Alumni Spotlight: Gwyneth Stoudmann

sunset on a lake

Give us a little intro

Gwyneth is a qualified Integral Life Coach and English language teacher currently working for a private language school in Switzerland who's passionate about growth through experience. She's also a creative writer who focuses on the art of experiencing life from different points of perception.

Why did you pick this program?

I picked this program because it gave me the opportunity to learn about the difficulties people from diverse language backgrounds experience in learning a foreign language. The ability to travel and the idea of learning in another country amongst a different culture also played a huge role in choosing this program as I feel more focused out of my comfort zone.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

I strongly encourage anyone considering going abroad to get out there. There is so much to explore in this life. We have absolute opportunities for growth. The problem is that we all think we have time. Unfortunately, physical time is not infinite.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Go with presence and arrive without expectations, only willingness. Be creative and observe well.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

Buckets and frogs.

One Friday evening the class decided to go out together as a means of team building. It had been quite a serious week with tests and theory; it seemed like the information was coming out of our ears by then.

We all met for a drink at the local pub and then waved down two Sŏrng·tăa·ou's (small pick-up trucks outfitted with two facing benches for transporting passengers).

If you've ever been to Koh Samui, you've likely spent time in The Arc Bar - a rather large bar on the edge of the beach which hosts massive parties every night.

They have dancers on the roof, flame throwers, exceptionally loud music, small girls that thumb wrestle you to scam you into buying glow sticks, and much more.

The "much more" for us that night were the buckets. For my friend and I, mainly Tom's bucket. (Thanks Tom).

Still today I haven't the slightest clue what they put in those buckets; they taste very good, but unfortunately give you a really bad hangover if you've had more than one. I had half of Tom's first bucket, and half of Tom's second bucket. It was quite funny, every time he turned around, he either had me, or my dear friend who had lost her shoes, sipping from his bucket. I can only state that I had consumed enough contents of the buckets to have had a very interesting experience. We left The Arc Bar and went to another place. It wasn't as exciting, so in my lively state I wandered off, waved down a Sŏrng·tăa·ou and made my way home.

The fresh air was rather welcome. Lights flashed by and the lively streets of Koh Samui at night made imprints in my heart forever. I thought I would arrive to a quiet bungalow and have a peaceful sleep, but that changed the minute my feet reached the wild garden of my accommodation. It had rained at some point during the night and I arrived at what felt like the world's greatest frog orchestra. It intrigued me to the point where I ended up catching frogs until 4am in order to identify them so that I could explore the frog variety of Koh Samui. I made interesting discoveries that night. I'm hoping to grow my species list in the near future. Needless to say, those buckets are ambitious!

20 Practical Do's and Don'ts from Gwyneth's Perspective:

  1. Do explore as much as possible.
  2. Do respect the culture and their beliefs. It's very important to do some research about this before going there.
  3. Do go to the beach as much as possible and have a banana shake.
  4. Do travel to Bangkok, spend a day or two there and then take some alternative transportation to your destination. That way, you won't lose your luggage and it will also save you some money.
  5. Do go to the jungle. It's beautiful. Take some time to observe the wild life. It's incredible.
  6. Do pay attention in class. It's a lot of information to take in.
  7. Do study hard. The course is challenging.
  8. Do keep a journal.
  9. Do take time to breathe.
  10. Do watch a sunset, or 10.
  1. Don't go with a full suitcase. Pack very little.
  2. Don't take complicated shoes. Flip flops are the way forward.
  3. Don't forget to smile.
  4. Don't drink too many buckets. Drink a lot of water instead, you'll need it.
  5. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You're there to learn.
  6. Don't ride on someone else's coattails. Be original. When you leave the course, you'll be teaching on your own, no one is going to make your resources or plan your lessons for you. Do your own work and give your best.
  7. Don't point at people with your index finger. It's rude.
  8. Don't expose yourself. This is offensive to Thai people.
  9. Don't just eat Western food. Thai food is amazing!
  10. Don't leave with regrets. Make the most of every opportunity.