Leah Long - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I had always dreamed of going overseas. When I was a little girl my grandmother would always tell me stories of her trips to visit Mexico or South America, and I knew that one day I wanted to have that life and those adventures. I didn't have a lot of money though, and I also became a single mother at the age of 18 so my dreams of world travel were quickly shut down (or so I thought). I knew once my son was grown I would travel, so I pursued a bachelor's degree in Asian studies, because I loved Asian philosophy and religion.

I was working in a fast food restaurant after graduation when my cousin came back from teaching English in Taiwan. Her stories and experiences reinvigorated my desire to go, so I researched programs that fit my needs and found the Go TEFL program. The TEFL training was outstanding, complete with a cultural immersion program that prepared students for life as a teacher in Thailand. I was on a plane within a few months to obtain my dream life.

Elephants during a show in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai Elephant show

Why did you choose Go TEFL Thailand specifically?

When I found the Go TEFL Thailand program, I knew it was amazing. They offered a lot of help for people who wanted it. The price was great for everything you got. They have weekly excursions, where you can go out and see parts of Thailand that you wouldn't know how to find on your own. The staff was so friendly and welcoming.

I remember my interview for the program; it really helped me answer any questions I might of had about the program itself and it helped me feel at ease. I was nervous about going overseas and possibly being ripped off, or getting into a school that didn't care about the quality of their product. This school showed the professionalism and the friendliness necessary to help me feel at ease over my choice.

What was your favorite part about Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai is a beautiful city. It has everything you need to both experience authentic Thai life and history as well as escape back to the mall if you feel overwhelmed by everything. Everyone transitioned differently and had their own pace, so it was a great location for allowing the students to create their own pace.

Something like Bangkok is too developed to get that true feeling of waking up to a Thai market for a quick local breakfast. It's also one of the safest places I've ever stayed in Thailand. The farther north you are here the better your quality of life is. There aren't a lot of loose dogs everywhere and you don't get preyed upon by scammers trying to trick you out of your money.

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Chiang Rai’s White Temple

In your opinion, what makes the TEFL program you participated in unique?

I think the program was made unique by the way they brought us all together. The classroom activities and the excursions helped bring us together. Many of us still keep in touch and will travel to see each other and share our cities and adventures. I still reflect on the games we played in class and the different ways to adjust a lesson for individual classes and their needs.

I currently work closely with our company's camp coordinator and help him come up with game ideas. Anytime he's in my area he invites me to a local camp for the weekend and I attribute it all to the training I had at Go TEFL Thailand. I was never a teacher before this, so their wisdom and guidance kickstarted my career and satisfaction in my new life.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The staff was always there to help me. Even when I thought I didn't need help, they had the experience and were savvy enough to see when I was in need. Everyone was helpful; not just the teaching staff, but the secretary as well would take time to address any issues or needs that we had. One time the printer broke and everyone was scrambling to figure out how to print out our flashcards when the secretary offered her printer for us. She stayed an extra hour in the office making sure that everyone had the tools they needed to teach a lesson the next day. I appreciate her fortitude and dedication to our success.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I would have spent more time with the other students. I felt I had many friends while I was in the program, but we all fell apart so quickly when we went to our new location. I wish I would have stayed closer with them so that I could have heard more about their new life and adventures.

Describe a day in your life in Thailand.

The apartments we were set up in are in a beautiful location with a Muay Thai gym next door. I would wake up early and sit on my balcony watching the fighters stretch and warm up. On my way to the school was a strip of markets along the street where I would choose from hundreds of different options for breakfast, or maybe just stop at the 7/11 for a drink. I would arrive early and chat with the other students over coffee.

The lessons were very active and engaging, so we would be up and moving and making conversation all morning. After lunch we would come back for another lecture and some practical application of the day's lessons. Once a week we would teach at a local school, so the end of the week was where we really got to see the results of our class work.

Woman riding a boat in Phayao, Thailand

Boat ride to the temple on the water in Phayao

What activities did you enjoy doing on your free time?

My favorite activity was when we went to the rice fields, and got to see how the locals use water buffalo to plow the fields and the authentic way they separate the rice husk from the rice. They even had a wooden crank where the water buffalo powered the sugar cane extractor. We got to try fresh sugar and some of the students even got to ride the buffalo.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I had a very nice studio apartment with a pool. It was in a great location with many shops surrounding it. There were restaurants and local vendors nearby, so eating out was very cheap and easy.

How has your time abroad impacted your life?

This experience has been very empowering. It has proven to me that anything is possible and that the world is so different and unique. The people here are so amazing and friendly in ways that you would never see back home. I have stumbled across all of my Thai friends just out walking around; they care so much about you and ask nothing in return as they invite you to dinners and drive you to the bus station. Every time I try to give back they return three fold the kindness. I've never been in a world so kind and generous.