Many people are afraid of challenging themselves to do new things. It has never been an easy process for me either to meet new people or decide to go to a new place alone. However, after getting this experience, I gained confidence that I could try something new alone. From now on, I would like to introduce the overseas volunteer experience that has grown my mindset a lot.
The beginning of the opportunity, AIESEC
Before entering college, I was a student full of dreams about college life. I wanted to do volunteer work, travel, use daily English fluently, and make foreign friends. Then, I happened to hear about an association called AIESEC promoting overseas volunteer programs on campus. Through this program, I expected that I would be able to realize my dream of college life, so I applied. AIESEC is a non-profit youth organization and international leadership student association working at many universities around the world, including Sookmyung Women's University. As many universities around the world participate, the types of volunteer programs provided are also very diverse. Among them, I believe that volunteer work in Thailand and Indonesia is the most active. With Sookmyung University's mediation, I participated in a volunteer program provided by Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. The program I participated in was volunteering as an English teacher at a rural school in Thailand for six weeks. Each volunteer was assigned a local host to provide meals and accommodation. The reason why I chose this program was that first I thought it was worthwhile teaching English to elementary school students. In addition, I was attracted by being able to interact with volunteers from various countries while using only English for six weeks, and by having the opportunity to experience local culture while staying with Thai people.
The Thailand that I felt
I volunteered in a province called Sakon Nakhon in Thailand. It is a quiet rural area with not many high-rise buildings. Most people use motorcycles to get about, and there are many dogs on the street. So you should be careful because it can be a little dangerous to walk down the street alone without a motorcycle in the evening. If you have a chance to travel in Thailand, you will be able to see a lot of 7-Eleven convenience stores, and there was also one nearby where I stayed, so I used it. The difference between Thai convenience store and Korean one is that there are many types of toasts in Thai convenience stores. The worker personally grills the toast, but it's cheap, so I recommend it as a meal if you come to Thailand. And since Thailand is a country that has been greatly influenced by Buddhism, much of its culture is related to it. Therefore, you should be careful not to insult a monk or the king. The king's picture is also drawn on the bill. Also, The position of a hand greeting varies depending on who the other person is. If you go to Thailand without knowing this, it can cause inconvenience to Thai people. So when visiting Thailand, it would be good to know the precautions in terms of Thai culture.
How I spent time in Thailand
Thai elementary schools have 7 classes in a day. What was a little special about the school I served in was that there was a Korean class for kindergarten students. So I was able to teach not only English but also Korean. We usually had four hours of classes a day for all grades. I had to arrive at school by 7 a.m., so I woke up around 6 a.m. and got ready. After all the classes, it was usually about 5 o'clock, and after that, I had some free time. During my free time, I visited other friends' houses nearby and played with them or spent time with a local host. On weekends, everyone living around gathered together and went on a trip nearby for two days and one night. Most trips were spent with friends living close to me because they had to get the consent of the host, go with the host, or drive us by car. It was a little difficult to prepare and lead all the classes on my own during the overseas volunteer period. However, I was so happy that the children followed the class well and that I seemed to have helped them a little. And it was a valuable time to make friends with various nationalities in addition to the volunteer work.
Crisis as an opportunity
At first, I was afraid of going to Thailand alone, but now that I look back, I think I was able to learn and feel more precisely because I was alone. During the six weeks in Thailand, there was another Korean volunteer, but he was placed very far from me, so I had no chance to meet him during the volunteer period. As a result, I had nothing to rely on and therefore had to choose and handle everything on my own. Through this overseas program, there was a moment when I regretted the decision I made while seeing myself go abroad for the first time and solve everything on my own. However, through that process, I was able to develop a cautious attitude when making decisions. Also, by the end of this time, it became exciting and rewarding rather than scary to challenge myself to do something alone. Furthermore, after spending six weeks with friends from other countries, I felt that my view of the world had widened. When talking about something, everyone felt very differently, and thanks to that, I was able to learn the rich and diverse perspectives of looking at the world. When I came back to Korea, when I heard about a friend's country on the news or radio, I found myself listening with a little more interest than before.
Take up the challenge!
Six weeks was both a really short and long time for me. From a college student's point of view, six weeks may seem a very long time to be alone in another country. But because of this time, I was able to have a precious experience that will never happen again in my life. At that time, everything was strange and worrying, but I'm proud of myself for taking up the challenge. I will continue to be a Sookmyungian who challenges herself and faces new things.