Lauren graduated from Tulane University in May, 2015 and decided to combine her drive to explore the world with her love for teaching as a Greenheart Travel teacher in Thailand. She arrived this past April and now lives in Trang and teaches P3 and P5 students. We caught up with her to hear about how her placement worked out and more about her new home.
Q. How did the placement process unfold for you?
In the first week or so of orientation we each met with a placement coordinator and spent a little time telling them our preferences for age and location. After that we didn’t hear much of anything for around 3 weeks as placements were being finalized and negotiated. The waiting was the worst part. Although I was busy with TESOL and having the greatest time of my life, my anxiety was high just waiting to hear something – anything! – about my placement. Finally, they gave us some news in the third week. They didn’t give us too many details but instead just a general location and age range we would be teaching. I was told that I was going to be in Trang province (but not where in the province) and that I would be teaching anywhere from 4-12 year olds, quite the range. They didn’t tell us all the details because it was still early enough that placements could fall through and change within the following 2 weeks, which did end up happening to some of my friends. Finally, a few days later we got more details and I found out I would be teaching and living in Trang City at Buranarumluk School, but I wouldn’t find out the age of my students until I arrived. I got pretty lucky because two of my friends from the course also got placed in Trang, one was even at the same school as me! I was ecstatic with my placement, I got everything I had asked for and even some things I didn’t ask for but had hoped for. Teaching primary, living in the South, and with other people I knew! Playing the waiting game is the worst, but once I got my placement I was so happy with how it all ended up. They tell you to keep an open mind because you could end up getting nothing you asked for, and while some of my friends didn’t get exactly what they wanted, everyone in my TESOL group seemed happy with what they ended up with.
Q. What’s it like to live in Trang?
I live in Trang City, about 4 hours south of Phuket. I absolutely LOVE Trang! Trang is situated in between the mountains and the sea so there is so much to do within reach. 30 minutes one way you’ll hit the beaches, and the other way you’ll hit waterfalls, rock climbing, hiking, and many caves to explore. Trang is also known for food, there is an abundance of markets and small local shops but also restaurants and a few places where you can find western food when you need to fulfill a craving for pizza! Although Trang is close to the beach, the city is not touristy at all, people are only ever really passing through on the way to the islands. It’s a hidden gem in the South which is ideal because when I do go to the beaches or explore nearby it is very quiet and fairly untouched. I rarely see farang (foreigners) when I walk around town unless it’s another teacher that I know in the community. There is a good sized community of Farangs in Trang and everyone kind of knows everyone within that group. It can be really helpful having people that speak English and have been in Trang longer than I have to help answer any questions that come up about life here. Probably the biggest challenge I faced living in Trang was that I needed to learn to drive a motorbike – my school is about 10 minutes on the bike from where I live. I was terrified at first – there are virtually no rules on the road, they drive on the left side in Thailand, and although Trang is a small city it is still a city with traffic and lots of other cars and bikes on the road. It took about a week or so of being forced to drive for me to really get comfortable driving – the first time I went out driving I literally only took left turns over and over until I was home again because I was too afraid to turn right across traffic! Being forced to learn to drive a motorbike was a struggle, but now I am so happy that I can do it. I’m so proud of myself for tackling something that I feared so much, and now I have the ability to be much more independent and to see so much more of my home and the surrounding areas. Just last weekend I drove an hour to the beach and an hour back, something I would have thought unthinkable not too long ago!
Q. Any general reflections about your experience so far?
A couple weeks ago I had to test all of my students. The tests were speaking tests and I had two full class periods to finish them. For most classes, I finished getting through everyone with some time to spare in the second class. With my P5 classes I spent the end of the second class having them draw and write comic strips in English. Thai children are INCREDIBLE artists, so they took to this assignment right away. A couple days later, after class, some of my students came by my office to show or give me the comics they’d been working on. One girl, Mai Kaew, after giving me her comic strip and leaving, returned to my office about 30 seconds later. After struggling for a couple minutes trying to communicate something to me, speaking in Thai that I obviously couldn’t understand, she finally said “I like you and I love English!” It’s moments like these that make every rat on the sidewalk, every squatty potty that smells like sewage, every mosquito bite, every jellyfish sting, every student that won’t STOP TALKING, and every craving for bagels, cheese, and tacos worth it.