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Participant Stories

Work Abroad: My Life as an Intern in Thailand

Posted by Amanda | Jul 21, 2015 10:23:14 PM

"Get an internship," they said. "Work 8 to 5 at an office all day," they said. "Make connections and get experience related to your job field," they said. So I said "OK -- I’ll enter the adult world and get an internship, but I’m doing it my own way. I’m going to Thailand."

In the beginning I knew I wanted to work abroad.  That was my only requirement. I was open to the world - all of it - just wanting something different than the daily cycle I had been living. 

Amanda gets ready to leave for her work abroad internship adventure in ThailandIt was a broad, maybe risky goal. But I needed a change, a new perspective.  Sometimes the world knows what you need better than you do, if you’ll just trust it. I make this claim out of experience. After only being here in Thailand for seven weeks I can confidently say I have learned and gained everything I never thought I’d gain.

I hate sounding cliché, but I have learned more about myself in these past seven weeks than I ever knew I needed to learn. I have been abroad before, spending last summer in Spain and Italy, but this time is different. 

Amanda and her fellow interns travel around Thailand together on their days offSoutheast Asia is different. It’s thriving. And the thing about places that are thriving is you get to see the middle of a process, a process of developing and changing. You get to see the old and the new mixed and mingled. You get to see how a country rich with culture blends with the ever changing modernization of the times. And most of all, you get to see how you choose to embrace it all.

I am a very independent individual, and have had some experience traveling so I really wasn’t nervous about traveling alone. I did my research and made sure I was “prepared.” But one thing I’ve learned from traveling is you’re never fully prepared, and that’s OK.

Amanda did some rock climbing during her days offMy main concern was whether there would be other work abroad interns there to live, explore and travel with.  Fortunately, there were. I shared a house with two other interns and within a few days we were best friends.

XploreAsia specifically is a really amazing organization and business to observe because it is run by an American husband and Thai wife. They are a perfect team to work with.

We had Fridays off so together we traveled every weekend around Thailand to places such as Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, Kanchanaburi and Erawan Waterfalls. These trips were when we truly learned how to embrace the Thai concept of “Mai Pen Rai” – meaning “no worries” – and we were able to discover the rest of the beauty and culture of Thailand outside of a work atmosphere.

Amanda learned about about herself, while helping Thai children during her work abroad adventure

This internship was the perfect balance in that our wanderlust was fulfilled through short weekend trips and we were truly able to emerge ourselves into Thai life and work. Everywhere we ate or visited we tried to speak Thai and adamantly did not consider ourselves “farrangs” (foreigners). It was a goal to be as “Thai” as possible in order to truly get the full experience Thailand has to offer.

One of the most valuable insights I learned through this internship was about the dynamics of working in another country with people another culture. People from other cultures have different body language, phrases, senses of humor, time frames, and many different aspects of communication that is vital to understand, especially in an office.

Amanda and her friends visited cultural sites in Thailand on their days off from work

Although I may not have been one of the key team members, I have been included in all the team meetings and able to learn so much from simple observations of conversations, leadership delegation and organization within and throughout a mixed Thai-English organization. For example, Thai people are generally non-confrontation so if they have a problem they normally won’t tell you directly. But if you know this and know your Thai co-workers then you can be aware and assess situations differently.

Overall, as someone who has an interest in seriously working abroad after I graduate, I highly recommend doing a work abroad  internship like this one. It is not like traveling and being a tourist.  It is also very different from studying abroad. Living and working in another country is full immersion.

Amanda got to go kayaking around some of "the most beautiful beaches in the world"Much of the time it is not necessarily just some fun, exotic, glamorous adventure that many people imagine it to be. It’s hard to know if you truly want something when your only perception of the experience is from articles you’ve read, stories you’ve heard, and your imagination.

There are days when you will just want an American hamburger, when you see your friend getting engaged on Facebook and you’re not there to celebrate, and when you simply have a bad day at work. But all of these things are normal and part of the choice you made when you chose to live and work abroad. These things are part of the experience, and how you handle them will determine the rest of your experience. 

Amanda and her friends experienced every bit of Thai culture they could while interning abroadIn the end, all of these things can’t even compare to all the things you gain -- from casually spending a weekend on one the most beautiful beaches in the world, to walking down the main road every day and ordering the most amazing Thai food from the little dinky street vendor. None of the adaptation struggles compare to the first time you successfully order your whole meal or have an entire conversation in Thai. Because after all, if you’re like me, you wanted something different; you wanted to open yourself up with nothing to lose and see what the world brought to the table.
Amanda loved exploring Buddhist culture in ThailandThe key words here are “be open.” Open to new, open to a challenge, open to truly having everyday be an adventure. Be open, take it in, and then make it your own. That is what I did during my work abroad internship in Thailand and it was the best decision I ever made.

P.S.: Be sure to check out Amanda's amazing video of her experiences below.  Thanks for sharing, Amanda!

Written by Amanda

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