Trevor Kanaya - 2015 Program Participant

Man standing on a peak at Pa Hin Ngam National Park in Thailand

Conquering a peak at Pa Hin Ngam National Park

What inspired you to apply for an international program?

I applied to the program in order to experience teaching overseas, as well as take in a new culture and challenge myself to adopt new ways of thinking. I have many friends who have taught in Asia and around the world, and all of them highly recommended the experience.

Why did you choose GeoVisions homestay-style teaching program?

I specifically chose the homestay program due to the fact that it was a shorter-term alternative that would still allow me to teach and explore. As I did not intend to make teaching a long-term career, but instead it was simply something that I wanted to experience once, this was ideal.

What was your favorite part about your location in Thailand?

My favourite part about the location was that it was quite rural; this had its advantages and disadvantages. Public transportation in Thailand is very different than in the west, so it was very difficult to get into a city for anything that one needed there. The advantages were far more numerous, so the minor inconvenience of travel was a small price to pay.

As I grew up in rural Ontario surrounded by farms, the peace and tranquility of the country is something that I enjoy, and my location (Natab, Songkhla province) afforded that in abundance. Fresh fruit and jungle extended as far as the eye could see. The air was fresh and I was able to truly experience the flora and fauna of southern Thailand.

What aspects of your program made it unique? 

The homestay program's most obvious difference from a typical teaching placement is that the participant gets to take part in all aspects of Thai culture as a person in Thailand would. The participant is integrated into the host family and accompanies them during everything that they do in their life. I was fortunate enough to have witnessed an engagement ceremony, a number of weddings and monk ordinations, a birthday, Buddha Day, as well as all sorts of smaller activities in daily life. These are all things that I don't imagine that I would have had the opportunity to see had I lived in my own apartment and been forced to explore on my own.

View of Hat Yai City Thailand from Hat Yai City Park

Hat Yai City Park - top of the mountain with a view of the entire city

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The staff were always on hand at almost every hour of the day, ready to answer questions or address concerns that may have arisen. There was not an instance when I contacted the agency or GeoVisions that they required more than a day to get back to me. This allowed me to act in a quick and decisive manner as soon as I heard back, without being left high and dry in a situation where time was of the essence.

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

I am not entirely certain that I would have done anything differently during the course of my program. It was fairly flexible and combined the perfect ratio of teaching and exploration, and as such, I was able to experience everything in Thailand that I could imagine wanting to experience.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program. 

A typical day began with getting up early to eat breakfast. While this may seem obvious, as a person who has worked a number of jobs on night and early morning shifts, I was often inclined to skip breakfast to afford more time for sleep or preparing for my day; this was not so with my Thai family. From my observations, Thai people are very concerned with ensuring that three full meals were consumed on a daily basis, regardless of the importance of other activities. There were days when I was almost late for school, as I had intended to skip breakfast only to be served just before I was rushing out of the house. Finally, I rearranged my morning schedule to prioritise food.

Riding a motorbike in the jungle of Natab in Thailand

Tearin' it up in the jungle of Natab

After breakfast, I would travel to school, which was nearby. I took a motorcycle to school at the request of my host family. This saved them the trip to and from twice a day simply to transport me there and pick me up later. If future participants are so inclined and have the opportunity, I highly recommend the motorcycle experience. Motorcycles are ubiquitous on Thai roads, and I didn't truly feel like I had gotten the Thai experience until I rode one.

At school, I taught four classes, grades four, five, and two grade six classes. Lesson plans usually came from a predetermined curriculum, but occasionally it was necessary for me to improvise. When teaching children who don't speak your language, I found it was imperative that no matter what I was teaching or doing, I be as entertaining as possible in order to keep their attention. It helped a lot that I am a musician and had a guitar to play.

After class, I was always invited to dine with the teachers for lunch, then following that, traveled back to my host family's house where we usually went into the city to pick up their kids from school (they attended a different school than I taught at). We would usually get food for dinner at a nearby market, and then go home for the meal. After the meal, we enjoyed relaxing activities, such as football, badminton, or watching television, before bed.

What was your favorite activity outside of your required program activities? 

My favourite activity outside of the program was definitely traveling and seeing the other parts of Thailand. This was sometimes done with my host family, sometimes with fellow western English teachers, or sometimes on my own. I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to see places all over the country, not just the deep south where I was located. I toured islands, mountains, cities, and waterfalls. Hiking, camping, and climbing were my favourite activities on these journeys.

What was your housing accommodation like? What was your favorite part about it?

My accommodation at the host family's house was similar to anything I would have at my family's house back home, a room with a bed and desk, affording all of the comfort that I needed. The house was much different from a Western-style house in the sense that it had been constructed with the Thai climate in mind. It definitely did not have the sense of separating inside from outside the same way houses at home do, and through the day, many, if not all doors and windows remained wide open.

My favourite part about it (due to it being located in a rural area) was its large size and abundance of greenery of all sorts. There were many fruit trees on the property, which yielded a vast assortment of fruits that I had never before seen but was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to taste.

Kayaking in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand

Kayaking in Nakhon Si Thammarat

Now that you're home, how would you say your time in Thailand has impacted your life?

Since being home, I have found that I am observing my culture through an entirely different lens. My experiences abroad have allowed me to further develop my critical thinking abilities in regards to the government and the way my society interacts, after having experienced a completely different kind and internalising it somewhat; the differences become very marked after that.

I also have a new-found appreciation for the things in my own culture that previously had gone unnoticed, due to simply being parts of everyday life and never having gone without them for any substantial period of time. I am able to appreciate the things that other cultures possess that perhaps mine could afford to adopt. To summarise, it has given me an external perspective of my own culture that I did not possess before.