Alumni Spotlight: Caroline Forsey

Caroline is an Elon University graduate with a major in English. She loves to travel, so after graduation, she decided to teach English in Thailand so she could travel Southeast Asia and Dubai. She now works in Boston as a copywriter and blogger for Yelling Mule, Boston's #1 Web Design company.

Photos

Why did you choose this program?

This program was the ideal time-limit for me -- it offered a 6-month opportunity to teach abroad, while most companies only offer 1-year programs.

Also, I'd heard of CIEE before, and knew it was reputable. And I appreciated the reasonable prices for everything that was included: ultimately, I was paying for the security and safety net of having fellow Americans with me on this journey, as well as in-country staff ready to assist me with any issues I might face, and this is priceless.

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

They assisted me with understanding everything I needed before Thailand: a packing list, visa help, etc. I had to gather the materials, but they told me what to do with them. Plus, I was able to email or call Kerry, my contact, with any questions I (or my mother) had -- such as which shots to get at the doctor, etc.

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

I would say that it is going to be one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do, but it will also be hard and lonely.

Please, please, just remember it is temporary, and when you're back home with family and friends, you'll appreciate everything that teaching abroad gave to you: a better understanding of who you are, what you want to do with your life, and a deeper understanding of just how vast and complex the world is (including the many different ways people live their lives).

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

I spent 8 am to 4 pm teaching, but I had a lot of breaks in-between classroom time, so I spent time hanging out with my students or planning classes. After school, I'd motorbike to the gym and workout, or grab dinner by myself or with some co-teachers.

Some weeks, I'd take Friday off so I could take a long weekend trip somewhere! Many of the weeks felt relatively "normal," which is nice. I also considered my students as friends -- sometimes we'd see a movie (with English subtitles) after school, or I'd do a workout class with one of them. And other nights, I'd just come home and watch Netflix -- that's still allowed!

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

My biggest fear was being lonely. And I WAS lonely, so terribly lonely, at times. But I realized that this loneliness is inevitable at times in our lives, so I'm so happy I learned how to be okay alone -- brought books with me to dinner to read, chatted with strangers in the gym or grocery store, and learned how to do what I wanted to do without any guilt.

Plus, this gave me a confidence in myself that I never had before; I realized that I'm capable of a lot more than I give myself credit. For instance, I used to ask my parents and my friends for their advice on almost everything. But abroad, I didn't really have this option (they certainly didn't understand the context, and plus, when I was awake they were usually sleeping), so I've learned how to trust my gut and believe in myself more.

What was the most rewarding moment?

The last day of school, my students called me into our classroom (they were 15-16 years old). They sat in a circle and had me sit in a chair, and slowly, they started singing Ed Sheeran's "Photograph." They'd memorized the a-capella version to sing to me, and then they gave me gifts and told me they'd miss me so much. And then, right there on the ground, they bowed down to me.

It was the most touched and humbled I've probably ever felt. Plus, they made these little pop-up books of me (with pictures from my Facebook -- not sure how they got those, whoops), and wrote letters like, "You've changed my life, I love you." I'll treasure my relationship with them forever.