Joe Plukarski - 2016 Program Participant

Why did you choose GeoVisions’ summer camp program in Thailand?

I wanted to teach in Southeast Asia, but only for a short time.

What surprised you most about Thailand?

How easy it is, especially in Bangkok, to communicate with locals. There were a lot of signs in English, and most everyone around had some sort or understanding of English. Moreover, everyone is willing to help you. There were several occasions where I asked a random stranger where a certain place was and they stopped what they were doing to go out of their way to show me where I needed to go. Everyone was so helpful, and I was not as lost as I thought I would be in a country where I did not speak the language.

Friends having drinks at a bar in Bangkok, Thailand
Me and my mates

How did the local staff support you throughout your program?

They provided us with ideas of what to do and gave us freedom to do what we wanted to.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in Southeast Asia?

How truly hot it is there. There were a couple heavy shirts (mostly polos) that I didn't even bother wearing because it was so hot. I wish I would have been smarter with my wardrobe.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Thailand?

Advil and Tums cannot be overstated. I did not bring either of those two and I really wish I would have. Other than that, be sure to look at the weather before you go. Ninety-five degrees and 100 percent humidity is no joke! Also, I would recommend bringing enough toothpaste. Though toothpaste is one of the more obvious things to buy in a store, the flavors are very different. I ended up buying a very salty toothpaste and that was not easy to get used to.

What was an average day like for you in Thailand?

There is no such thing! Every day was a new adventure.

What was your favorite thing to do in your free time?

Hanging out with people that I met.

Tell us a little bit about your accommodation. 

HQ Hostel in Bangkok was a lot cleaner than Sumjai place in Ayutthaya. The workers there were also a lot nicer.

Overall, how difficult would you say communicating with locals was?

Most everyone had some understanding of the English language. Those that didn't I would just have to use simple words and they seemed to understand what I needed. There were locals that were very good English speakers, and they were more than eager to practice their English with you.

Tourist at the Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok, Thailand
Visiting The Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok during the first days of Vassa

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program? 

Go into this with an open mind and expect things to go wrong.

What was the hardest part about volunteering as a summer camp counselor?

For me, the hardest part was saying goodbye to the students. My time with them was so very limited, but I was able to see tangible growth in some students in that short time, and that will stay with me my entire life. If I could, I would stay there to continue making a positive impact in these students' lives.

What was your favorite part about Thailand?

Meeting the local Thai people and tourists from around the world. All of the people there were so nice and relaxed.

How has your time in Thailand impacted your life back at home?

I want to travel much more than I did in the past.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?

Seeing a different part of the world always broadens your perspective; volunteer teaching abroad is the next level. Not only do you get to see a whole different part of the world, but you become directly engaged with the community. If you want to truly experience a different culture in a way that engrains you within the community you are visiting, then I would highly recommend volunteer teaching.

Would you recommend GeoVisions’ program specifically?

Yes! It was a great way to travel.

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

I would love to go to Thailand again! But if I had to go somewhere else, I would like to go to other countries in Southeast Asia, like Cambodia and Myanmar.