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