Volunteer in Thailand with Friends for Asia

Volunteer Stories – Teaching Monks – 2008

Michael Ambroselli, New York, USA – Teaching Monks December, 2008

“Teaching English to novice Buddhist Monks in Chiang Mai is an incredible experience. Learning and experiencing Thai culture, traditions, and Buddhism allowed me to be immersed in the community and school. I became a familiar part of everyday activities and classrooms at my school in no time, and continued for the entire six months. The atmosphere in Chiang Mai and at Wat Chetupon was beyond welcoming and caring. The people take a vested interest in you and it shows. Being able to help these students with their English is a great feeling, because they want to learn the language. The students smile at you every time they see you and appreciate your time and help. Teaching at Wat Chetupon gave me the opportunity to learn about Buddhism and interact with people everyday I would have never met if only traveling in Chiang Mai as a tourist. I am glad I taught for six months and wish it could have been longer.”

Suzanne van der Horst, Zwolle, Netherlands – Teaching Monks December, 2008

“To me, teaching novices in Chiang Mai was a perfect opportunity to get to know the Thai culture, the city, Buddhism and myself better. Volunteering for Friends for Asia made all of it even greater. Todd and Bird helped me out wherever I needed help and prepared me and the other volunteers very carefully. Living with the other volunteers made it easy to adjust to the new culture. We talked a lot about our experience and had lots of fun with each other.”

“Whatever you do, try to teach for at least a month. Time flies, because it’s so much fun and such an intense experience. Teaching less than a month just won’t be enough. It’s hard to put my experience in writing. All I can say is that the past two months have been amazing and that I will never forget my experience here. I have learned so much about myself and it’s such a great way to get to know yourself better. That’s what I’m most grateful for.”


Sam and Karol Epstein, Vancouver, Canada – Teaching Monks November, 2008

“A fantastic experience for both the students and volunteers. It is something which we’re sure that all volunteers will take back home with them as an everlasting experience. This is certainly a positive tribute to the folks at Friends For Asia. By just being a regular tourist one will never be rewarded in the manner that we have. Furthermore, the volunteer experiences broadens our horizons and allows us to take back many happenings which we will relate to many friends and family for a long time to come.”

-Sam and Karol served in two projects each during their stay in Chiang Mai.

Jon Blumenfield, Pennsylvania, USA – Teaching Monks November, 2008

“I wish I could have stayed at this project much longer. Samakhee School’s students and staff are a great, fun group of people to work with or just have break-time conversations. I taught English in Korea for two years prior to this project and wish that I could have the Samakhee experience as a full-time job. It was remarkable how quickly I became a familiar face in the halls and a part of the school community.

One of the most valuable ways I spent my time was at monk chat. I was lucky enough to meet a group of monks that was very comfortable with foreigners and English and chose to be there every day. After the first day we went past the usual “tell me about your country/city/temple” stuff and got to know each other as individuals. Being able to have in-depth conversations – and even joke around – with a monk my age was what I was looking for: a cultural experience beyond the usual volunteering.”

Cassandra Bueckers, Wisconsin, USA – Teaching Monks November, 2008

“Teaching the novice monks has been a great experience. The most rewarding part for me has been walking around the temple grounds and having the novices wave and smile at me. Those daily, personal interactions with the staff and students are something that other foreigners don’t get the opportunity to have. I only wish that I could have stayed at the project much longer. I think if I had been there for several months, I could have been able to really teach my own classes and seen the progress the students made. But I still feel fortunate to have had this opportunity.”

Alicia Harrington, Guelph, Canada – Teaching Monks November, 2008

“My experience teaching at Thammarat has exceeded all of my expectations. At first I was a little apprehensive; I was concerned about doing something wrong around the monks, like forgetting to wai.. But I quickly realized that the people I worked with are very understanding and patient. Throughout my six week service, the administration, teachers, and students at the school made me feel welcome and appreciated. Adjusting to a new culture can be stressful and draining, but I had a great support group including the teachers at the school, other volunteers, and Todd and Bird.

