Alumni Spotlight: Oliver Clark

Oliver is both a teacher and a writer for children and young adults. He has spent many years working in Higher Educations institutions and now resides in Bangkok, teaching secondary level English and Creative Writing.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I needed a change in my life. Thailand was the breath of fresh air that I was craving to experience a new culture and expand on my teaching skills. CIEE was able to offer me a complete package which included the arrangement of my school placement right down to the accommodation I would need during my stay here.

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

CIEE's coordinator for the Teach in Thailand program, Kerry Plath, was extremely helpful! I was able to speak with her several times about the program before making a decision. She was able to give me the information I needed to help me figure out whether the program was going to be right for me. Throughout the process CIEE assisted with guiding me through the visa application process, arranging school placement, accommodation and various seminars/webinars and orientation activities which covered areas such as Thai culture, program information and all the legalities.

If you are a US citizen, your visa application will be funded by CIEE and you will also have access to a travel/health insurance policy. I applied from the UK, so was not able to access the insurance policy or receive funding for the visa application but Kerry provided some alternatives and the program fee was also reduced to compensate for lack of visa funding. CIEE also organize transportation from the airport when you arrive in Thailand as well as to your new school at the end of orientation.

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

My main piece of advice is to expect the unexpected. Thai culture requires some adjustment as things do not always go to plan. Every single school placement is different which means they operate with their own rules. I would definitely recommend reaching out to any contacts that CIEE provides you with (from your school) before you arrive in Thailand as they can provide more information about what you might need specifically for your school.

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

An average day/week can be very different for each person depending on what school you are placed in. You will usually be expected to be in school from 8am until 4pm Monday through Friday, and you will likely teach up to 20 periods per week. Teaching format may differ in that some participants will have co-thai teachers and some won't. Some will have curriculum/lesson plans provided whereas others won't.

In my own experience, I teach for secondary and am expected to plan and teach all my lessons on my own using a curriculum which has been provided. My school is a great place to work and my students are fantastic - I am very lucky here! Your weekends are then free to use as you please to either travel or perhaps take up some extra tutoring if you want cash. Holidays will also vary from school to school but generally, you will get a break in April and October with some national holidays throughout the year.

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 think my biggest fear was not being able to manage it for a long period of time but CIEE ensured that I had a strong network of people around me. I have made some lifelong friends from my orientation and also at my school. You have to make sure to put yourself out there and not be afraid to try new things.