Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Bunyon

Ryan is a Business/English teacher living in Chonburi, Thailand. He graduated from Assumption College in 2018 with a degree in Organizational Communication. With help from CIEE and glowing reviews from close friends about their experiences, he was able to make the leap and embark on an experience of a lifetime and became an international traveler and teacher.

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Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program based on several recommendations from close friends who also applied through the CIEE Teach in Thailand program. I did a lot of research on my own and determined that this program would give me the opportunity to travel, experience new culture, meet new people, try new food, as well as the unique opportunity to connect with and inspire a wide range of Thai students. I hope that they have learned as much from me as I have learned from each of them.

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

CIEE did an outstanding job assisting me throughout the entire process leading up to my departure. Their interactive and user friendly website made the application process as simple and easy as possible. Once I was accepted into the program, I was in constant contact with my coordinator (Kerry Plath) via email and by phone conversations through the processes of completing important tasks such as filing for Travel Visa, finding a school/region that met my requests, living accommodations, and preparing for teaching abroad through CIEE's online pre-departure course. I truly felt like she was my personal liaison as any questions or concerns I had would be addressed in a timely and effective manner.

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

One piece of advice I would give to someone going on this program would be to allow themselves to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Not every little thing will work out in the exact way you thought it might, but that's okay. If you are a person who can go with the flow and adapt to a new setting and environment, this program will give you the opportunity to experience a beautiful and unique part of the world as well as a brand new culture that can only positively impact your life.

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

An average school day for me starts at 7 AM when I take a 10-minute motorbike ride to my school. I teach multiple classes throughout the day to multiple matthayom's (grade levels) with about two periods off for class planning/preparation and lunch. The school day winds down at 4:30 PM. After school is let out, I head back to my apartment and meet up with friends and fellow teachers for dinner and to hang out.

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 not being able to speak Thai. How would I be able to communicate with my students? How would I be able to communicate with the school administrators and faculty? I quickly understood that although not everyone around the school (or community) speaks fluent English, communication is formed by much more than just words. By using a combination of body language, hand gestures, and some of my newly learned Thai from orientation, I have had very little issue with communication.

What has been the most difficult adjustment teaching in a Thai school system?

Overall, there have been two glaring differences between teaching in a US school system vs teaching in a Thai school system. The first is "Thai time". Thai time is a cultural difference from the States that does not place any emphasis on punctuality. The first few weeks I was teaching, I would be shocked to arrive at my class that starts at 8 AM only to have students start to trickle in around 8:05 AM through as late as 8:25 AM. It is very easy to take this the wrong way and assume students are purposely arriving to your class late, or are being disrespectful, but they aren't. This is simply the result of long walks from one class to another across campus as well as "Thai time".

The second glaring difference is in the way that class curriculum and planning is handled from an administrative standpoint. The week before I started teaching classes, I was handed a binder with each class’ curriculum attached with subjects simply reading "Agriculture" or "Business", and that’s it for the most part. It is essentially 90% up to the teachers to determine what materials they think are most important and what materials they feel strongly enough about to teach their students. As far as lesson planning, homework assignments, quizzes, and tests are concerned, it is 100% on the teacher.