Benjamin Serong - 2014 Program Participant
Lots of love from Lungka School - Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Serong
Why did you decide to teach English abroad?
I was on a career break from work spent travelling the world. I had done some other volunteering placements on my travels and wanted to spend some time in Thailand.
Why did you choose Treetop Country for your teach abroad experience?
I was looking around at programs in South East Asia because it was a part of the world I hadn’t really explored but wanted to spend time in. I knew I would be travelling through Thailand so I started by looking at placements there. I found Treetop Country and it had everything I was looking for: the chance to do some direct volunteering work while staying with a family. Also I have a preference for applying with and paying programs directly, and Treetop did not require me to go through an agency.
What was your favorite part about Northern Thailand?
It was somewhere I had never heard of and otherwise would never have visited! Not many tourists visit the North of Thailand, and even then foreigners in the village are practically non-existent. Although, this meant that in some of the places around the village people could identify me as the new Treetop teacher.
What makes teaching with Treetop Country unique?
Students showing Benjamin their drawings
You get to go straight into schools and just help out with what the teachers are teaching that day. They are existing schools with classes planned by the teachers so you don’t need to do any preparing, you just go straight in. and you really get so see how beneficial your presence there is for the children.
How supportive was local staff?
The staff were all great. I didn’t really need any support because everything was easy during my stay there. But the Treetop family are very accommodating and were always up for hanging around for a chat after work each night.
What do you wish you would have done differently during your teaching placement?
I probably should have learned a bit more of the Thai language while I was there. But after ten months on the road at that point every language I had listened to started to blur together.
Describe a day in the life of a Treetop Country Teacher.
Wake up, and already a delicious hot Thai breakfast is waiting for me (how can your day start off any better?). A teacher picks me up and drives me to the school. Already the children have organised themselves into an orderly assembly, directed by the prefects without staff involvement. I try to imagine this playing out in an Australian primary school, but my head just goes to some Lord of the Flies type scenes.
Greet all the teachers, and then realise I am late for my class. Schools are supposed to have bells aren’t they? Not in Thailand, somehow the children just know when and where they are supposed to be. Yet this adult still needs to be told. First class is “Baby Class” (what we would call Prep in Australia). This mainly involves singing and dancing, which it’s fair to say are not my strong points! I spend the rest of the day helping in classes. Mostly assisting the teachers with pronunciation and vocabulary.
Rocking out with the "baby class" - Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Serong
When classes are finished I get dragged outside by the boys to join in a game of football. After five minutes of running around in the heat I am ready to collapse in a pile of sweat. I find a tree to sit under and watch with bamboozlement and envy as the Thai boys continue to running around chasing a football, unaffected by the heat and humidity. At the end of the day a teacher drives me back to Treetop Country. Awaiting is a cool shower, a cold beer, and another hot Thai meal.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
We did some day trips around the area to temples and a waterfall. But I mostly enjoyed just cycling around the village, exploring some of the non-descript temples and absorbing the views of the rice patties rolling by.
Where did you stay doing your program? What did you like most about it?
I stayed in one of the bamboo treehouses that have been built on the property where the family managing Treetop Country live. It is certainly one of the cooler volunteering accommodation options out there! Waking up in wall-to-wall bamboo certainly let you know you were in Thailand. But the accommodation is still very comfortable with amenities like a private bathroom and wifi. The best part of the accommodation for me was the two mischievous puppies that kept me entertained at night!
In what ways has teaching in Thailand impacted your life?
In many ways, too numerous to mention. Although I am still terrible at dancing.