From Chiang Mai to Nong Khai–TESOL Reflections and Taking the Next Step

Once upon a time, a girl named Britta moved halfway across the world in search of new opportunities, a new life, and new adventure.

She knew it wouldn’t be easy, but she didn’t realize how hard it would actually be.

And she also never imagined she would meet a group of people who would ultimately change her life forever.

— — — —

Okay, screw this writing in the third person. I’m annoying myself right now.

I’m sitting here in my hotel room in Nong Khai and I’m not going to lie–the last day and a half has been one of the hardest of my life. After a month of safety in Chiang Mai (and oh man, did I not realize how safe it really was), I’m completely and totally on my own. I have yet to meet anyone in Nong Khai who speaks enough English to have an understandable conversation (though perhaps I’m not looking in the right places). I tried to have a conversation with the lady at the hotel who made my breakfast earlier today and ended up bursting in to tears when I got back to my room because I was just that overwhelmed by that tiny conversation, or lack there of one. Incentive to learn Thai? Check YES!

The Thai teachers who were supposed to show me to my accommodation are all on vacation out of the country (My school’s semester starts next Monday) and I feel like I’ve been dropped here without any support or any knowledge of what to do and where to go. I’ve been in touch with my agent via phone and SMS, but she isn’t actually in Nong Khai right now. I know how stereotypically Thai my current situation is–the lack of communication and the last minute change in plans. It’s actually kind of hilarious, really, how stereotypically Thai my current situation is. I’m not necessarily bothered by it since I’m generally a very go with the flow type of person–it’s just too much right now when I’m already a bit of a basket case.

I woke up this morning feeling absolutely hopeless. I was honestly apprehensive about leaving my room. I called my my parents and two of my friends back home in tears.

It was while talking to them that I realized something–I have had absolutely no time to process these last couple weeks. I have been so over stimulated by constantly going, going, going in my TESOL course that I haven’t felt like sitting down and writing a thought provoking blog post in ages. I wanted to blog yesterday, but was having internet connection issues on my computer. I’ve fixed the problem and have internet now and now? Now I just need to write.

Because writing is part of my identity. It keeps me sane. It keeps me rational. It brings me up when I lose my shit….and I have definitely lost my shit.

— — — —

So, where do I begin?

There is so much on my mind right now that it feels like it’s about to burst.

Quite simply, though, it’s that October 2015 will go down in history as one of the best months of my life. I look at the majority of the pictures taken throughout this month completing my TESOL course and realized they all had something very significant in common–I look so happy in all of them…

…because I was so happy. And I’m so unbelievably grateful that I got to have this experience with these people. This month was filled with hardships of their own–adjusting to Thailand and Thai culture, trying to balance my desire to constantly be on the move with my friends with taking much needed time for myself. Getting used to Thai food and the dreaded Thai tummy (it’s a real thing, people…Thai food can be rough to the unassuming digestive system). Among other things.

But, all in all, this month was filled with so much joy and happiness.

This group, this group I was thrown into TESOL training with right here, they are what made all the difference:

Green Group after graduation.

There were 50+ of us this month, broken up into two groups of 25-30. I spent most of my time with Green Group given that I was in the Green Group, but I also loved spending time and getting to know people from the Purple Group, too (green and purple are the colors of Thai royalty, hence the group names).

I can honestly say I’ve never felt so accepted and so a part of a group in my whole life. Of course, I got closer to some people more than others, but as a whole, all of us together have this sense of adventure, this desire to do something different and exciting. After all, that’s why we all left our families and our homes and our lives back in the U.S., Canada, and Britain, and uprooted ourselves to Southeast Asia.

Many of us have said that this month was kind of like college. But one thousand times better.

Don’t get me wrong–I absolutely love my college friends and adore the time we spent together. Senior year of college was amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world. That said, this experience in Chiang Mai was something different. Being with these people with the same sense of adventure, all of us training to be English teachers abroad. It was so powerful. And as I sit here in my hotel room in Nong Khai, nervous and apprehensive to continue on on this journey as an English teacher in Thailand, I look back at the time I got to spend with these people and relationships I’ve forged and I’m reminded that I can do this and I will.

This group of people. They give me strength in a way no other group of people ever has…in a way that I can’t properly explain. And I know that this is just the beginning of our journey together. We may be spread out across Thailand now, but we built this connection in Chiang Mai. And that connection will carry us all into our teaching placements and beyond. I just know it.

25 Replies to “From Chiang Mai to Nong Khai–TESOL Reflections and Taking the Next Step”

  1. You absolutely look so happy in these photos Britta. I’m so glad this experience has given you these friends. It’s the people in your life who make your life what it is and I am a firm believer in surrounding yourself with the people who make you happy and lift you up. And you do the same for them I’m sure.
    I also completely understand the tears. I saw my mum today for an hour at the airport as we crossed paths. She’s only been gone for one week but when I saw her today I sobbed like a child. And when I said goodbye, I cried again. And when I saw my best friend tonight, he just hugged me and held on and I cried again. So hun, you are totally not alone. X


    1. You are SO right Desley. I am discovering how important it is to surround yourself with the right people. It truly changes everything in life. For the absolute better.

