Alumni Spotlight: Erica Holland

Erica Holland is from from Nashville, TN, and is currently an entrepreneur in Louisville, KY. She taught English In Chachoengsao, Thailand from November 2013-March 2014, but lived in Thailand until May 2014. She enjoys reading a variety of novels, enjoying quality time with her friends, AND TRAVELING!

Why did you decide to teach English abroad with Greenheart Travel in Thailand?

Having our students experience other cultures. Chinese New Year 2014.

Erica: I found Greenheart travel while doing an internet search for different overseas teaching programs. After researching them more, I saw that they were able to offer the most help with the process while stateside and in Thailand.

They were also able to offer shorter teaching contract lengths than other programs were able to. This allowed me to pick whether I wanted to be there for 6 months or a year.

I knew I had chosen the right program from the first interaction that I had with Sara Dorsey. She was very timely in answering any questions, and she helped with every step of the process.

She made getting a Thai visa so easy by sending the exact paperwork that was needed. When speaking to anyone from the company, you can tell how passionate they are for cross-cultural exchange.

They truly want every teacher they send to Thailand to feel confident about their new endeavor, and they want each of their teachers to get the most out of their experience there.

Communication continued with them after I left for Thailand, and throughout my time there. They made sure to check up on my experience, and see how I was doing with my job. I will definitely go through Greenheart Travel again if I decide to teach English overseas again in the future.

Describe your day to day activities as a teacher.

Erica: While in Thailand, I taught secondary students (mathayom 1-6). I had a revolving schedule where I would see my first 3 levels one week, and my next 3 levels the next week. It would continue to switch like that all semester. Because of that, I would only make 3 lesson plans each week for each level.

This allowed each class, in each level, to be taught the same thing and stay on the same page all semester. I would wake up every morning and walk to school by 7:45. The students could come as early as 7 so they could eat breakfast, or as late as 7:55 when the morning assembly began.

If they were early then they would come hang out with me in my office until they were required to be by the flag pole promptly at 8. This is when the announcements were made, and the national anthem was sung.

Classes would begin after that at 8:40. Each day had 7 periods, and it varied which periods I taught each day. When it was my turn to teach, I was in charge of the lesson.

I had a Thai co-teacher with me at all times in case the kids got out of hand (which they did when each class has over 40 students in it). I always had a small lesson, and then a small interactive activity for them to do. Each day I would eat lunch with my fellow teachers who spoke English very well.

When the teaching day was over we would stay after school and lesson plan for the next day, and then join the students in some of their after school games.

Some days I was required to attend different religious ceremonies, be in charge of the morning introductions, or be in charge of planning different activities for the kids during their free periods.

We had a Christmas, and Chinese New Year, assembly where we helped each level plan a special skit to perform in front of the whole school.

Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?

Learning the parts of the body by doing a drawing activity.

Erica: Each community that teachers are placed in are very different from each other. I was placed in a fairly large town that was located about an hour outside of Bangkok. It had a large city center with all the food, shopping, and western amenities that you would need.

Outside of the city center was the really rural parts of the town which is the part that I lived in. Because I lived so far out of the town, I don’t feel like a made as big of an impact as I would have liked in the main center itself, but I know I made an impact on my own little community I had by my apartment.

It was very difficult for me to get from my apartment into town, so I wasn’t able to go there very often. Towards the end of my stay, there were locals that would recognize me and talk to me every time I went into town which was fantastic.

Although I wasn’t in the thick of things, I had a few neighbors around me who made my stay amazing. There were small kids that I would play with everyday after school. I had a precious older lady who lived below me that would make me dinner every night, and give me fresh fruit everyday.

I had my local eating spots around my place where I would learn Thai from the family who owned the restaurant, and I would help them with their English. Being a bridge for the western community in this little town was my greatest accomplishment.

Showing them the kindness from a culture they may have never encountered before, and receiving their kindness back was the best kind of impact I could have made.

What do you miss the most about Thailand or your experience?

Erica: I get asked all the time what I miss the most about Thailand, and it’s so hard to narrow it down to just a few things. In short, I miss EVERYTHING about that amazing country. I’ve done a lot of traveling in my 24 short years.

I’ve lived overseas before, but i’ve never had an experience like I did in Thailand. I miss the simplicity of life, and the generosity of a culture who isn’t able to claim many material things.

It’s amazing to be able to submerge yourself so far into a culture, that it’s hard to break those habits when you come home (like eating with a fork and spoon, or wai(ing) to everyone you see).

I miss how happy everyone is, and the gentle nature that each person bestows on you whether they know you or not. They are one of the only cultures i’ve encountered that would give you the shirt off their back if they saw you needed one.

It doesn’t hurt to live in such a breathtakingly beautiful country where you can be in the middle of a jungle one minute and then on the beach the next.

And let’s face it, I miss being able to eat every meal for a dollar or less. Thailand went above and beyond my expectations, and I can’t wait to go back there again soon.

How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, etc)

It pays to be a tourist once in a while too.

Erica: This experience taught me so many things about myself, and about the kind of life I want to have.

I always new I wanted to travel with whatever kind of job I was able to obtain, but I wasn’t sure if I would want to live abroad on a long term basis or just go for quick business trips every now and then.

I now know I want to claim a foreign country as my home on a long term basis. Teaching taught me about patience, and taught me how to communicate better with people. It also showed me that I want my future endeavors to be a true cultural emersion like this one was.

I now value the kind of life I came home to better, and learned to enjoy the more simple things that happen everyday. Living in Thailand definitely helped me to broaden my horizons, and showed me a lot about myself and about another culture.