By: Courtney Clark
Hi, I’m Courtney! I took my TEFL certification class in January 2016 and worked part-time for a while to save up money to teach abroad. I finally decided on Thailand as my destination because it was somewhere I always wanted to visit and the timing coincided perfectly with the start of their school semester. I left for Thailand in April 2017 and taught kindergarten until October 2017.
I had 33 students and would teach English, science, math and art lessons each week. All of the students had very unique personalities, which always kept class interesting. Some of my favorite moments include pretending to be zombies and chasing each other around on the playground, dancing to the video “Baby Shark”, and a day where everyone brought in food, and I taught the students how to make sandwiches.
From the moment I gave notice that I would be returning to the U.S., I knew it would be incredibly difficult to leave all the people I met there behind. It was so hard to say goodbye to all the friends I had made, my Thai co-teachers who had become like family to me, and my adorable little students. However, I had to leave for my own reasons, which were to be able to grow as a person in new ways and to really get started on my career.
Upon arriving home in the U.S., I immediately noticed so many differences between the lifestyle I had grown accustomed to in Thailand and the one I grew up in but that now felt so foreign to me. I forgot about the “hustle bustle,” busy, rushing lifestyle that is the norm here in the U.S. I also forgot about the importance and stress placed on productivity rather than a peaceful state of mind. I felt unsure about my ability to adapt back into such a stressful environment.
Reverse culture shock is a real thing. Whereas everyone in grocery stores in Thailand left me alone, here it felt like I was being bombarded by retail workers about store sales and being forced to remember simple things such as small talk about the weather. Whereas all the signs in Thailand were in Thai, and I learned to disregard them, now everything was bright and distracting in giant English letters. The simplest way I can describe this feeling is “sensory overload.”
However, once I finally got over my jet lag and reverse culture shock, I remembered that this fast paced lifestyle is what has always motivated me and pushed me to be the type of person I am which is constantly trying to improve and grow and learn in new, challenging ways. Although I learned so much about myself, Thai culture, the complexity and responsibility of being a teacher, and will always be overwhelmingly grateful for it all, I feel that I have found another opportunity that is a perfect fit for me at this time.
My new opportunity is a position in my field of study. I worked on school newspapers from high school all through college and really enjoyed writing and editing all sorts of different topics. Naturally, I majored in English. During my last year of college, I also completed a book publishing internship. I always thought I would continue along this line of editing/publishing but had trouble finding a job after graduation even with all my prior experience and a writing portfolio. However, once returning from Thailand, I added that experience to my resume and felt like I started to get noticed more and received more responses from jobs I applied to.
After several interviews that didn’t feel like a great fit, I finally landed on a marketing company that was looking for a copy editor. After the first interview, I could tell it would be a very exciting opportunity where I would really be able to test my copy-editing and project manager skills. I am very happy to say that everything worked out, and I am now working in my field and beginning my career. I have a picture of my teachers and students from Thailand on my desk. I am thankful every day for the experience and will never forget all that I have learned and how I got to the place I am today.
A lot of people ask me if I would ever teach abroad again and the answer is a giant YES!!! I don’t have any plans to in the near future, but it is a priceless life experience I would absolutely love to try again later in my life. I highly recommend it to everyone I meet.
Sabai sabai (a common Thai phrase meaning “everything’s good” or “not a care in the world”)
Courtney Clark is 25 from Bloomingdale, IL,with a BA in English from Roosevelt University. She worked as a writer/editor for several years before deciding to teach kindergarten in Thailand.