Location: Chachoengsao, Thailand
Program: CIEE, Teaching at Rajabhat Rajanagarindra University from Oct. ’13 – Oct ’14

Q. How did you decide that Thailand was the right place for you? How did you find out about the program? 

I knew I wanted to go abroad and experience something different once I graduated from Towson, but had no idea where or how to start the process. I talked to my professor, Dr. Seth Gitter, about what I wanted to do and he recommended CIEE.

After looking into all the different countries CIEE has, the programs in Thailand stood out to me. I’m not sure exactly why. I liked that Thailand is a slow paced ‘no worries’ or “mai ben rai” kind of place. I read that the people in Thailand are extremely nice and welcoming (true). I liked the idea of going to a Buddhist country, learning about a new religion, and seeing amazing temples. And, of course, the delicious food and amazing beaches!

Q. What is your daily workload like as a teacher in Thailand?

I teach 7 classes, 5 days a week. Each class is three hours long so I only have one or two classes per day. When I am not teaching I am in the office. My time in the office is spent making lesson plans, creating worksheets, and grading. I am expected to be at school (teaching or in the office) from 8:30- 4:30 every day.

My school does not have text books to work out of, so I have to create lesson plans without having anything to work off of. Lesson planning is harder and more time consuming than I expected it to be. I also travel between campuses every day. The work plus the travel can be stressful and exhausting but is also rewarding.

Q. What has been the most rewarding part of volunteering abroad?

The most rewarding thing is making progress in my classes. Most of the students in my class have very little, or no, knowledge of the English language. This makes it hard to teach when English is the only language I speak. I will spend 20 minutes trying to act out and explain a topic, or even a word, in many different ways. Finally, I will say or do something that just clicks for the students. You know because a group of 15 students will say “OHHHH” in unison. That sound is the best sound I have ever heard.

I also find it very rewarding to see students become comfortable speaking English. As the semester has progressed more students are coming up to ask for help. When I first started they were afraid to talk to me, or in English at all. Now, many students are trying.

Q. And the most challenging part? The most surprising?

The most challenging part is communication in the classroom and lesson planning. Each of my classes have around 50 students who range from good at speaking English to having no English at all. It is very hard to create a lesson plan that works for each student because of this huge range. Some days the 3 hours drag. Students don’t seem to understand a thing I am saying. Other days the lessons go just as I wanted. I am still learning the best way to communicate to my students.

The most unexpected, or surprising, thing was having surgery in Thailand. After only being in Thailand for a little over a month, my appendix burst. It got really bad really fast. One day I had a simple stomach ache and two days later I was having surgery. Communication was extremely difficult. Nurses and doctors did not speak English and I do not speak Thai. This experience was the worst, yet the best, thing that has happened to me so far in Thailand. It was the worst for obvious reasons. It was the best because I realized the support I had here in Thailand. I truly got to experience the kind nature of Thais that I have heard so much about. I did not have to stay alone in the hospital once, even if that meant a friend of a friend of my boss stayed the night with me. People were bringing me food once I got home from the hospital. Many people in my town were looking after me. It was a great feeling to know that I had a family here in Thailand and that I don’t ever have to worry about being alone.

Q. How is teaching abroad different from studying abroad?

Since I have never studied abroad, this is a question I cannot answer from experience. I think the main difference would be the responsibility. One thing people have to remember when considering teaching abroad is that it is a job. Not only do you have to show up to class, but you have to be completely (physically and mentally) there every day all day. I have expectations from the University. I have students I am responsible for.

Q. Has your time abroad met your expectations?

My time abroad has been great but in different ways than I expected. I expected to spend most of my time abroad traveling around Thailand and Asia. I do travel and get the chance to see great things, but not as much as I expected. Sometimes it is not realistic to travel since I only have off Saturday and Sunday. This is not a bad thing, though. I have had the chance to meet people, make great friends, and become part of a community. I feel more at home in Thailand than I ever expected. I don’t think this would have happened if I was always on the move.

Q. Any advice for others considering spending time abroad?

Keep an open mind and put yourself out there. It is important to go out and meet people around the town you live in and learn about a new culture. There will be times when you get frustrated and disagree with the way things are in the country you are in. I was told to remember things are not wrong they are just different. I think that is an important thing to remember.

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