TeachingTraveling.com: Welcome, Sarah! Please tell us a bit about your background.
Sarah: I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri, but I moved to Boston to attend Boston College and spent the next 2 years working in that city.
My love for travel started with a myriad of family road trips in our wood-paneled minivan across the middle of America, and was nurtured by the exchange students my family hosted from places such as Tanzania, Japan, Austria and Nepal.
I took my first trip abroad to Thailand in 2004 with my brothers and I’ve been on the go ever since! After graduating, I worked for 2 years at the Public Relations firm, Weber Shandwick, in Boston to make a dent in repaying my student loans, before deciding to take off last fall for an adventure in Thailand.
After researching several program options I landed on CIEE’s Teach in Thailand program and signed on for a year in the tropics. I’m currently teaching at a secondary school in Suphanburi, Thailand, and keeping a blog about my experiences in and out of the classroom which you can see at: http://trunksup.blogspot.com/
TT: Awesome! Tell us more about your travel adventures.
S: I have backpacked through Europe, worked on a Habitat for Humanity project in Argentina, and taken many road trips around the good ole’ US of A, but my favorite and most meaningful travel experiences have come when I’ve settled in one place and really been able to experience the local flavor. Studying abroad in South Africa was one such time, and now living in Thailand, the little trips that I take on weekends or afternoons spent walking around my neighborhood provide me with such great insight into the people, the language, the culture, the lifestyles, etc.
Some of my favorite short trips in Thailand so far have been the Erawan Waterfalls in Kanchanaburi, Three Pagodas Pass and the serene lakeside community in Sangkhlaburi on the Thai/Burma border, Chiang Mai, and of course the southern islands in Thailand. I try to make the most of my weekends in Thailand, exploring new things and meeting new people!
TT: You make a great point. How did you find this Thailand teaching travel opportunity?
S: I did a lot of research online before I settled on CIEE’s programs. I knew that I wanted to go to Thailand so that helped narrow the search initially, and I wanted to go through a program rather than try to piece it together by myself, mainly because I was working full time and didn’t have too much free time to handle all of the Visa, school placement, teacher certification things that needed to be taken care of.
TT: I agree that Thailand is paradise for awesome, inexpensive travel. How did you find the money to fund your teaching program and your travel?
S: I saved up while I was working in Boston, and that’s allowed me to fund some of my bigger trips outside of Thailand (heading to Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia during the March-May summer break here), but I also make a typical Thai teachers’ salary which often proves to be more than enough to live, and luckily, travel in Thailand is cheap, convenient and often quite comfortable.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
S: Traveling within Thailand has definitely enhanced my experience in the classroom, it has allowed me to better relate to my students.
The more I learn about Thai culture, the better I can understand the experiences of my students.
Taking part in the various Thai festivals and ceremonies has opened my eyes to what is important to my students and the values of the culture, and learning the language (I’m not there yet!) allows me to show the students that I want to learn too, and I have a great interest in their country.
TT: Whoa, awesome that you’re learing Thai! I’ve always found the writing so beautiful. How have your travels impacted you as a person?
S: Traveling has been an excellent education for me. When I’m in the world and out of my element, I am constantly reminded how small this world really is, and how we are all connected. This realization has had a profound impact on my life, especially in regard to how I view the world’s social problems, because, if we are all connected, we all have a responsibility, and I can no longer choose to ignore the issues of the world just because it’s happening in a place far away.
TT: Absolutely. What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
S: I would say… do it! Traveling is sure to enhance your experience in the classroom. If you’re interested in learning more about CIEE’s Teach in Thailand program, contact me via my blog and I’m happy to answer any questions!
TT: Thanks so much, Sarah! Enjoy the rest of your time in Thailand, and keep us posted on what comes next! Readers, chime in!