Shelby Stroud Testimonial
One Semester Testimonial by Shelby Stroud
Deciding to teach abroad was an easy decision for me to make. The summer after my junior year of undergraduate, I had volunteered in Tanzania; I was placed in a school (one room) with forty plus loveable three, four, five, and six year olds. I had hoped to volunteer in an orphanage, but it seems that God had a different plan for me, because after being placed at Hope Nursery School, my life had a direction, whereas before I was lost.
I pursued my Masters in Education, and began applying for jobs all over the world. As many travelrs do, I had “see the world” ADHD. “Ah, I want to go there. Oh, oh, oh but what about there?” The places I applied varied—Tanzania, Honduras, South Korea, Taiwan, Ecuador—and I got offered several jobs—mind you not because I am truly qualified—having a degree means nothing when it comes to these little munchkins. Within days I had phone calls from Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The first offer I seriously considered was at a competitor school to Super English in Surat. The job started too soon for me, though, and after I turned it down I felt an urging that I belonged in this city.
If you’ve ever lived anywhere besides the United States, you know that your heart becomes stuck in the very first place that ignites your travel bug. The kids here are nothing like my babies in Africa, and the schools are much more structured, but I love these kids with my whole heart. There were moments where I had hoped to be sick (not that it matters much, because you can’t miss, and besides, you feel bad, because they LOVE their time with you, and alright, you LOVE your time with them, too); there are also moments where I feel like I could hit an entire class over the head with a hammer and make no difference. But, the moment my ghetto fabulous motorbike pulls into the Noonoy parking lot, kids are waving and shouting my name. I even think that all but two kids have learned that my name is not Jessica, which is quite an accomplishment. I am at Noonoy only two days a week, teaching eight sections of kindergarten, grades 1-6, and English Club. It seemed daunting at first, but the variety and the freshness is a dream.
I also get the pleasure of seeing the other side of the tracks; I teach two Super classes five days a week. I have little babies—four to six years old. I have seen major progress, love the kids, know them well, and enjoy when they giggle. You get a certain level of comfortableness, where they have no problem smacking your booty during a lesson, giving you hugs for free, or as my “princess” class does, hiding in the hall after class so I can monster roar at them. My absolute favorite is when some of my super kids come back for hugs—that’s when it really feels like it counts.
This teaching thing is no easy gig, and I have found some karma in the kids who have trouble sitting, being quiet, or are smarty pants… At first, I had too many hours, and Peter helped me by cutting some. Now, I feel like I have a hold on things, so Peter is giving me more next semester. When I was struggling with one of my classes, Peter came in and showed me how he would handle it, and even ended up splitting the class in two, because the levels were so varied. Another great thing about Peter that differs from other schools is that he brings the whole school together. We aren’t just employees or awkward roommates—we are friends. We have monthly parties that Peter puts on where we all get together, and I know of no other school that does this.
e prepared to face new challenges, exhausting (sweaty) days, kids who make you want to never have any yourself, and kids you want to steal. At the end of the day, whether we sign on for extra time at Super, move home, or move to a different country/continent to teach, I know not a single one of us regrets our decision to live in Surat and teach at Super. I, for one, love my life and cannot imagine it being anywhere else.
One Year Testimonial by Shelby Stroud
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 beach.
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.