The Australian Thai Youth Ambassador Program (ATYAP) has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life. I am so thankful that I got the opportunity to learn so much be able to immerse myself in Thai culture. Thailand has such a diverse and fascinating culture filled with a deep history and various interesting aspects. From the various delicious Thai cuisines to the language to the friendly and welcoming nature of the people, everything about Thailand pulled me in and made me want to immerse myself in it and learn more about it.
It was so much fun to be able to go to the Night Markets after we came back from teaching at school and try various one of a kind street foods from the stalls.
Trying Crickets for the first time
Although we were teaching full time on weekdays, on the weekends we got to visit various places and immerse ourselves into its beautiful views. We got to experience Thailand’s strong Buddhism beliefs by attending a meditation retreat in our first weekend at Ubon Ratchathani. It was a great once in a life time experience and gave me an opportunity to reflect and be mindful of the things around me. I really enjoyed learning Thai dancing, at school as well as in Bangkok.
Our meditation retreat at Wat Pah Na Na Chat
Showing off our guns, Thai Dancing style.
Morning Assembly at Pathumpitayakhom
The highlight of my trip had to be in the three weeks I spent at Pathumpitayakhom School, the school that I was allocated to teach in, along with 4 other people. As Ubon Ratchathani is located in the northeast of Thailand, the people there very rarely get the chance to interact with English speaking foreigners. Therefore our aim was to give them an opportunity to practice their English with someone who is fluent as well as teaching them about Australia and its culture.
My memorable first class at Pathumpitayakhom
Teaching the students about Australian Landmarks
While there was a great disparity in the English skills of each of the students, which provided us with some challenges, I was truly impressed and blown away by the confidence that the students showed in speaking to a foreigner. It made me wish I had that courage when I was their age. Despite the language barrier, the students and teachers alike were very warm, welcoming and friendly towards us and were very enthusiastic to be able to learn English and have us teach their classes. The thing that I would look forward to the most, would be when the students would approach me after class, after school or during their free period to try and talk to me while subsequently practicing their speaking skills and teach me Thai words or phrases.
The students coming to talk to me during the free period/after school to talk to me
Never have I received so much love, hospitality and kindness from a group of people I had just met and known for a very short period of time. The thing that shocked me the most as I walked into my very first class on my first day of teaching at Pathumpitayakhom was seeing each and every student in that class looking at me with warm welcoming smiles and eagerness in their eyes, something that is extremely rare to come by at a school in Australia, and I instantly fell in love with them. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment because I had never been greeted with such enthusiasm by a group of people I had never met in my entire life.
The students bidding us farewell on our last day at school
On our last day at Pathumpitayakhom, I received so many heartfelt letters, messages and gifts that brought me to tears. We even got serenaded in our very last class. Although our aim was to teach the students and expand their knowledge and skills I felt as though I was the one that learnt a lot from them. I really admire the courage, enthusiasm, hospitality and kindness that they displayed and hope to be able to emulate it in my life in the future.
They even sent us to the airport at 7am in the morning on a Saturday and didn’t leave until they watched our plane take flight.
It was such an amazing and heartwarming experience and I had never thought that I would fall in love with such a large group of people so quickly and have so much love for them. I’m so glad that it’s the 21st Century and we have technology and social media, allowing me to be able to keep in touch with them and be even more amazed at how much their English has improved in such a short time. When I first met some of them, they weren’t even able to string together a coherent sentence or question (as they had rote learned English all their life) but now they are able to ask me how my day was and tell me about what they’ve been up to in their school holidays.
Our short time in Bangkok was also a lot of fun and gave us the opportunity to do more touristy things such as going to the Floating Market and visiting the Grand Palace and shopping at Khao San Road. We also got the rare chance of visiting the Australian Ambassador’s house as well as visiting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Thai Rath Newspaper, amongst other places that we visited.
Customary photo with the Australian Ambassador
I am so grateful to Angelica for creating the program and giving us the opportunity to immerse ourselves into Thai culture as well as being able to meet such amazing people and students and learning and improving myself in ways that I never thought I would.