„I like to eat fried lie with chicken”
“Excuse me, fried what with chicken?”
“Lie. You know. Not noodles but lie”
Volunteering in Thailand as an English teacher is an interesting experience. Thai pronunciation and accent, difficulties with saying “r” or word endings are just some of the challenges I encountered (that’s why a word sounding like “lie” can mean rice, light, right and many more… 🙂 ).
This experience gave me a lot of satisfation, knowledge and conclusions though. What was it like in practice? 🙂
Volunteering in Asia – Teaching English in Thailand
1. Volunteering in Thailand – Organization
I organized my volunteering in Thailand via workaway.info. Workaway is a big site with volunteering opportunities and I know many people who used it – like Dev who did workaway in Rome so I was confident I will find something interesting there. I wanted to experience something different than during my previous volunteering projects in Russia and the USA so I decided I will teach English there. I’ve read many articles about teaching a language abroad (like this great one about teaching English in Colombia) and I was ready for a challenge.
It was harder than I initially thought to find a host in Thailand. Many people answered that minimum length of stay is three months. It makes sense – if you teach English overseas to kids, they need time to get used to a new teacher. If teachers changed every month, it would be more difficult for them to learn.
Read more about organization of a volunteering trip here: How To Volunteer Abroad? Step By Step Guide
2. Volunteering in Thailand – where, what and how?
Eventually I found an opportunity in Brainstorm Nong Chang language school which connected teaching kids face-to-face and adults on Skype. I wanted to see “real” Thailand far from touristic places but I didn’t want to go to a Thai middle of nowhere either. This place met both criteria – the school is located in a non-touristic region of Thailand, Uthai Thani province. It takes only 3,5 hours by bus from Bangkok to get to Uthai Thani.
I got accepted in Brainstorm Nong Chang language school for 4 weeks.
After arriving to Thailand we travelled for 3 weeks. We focused mostly on the nothern part of the country – check this Thailand itinerary to know which places I visited. After three weeks of travelling I got to Uthai Thani.
3. First impression
My first hours of volunteering in Thailand were tough. Many things were different than I thought. I expected I’ll have most of the lessons face-to-face with kids and just a few Skypes. It turned out to be the opposite. I’ll have two lessons with kids a week, and 5-6 Skype lessons with adults a day, 40 minutes each.
Accommodation didn’t meet my expectations either. I didn’t expect luxury but a room with nothing else but thin mattresses on the floor surprised me anyway.
No hot water under shower, many scary rules written on the door – “use air conditioning only during classes, always close the door to your room, don’t flush toilet paper…”
Also when I arrived other volunteers had Skype classes and Fai, after showing me my room disappeared. I felt a little lost and disappointed with the situation.
4. Second and final impression
But the first impression disappeared quickly. When Skype lessons ended, I met other volunteers. We sat around the table in front of the house. Pong, our host poured me a drink with Thai whisky and started teaching me their party games.
That night, when in international company with a plastic cup full of whisky we talked, sang and made chicken sounds – I knew it will be good… 🙂
People turned out amazing – other volunteers, Fai and Pong. House rules after a few days didn’t seem scary anymore. Skype lessons with adults were much more interesting than lessons with kids. I learned a lot about Thai people and Thailand. Cold shower? Who would miss a hot one with temperatures over 35 degrees Celcius… 🙂
5. Volunteering in Thailand – what was my day like?
Every day in the morning Fai prepared our Skype lessons plan for the day. Skype lessons took place in the afternoon. They started from 3 pm and last classes finished at 10 pm. It doesn’t mean we all worked all these hours. Depending on the number of volunteers, we had between 4 and 7 lessons, 40 minutes each.
Each of us also had 1,5 hours of classes with kids twice a week. Fai prepared exercises for us and explained what to do. Fai and Pong helped us to teach the youngest groups. It would be impossible to manage these little monsters on our own… 🙂
The atmosphere of Skype lessons was relaxed. Each student had his own folder with notes made by previous teachers. This way I knew what’s the person’s level, what does he/she expect and what other volunteers did before. Many people wanted to improve their conversational skills – so we just talked like with a friend over a cup of coffee. Others had specific needs and gaps. I tried to help them catch up using numerous online resources.
Lessons with kids were crazy, funny and I will remember them with a smile. But lessons with adult Thai people were one of the best experiences during my stay in Thailand. Thanks to these talks I learned so much about them, about life in the country. Basing on them I wrote the post about 10 unique facts about Thai people and life in Thailand. I talked to people of different ages, with different backgrounds. Awesome and priceless experience.
As the classes took place in the afternoons, in the mornings we either had free time or went with Pong on trips. I saw unknown waterfalls, a cave, we did rock climbing, visited outstanding Glass Temple in Uthai Thani or a so called monkey temple. Amazing places – and a regular tourist coming to Thailand doesn’t get to see them.
For the last week of my stay the school moved close to Chiang Mai – to Ban Bon Doi Homestay. Fai’s mum manages it.
It had advantages and disadvantages – our accommodation standard improved dramatically. The first warm shower after three weeks feels awesome, trust me 🙂 The first night on a bed, not on a mattress too. We had a lovely garden where we could hang out, tropical fruits grew around (this jackfruit, bigger than my head!)
There were some disadvantages too. We lived around 20 minutes of driving to the city so in order to get something from a shop we had to take a long walk or ask Pong to drive us, we were less independent. Also in Chiang Mai we didn’t have classes with kids – only Skype.
Chiang Mai is a place most tourists visit so I knew some places around already. I didn’t mind visiting them again though, they are beautiful 🙂
Both parts of my volunteering time were great, I miss Nong Chang and Ban Bon Doi. In Nong Chang I felt… like home 🙂 It was easy for me to relax there. We all took care of this – not perfect but our place. In Ban Bon Doi we tasted a little bit of Thai luxury 🙂 I felt like a well taken care of guest 🙂
For some time Brainstorm had two locations and was accepting accepts volunteers both in Nong Chang and in Chiang Mai where Fai’s sister was managing the volunteers. Currently as far as I know they moved premanently to Chiang Mai.
Volunteering in Thailand – sum up
It’s not a secret anymore that I recommend to volunteer, no matter where you are 🙂 You help others, you learn a lot about life and people in the country you visit.
Teaching Thai people gave me a lot of satisfaction. Knowing a foreign language is still not popular there and it’s a big advantage. Knowing English, they’ll be able to change a lot in their lives. Find a better job, get rid of the fear of traveling, gain more self-confidence.
I learned a lot about Thailand, I ate so much delicious food that I’ll dream about it till the end of my life 🙂 I met interesting people and I participated in the most important events in my hosts’ lives. I was the first international person to see their new-born daughter – Ka Jao. For such unforgettable moments it is worth to travel, help and make friends on the way 🙂
If you plan a trip to Thailand, I recommend you to volunteer there. In Brainstorm language school or any other place – but it is worth learning about Thai life, tasting it, becoming a part of it. Just don’t be surprised that someone liked to eat “fried lie with chicken”… 🙂
If you plan a trip to Thailand, check my other posts from this country:
- How To Organize A Trip To Thailand – Traveling Tips
- Thailand Itinerary For 14 Days
- 10 Unique Facts About Thai People And Life In Thailand
If you want to volunteer abroad let me invite you again to this practical post: How to volunteer abroad? Step by step guide. Also in volunteering category you can read about more projects and experiences – mine and not only 🙂
And if you liked this post, please use the buttong below and share it on Facebook, Twitter and Google+! Thanks! 🙂