Jingyang is a LanguageCorps alum from Singapore that spent the better part of a year Teaching English in Thailand. You might have read Part One of his blog, which does an excellent job of describing his experience Teaching English Abroad from start to finish. From the TESOL training and job placement process to culture shock upon return home, it’s all here. The ups, the downs, and in the end, a great story!
When I started teaching English in Thailand, I had no problems breaking the ice and building rapport with the students because I possessed a myriad of entertaining skills (such as beatboxing, singing Thai songs, performing gymnastics, cracking jokes and playing educational games learnt from my teacher-training course). It also helped that I had learnt conversational Thai and could thus carry out simple translations of my lessons’ content to the students. However, as time passed, some students took advantage of my amicability, while others got bored of the games I played with them. As the students became restless, I lost my patience a couple of times and became more of a disciplinarian.
Perhaps my favorite part of Teaching English in Thailand was the students’ spontaneous amicability and show of kindness for the teacher outside the classroom. Many of those who did not listen during class and who were frequently reprimanded by me proved to be the friendliest bunch. They would often come to hug me after class and chat with me using Thai language, scattered with a handful of inaccurate phrases in English. Whenever I was outside school exercising or cycling to buy groceries, my students would also greet me loudly with wide smiles when they spotted me.
During my stint, there was a 3-day Buddhist Camp for the Primary 5 students. While some enjoyed the camp, others suffered home-sickness, reminiscent of my primary school days. A final ceremony capped off Buddhist Camp where the students had to kneel down and show appreciation to their teachers. The students seemed to have been enlightened after the teachings and it was a touching moment when I received this humble act of gratitude by each and one of them.
Another memorable occasion arose when the English Department had to organise an English Camp for the students. My main task was to write the camp’s theme song and choreograph a couple of dance moves to go along with it. I borrowed a tune from one of the most popular songs in Thailand last year and inserted English lyrics. There was this sense of achievement during the English Camp seeing everyone (students and even teachers) singing and dancing delightfully to the song I wrote!
My only chance to vote for the first time in Singapore last year was substituted with a localised experience observing an election in Thailand heating up, unfolding, and concluding with the appointment of its first female Prime Minister.
Before the flood situation captured international media attention in Bangkok, the north of the country suffered as well. Tak Province was not spared either, though the area around my apartment was not adversely affected because it was some distance away from the river. Nevertheless, I witnessed the terrible effects of the flood in Tak City. One of the food stalls which I frequented was almost completely submerged by the high water level. In addition, the houses and huts along the river were inundated; only their roofs could be seen!
I made a decision during October 2011 to cut short my work-life stint in Thailand due to family commitments back home. It was a difficult one to make because I wanted to continue building on what I had achieved so far.
Before departing in mid-November 2011, I was fortunate to enjoy another major festival in Thailand— the Loi Kratong Festival (the ‘Festival of Lights’). Tak City was known to be the place where the most scenic celebrations took place and the festival marked a beautiful end to my journey.
The 8.5 months spent overseas have been my longest time away from Singapore. Naturally, I experienced some challenges when I returned. After all the newness and stimulation of my time abroad, a return to family, friends and old routines (however nice and comforting) seemed dull to me. I also had trouble explaining all the sights I saw and feelings I had while abroad. It was difficult to convey my experience to people who do not have similar frames of reference or travel background.
To cover my entire journey in this article would not be possible, but I hope to have shared some of my uniquely-explicable moments. If there was one reason in penning this account, it would be to help others to understand how personally-special dreams can be. And the route to achieving them need not always be materially-driven, scaling the ladder and reaching for the sky. I went the other direction.
Riding against the wave of modernity, I took on a job teaching English in Thailand, which paid me one-fifth of what I used to earn, but ensured a simple and comfortable livelihood. Having said this, dreams are very much dictated by the individual’s current state of affairs. I would not shy away from the fact that my resolute character, singlehood and moderately-stable financial situation back home were the main impetuses that led to the conceptualisation and implementation of what I succeeded in doing. But neither would I forget that the support of my family and friends back in Singapore, and the local help I received along the way in Thailand, were also the key factors that saw me through this fruitful period of my life.