Diary of an English Teacher Volunteer

English teacher volunteer

I spent time volunteering in Thailand (Chiang Rai) as an English Teacher and decided to keep a short diary on some days to document my thoughts and feelings whilst there.

Day 1

So I just arrived today and there were two Chinese volunteers on my flight. They were nice girls and we got along well on the journey back to the volunteer house. There are 10 beds all squashed together in the dorm, and there are 3 shower cubicles. The amount of bugs everywhere is a bit of a culture shock, given that I come from a very cold country with few insects. But I tend to adapt to environments quite fast so I’m sure I’ll be okay by the end of the week. I feel quite nervous because I don’t know what to expect, but I’m sure everything will become clear soon. I’m so lucky to have connected well with 2 other volunteers before the programme.

Day 2

I felt less nervous this morning which is good! I’m quite introverted so I’m finding it a bit difficult to not have any personal space or time to myself. Today we had orientation which was quite nice. There were two other British guys who looked really uncomfortable so I guess they may be experiencing the same culture shock over the bugs. Haha! It was also a shock to discover that they are from the same region of London as me. They went to the same high school as one of my friends, and they are around the same age as me. They took a 12 hour bus journey from Bangkok to get here. I opted for the 1-hour flight from Bangkok instead.

Tomorrow we will be leaving at 8.30am to do our first class teaching English to monks. I’m supposed to be staying in Chiang Rai for 3 days after finishing my volunteer programme. I think that I’m gonna try and change my domestic flights. It’s quite rural so I think it will be challenging to get around on my own. Also…there is no point staying in the same place when I’ll already be here for 2 weeks. Chiang Mai could be an option? or one of the islands? I have left it quite late though so I don’t know if I’ll find any reasonably priced flights or accommodation. Sh*t… I didn’t even bring a bikini with me…grrrr!

Day 5

I have spent the last couple of days on a homestay in Chiang Rai, and it’s about an hour and a half drive from the volunteer accommodation. I liked the homestay because there was hot water and air conditioning. On our last day of teaching, the Buddhist monks gave us a blessing in the form of a red bracelet. We were also given a certificate and had our photo taken in front of the whole school.

The host of the guesthouse was lovely and took us to see a tea plantation after teaching on Thursday. He also drove us to the golden triangle where we crossed the border into Laos. Tomorrow is our weekend so we will be staying at a hostel in the city centre for a couple of nights to explore. Oh and by the way, the two other British guys dropped out and left the programme this morning. They were volunteering on the outdoor programme so I never really saw them or talk to them.

Day 10

We had our weekend from Saturday to Monday. On Saturday the staff took us to the white temple which is the most famous attraction in Chiang Rai. We stayed two nights in a hostel and visited markets, got a Thai foot massage, and visited the black house. I ended up in hospital on the weekend and was released yesterday, So I’m hoping to get back into teaching tomorrow. I’ve been in bed because I injured my foot and can’t walk. The staff have been bringing boiled eggs and rice to my bed because apparently, Thai people believe that eggs are good for healing sick people. Some of the girls taught at a hospital for sick children today. They told me that it was a challenge teaching the younger children because they were more interested in playing.

Day 11

So I went back to work today. I did a class in the morning with 6-year-olds. The girls were right as many of the children did lose concentration easily! There was a little girl that kept on getting up and walking around the class. It can be difficult with the language barrier as well, and some children will fully take advantage of it. Thai Teachers are a lot stricter and will discipline in ways that are different to Western countries. We taught them “occupations” and they seemed to understand it so I guess that is a positive. There was a little girl who kept playing with my bracelets when I was marking her work. I wanted to give her one, but that wouldn’t have been fair on all the other kids. So I gave the whole class stickers instead.

Day 12

Today was a long day, and my last full day volunteering. I got talking to a really cute little girl who spoke English almost fluently. I asked her how long she had studied English and she said 2 years. But from talking to her you would have thought she had learnt English since birth. She offered me candy and I politely declined but took some photos with her after the lesson. After teaching we took a 40 minute taxi ride into the city because it was our last evening in Chiang Rai. We ate at a Korean barbecue place where they light the fire and you cook your own meat at the table. After that, I went to the night market with one of the other volunteers as we both wanted to stock up on our final bits of cheap shopping. It’s way more expensive to go shopping in Bangkok. I got 3 elephant pants, some handmade jewellery, and cucumber face cream.

Day 13

So today was leaving day. Our manager made us teach a 2-hour class before we left. This made the day very hectic because after teaching we only had an hour to complete our lesson summaries, eat lunch, clean, and pack for the airport. I think everyone was quite pissed off about this. I’m flying back to Bangkok for a few days. It would have been nicer to go up to Chaing Mai and visit the elephants, but the problem is my foot is still injured. So I need to be in a city where I can take taxis everywhere.

My foot is recovering though, so I should be okay for my other flight next week back to London England. Overall I guess that I’ve enjoyed the volunteer experience but I do feel that I wasn’t there long enough to make a difference. If I volunteer again in the future then I will definitely stay for a few months. But for now…my rent is due and I’ve got my university graduation ceremony next month.

Do you want to see more of my time in Chiang Rai? Then click here to see some photos of my free time when I wasn’t volunteering.

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