It’s been a year since I graduated from W&M, took a leap of faith and moved to Thailand – completely on my own. Since I’ve been abroad, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most inspiring people. I teach English at a school in the mountains. It’s a remote village, and the nearest city is a six-hour bus ride away. The hotspots to go to during the day are the 7-11 and a couple of coffee shops in town. It’s quiet here. There are no tall buildings, lanes of traffic or smog hanging in the air. Instead, I see mountains and rice fields in the valley below the school. But I’m not alone. In fact, I feel more immersed in a community than I ever have before. I didn’t think that was possible, especially after going to W&M for four years – the College will always be my second home.
It wasn’t easy to get here, to this point of contentment, to this place of peace in my life. I have never lived on my own before (with the exception of a summer internship, but I had random roommates for that experience), let alone move across the world to a completely foreign environment, only to immerse myself in a culture far from my own. Here, the languages I hear the most are Thai and northern Thai. My students come from hill tribes and their native languages are Karen, Lawa and Hmong. English and Chinese are taught at the school where I work, though no one is fluent in either languages other than the native speakers (I’m the native English speaker at the school, and we just started our Chinese program so we have university students from Guanzhou, China on rotation here to complete teaching internships).
Moving abroad for an extended period of time (though, now that I’ve been overseas over ten months, I feel like it’s just short-term), can be a big change. If you’ve never been out of your comfort zone before, this is certainly the way to do it. I’ve encountered a variety of hurdles along the way, but nothing was impossible. Everything until now has been an experience or lesson for me, and has certainly made me more open and understanding of the world.
So, if you’re preparing for a big move (be it to a new city, a new part of the country, or halfway across the world), do not fret. And if you’re thinking that one whole year overseas is a long time, I would say it most certainly is not. Time moves a lot faster than you’d think. If I could, I would stay here even longer. I feel like I just arrived and my job here has just begun.
Just the other week, I was talking to one of the teachers here.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea if you go back to your country. You have to stay here,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I’ll miss you,” she responded.
I’ll miss her, and all of the teachers and students here at my school, more than she’ll ever know.