There were programs to choose from when I was looking. Ultimately, I think one of the biggest factors was that this program had flexible start dates all throughout the year. Other programs only had one or two dates to choose from in a year, and their timelines didn't line up with mine.
Alumni Spotlight: Abby Lex
Abby is 25 years old and originally from Minnesota, USA. After college, she spent three years working in a corporate office before deciding that being an adult just wasn't for her – she’s been traveling ever since
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I would say that Greenheart gave me assistance with organizing just about everything. They made sure I had the correct visa paperwork and that I sent it to the right location. They advised me on proper timing to book my flights, and they made sure I got picked up from the airport and taken to my hotel when I reached Thailand.
Even though there were things that I had to do by myself, I never felt like I was on my own during the process. And the Program Coordinator was SO FAST with responding to emails, so anytime I had a question I would get an answer usually within minutes.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
The one thing that I tell anybody going to Asia for the first time is: be prepared for everything to go wrong. Haha! It makes things sound so bad, but after all, things don't go quite according to plan a lot of the time. You have to expect the unexpected.
It's one of the things that I actually grew to love about being there, and I think it helped me chill out a bit as a person. You have to learn to just calm down when things don't go how you thought they would.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
First, we had a week of cultural orientation, which was usually some fun activity every day as well as some kind of culture/history/language lesson. After that, we had three weeks of the TESOL course; we were in classes Monday to Friday pretty much all day and usually doing homework in the evenings.
The course was intense, but things mellow out when you get to your placement. In my case, I had to be at the school Monday to Friday from 8AM - 4PM, but I only actually taught for 16-18 hours a week. The rest of that time I could lesson plan, grade, or really do anything I wanted in the office. It leaves you a lot of free time in the evenings and weekends to explore, meet the locals, and have adventures!
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was pretty worried about the language barrier with my students. I had no idea how I was going to go into a classroom full of students who don't understand English and somehow manage to communicate with them (and teach them too!) This really was TOUGH for the first couple of months in my placement. In my second week, I remember giving a very basic command to take out a piece of paper, and all I got were blank looks! But I learned to speak some basic classroom commands in Thai, and everything really turned around.
It accomplished two purposes: I could make the kids understand what I wanted from them, making the class less stressful for me and them; and I was also able to manage my classes better simply because the kids respected me for putting in the extra effort for them.
I think with any fear or issue holding you back, you should know that as long as you are willing to work hard to overcome it, you can do pretty much anything you want!
What were your experiences like with the local people during your program?
The Thai people are honestly some of the most relaxed and generous people I've ever met! Scooter broken down on the road? Don't worry, someone is sure to stop and help you out within a couple minutes! And after helping you, that person might even bring you home to meet their family and feed you dinner and treat you like a lifelong friend – all while struggling through a huge language barrier! I just can't say enough good things about all the people I met there and how glad I am that I chose this program. It truly changed the course of my life for the better.