I had just graduated last December, and unlike my fellow graduates, I had absolutely no idea what my next move was going to be. As I applied to multiple companies and went through the gruesome interview process, I was constantly weighing the pros and cons of finding a full-time job.
However, I couldn’t convince myself to dive into the corporate world just yet. Then it occurred to me that I was unhappy with my job options, not because of the specific companies, but because of their location. I knew I wanted to start a new job adventure, just not within the United States. A few google searches later, I stumbled upon the exactly what I was looking for, the Greenheart Travel Internship in Thailand.
This program contained all the idyllic qualities I had been dreaming of:
I applied for this internship in hopes that I would gain a better understanding of international business along with embracing a whole new culture. Sure, I had travelled to nearly twenty countries before, but my time there never extended past a week which doesn’t really allow for the full cultural immersion I had been longing for. Not only would this program allow me to fully embrace a new culture but there would still be the backbone of an in-country support team to help me through my work abroad experience.
It wasn’t just about experiencing the culture but actually becoming a part of it that was the most rewarding part about living in Thailand. This is especially true for working in an international office where half of the staff is from western countries such as (US, South Africa, UK, Australia, etc.) and the rest are locals from all over Thailand.
Not only were they all welcoming to yet another new comer, but they treated myself, and the other interns as if we were a permanent member of the team, not just temporary help. The company atmosphere at XploreAsia is one far beyond water cooler small talk. Each team member is highly passionate about what they do, and it is clearly present in the results of their hard work.
The most influential part of this internship has been observing how goals are met and tasks completed through the harmonious work of the western and Thai staff. There is an immense amount of cross-cultural communication in each and every day’s work, which promotes even more respect toward each team member. Not only is there a vast difference between each thought process but also the reasoning behind every action taken within the office.
With that said, I don’t think it would be possible to learn this aspect of Thai culture without having been involved in this internship program and observed the behind-the-scenes work put into each individual teacher placement.
This experience has taught me to collaborate and communicate across more cultures than I ever expected. Just from living here I have met people from over ten countries, all requiring a new way of interacting with another. These interactions have forced me to think beyond my typical western perception and imagine myself in someone else’s shoes.
Not all interactions are easy going with quickly resolved solutions, but instead contain a certain learning curve that provides valuable insight towards the next miscommunicated encounter. (And trust me, that next language mishap is right around the corner.)
As I reflect on these past twelve weeks in Thailand, nothing could’ve prepared me for the immense adoration and respect I have towards this complex country and its selfless people. I have been beyond lost in translations, marveled by ancient temples, baffled by a chaotic traffic system, and overwhelmed with the amount of happiness this place has to offer.
I don’t think I have ever felt so many emotions in such a short period of time but I wouldn’t take back a single one. Working abroad can be lonely, exhilarating, poignant, and tear-jerking all in one day. But isn’t that the most attractive part about it? You get to go through a whirlwind of emotions with complete strangers who may or may not even speak your language, yet you can all experience the same feelings.
This unique opportunity is a prime example of how stepping outside your comfort zone can provide extensive character building benefits. Even though it may sound cliche, interning abroad has allowed me to become a more well-rounded global citizen through adapting within another culture. As I have grown to appreciate all of the contradictory quirks and distinct characteristics of this marvelous country, I have also gained an unrivaled skill set while working in an international office and built a global network of friends.
Now I have a unique learning experience of a lifetime to carry on with me to my next career. If you have considered any sort of abroad work experience I would say don’t hesitate a minute and just go for it!
After all, if we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.