Emily is from Vancouver, Canada. She holds a B.S. in Biology and Psychology. Emily and three friends volunteered at a hospital and an orphanage in Bangkok, Thailand with World Endeavors.
How was your experience in Thailand?
It was really good, a mixture of everything. I was amazed at the hospital at how much I got to see. One doctor let us in on surgeries, on appointments and explained everything to us in English. I felt like I gained more at the hospital and contributed more at the orphanage.
Tell us about your volunteer projects.
The orphanage that we volunteered at was a grant funded project with 7 kids to show that stimulation can improve any child. I played with the kids, helped with feeding and any and all aspects of childcare. My sister spent more time with the kids and worked on rhythmic therapy with them.
My favorite part of volunteering at the hospital was getting to see the surgeries, and the fact that the doctor took the time to mentor us. He was always so busy but he would also explain everything that was going on to us in English.
Had you been abroad before? What were your first impressions of Thailand?
I had only been to Mexico, which wasn’t the same as traveling to Thailand. I tried to keep an open mind about Thailand as all of my friends had been there before. I don’t think I experienced culture shock. I was surprised and impressed by how many spoke English. It made me want to learn another language.
Why did you choose to volunteer in Thailand with World Endeavors?
My sister and I had already decided we were going to travel to Southeast Asia. My sister suggested we do a volunteer trip. I wanted to volunteer in the healthcare field, but it seemed hard to find without prior medical experience. World Endeavors didn’t require previous healthcare experience.
Did you learn some Thai while you were there?
I did learn some basic Thai language through the program. In class, we learned basic phrases that were good for when we went shopping or if we were lost. It helped me feel more secure in my travels.
Tell us about your host family experience.
They were amazing! They really contributed to my experience. Our host mother had 2 kids. One daughter lived on campus and their grandmother lived in the home. They were so sweet and so warm. They were always taking us places and making sure we were having fun. They took really good care of us. Everyday our host mother would drop us off at the hospital. They also always took us to temple, which was a big deal.
What did you do in your free time?
Evenings were pretty low key. But we were always somewhere different on the weekends. It was hard to make plans because people were always inviting you places! Even one of the doctors at the hospital took us out to the floating markets and to the replicas of the King’s Summer Home.
What was a typical meal in Thailand?
I never had the same meal twice! The food was amazing. I was never really a food person back home, but it was so good! Every night we ate until we were full!
What are you doing now? Do you believe your time in the hospital impacted your future career goals?
I am getting ready to take some pre-requisites in September for my masters program in physiotherapy. Career-wise, my time at the hospital confirmed my choice in health-care.
What advice would you give to someone traveling abroad?
Do not have too many set ideas about the country or people. Thai people are known for being low-key and easygoing. You don’t need a watch; it’s Thai time! Just be open-minded and easygoing and you will be fine!
Number one story you love to tell about your time abroad:
I usually always tell people about the surgeries. I [had more opportunities to see more than I would have] back home.
The kids at the orphanage were so sweet that it was hard to leave. Their facilities were nice but it was not staffed nearly enough. When I was leaving, my favorite little boy was being adopted by a couple from the United States.
What was the most important thing you gained from your experience abroad with World Endeavors?
The most important thing I gained was the insight into other cultures. I had never before been outside my own culture before. Everyone was extremely friendly and nice.
I learned about the type of person I am and how to travel with others, but I am glad I can travel alone also and I am glad I did it.