When I first decided to apply for AIESEC Global Volunteer, I thought it was just an interesting way to fill my summer while working on other projects as I would not be able to commit to a full internship. I wanted to stay near within Southeast Asia, and recognising my own preferences and capabilities, I chose to apply as a volunteer for the Sawasdee Thailand 25 with AIESEC in Bangkok University. After a successful interview, I packed my bags and boarded the flight to Thailand, with my mind full of uncertainties and excitement.
At the preparation camp, We were greeted with the traditional Thai ceremony ‘Bai Sri’, a warm welcome for us exchange participants from all over the world. I met people from all walks of life from different parts of the world and we bonded over our love of culture and knowledge. After a crash course in Thai history and everyday life culture – we were officially dropped off at our respective assigned schools in the outskirts and rural areas of Thailand. I ended up in Nakhon Sawan, a province located in central Thailand.
I was surprised at how well I managed with absolutely zero knowledge of Thai language at first, and how friendly everyone was. My host, who was a Maths teacher at my school generously welcomed me to her home and promised that I would want for nothing. Then came my first day of school, where I felt jittery and anxious as I entered each classroom full of students aged 6-17, but I was greeted with lively greetings, shy waves and bombarded with questions about myself. My first attempts at learning how to speak Thai was exactly how you’d imagine a third-language learner learning a new language – hits and misses.
Trying to teach English and civic education to children coming from rural areas with little to no second-language background was tough. It was hard coming up with teaching materials and making sure they were both informative and interactive to keep their attentions. But with time and patience, my partner and I managed. Just like how I was assigned there to teach these children English, they were there to “teach” me how to speak Thai, and I learned how to immerse myself in the beauty of Thai culture.
Every day I found myself becoming more a part of the family in Watthathong School. I became like a daughter and a sister to the teachers in the office who would sometimes laugh at my accent, but gladly encourage my attempts to learn the Thai language and culture. I looked forward to every day. I look forward to see my students, to play with them, have lunch at the cafeteria, and afternoon extra-curriculum.
When I first arrived in Thailand, I thought to myself, six weeks wasn’t enough for me to get attached. Looking back, I stand corrected. Of all the challenges I had encountered during my journey, the most difficult one was learning how to say goodbye.
My volunteering experience in Thailand will always be one of my most memorable experiences in life. It was not the travelling bit that made things worthwhile, but rather the people that I’ve met, the things that I’ve learned, the obstacles I’ve faced and overcame through the six weeks – that was incomparable.
Chan mak ca khid-thung prathes- Thiy.
Original story from : Tan Xiang Min (Student l University of Nottingham, Malaysia)
In AIESEC, we believe in developing leadership through practical experiences in challenging environment, and we do this by delivering cross-cultural exchanges. We have created thousands of stories ever since we started in Malaysia 50 years ago. Here’s just one of them