My service with Friends for Asia has been amazing; one that most people never have the chance to experience. I feel so fortunate to have had this wonderful experience. I have learned so much about Chiang Mai, Thai culture, Buddhism, and myself. It’s hard to find the words to describe how I feel about my service, it has been two of the best months of my life, I will definitely take what I have learned with me, and I know I will never forget my experience here in Chiang Mai.”

Teresa Puyear, Iowa, USA – Teaching Monks August, 2008

“I decided to come to Thailand to teach novice monks for two reasons—my love for travel and teaching. The school where I taught is much different than my overly-decorated, technology-filled classroom back in the States, but both places have students who need teachers who care and can make learning fun. The novices were very interested in life in the US, and I enjoyed explaining how the US is a very diverse place. I plan to share my experience with my students back home so they can gain a better understanding of another culture and hopefully more appreciation for what they have.

Although I was technically a teacher here, I really felt like more of a student. The time spent with the monks was very awakening for me, and I’m really going to try to take some of their teachings to put into practice when I am back home. I’ve traveled in Europe, but this was my first trip to Asia—a very different experience. It was fun to have new volunteers arrive during my service and be able to show them around the city and think that just two weeks ago, I was overwhelmed and uninformed like them! I was here for such a short time (three weeks), but each day was filled with new opportunities for me to challenge myself and expand my comfort zone, so three weeks felt like so much longer. I love to travel and by serving in a volunteer capacity, I was able to see Chiang Mai and understand its people on an entirely different level than most tourists.”

Amy Rose, North Yorkshire, U.K. – Teaching Monks July, 2008

“I have spent the past 6 weeks volunteering at Sammakkee Temple School at Wat Chedi Leung which I have enjoyed immensely. I was nervous to begin with when I started at the school having no experience with teaching and particularly teaching students who don’t speak the same language as me. It was challenging at first, just to speak slowly and clearly but I learnt to overcome this and gained more confidence in speaking in front of a class. I was made to feel very welcome by the staff and the students; it is nice to work somewhere where teachers are appreciated which is very different from schools at home. It was also very interesting to learn more about Buddhism, something that I did not know much about before I arrived in Thailand and about Thai culture in general, there is no better way to learn about a country than to spend time with the people who live there. This has been a great experience, I would recommend Friends For Asia to anyone looking for a fulfilling experience in Thailand.”

Diana Trushell, Kansas, USA – Teaching Monks July, 2008

“Volunteering as an English teacher at Thammarat Temple School at Wat Phra Singh has been a very fulfilling experience, and one that I know I will remember for the rest of my life. While I had had no proper experience teaching anything—much less English—I found myself quickly overcoming my worry and being very welcomed at the school, both by the student body and the staff of teachers. I have spent two months working with the same students and it has been so rewarding to see how far they’ve come, both in their studies and level of confidence when speaking English. It is so gratifying to be helping in a place that both really needs it and that is so appreciative of your efforts. However, in teaching these students and living in Thailand for two months, I have also learned a great deal about myself. This experience has been extraordinary; one that most people never have the opportunity to have, and I am so glad that I have done it.”

Tracy Bazarko, Indiana, USA – Teaching Monks July, 2008

“I have truly enjoyed every minute of my placement. I was nervous at first since I didn’t speak any Thai, but immediately was put at ease by the kind and welcoming staff at Sammakkee. The students are eager to learn the correct pronunciation of the language they have been studying. Their smiles and shy hellos in the hallways always made my day. After my first week, I was pleased to see the students warming up to me and wanting to talk to me more and more. They were no longer nervous or embarrassed to talk to me. They also liked it when I tried to speak Thai to them. They would laugh and laugh and give me two thumbs up. I only wish I could stay here longer. Thailand is such a friendly and welcoming place. This whole experience has been wonderful and Todd and Nan have been there for me if I ever needed anything here in Thailand. I highly recommend Friends for Asia to anyone thinking about giving a little bit of themselves in exchange for an experience they’ll never forget.”

