Hi! I’m Megan, a 27-year-old writer and photographer currently living in Bangkok, Thailand and teaching kindergarten at a trilingual school. I love traveling for the quirks and surprises that come with immersing yourself in a culture that is different from your own. Also, this world is pretty dang beautiful.
What sparked your interest to teach abroad?
My first true travel experience abroad was moving to Breda, The Netherlands. I went to university there for a year and saw a lot of Europe. It’s no surprise that wandering Europe really stirred that wanderlust in me. When I chose Southeast Asia as my next destination, I knew I needed some sort of income to be able to support myself, and teaching is a popular choice here. I love kids, and as difficult as it was to jump right into having my own class of 20+ three/four year olds, it’s been wonderful.
How did you plan in anticipation of moving to a new country?
You might not want to take my advice on this one, as I didn’t do an excessive amount of planning. Luckily, I had a friend living in Bangkok so I had a place to crash until I found a job and a place (that took almost two months). I basically bought a plane ticket, quit my job, packed up all my stuff and put it in storage (if I could do it all over again, I’d just get rid of it all), handed my car keys over to my brother, and loved on my friends and family as much as possible. I haven’t even read a travel book on Thailand.
How long have you been teaching abroad? How did you find living accommodations?
I moved to Thailand in March 2014, and began teaching in May. I have a contract that extends into the next school year, so we’ll see what happens! I still have a lot of countries to visit before I head back to the states. When I first arrived, I began my search for an apartment on Craigslist, searching “Bangkok apartments” on Google, and using a couple apartment search sites. However I soon found it was almost easier to just wander in an area I was interested in and physically visit apartments. Many of the cheaper Thai apartments aren’t listed online.
What was the transition like to get acclimated into the new culture?
This is the first country I’ve lived in that truly was a culture shock. Even when I lived in Costa Rica, I could communicate with people in either their limited English or my limited Spanish. I overestimated the use of English here and I’m terrible at tonal languages. I was lucky to meet some helpful expats right off the bat. I think creating that support system early on is vital. I just put myself out there as much as possible...exploring on my own, talking to strangers, asking a lot of questions.
What has your overall experience been like since moving? How has your life changed since making the decision to teach abroad in Thailand?
Overall things are great. I haven’t been this inspired in my creative endeavors in a long time. I’m taking a new approach to my photography, as well as branching out into new mediums and collaborating with other artists and peers; it’s been really exciting. I also have become MUCH more patient and accepting of things that I just cannot change. My confidence took a huge hit when I inexplicably got fired from my first job, but living alone abroad doesn’t really allow you to wallow in that for long. I also use my motorbike to get around now – I used to say I’d never ride one, but it’s the best!
What advice would you give those interested in following a similar path?
I would say just go for it. It’s really easy to tell yourself, “I’ll go when I have x amount of money,” or “I’ll go after I get some experience at this job,” whatever it is - you’ll keep making those excuses. I did it for a while and I regret not ignoring those voices and doing this sooner. Also, get your TEFL certification! If you come to Thailand, be prepared to just roll with the punches. They do things very differently here, and it often makes NO sense...but it will make for good stories for the grand babies, right?
What has been your funniest moment as a teacher in Bangkok? What do you believe will be most memorable about your experience?
We have this giant rain tree that covers a large majority of the school’s property, and one day during morning exercises underneath it, a live squirrel dropped from the top of the tree onto the students. I nearly fainted I laughed so hard. I also spotted a python in that tree after class one day...not as funny. I think I’ll certainly remember how deeply I already care for the Thais I work with every day - both kids and colleagues. Despite the language barrier, the love is tangible. It’s going to be tough to leave.
Travel has a tendency to look very glamorous, though that is not always the case. What types of challenges have you had during your travels?
You can say that again. There are the usual snags that, as a traveler, you anticipate and semi-prepare yourself for. However, I had a bit of extra bad luck my first few months here - I got hit by a car, had my first rent and deposit stolen, got fired, got extremely sick several times - it almost became comical; my luck was so bad. Also, it is very hard to be away in my late 20’s - at the moment I’m missing a lot of my best friends’ babies’ firsts and several weddings. I also am going to miss my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary. As independent as I am, I’m still pretty entwined in my family and close friends’ lives, so that is difficult to only really be able to experience those milestones through social media.
Of all the photos you’ve taken, which would you say is your favorite picture you’ve captured during your time teaching abroad?
This photo (see image above) was taken on a weekend trip to Ayutthaya and Lopburi. Lopburi has these macaques just wandering everywhere in town, and we came upon a large family group snacking on some noodles on the street. The monkey in the middle had a broken finger, and I snapped this photo at the precise moment that made it appear that he is giving me the finger, and his little friend to the left is quite shocked by it!
What advice would you give to those interested in traveling internationally but have no idea how to start?
Information is key. Reach out to friends or friends of friends who have gone abroad, read blogs, search Google - the internet obviously is a treasure trove of useful information that will help you feel more comfortable about such a big decision.
What’s next for you?
I really don’t know. I love the school I’m at now and life is going well, but there’s still so much to see and photograph. High on the list before heading back to the states: motorcycle trip through Vietnam/Laos, move to New Zealand, head west and hit Nepal... Sri Lanka...Morocco (etc), trek Iceland.
Images Courtesy of Meg Rogers