I’m not one of those people who moved abroad to ‘find themselves’, I didn’t leave England on some journey of self-discovery, nor did I move to the other side of the world to find the meaning of life. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to change much at all, I thought I would return home the same girl who had waved everything goodbye...almost a year later I don’t think that’s quite the case.
My biggest surprise was how much my students have shaped my life, altered my way of thinking and shone a spotlight on the best of my personality- travelling has changed me of course but it’s my students who can take credit for my biggest alterations.
I’m Katie, a 24 year old typical Yorkshire girl from the North of England, I moved to Thailand to teach English in a primary school 7 months ago after travelling South East Asia for 4. Here are 3 things I’ve learned about myself since being here.
I can do anything
I got thrown into the deep end massively during this trip, I experience culture shock like no other, my students were relentless at times and some days I felt like hopping on a plane and going home with my tail between my legs. At that point it was sink or swim and I threw on some armbands and began kicking for my life. This experience was like my golden ticket and I now feel as if I’m capable of anything- I could move to a country where I only know a handful of people and be okay, I can learn a language in a matter of months because I can’t communicate with anyone, I can successfully teach children English (with zero prior experience or knowledge on how to do so). I am brave, I am fearless and I can do anything- it’s always been there, it’s just that I only realised after I jumped feet first into the scary unknown.
I’m not as much of a control freak as I thought
Living in Thailand- the land of smiles and ‘mai bpen rai’ attitude (loosely translated to-no worries) has taught me that I don’t crave the control I used to think I needed. A few years ago, a delayed train, a cancelled doctor’s appointment or somebody telling me they would be ready in 10 minutes when it fact it was more like 30, really- and I mean really, infuriated me. Living in a country with a completely different culture to my own has taught me that all of this stuff doesn’t matter, in Thailand we go by ‘Thai time’ if someone says 10 minutes it would most likely be an hour, if all your classes are cancelled one day and nobody tells you, it’s all good. I’ve taken to this mantra like a duck to water- control, who needs it? The best things happen in life when you truly let go.
Hard work can get you anywhere
If you put to you mind to something, anything at all- you can achieve it. If you want to be fitter, if you want to be smarter, if you want to be better at painting, if you want to be a ballerina- hard work is key. I wanted to see the world, so I worked as many hours as as I could, I sold pretty much everything I owned, I held car boot sales, I spent days on Ebay, I stopped going out, I stopped spending money on things I loved...all to achieve my goal. I hate this one particular meme ‘How do people my age spontaneously afford a trip to Thailand, I can’t afford a spontaneous loaf of bread.’ I’m not spontaneous, I’m not lucky, I’m not blessed- I’m a worker bee, anybody can do it. This is mirrored in my TEFL job in Thailand; I spend hours creating fun activities and games for my students, I mark their books, I create exams, I spend time with them out of the classroom, I work on becoming a better teacher. Now, as I sit around a beautiful swimming pool, in the Thai sunshine during half term, on my month off from teaching I realise just how much hard work pays off. Don’t be afraid of a little elbow grease, it can take you to some magnificent places if you let it.
After living abroad for almost a year now, I can hold my hands in the air and be the cliched traveller; I will not be returning home the same person I was when I left. I’m more; open minded, less judgemental and I’m more laid back about stressful situations. Living in a foreign country hasn’t just changed who I am, it’s made me realise things about myself that have always been there, they’ve just been hiding from me, or have been buried under the surface; I’m a strong, fiercely independent woman who truly believes she can do anything, I’m not as obsessed with control as I once thought and I now really value my determination and busy bee attitude- it’s taken me to places even my wildest dreams couldn’t imagine.