Alumni Spotlight: Amy Sininger

Amy Sininger is a 27-year-old writer with roots in Arizona and Hawaii. She received her Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, her Master's degree in Cultural Studies from Dartmouth, and she has taught abroad in Thailand. She loves traveling, spending time with her family and nephews, and seeking opportunities to contribute to international education.

Why did you choose this program?

Beaches in Thailand

I decided to teach abroad in Thailand during grad school. I was sitting in the Dartmouth library in late April, working on my 150 page thesis, and it was still heavily snowing outside.

I was exhausted, freezing, and needed a change, so I concluded that teaching in Thailand was the answer. I could put my Cultural Studies, English and Creative Writing degrees to use, and travel; but I could travel with meaning and purpose and give back.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I loved all that CIEE Teach Abroad had to offer. They were so helpful, and there was really no comparison to other teach abroad programs. They offer pre-departure support and help you decide which country and program will be best for you, they place you at a school, provide free housing, provide an online course all about the country you're moving to, they provided Visa assistance, gave us Lonely Planet guidebooks, we received international insurance, and we had a 6 day orientation upon arrival.

It was so helpful, and they took care of all of the difficult stuff (that I would have had no idea where to even start if I had gone on my own!).

I also loved that CIEE offers a TEFL certification course -- it's all online and I could go at my own pace. But I learned so much about teaching!

I would not have been the teacher I was without my CIEE TEFL Certification. CIEE really is the best. I'm forever grateful for this opportunity.

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

The biggest piece of advice I give to people going on my program is to travel. Thailand has so much to offer, and there is so much to see. Travel is incredibly safe, easy and affordable in Thailand, and it was so rewarding! I met so many wonderful people -- locals and travelers!

I got to explore places I never thought possible, I got to try different foods, go to fun parties, play on beautiful white sandy beaches, and I truly learned so much. Be open to opportunities that come your way! Thailand is such an adventure.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Island views in Thailand

My typical week in Thailand was teaching during the week, and traveling on the weekends! I would typically teach about 15 classes per week, and on Friday evening I would travel throughout Thailand. On weekends I went to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Hua Hin, and Koh Samet; to name a few!

There were a few weekends I would stay in Bangkok and explore the shopping, nightlife, temples or sit in the park. There was always something fun and exciting to do!

My typical day consisted of walking a few blocks to school, where right outside I would get coffee and fresh fruit from food stands. In my time there, I fell in love with the people who sold me breakfast -- they memorized what I liked and would help me pronounce it correctly.

I would then go to my office, where I taught with 5 other American teachers from CIEE, and I would teach 2-3 50 minute classes a day. In my free time I would lesson plan, grade, or talk with the students who would come sit on our floor to visit with us. I taught ages 11-18, and I just loved them. They were so sweet, and so funny -- that is something I love most about Thai culture -- their sense of humor!

After school my friends and I would exercise, go into town, get coffee or just relax. Thailand became home so it was just a nice place to be, and a nice life to live!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I didn't have a lot of fears before moving abroad. I felt very safe and supported going with CIEE, but I was certainly nervous and excited. I think it's just that degree of uncertainty that intimidates people... you aren't sure what to expect when you get there. What if something goes wrong? What will the people really be like? Will I be able to do this? You ask yourself so many questions before you go.

I remember on my flight to Thailand, I flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Bangkok. When I was sitting in the airport at LAX, I remember getting the "cold feet" sensation and thinking "I can still back out. I can just not get on this flight." But then I realized how silly that was... I realized that if I got to Thailand and didn't like it, I could just return home. But if I didn't get on that flight, I would never know.

The best advice I can give for someone moving and teaching abroad: push yourself, and trust yourself in your abilities. You are so much stronger and capable than you know!

What were some of the highlights of your experience abroad?

My time living and teaching abroad in Thailand had so many incredible experiences. I loved working with my students and I learned so much from them. It was the most rewarding job I have ever had.

Plus, I loved the ease of travel in Thailand -- some highlights were playing with elephants in Chiang Mai, going to beach parties on Koh Phi Phi, zip lining through the lush jungles, paddle boarding on the turquoise waters of Phuket, exploring Bangkok, eating the delicious food, and meeting so many wonderful people! This experience really couldn't be replaced by anything. I wouldn't trade it for the world!