I can hardly believe that I have nearly been in Thailand for one year. I remember going back and
forth about my decision to teach abroad—paralyzed by fear thinking about doing something so
outside of the box. In fact, I paid for the travel insurance on my plane ticket, just as a window to
backing out. Now, I cannot believe that I almost missed out on this opportunity. I don’t know
what my life looks like back in the States, and in ways it seems pretty nonexistent, because Surat,
teaching, and everything here seems to be all I have ever known.
I arrived in Surat on October 20th to teach at Noonoy and Super English. Noonoy was beautiful,
my kids at Super were wonderful. But I definitely had some struggles, as can be expected when you
pick up your life and move it to a foreign place. It took me a while to really be able to let loose in
front of a class—at times I still felt like an awkward middle school girl, but I have since learned how
to use the front of the classroom as my stage, and how to make fun of myself right along with the
kids. To reflect on the teacher that I was last term to the one I have grown into now is a wonder.
I learned how to have more fun with it, and Super English was a great way for me to find that
footing, because the classrooms are small, and you get to forge a close bond with the students in
your classes there.
While keeping with the topic of school, this term has been a real test of me as a person and
teacher. I have now taught at every school in the Super English contract. Furthermore, I have
taught four, two hour segment classes for nine weeks at Surat Thani Technical College. This
means in one day I could teach three year olds to twenty year olds. It has been wonderful to be
given the opportunity to teach at such different levels. It means truly shifting your perspective and
teaching methodology, and I feel like it can only bring me positive chances in the future.
A lot of people get to Surat and are disappointed that it is raw and real Thailand. You google
pictures and see the beach, and even though you have been forewarned that those aren’t accurate,
still feel as though your hopes have been dashed. I didn’t come in feeling that way. There is the
river, which is a sight and a nice place to share some beers. There are motorbikes honking, bright
colors everywhere, and happy people on every sidewalk. Then there is Khanom—a place we visited
on my first weekend. Khanom is only an hour away, and is the completely unspoiled beauty of a
What Surat offers you is culture, cheap and delicious food, language, and celebrity-like status.
People who teach in Phuket or Chiang Mai don’t have food stalls with twenty baht pad thai. They
are not forced to speak Thai for survival, and they don’t get waved to and handed free things for
being “different.” They look just like all the other farang backpackers who cause problems, and in
many ways are, because they do not have to put forth the effort. Ryan and I have made such good
friends at one of the markets that we are handed at least one free bag of goodies each time we visit.
I’ve never met such warm people as the Thais, and in Surat, you can really forge friendships despite
the language barrier.
Okay, so I have to say something about it, because well I just can’t not—Peter has a bit of a
reputation as a matchmaker. Maybe it’s in the water (wait, we can’t drink that… hm…), but not
only does he hire really great employees who you don’t mind calling your coworkers or becoming
friends with, a few of us have ended up in relationships, thanks to Peter’s hiring choices. I cannot
imagine this experience without the Ginger, and I am grateful that I had him by my side along the
way. Aside from that guy, I have made some truly wonderful friends. I know my path will
continue to cross with many of theirs, whether it be a similar travel plan or going to their weddings.
I am not sure what life has in store for me next, but I am so glad that I didn’t have to use that
travel insurance and made a leap of faith. In the end, many of us have deep wanderlust, and moving
on is written in the cards, but we all have loved and appreciated the lessons working for Super has
taught us. Be prepared to face new challenges—inner and outer struggles. There will be
exhausting and sweaty days—kids that make you want to pack them in your suitcase, as well as kids
that make you think you never want any yourself. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade any of it
for anything—the good, the bad, or the ugly. This life is a blessed one.
|One Year Testimonial by Shelby Stroud