Teens take life-changing trip
TWO Toowoomba teens have just returned from a life-changing trip teaching English in Thailand.
Topcamp resident Abigail Stewart, 18 and her friend Jenna Hartland from Highfields,18, volunteered to teach at a remote school in northern Thailand.
The school, Piyamart, is run by Ursuline nuns and is free to local children in the area.
At the school the Toowoomba teenagers assisted in teaching English to students ranging from kindergarten to Grade 6.
On school days they assisted in classrooms and on the weekends they toured the country.
The duo took some time out to visit the White Temple in Chiang Rai known locally as Wat Rong Khun, a Buddhist style temple.
Ms Stewart said she was hoping to teach English overseas after finishing university.
"When I found out that my friend was going to Thailand to teach English I thought it would be a good way to find out if I liked teaching. It was like a trial," she said.
She said the most memorable part of the trip was the strange questions the children asked.
"One asked, 'will you fight with me?' which led to a number of arm wrestles.
"Another said, 'why is your skin white?' and I wasn't quite sure how to respond."
Both said teaching at the school was a worthwhile experience.
Ms Hartland said on the first day of class, one of the English teachers didn't show up so the girls were asked to take over.
"We had never taught English before and didn't know the level the students were at so it was a challenge.
"It was an almost frightening experience, but we managed to handle it and ended up playing hangman.
"There was a moment of awkwardness but it worked out in the end."
Ms Hartland said she enjoyed haggling at the local market.
"It was so crowded, there were clothes stores next to food, next to knives."
Ms Stewart said there were so many varieties of food.
"You'd never go hungry. I really liked the sticky rice," she said.
Ms Hartland also experimented with local delicacies.
"Some nights there was strange food and I sort of 'poked at it' to see what it was."
Ms Stewart said it was a great way to experience the culture and traditions of Thailand.