      Good to know I’m not alone. I’m done shedding tears (for now) but it’s still overwhelming being in a new place completely and totally by myself. I had plans to travel with friends later this week before our semesters’ start and that was really helping me through the reality of being completely on my own in Thailand–but now their plans have suddenly changed (a reality of living in Thailand, where “go with the flow” isn’t just a saying, but completely and totally ingrained into culture). Now, not only am I on my own for travel (something I’m a bit apprehensive about, but know will be good for me) but also feel even more isolated than I did before. It’s amazing what the excitement of seeing people can do for you. I really like Nong Khai (and if you’re ever in Thailand for work, etc, you’re more than welcome to visit.. 🙂 ) and the Thai people are SO friendly. But damn. I miss my regular interactions with my western friends.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sounds like you’re onto it Britta. You’ve got a plan and even if that plan involves “going with the flow” at least you know that’s the plan. Have a good time travelling, I’m sure you will. It would be wonderful to visit but there are no plans right now. Same goes here, let me know if you’re coming to Australia!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I will! I’d like to come to Australia, but it all depends on how much I can save, etc. Money isn’t everything in this life, but ya gotta have it to get by! 🙂


  2. You do look happy. I’ve never done anything like what you’re doing, but I know enough to know what you described about the last couple of days does sound typical. I’ve felt some of it moving to a strange city to start a new job, not being sure if I was at the right place doing the right thing – yes, I’ve felt like that a bit and I even knew the local language! So I totally understand (I’ve been places where I didn’t speak the language,but as a tourist, so very different.) I’m sure once this little breather is over and you get working with the kids, language barrier or no, you’ll both have a great time and be so busy you won’t know if the time you’re having is good or bad! I hope you have time to keep us all up to date on how it’s going!


    1. I’m so excited for my first day of school! Once I get busy with teaching, everything will fall into place. I’m traveling for a few days, too, which I’m looking forward to. Lots of errands to run in Nong Khai and lessons to prepare. Changes are never easy. In the end, though, it’ll all be worth it.

      I’ll definitely have more time to blog now that my training course is over. I’ll be sure to keep everyone up to date.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely photos Britta! Like the previous posters have said, you truly look happy here. 🙂 Enjoy the “downtime” for now and let all your previous memories and experiences sit and brew inside as you process them. Good luck with the teaching in the new environment and I can’t wait to read more of your adventures. By the way, I love your pants! 🙂


    1. Thank you so much, Belle! I’m doing my best to process everything while getting settled here in Nong Khai. Also have a quick trip to Laos scheduled in the next couple days.

      The pants are from one of the many night markets in Chiang Mai! Saw them and immediately fell in love with them. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your honesty in this post. I can see how it can be difficult when language barriers get in the way of things. For me, even though I know enough French to communicate and *relatively* understand people, I have also had moments of feeling overwhelmed and helpless while in France. I admit that I had bursted into tears during my very first day of teaching at my middle school- in front of the staff. Very embarrassing, to say the least, but sometimes it’s good to let it out and have others understand that the transition to a different culture can be rough.

    That aside, I sincerely hope that you find opportunities im your next step, whether towards fluency in Thai and/or assimilation into the culture. Take care!


    1. I know I will find opportunities. Things are looking up now. Got into my (very small) apartment and got some errands done today to make it feel a bit more like home. I’m traveling in the next couple days, have some other errands to finish up when I return, and start teaching next Monday. It’s a busy week, but I need to keep busy and there is so much to look forward to. The beginning of school, trips around Thailand to visit friends, and learning as much as possible from this fascinating culture. I really do love it here. The change from constantly being with 50 other westerners for one month to being by myself is certainly jarring, though.

      Hope all is well in France!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, yes…apartment hunting is the worst! Glad that you got that sorted, though. I also traveled a bit around my region before teaching, and it was definitely a fun experience, especially if you go with others.

        Things are well with me, thank you! I am currently traveling throughout some countries in Europe for my first paid vacation. It’s been fun, but also exhausting. More to come on that soon!


      2. It works a little different here. I have an agent that basically acts as a buffer between myself and the school and my agency set an accommodation up for me. It’s doable for the time being and very close to school, but I think once I have some income coming in after my first pay check, I’m going to look for something a bit bigger and a bit nicer (and something that doesn’t have a squat toilet).
        Wow! Paid vacation? You got it fancy over there. I highly doubt I’ll be getting those, though I’ll have to check with my school.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Brutta! Please forgive this short message but I’m literally falling into bed after a weekend of packing to move to a new apartment next week! I wanted to write you to say how much I’m thinking of you and I can imagine what you’re going through ! We are with you in spirit and it’ll be amazing, despite the bumpy arrival in your new placement town.
    PS: love your happy pics ! Nice to see our friend in common too;)))


    1. Ah, I hope you have a restful sleep, Lia! So glad you took the time to comment, anyhow.
      I’ll have more time to blog now that I’m not constantly moving with my TESOL course and I’m looking forward to keep you all updated here!
      Things are looking up now, though I’m still getting used to be so on my own. It’ll get easier once school starts and I get busy, though…I”m sure of that.

      p.s. Thanks!! Our shared friend is one of my favorites. :))))

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so proud of you Britta! It is wonderful to see all that happiness and to know that you have so much more in front of you. It is the struggles that will really make you blossom. And your friends/family are just a phone call/email/blog post/insta away. You will be fine!


    1. Thank you! 🙂 You are so right, Lisa–as beautiful and wonderful as happiness is, it’s truly the moments where we struggle the most that allow the most opportunities for growth.

      I know I’ll be fine! Sometimes you just gotta feel the sucky moments of life, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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