By Brittany Horwich
Before moving to San Francisco, I had the most eye-opening experience backpacking through Southeast Asia. I was in Thailand at the time and thought to myself, “5 months here is NOT enough… I need to see more.” I bought a 45 litre orange off-brand backpack, filled it with as little, and as much, as I thought necessary and was on my way to Laos.
From there I had amazing adventures through Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, Cambodia’s Killing Fields, Indonesia’s hidden Gilli Islands and Bali’s rice paddies, all the way back to some of Thailand’s most beautiful islands and northern mountains. It all felt so unreal and movie-like. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, because honestly, none of this would have happened if I didn’t start with making the leap to go teach English abroad first.
I remember finishing my grad program and feeling a bit lost. I craved to see the world but I also wanted to do something meaningful and important. All of a sudden I remembered a conversation I had with a friend. He had told me about how he found an organization online that seemed to need his help in Cambodia, explaining that he volunteered to teach English there. Perfect. I speak English, I love children, and Southeast Asia is definitely abroad and new!
I entered “teach English in Asia” into my search bar. I was stunned by the amount of websites that came up. I think I spent about 3 months doing proper research into each organization, reading all of their reviews and volunteer testimonials and even trying to find these reviewers on social media. I wanted to make sure I was working with a safe, credible organization. Finally, I found a girl on Instagram who had worked with the organization I was interested in. I immediately messaged her, asking her to tell me everything she knew. We spoke about her experience and I was hooked! That night I sent in my application, completed my interview, and that was that.
My experience teaching kindergarten in Nonthaburi, a town about 40 minutes northwest of Bangkok, Thailand, was strange and beautiful. Everything was new to me. The food, people, culture, language, even the toilets! There were some hiccups along the way but how could there not be; I had just submerged myself into a whole new dynamic. The rewards were infinite. Nothing feels more gratifying than having a room full of adorable Thai children, who spoke no English before, now being able to recite specific fruits, veggies, animals and colors without missing a beat. Also their smiles and excitement over stickers and hugs didn’t feel so bad either.
My adventure was one that I will never forget and I can’t wait for the day that I can keep exploring. Until then, if any of you are feeling inspired or have a bit of travel bug as well, UniversalGiving has some amazing opportunities for you to teach English abroad! Supporting Kids in Peru, is a nonprofit organization that helps economically disadvantaged children in Peru to realize their right to an education. Their volunteer program has opportunities as short as 6 weeks, as well as longer semesters. They even need a sports coach!