Interested in teaching abroad? How about riding elephants? Thailand might be the perfect destination!

Jesse Lehrman ’14 talks about his experience teaching students in rural Thailand as a member of the Teach Thailand Corps

CES: What was a typical day like as a teacher in Thailand?jesse with class

Jesse: A typical school day started around 7:45 with flag ceremony, where the school would gather to sing the national anthem, say a Buddhist prayer, and listen to announcements pertaining to upcoming events. Then the day was a blur of planning, grading, and teaching. I generally taught four hours of class a day, but was otherwise busy with various teaching tasks.

After school I’d have some free time to study Thai, relax, or zip around town. Most days around dusk, along with much of the community, I went to the sport complex to jog. That was usually my favorite time of day because the weather was nice and I liked seeing the community all together. After that, I’d generally grab dinner and head to my apartment for the evening.

CES: What did you enjoy most about your experience with Teach Thailand Corps?jesse atop elephant

Jesse: There were many little moments that gradually contributed to a general sense of accomplishment I built over the course of my time. By the end, I felt like I had stretched myself beyond the identity I had built before, adopting an identity that’s still me but also unique to Thailand.

There were a lot of fun times with my friends, of course, but the moments that I think will stick with me most were with my community and in the classroom where I was doing things I never would have anticipated a year ago.

CES: What misconceptions did you have about teaching abroad before you left?jesse teaching

Jesse: I definitely wasn’t expecting to assume the role of a full-time teacher right off the bat, but that’s what happened.

Situations vary drastically for foreign teachers in Thailand, but I was expected to follow a curriculum, give evaluations, and hand in grades at the end of the semester. I got the sense that my school understood that being thrust into the job is difficult for young foreign teachers though. They didn’t expect me to work education miracles as much as be a happy, good role model for my students.

CES: What was most challenging?jesse sitting with students

Jesse: In Thailand, how much you stress yourself out about teaching is proportional to how ambitious you are, so finding a balance between having goals and not being too intense is difficult to find.

As a teacher, you want to have a sense of purpose but also a sense of fun. So recognizing that you’re going to mess up once in awhile, but that you’re also going to have success, is important. Finding that balance was a constant challenge for me.

Students dancing

CES: What advice do you have for students who think they’d like to teach abroad?

Jesse: Know what you’re embarking on and embrace it. There will be fun times as well as real challenges. With effort and acceptance, you will learn far more than you would otherwise.

I look back on my time fondly not only because of the culture I experienced but also because of the unique role I took on within my community.

Teach Thailand Corps regularly visits campus to recruit teachers. Check the CES Career Events Calendar for upcoming visits. 

© 2015 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photos provided by Jesse Lehrman