by Emily Nass
There are several questions you can be sure to hear within your first few weeks in Surat. I want to talk about one that continues to come up with every new experience.
Is Thailand what I expected it to be?
To be honest I have a hard time remembering what I thought life would be like here. I had a small bit of teaching experience and some traveling in Europe as my only means of comparison. I think because of this I had it in my head that I was in for a shock of a lifetime. My biggest surprise, when I began my contract, was how similar Surat is to the western world. Granted there are definite differences, yet surprisingly almost as many similarities. The worst thing I did before coming to Surat was reading travel books. The picture they painted for me of Surat was nothing close to what it has been. I am happy to say that Surat was not what I expected, but in such a good way. I had envisioned a town that would be hard to integrate into or find things to do. Surat is exactly the opposite. It is surprisingly easy to get a grasp on the city and what is in it.
What I was not expecting when I first arrived was the extremity of the heat and humidity. I knew it was going to be hot, just not to the point that I would have to send back clothes that just did not work. A quick word of advice… Avoid polyester like the plague when packing for Surat. Also, remember that you will stand out like a sore thumb. I am blonde and stand a good few inches above most Caucasians. My sharp contrast to everyone around me was what took me the longest to get used to. The worst times are the days, and everyone has them, when you don’t want to be bothered. For no particular reason, you want to be left alone and just relax in your own little world. Best of luck doing this when you are as noticeable as a black lab in the snow. This is something I did not think about before I came. I knew I was going to an Asian country and would look completely different from my students. What I didn’t take into consideration was my time outside of the school.
As for teaching, I love my students. I left home with what I considered to be a realistic idea of what my life would be like. I planned to teach, that was my main reason for going abroad. The travel aspect was a wonderful bonus, but I was going to be a teacher. The classrooms are different from the States, where I am from, but just as enjoyable. First off, in the States you can fail a student. This is not usually the case in Surat. Most of the schools you are not able to fail a student. I was also surprised at the small amount of prep and paper work we have to do. While there are still lesson plans and monthly reports to do, the contrast to teaching back home is amazing.
I love teaching and knew that I would enjoy working abroad. I had never been to Thailand and did not know too much about it when I applied for the job. Even so, it was a wonderful starting point for my teaching career and I am certainly glad that I did it. There are still times when I get home sick or can think of nothing but bratwurst and sauerkraut for days. This is something I remember realizing before I left. I knew I would occasionally miss things from home. What was a shock was when I went back home for a few weeks during the long “summer vacation”, and found myself missing an abundance of things from Thailand. When you live somewhere you will always miss someone or something. The great thing about my time here, is that even though at times I am home sick, I know I will find it immeasurably hard to leave. My time teaching and living in Surat has surprised and affirmed many ideas I had before coming over. Is Thailand what I expected it to be? No. Is that in any way a bad thing? Never in a million years.