Alumni Spotlight: Erin Carden


Erin is a Bard College graduate with a B.A in Human Rights and Literature. After graduating she traveled to Thailand and taught English to secondary school students. Erin is now living in Brooklyn and serving as a production assistant for The Brooklyn Rail.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose WorldTeach Thailand because I was drawn to the welcoming nature of the Thai community and the beauty of the region. The WT program proved to be very organized, and I wanted a program that provided its volunteers with high levels of support before, during, and after their experience abroad.

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

WT provided a welcoming program director who supplied important information to prepare for our arrival in Thailand.

WT also provided each volunteer with international travel medical insurance, housing, and a monthly stipend. WT volunteers also attend 3 in-country training conferences during their service.

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

Don’t have any expectations for what your experience is going to be like. The reality is that for the most part, your experience will be completely different than your expectations and so the more open-minded and flexible you are, the better your experience you will have. You should also keep in mind that living and teaching abroad is not easy, but it is the challenge that makes the experience rewarding.

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

During the month-long orientation, volunteers spend the day taking intensive teacher training courses with evenings free to explore the city of Nakhon Phanom. Once volunteers have moved to their respective site placements after orientation, an average week consists of 20 hours of teaching with a typical day starting at 7:30 am and ending at 4:30 pm.

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 living alone. Before coming to Thailand I had spent 4 years living with my best friends, and before that, living at home with my mother in NYC. Moving to Thailand meant that I would be living alone in a rural village with fewer things “to do” compared to the bustling daily life of a New Yorker.

In Thailand, I learned how to find comfort in the quiet of my own thoughts. I began to to accept the emptiness that I felt on the monotonous weekends spent sitting on my porch in my PJs, reading, writing, and staring ahead at the greenery of my garden. I may have felt at times, a sort of emptiness during these moments but in ways that were not obvious at the time, the stillness that entered into my life was in fact, making me full. This sense of stillness came not from self- assurance, nor from a certainty in my abilities, but from the knowledge that every day I was, in some way, shape, or form, growing. It was in Thailand where I spent my days constantly “losing” and “finding” myself. I was in a beautiful state of flux.

What is your great experience?

Throughout my time in Thailand, I became aware of the great extent of nurturing kindness found in Thai culture. In America you are told at a very young age to never get in a car with strangers but living in Thailand taught us that this was no malicious act, they were merely offering us a ride home.

So, we hopped into the car along with the mother, the daughter, and the little brother who looked to be about five years old. When we arrived back in our village they dropped us off in front of our school, which is about a three-minute walk from where we live. When we got out of the car they also got out and seemed as if they wanted to walk us to our front door. With the help of Google translate, they asked us if our homes were too far and if we were afraid to walk. We thanked them for their great kindness in escorting us home and told them not to worry, we would be ok. We tried to offer the mother some money for driving us but she would not accept it. “No problem,” she said in perfect English.