Alumni Spotlight: Amber Adams-Kuebler

Amber is an avid traveler, environmentalist, artist, and teacher who has spent her last year teaching English in Thailand.

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Why did you choose this program?

Multiple reasons led me to choose this program. First, they allowed for their participants to be placed with a friend or significant other. I really wanted to travel and teach in another country, but I was intimidated by the idea of doing so alone. Traveling to Thailand with my fiancee made the transition so much easier and much more enjoyable.

Second, they help you with everything you need to prepare. Between providing a thorough orientation and setting you up with a placement, CIEE does an excellent job making sure their participants know what to expect.

Lastly, CIEE also has a TEFL course that I was easily able to take before coming. It was an excellent course and it made it so much easier than I was able to complete it through the same program.

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

The main (and most important) aspect CIEE assists its participants with is the school placement. While each program is different, the Thailand branch set me up with a school placement and housing. It was a significant relief not to have to worry about finding my own housing abroad. I was responsible for obtaining my own visa (although they did provide guidance on that) and flights to Bangkok. They provided the transportation from the Bangkok orientation to our individual school placements.

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

Do your research - know what to expect and what you want to see while you are abroad. There are many cultural differences and customs and it helps if you know a little and maybe some language basics as well. Your time abroad will fly so make sure you have a bucket list of all the places you want to see while you are there. Do NOT overpack - just remember that you will be lugging your luggage with you wherever you go and even though it can be difficult to try to pack for a year, I've learned it is better to under-pack in these situations.

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

As a Thai teacher, my schedule is pretty much what you would expect. We are expected to be at school every weekday from 8 to 4:30 although the number of classes I teach from day to day varies. Some days I teach all day long while other days I only have two classes. Free time during work hours is expected to go towards lesson planning and preparation. Weekends can be used to relax or travel!

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 would have to have been working with middle schoolers. I had requested elementary school students but was placed with upper grades instead. I wouldn't necessarily say that I have overcome the fear per say as it is still something I struggle with on a regular basis, but I definitely have grown and have been able to view it more as a learning experience rather than an entirely negative one. One positive is that I did discover an interest in teaching high school students even if the middle school students are still a bit much for me.

How do you choose what program to go with?

When I was first looking I was so overwhelmed by the pure number of abroad organizations. How do I know which ones to trust? Which is the best option? Here are a couple of recommendations I have:

  • 1. It may seem obvious, but pay attention to the timing of each program. Because each country has their own school calendar and schedule an "Academic School Year" for them might not be what you are expecting. On top of that, some programs work with private or special schools that work with their own schedules. Paying attention to this really helped me narrow down what worked for me and my life plans.
  • 2. Look at the pay. If you want to do a volunteer program where you pay for everything out of pocket - go for it. As this was something that was not in the cards for me I had to be a lot pickier when it came to choosing my program. One thing some people don't consider though is the cost of living. While I could have made a lot more money teaching in South Korea, the cost of living was outrageously higher compared to where I am living in Thailand. Analyze each paycheck in relation to where you will be staying.
  • 3. Make note if housing is provided or included. This can also take a large chunk out of your paycheck if you aren't careful.
  • 4. Choose a place that is different from any place you have been before. Going abroad is an amazing opportunity to try something different and broaden your cultural horizons. Don't be afraid to push yourself a little bit.