Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth Mertz


Liz is an English teacher currently teaching in the Isan region of Thailand. She graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2021, and after teaching high school literature for two years in Wyoming, decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of teaching abroad.


Why did you choose this program?

I chose Travel Grad because I was intimidated by the prospect of figuring out how to teach abroad on my own. I knew I would have more peace of mind if I had someone helping me along the way. From all the reviews I read, it was clear that Andrew from Travel Grad was always a message away to assist people. This turned out to be the case! I also really liked that there was an orientation at the beginning where we could meet other teachers who would be placed in the same area. I wanted to meet new people through this experience, and Travel Grad is a great way to do that! It helped me feel so much more comfortable to be in contact with my fellow teachers on WhatsApp during the months leading up to the move and to meet them in person at the orientation.

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

Travel Grad assisted me with getting together the documents I needed and keeping track of deadlines. I had to gather documents and photocopy and sign them, but I often asked Andrew questions about the documents. I was provided with the documents I needed from Thailand to apply for the visa and was given a guide on how to fill out the visa application.

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

I would tell them that they will likely feel a mixture of fear and excitement before embarking on their trip and that this is to be expected. I know that I was very nervous once I got to Thailand and unsure if I was a bit crazy for making this decision. This feeling of apprehension is normal, and it will take some time to feel comfortable in your new home. There will most likely be some culture shock, but it is so worth it once you settle. You will realize how amazing it is that you have moved across the world and feel so proud of yourself! If you are anything like me, you will enjoy yourself so much in Thailand that you feel unsure about what it will be like to return home.

I would also tell them to download Google Translate and figure out how to use the picture feature. It will be a lifesaver as most menus (at least in my area) are in Thai. There are many other helpful apps like Grab, money conversion apps, Revolut, etc.

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

I teach 19 classes a week and each class is a different group of students. At my school, the teachers move between classes and the students stay in the same class. For the rest of the time, I am working in the foreign language office on lesson plans, grading, etc. There is at least an hour lunch every day, which has been amazing for me coming from teaching in America where I had to scarf down my lunch in 25 minutes. Here I have enough time to go off campus to get lunch and coffee. The school lunch is also so cheap and delicious. There are roughly 40 vendors in the school cafeteria all selling food that costs the equivalent of $1 or less. The campus is beautiful and open, so you get plenty of time outside in the sunshine. It has been so nice to be here this winter and beat the winter blues I am used to back home!

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 concern was how I would get along in day-to-day life living in a foreign country. I was worried about ordering food, getting haircuts, going to the doctor, all the little details! I had never even been to an Asian country before, let alone moving there. I just had no idea what to expect! I learned that it is pretty amazing how far Google Translate, basic knowledge of Thai, hand gestures, and smiling can get you. It helped that the people in my city are so friendly and welcoming, even if we can't speak the same language. They want to help you out when you come to their business.

I have also been in a few sticky situations where I needed help, and there was always a local there, happy to lend a helping hand! For example, I once left my phone in a Grab car and was stuck about an hour's walk away from my apartment (don't do what I did!). I went into a 7/11 nearby and the employees were immediately trying to help me (with the use of Google Translate) and a mother and her son offered to drop me off at my apartment. The Grab driver also kindly returned my phone to my apartment. I've been so touched by the kindness of strangers here!

There are people I see every day on my walk home and we always wave hello, and little interactions like these make me feel at home. One old lady who sells sticky rice will stop me and give me free mangoes and bananas and refuses to let me pay her for them. I will always cherish those interactions!

Overall, I learned that living in a more rural area is not so intimidating if you approach people with a smile and try to speak their language as much as you can. I would recommend downloading the Mondly app to help you learn a little bit of Thai. I also made a friend who owns a restaurant near my apartment and he has helped me practice Thai.

What has it been like teaching secondary students in Thailand?

It has been such a cool experience for me to teach Thai students. One major thing I have appreciated is how friendly students are here and how eager they are to interact with you. Everywhere I walk on campus, students greet me from all directions. It's so nice to hear "good morning teacher!' and "hello teacher!" everywhere you go. The students here like to have fun, so if there is any way you can incorporate Kahoots, memes, would you rather? questions, or anything like that in the lessons, that is a major plus. It's refreshing having students who don't feel the need to act "too cool for school" and are willing to be goofy. I enjoy that I can be myself with my students and have fun here rather than having to be super strict like I was at home.