I arrived in Bangkok from Hanoi, Vietnam the day before the internship began. I had spent the past couple of days frantically rereading through the course, looking for tips on teaching methods and trying to figure out how to plan a lesson. I became more and more overwhelmed by the idea of standing in front of a class with every page I went through. The words blurred into one incomprehensible mass of information, and by the time I’d gone through the whole thing, I was more confused than I was before I’d started. I told myself that the only way to learn how to teach English is to just teach it. I would soon come to know that I was exactly right.
I met the i-to-i representatives back at the airport the following afternoon, along with the dreary faces of the other interns who’d just endured 24 hours of travelling, some of whom I was able to recognise through weeks of excited posts on the Facebook group. We were dropped to our (extremely swanky) hotel in Ayutthaya where we were free to rest, get our bearings and get to know each other. We were treated to a buffet dinner where we got to sample every Thai dish imaginable- from coconut soup to sweet basil chicken stir fry, green curry, fried rice, pad Thai, seafood… to a beautiful spread of miniature cakes, banana stewed in coconut milk, tropical fruit (dragon fruit, baby bananas, longan, and watermelon to name a few), and various unidentifiable multicoloured jelly-like Thai desserts.
The following day we all met the team in the conference room for orientation. We were briefed customs and etiquette, how and when to “wai” (the bringing your hands together in a bow) and what to expect at our schools. Jade, an experienced past intern, brought the reality of what we were embarking on to the forefront. What she told us was both encouraging and daunting at the same time. It emerged that we would be on our own and heavily relied upon to deliver lessons without guidance, due to the fact that Thai English teachers are self taught and have an extremely low level of spoken English. We were told that it would be tough and that we will feel like giving up at times. Her answer to these struggles was: “what you get out of this internship is up to you and what you make of it… if you just go home, you will be letting a whole school down”. These are children who look forward to interns coming every term, children who have been expecting us and whose futures can be changed because of us. Being able to speak English in Thailand is a skill that opens so many doors. Our job is to make them want to learn English.
At this point, the novelty of being back in Thailand started to wear off. I began to worry about my capabilities and my confidence was dwindling. I’m not so good with young children, and couldn’t imagine myself singing stuff like “head, shoulders knees and toes” for a class. I started to pray I’d be put in a secondary school. But at the same time, one of the reasons I was doing this was to prove to myself that I’m capable of doing something completely out of my comfort zone; something rewarding, a valued role that will be appreciated by others. Everyone left the conference room with mixed feelings. Everyone is different. Some of the interns, like me, were anxious, while others were excited to jump straight in. At the end of the day, there’s no point in stressing. You have to embrace challenges and take life as it comes. And that’s what we will do.
We had a great couple of days getting to know each other sight seeing around Ayuthaya. On our last night as a full group we had a Thai cook-your-own style dinner and went out to a local bar in neon flashing tuk-tuks pumping music into the back. The morning after, we said goodbye to the Ayuthaya group and arrived in Kanchanaburi where we were finally told about our host schools. Before we knew it we were in the mini bus being dropped off.