Name: Eve Vang '07
School: Sansai Wittayakom School
City, Country: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Major/Minor: Political Science/Management and Asian Studies (minors)
How did you decide to teach in Asia? Asia has always intrigued me because of my ancestry. After studying abroad in China during my junior year at CSB/SJU, I got the travel bug, and was itching to go back to see more of the East. Trying to postpone the traditional 8-hour workday after graduation, many of my post-graduate friends recommended teaching abroad. I applied for the Fulbright fellowship for Thailand, not only because I knew it would be a great adventure, but also because I wanted to teach children of my own Hmong heritage. When I received the award, Fulbright placed me in the province with the highest Hmong population.
How is your program designed (how often do you teach, living arrangements, what is your daily schedule)? Fulbright is a federally funded fellowship program in the United States. This is Thailand’s second year in their Fulbright Educational Teaching Assistantship (ETA) program. Ten of us were selected to be ETAs. We flew into Bangkok in mid-September 2007 and received a one-month long training on teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL), culture, history, politics, and language. After the training ended, we were flown to our designated provinces and I began teaching at Sansai Wittayakom School.
I am the only farang (what they refer to foreigners as here) teacher at Sansai. It is a secondary school, so I teach students who are 13-18 years old. Our campus is gated in and I live in the housing they provide for teachers at the back of the school grounds. I share my traditional Thai house with two roommates who are young Thai women just beginning their teaching career. We have dinner and watch Thai soap operas every night. There is an organic garden and a fishpond in front of our house where the students are raising fish in honor of their King’s Sufficiency Economy project, which emphasizes on providing one’s own sustainability.
I grade four of my own classes, but am rotated among the other English teachers to assist them in their classes the rest of the time. The Director of the school wants all his students exposed to my native tongue. So essentially, I teach the entire school, about 18 hours a week.
Describe a memorable experience in the classroom:My Thai students are a forgiving audience. As a freshmen teacher, they give me room to make mistakes as long as we can laugh about it after. I took the students outside for class one day and had them piece together cards with words written on them to form proper sentences using the vocabulary words from the unit and using present perfect grammar. After they finished, I decided to teach them one or two American games. Elbow tag was a success while Duck Duck Grey Duck ended up in piles of laughter when I flashed my students in my required female teacher attire—my skirt. Luckily, the students were all girls.
What advice do you have for students who are considering teaching in Asia? What should underclassmen be doing now to prepare for a career in Asia? If you’re interested in teaching in Asia and still have the time, study abroad in an Asian country first. CSB/SJU offers numerous opportunities through their semester and summer programs. This will test your ability to handle living in another country away from your familiar surroundings. Second, I encourage you to find volunteer or job opportunities to work with young international students. CSB/SJU holds Japanese camps every summer. There are also many organizations for you to get experience with tutoring or simply hanging out with international children in the Twin Cities.
If you are a junior or senior, make sure you research different programs that will send you abroad to teach in Asia. Deadlines are something to be aware of so that you can balance applications with your regular college workload.
Good luck to those who plan on coming to the East. It’s beautiful here and as much as I love teaching, the Thai people definitely teach me lessons of humor, generosity, honor, and respect everyday.