Sawaddi Khrup Everyone!!
On the 15th January to the 14th February I went to Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand as part of the Australian Thai Youth Ambassador Program (ATYAP). In my own words ATYAP is about teaching English to underprivileged Thai children with the aim of building cross-cultural bonds. I boarded the plane with 38 other like-minded university students not knowing what to expect. To be honest the days prior to going on the trip I was scared of going on the program. However by the end of it all I can confidently say that ATYAP has undoubtedly been the best university experience.
Our first couple of days in Ubon was quite serene; the stark contrast between the chaotic nature of Sydney was a nice change of pace. During the first couple of days during the day the 38 of us went through a two-day intensive course, which was aimed to give us some tools, and techniques that can be beneficial for teaching and also an understanding of the Thai language and culture. While we weren’t preparing lesson plans we spent our nights and the Night Market, which is the best place for authentic Thai cuisine. We spent every night at the Night Markets trying different dishes ranging from Street Pad Thai, Duck Noodle Soup, Dumplings, mango sticky rice, Thai Milk Tea, random assortment of meat skewers and various insects.
Prior to teaching we also found out what schools we would be teaching at and also who our partner would be. I would be teaching Primary School at a school called Baan Na Kham. The school was located 45mins away from our hotel near the farms and was heavily under resourced. Fortunately to help overcome these problems I was paired up with the best teaching partner, Celine. Even though I had only known the people on ATYAP for a couple of days I could tell that I was going to enjoy my time in Thailand with them. Everyone on ATYAP came from different and diverse backgrounds ranging from what university they study at and their passions and I feel that’s what makes ATYAP so special.
Our first official day of teaching was probably the most full on experience I had ever had. As soon as we got to the school we were greeted with performances from the kids, speeches from the director and blessings from a monk. Honestly I felt like it was a bit too much but I was reassured that this was how they treated guests. I guess one of the main things I learnt about the people of Thailand is how warm and welcoming the people are. Everyone at the school appreciated that we were coming to their school to teach English and although I felt like I wasn’t doing anything special to them it meant a lot. We were then given our timetables and told what classes we would be teaching. I would be teaching grade 4-6 while Celine would be teaching 1-3. Celine and I ended up teaching grade 1-6 together because we felt that having two people teaching at the same time enabled the kids to get the most out of this experience. Though teaching for 6 hours straight was extremely tiring the kids were so energetic and eager to learn so that’s what really motivated us to keep going. The kids were adorable and although they were shy at first they eventually warmed up to us at the end.
Over the next 3 weeks we watched the kids grow from being quiet and reserved to loud. By the final week of teaching we couldn’t get the kids to stop hugging us. To be able to make an impact was the reason I wanted to go on ATYAP. As cliché as it is to say even though we went there to teach English to the kids I felt that the kids taught me so much more. It was clear that after the three weeks Celine and I left a lasting impression as they kept hanging onto us and asking if we were coming back next year. The three weeks I spent teaching was an amazing experience and is something that I will always cherish.
Our final week in Thailand was spent in Bangkok. The week was spent doing ambassador stuff. We learnt Thai Dancing, which was more difficult than it looked, visited the Grand Palace, got interviewed by the Thai Rath Newspaper which is Thailand’s biggest newspaper, visited the floating markets, had lunch at the Australian Embassy, watched a Muay Thai show and visited Ancient Siam. The last week in Bangkok went by so quick that by the time we had a chance to settle in we had to leave back to Sydney.
I’d like to thank Angelica and BUiLD for the opportunity to go on this program. The ATYAP experience has indeed been life changing. Looking back at the experience I could never imagine spending my break any other way. The four weeks spent in Thailand were truly amazing; it’s an experience I will never forget.
– Samithy Heng, Australian Thai Youth Ambassador 2015