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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

COE Abroad: Creating Unforgettable Connections in Thailand

Liberal studies major Sarah Jones


I am a planner. For the months leading up to my international experience, I researched and planned for every possible item I might need and for any issue that might come up. What I didn’t plan for though, was to completely fall in love with Thailand.

While Bangkok was a busy, bustling city, it was Chiang Mai where I found myself feeling the happiest. We stayed on a large property that serves a small province outside of Chiang Mai. The staff there worked closely with the local schools and surrounding mountain villages to collaborate with them and assist with their needs – not what outsiders believed their needs to be.

After our first group lesson, we quickly figured out that standing in front of the room and teaching wasn’t going to work with such a large language difference.                   —Sarah Jones
Our days at the Service Learning Camp were, by far, some of my favorite. We were teaching inside the local schools, assisted by Thai staff from the camp. After our first group lesson, we quickly figured out that standing in front of the room and teaching wasn’t going to work with such a large language difference. As a team, we re-grouped and added some games, which the students ending up absolutely loving and provided us the opportunity to interact with them on a different level. I even had one new friend who continued to visit me after he left our lesson and by the end of the day, we’d created our own handshake — without ever speaking a word to one another.

As an aspiring educator, my experience abroad has reinforced that within education, facilitating student learning is obviously an educator’s main ‘job.’ However, the connections teachers make with their students help build a community, inside and outside the classroom, that enables and support student learning. Those connections show an educator how students learn, why they might not be focused and what they can do to assist the students in their own educational journey.

I’ve also realized the importance of flexibility, because sometimes lessons aren’t going to go as planned — and those days usually turn out to be the most rewarding and memorable.