Ben Jerome-Lee - 2015 Program Participant

What made you decide it was time for you to go abroad?

I wanted to travel, help students who would be excited about the opportunities learning English would afford them, and figure out if I wanted to make teaching my career.

Why did you choose XploreAsia over other program providers?

It looked like what I was looking for, and the interactions I had with its staff members were all I needed to make my decision.

Ministry of Commerce personnel in Yangon, Myanmar
Me with my Myanmar Ministry of Commerce in Yangon

What was your favorite part about Thailand?

My co-workers, the students, and of course, the beaches.

What made your experience abroad unique?

Several things; the fact that I almost died the first time I was in Thailand (I'll explain later) and XploreAsia handled it so well that I chose to go back to Thailand, go through them again, and then travel/teach in Myanmar through a joint venture of theirs. The culture I was exposed to, both Thai and Myanmar, was unlike anything I had ever seen before (especially coming from Vermont). It was the first time I lived in a foreign country, let alone a developing second world country (Thailand) or a developing, third world country (Myanmar).

Primary school students in Thailand
My Cherngtalay, Phuket EP 5/1 class

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Superbly

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

MC assembly and present an English vocab word. Then teach a science lesson to EP 5/1, have a period off, and then teach the same lesson to 5/2, have a period off, teach an English lesson to P 5/3. Then, finally, have a period off to close out the day.

Is there anything you wish you would have done differently?

Connect more with my Thai students.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Going to the beach, hanging out with co-workers and local Thai friends, and exploring the island.

What type of accommodation did you have?

An apartment that was four minutes from my school and 12 minutes from the beach.

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

If you go into this experience with any expectations or preconceived notions of what it'll be like, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Freedom Beach, Phuket, Thailand
Freedom Beach, Phuket, Thailand

How has your time abroad impacted your life?

My time abroad helped me mature and become an adult, as well as decide on what I want my career to be.

Would you recommend XploreAsia to others? Why?

Absolutely. I first went to Thailand in November of 2014 and took Xplore Asia's TESOL course in Hua Hin. On the night of November 14, 2014, I was crossing the road on foot with another TESOL participant when we were hit by a speeding pick-up truck. I suffered a skull fracture, a traumatic brain injury, several broken ribs, a break in my left ankle, where my tibia and fibula meet, and I tore three out of four ligaments in my right knee. I was in a coma for five days. XploreAsia handled the situation amazingly, communicating with my parents effectively and with empathy. When my parents flew out to Thailand, the head of Xplore Asia, Michael Volpe, showed them what I had been doing in the course, introduced them to other participants in the TESOL program that I had been close to, took them out to dinner, etc.

To make a long story short, flew back to the U.S. just before Christmas, had knee surgery, went through physical therapy, worked in an elementary school until school ended, waited tables over the summer, and then returned to Thailand again through Xplore Asia.

I took my second TESOL course in Chiang Mai and was hired by the Cherngtalay Municipality School in Phuket, where I taught English and Science to fifth graders. At the end of the semester, it was clear that I couldn't afford to stay in Thailand over the school break, seeing as I wouldn't be receiving my monthly income from teaching, but I wasn't ready to leave Southeast Asia and my experience over there just yet.

Floating village on Inle Lake, Shan State, Myanmar
A photo I took of a floating village on Inle Lake, Shan State, Myanmar

Through Xplore Asia's teacher network I heard about an opportunity to teach in Myanmar at Xplore Asia's joint venture in Myanmar, NELC Xplore. I applied, was interviewed, and offered the job soon after. I spent a total of seven months in Myanmar working from NELC XPlore and at the end I had the answer I had gone to Southeast Asia to get, along with a whole bevvy of life experience.

My point of this long-winded story is that I trust and have faith in XploreAsia to the point that I almost died my first time over (the driver pled guilty and was sentenced to two years probation), and yet I went back and took their TESOL program again. That's the level of faith I have in XploreAsia and the experience that they provide.