Jeremy was an intern in Thailand with World Endeavors, where she interned in Youth Development and assisted at an organization that works with children living in disadvantaged communities.
How would you sum up your experience in Thailand?
The first impression of Thailand was amazing. I had traveled to Peru, Paris, and Mexico before partaking on my journey to Thailand but my trip to Thailand was my first independent trip.
The people were extremely friendly and you could see different cultures and religions being practiced and respect given to each other. Bangkok was just like another city which I wasn’t expecting. The difference was the strong culture influence and you could get anything, anywhere, whenever. Food was available at all hours and locations and things were sold on the streets instead of buildings. There were big markets where families could sell goods that they got from wholesale markets. Everything was very affordable.
My experience in Thailand was extremely eye-opening. I miss the wonderful people I met there and the laid-back culture. It was an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It taught me a lot about myself and other people, worlds, and cultures.
How did your first impressions and initial concerns change from when you arrived to when you left?
At first when I arrived I was a little afraid to venture very far from my host home and work. I was afraid that I would get lost but after time I realized that if I was to really get a full experience from the country I had to travel and depend on myself. I also came to realize and accept that things were different there and I wasn’t going to be able to change many things in a day-to-day scheme.
With my internship, at first I worried that I was not actually helping or “doing enough”. I realized that the help, love and care that I could give to the people I worked with was sufficient, and that was what mattered. I also had a great respect for the culture and their practices. You have to give up your misconceptions and prejudices when you travel. Having the most open mind will create more success and a greater adventure. I made sure that I just let things happen and tried anything new that would heighten my experience.
My favorite part was working with the kids. They were so happy and loved laughing. I also enjoyed working with my co-workers and trying to communicate with them. I began feeling pretty confident with my basic Thai. It was extremely difficult leaving at the end of my trip. I wanted to stay and continue the relationships that I had made.
Why did you want to intern abroad in Thailand?
At first when I signed up I wanted to travel because I didn’t want to graduate from college so soon. I didn’t want to just travel though; I wanted to contribute something to the country/community/people that I came in contact with. Thailand just sounded like a great place to go. I didn’t really know anything about it and it just so happened that there were programs that I was interested in out of Thailand.
Did you have any difficulties with language comprehension and communication?
About the first month it was pretty difficult for me to remember words and actually get an understanding of other ways to communicate. Sometimes when I was working in the different wards with the kids, they would ask me questions or try to tell me things and I couldn’t respond to them in Thai. They didn’t always understand that there was a language barrier. After I learned more from my host family and co-workers I had a really fun time trying to communicate. The people I worked with would help me with my Thai and I would help them with their English. It was a great trade off.
What was a typical day for you like?
On Mondays and Fridays I traveled to a section of the slums where [the foundation for slum child care that I interned at] was located. There I worked at the day care center usually in the 1-11/2 year olds room playing, singing, cleaning, and feeding them. We would be with them from about 8 am to about 4 pm each day. The kids would play, eat nap and play some more. The other teachers were amazing people who really cared about the betterment of the kids.
On some days we would go out to the other slum areas and play games and do activities with the other kids. We would educate the families on how to feed and take care of their babies. These trips were really rewarding because we could bring so much happiness to those people.
I also spent a lot of my time at a children’s hospital. I cooked in the kitchen making meals for the in-patients as well as learning how to cook a little Thai. The workers were so dedicated and kind in helping me. I did this from 8 am until 12 pm and then I would take lunch, usually with some of my co-workers. At 1 I would move to another section of the hospital to teach English to some of the nurses. They enjoyed the time we got to spend together and they became a lot more confident in speaking English.
I developed amazing relationships/friendships with almost all the people I worked with. All in all I made great friends with all who I came in contact with. I met so many people and experienced wonderful things that other travelers would not even come close to experiencing.
How was living with a host family?
My living arrangements were magnificent. My host parents were extremely accommodating and they took me to do awesome things that I wouldn’t have done without them. Their home was beautiful and they cooked so well. I could eat Thai food everyday, all day. It was so delicious and easy. The fruit was abundant and magnificent. There were so many different tastes that I got to experience and a lot of new styles that I got to try. I loved it!!
I lived really close to the Skytrain which was the easiest form of travel there—quick and efficient. I took buses a few times but usually the traffic was horrible so I stayed away from them.
My host parents were the best host parents you could ask for. It definitely made my experience so much better and comfortable.
What did you do in your free time?
On my time off I tried to travel to other areas in the country. I went to the North, North East and the South a little. I would either travel or try to relax with my host family. It seemed like people always wanted to take me places.
How did your time in Thailand impact you?
I think the biggest impact this trip made on me was the increase of confidence I acquired. I will not be afraid to meet new people and travel again, even on my own. It makes you really think about yourself and your place. It is a great way to get to know yourself but also get to know a wonderful culture and people. This trip really opened my eyes and mind. I found that I am capable of travelling by myself and that there is so much to learn about the world and the people who make it so wonderful.
I’m still going to school and I haven’t really decided what I want to do when I get out. I definitely want to work closely with people and get at their needs.
How did you choose World Endeavors? Would you recommend WE to future participants?
I was searching online for programs to help with volunteers and World Endeavors was the most affordable and worked best for my wants and needs from travelling abroad. It happened by chance.
I had a wonderful time in Thailand and everyone associated with World Endeavors, in the U.S. and Thailand, was extremely helpful. Whatever I needed they were there to make sure that things were going fine. I felt very comfortable with World Endeavors program in Thailand and the people they work with there.
Number one attribute you realized about your home country (the U.S.) by living in a different culture:
That the U.S. has its own very unique, diverse culture and that we should appreciate and celebrate it. There are things in all cultures that could use work or change.
Number one story you love to tell about your time abroad:
There are many stories and experiences that I was able to live through. Just being in a foreign country and live with the people, on their level, was a wonderful experience. I can’t think of one story that I love.
Number one piece of advice you would share with someone going abroad:
Keep your mind open and say yes to opportunities that present themselves to you. Don’t be afraid of new experiences or stepping out of your comfort zone.