You know the song. The one that made everyone cry the last night of summer camp while you sat around the campfire stuffing your face with s’mores. Camp friends always seemed different from your school friends. Even though you spent only a short time together, they had a remarkable impact on your life. And when it was time to go home, the tears began to flow, the Facebook friend requests flooded in and promises were made that you would talk every week.
In the back of your mind, however, you knew that once you went back to real life, other priorities would take over. Once a week would turn into once a year and pretty soon, you’d forget all the inside jokes that made you laugh till you cried. I have that same feeling now, the horrible knot in my stomach, as my semester in Thailand is coming to an end.
This is the last week I am teaching my students, as next week they’ll be taking their final exams. The last 16 weeks have flown by faster than I ever could have imagined and I can’t help but reflect on what my time here has meant.
Bunyawat Witthayalai School is the largest school in Northern Thailand and has been bringing in native English-speaking teachers for nearly two decades. They have seen a lot of foreigners come through here and, naturally, we have heard many stories, both great and utterly horrific. I often wonder what OUR legacy will be after we leave.
Will it be our English Camp skit where we dressed up like our students? Will we forever be known here as the “four little angels?” Will they forget our names in a couple years and struggle to remember the time we went to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or sang karaoke at the English Department Christmas Party?
As far as teaching, I feel like now, at the end of the semester, I’ve only just finally figured out what I’m doing. I did a hell of a lot of “winging it” and now there are a lot of things I wish I had done differently. Maybe if I had been more strict at the beginning, my students wouldn’t come to class 20 minutes late. Maybe if I had quizzed myself every day, I could have learned more of my students names. (There are 900 of them. Give me a break…)
Recently, I haven’t been able to shake this kind of frustration that if I was able to do it all again, I could do so much better and make even more of an impact on my students. I would even have some of the same classes a second time, as my M4’s will become M5’s after the summer break. I’d also get to spend more time with the wonderful friends I’ve made here and get to continue traveling around Thailand.
I’ve enjoyed every second of this experience, but I can’t help feeling a bit unfulfilled. I really don’t think my work here is done, so… (drum roll, please)
…I’ve decided to stay!
After this semester ends, I will spend a month backpacking Southeast Asia with Michael and will return to America for about six weeks (with guaranteed appearances in NH, Maine, NY, Baltimore, and Charleston), before coming back to Thailand for Round Two. I am extending my contract for one more semester, which runs from late May to September, and after that, I still plan to move back to the good ‘ole U.S. of A.
If you’ve been following my blog, this may not come as any kind of surprise. The day I arrived in Lampang and settled into my cozy apartment, I thought I wanted to stay more than just four months. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to extend my trip and continue this adventure, but am also definitely looking forward to seeing friends and family while I’m home!