New home: Bangkok, Thailand
Home city & country: New York, USA
Why did you decide to move abroad?
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where travel was valued. My mother has been a teacher in Thailand and Brazil (as well as all over America), and my father has been in international business in Asia for his whole career. Since I was able to travel often growing up, I knew I wanted to take the jump to live abroad once I could! I graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in Childhood/Special Education, with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies and a minor in Asian Studies. From my university experience, I was also blessed with the opportunity to be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in Malaysia. Before heading to my experience in Malaysia, I was offered a job as a Pre-K teacher at Regents International School in Pattaya for the semester. I absolutely loved this experience, as I was working at the same school as my mom, and I was able to teach young minds through the idea of play and exploration.
About two weeks before I moved to Malaysia, I met my now husband! I went to the island of Koh Samet with my mother and her friend for a girl's weekend, and I met Mab the first night we were there. Something kept pulling me back to him and we continued to message and video chat even though I was moving to Malaysia. In Malaysia, I lived in a rural town, Jengka, in the state of Pahang for 10 months teaching at SMK Jengka 16 and falling in love with the culture and community. Throughout that time, I visited Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, and of course...Thailand! After Fulbright, I moved back to Thailand where I taught Pre-K at Regents International School in Pattaya for 6 months once again before landing a permanent position at Berkeley International School in Bangkok, Thailand. Throughout this time, I was visiting the island every weekend, and loving my life in the big city of Bangkok. My husband and I lived about 4 hours away from each other, but we saw each other every weekend. In January 2017, he finally moved to Bangkok and we love our life here.
I originally moved to Thailand for family. So much has changed over the past 4 years, but I find myself staying here in Thailand for family once again. Our family.
How did you spend your First Month Abroad?
During my first month officially living in Bangkok, I was fortunate enough to connect to new people through my school. There are many social events at international school and I got to know my wonderful coworkers in the process. Additionally, by traveling to Koh Samet island every weekend, I was able to build a community of friends there as well. I spent my first month making my home feel like home, getting to know my new job, and enjoying my weekend getaways.
What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?
The biggest surprise to me about living abroad is how normal it becomes. At first, I noticed so many differences between my life in America and my life in Thailand. But with time, life here became my normal and going back to America turned into culture shock. My advice to prospective ex-pats is to try your best to put things in perspective. So many of the things we are doing here, especially as international teachers, are the same as they would be in America. We teach, we plan, we spend our day with little kiddos, we're stressed and exhausted by the end of each day. However, if you really look around, we're surrounded with adventure and opportunities for seeing things we've never seen before. We are in control of our happiness, and if we allow ourselves to really appreciate the life we're given, and the opportunity we have to be embraced in a new country and a new culture, we will realize we are the luckiest people in the world. Nothing is permanent. Embrace each day for the adventure it is, but be sure that you follow that gut feeling and go for it.
Another thing I realized about living abroad, is my reflection on being an American. We have so much. Too much. So many people live happy lives on way less and I think we have a lot to learn.
Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?
There are daily barriers, but as a whole, I am learning more about myself through learning about this new culture.
One story comes to mind: It did not rain on our wedding day and I was talking to my husband about how lucky we were. All casually, he said, "Oh no that is because my family sacrificed two chickens at the temple this morning!" I learn new things every day.
What are your favorite activities in your new town?
1. Suda Restaurant. This is hands down the best Thai restaurant in Bangkok. Great prices, coldest beer, and all of the tables are combined so people can sit and share meals together.
2. Jim Thomson House. This is an amazing historical Thai house museum filled with lots of history about Jim Thompson. I always recommend this to people visiting!
3. Koh Samet, Thailand. Our favorite weekend getaway! This is a local island and the perfect place to relax, go fishing, get massages, and eat fresh seafood. Be sure to go to Silversand Bar for a bucket.
What advice would you give to tourists visiting your new home town?
Stay somewhere comfortable. Bangkok can be a crazy city as it's big and spread out. It is very easy to get lost here. It is an amazing place to live and is filled with amazing people and culture, but sometimes if you are only here a few days it can just become overwhelming. I would recommend using Bangkok as a place to pamper yourself, get your shopping done at the markets, and enjoy good food!
What is the one MUST SEE?
Absolutely GO AND SEE THE ELEPHANTS in Chiang Mai! If you go to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, you can learn about the elephants and the struggles they have had in the tourism industry. We must protect these beautiful animals and learn more about them.. and spread the word! If you go, you will have the opportunity to swim with the elephants and give them a bath. Pure magic.
What do you miss most about home?
Spinach and feta pizza, and everything bagels with veggie cream cheese... If I'm being honest :) No but really, I miss the ability to get in the car and go visit my friends, and I miss being able to attend big events happening in my friend's lives. I wish I could jump on a plane and be there, but the reality is that it's not cheap and it takes time.
For the first time, we have no plans. We want to stay right here in Thailand for at least a few more years before our next adventure. Life is comfortable and we still have so much to see and explore!
Space of infinite possibilities:
This summer, my husband and I got married! What can I say? I fell in love with a fire dancer and never looked back. We had two weddings: one western style celebration on Koh Samet island, and one traditional Cambodian village celebration. I wore a traditional white dress for our beach wedding, and we got married bare foot where the ocean meets the beach. We also participated in the traditional string tying ceremony during the ceremony, where every person came up and tied a white string around both of our wrists to wish us luck and protection in our next chapter. In Cambodia, the wedding took place at my husband's house, about an hour outside of Siem Reap. We fit 18 people in an 8 person van and adventured out into the country side. I had a total of 8 outfit changes into beautifully colored gowns, decorated with jewelry, crowns, and bedazzled high heels. My hair and make up took 2 hours!!! We danced to Cambodian pop music for 6 hours and we will never forget it. It was a magical experience and a great opportunity to combine our cultures, as well as the culture we both live in here in Thailand.