Sarah Cruickshank, Birmingham, U.K. – Teaching Monks June, 2008

“I am just finishing up my 6 weeks in Chiang Mai, teaching English at one of the Buddhist temple schools. It has been challenging at times, but mostly pretty fun and easy-going! The kids are great and the teachers are very welcoming, and willing to show you how Thais go about their days. I came here not having any teaching experience whatsoever, so I found it quite nervewracking to begin with, but I settled in extremely quickly, and found there isn’t much to be worried about after all. I’ve also developed my communication skills, as you must when you can’t speak Thai and you’re speaking to a big group of people who barely speak any English! It’s been great watching the novice monks progress and grow in confidence. They are a lot of fun!

I’ve really enjoyed my time here, learning about Buddhism, being amazed by the beautiful Wats, learning about the culture and history of Thailand and making friends. The cuisine is real good, too! Gotta love that sticky-rice!”

Katie McGraw, Texas, USA – Teaching Monks June, 2008

“Teaching novice monks is a wonderful opportunity to learn and begin to understand the differences within cultures. You are given the ability to immerse yourself into the student’s education in a way that helps develop their quality of the English language. As a native English speaker I was able to help with the pronunciation of words and their meanings for the students as well as the teachers. The school’s staff was unbelievably welcoming and warm throughout my volunteer term. The experience of the morning chants and prayers was worth waking early to view. The student’s smiles and eagerness to speak with me encouraged the many reasons as to why I was here every school day. I am forever grateful for the opportunity I have been given to spend four weeks among the community and school within Chiang Mai.

Living with other volunteers was an amazing experience. Learning from others from different walks of life but with the same passion reveals how differences are only minor underneath larger goals. The volunteer house was roomy and open with the freedom to come and go. I would recommend taking every chance to explore the city inside and out. We had fun.”

-Katie McGraw

Amy Van Voorhis, Indiana, USA – Teaching Monks June, 2008

“I just spent the past three weeks teaching English in the temple schools in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had no idea what to expect, and I was pretty nervous, especially having no teaching experience! However, I feel this experience was a great way to really understand Buddhism and how it affects the country, as well as really encourage the students to study English in a fun way. It was really fun getting to know the monks and students at our school, and to see their personalities and confidence strengthen through the weeks. One of the coolest things we got to experience was learning how to meditate with one of the younger monk teachers in the temple. This project really gave me an appreciation for Buddhism and a much more thorough understanding of Thailand’s culture.”

Chelsea Beauchamp, Indiana, USA – Teaching Monks June, 2008

“From my experience of working with the young boys and novice monks I have gained new knowledge and perspecives. One thing that I have better realized is how little one needs to be happy, peaceful and fulfilled. My travel and stay throughout Thailand, although short, is an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life!”

Dia Cooley, Florida, USA – Teaching Monks February, 2008

“My experience at Chetuphon was exceptional. The staff members were very welcoming and accommodating. Initially the school director was somewhat hesitant to allow me to participate in certain school activities (Buddhist rituals). However, we he saw that I came with only an open mind and willingness to learn, he was allowed me to participate in all activities. This as with any experience can be all that one makes up it. If you’re open and anticipate having a great experience, you will.

My favorite experience was my time spent with the novices. They are quite remarkable. Many are quite funny, as well. The energy and enthusiasm that most of them exude is delightful. My most memorable experiences were in the classroom teaching and having conversations outside of class with the novices. I think most of them were amazed by me. I think the idea of a black “farang” was something they had never experienced. Well, I found them to be quite amazing, too.”

Volunteer Stories – Teaching Monks – 2010

Volunteer Stories – Teaching Monks – 2009

Volunteer Stories – Teaching Monks – 2008