In this year’s GCW Maekok River Village Course, we went to northern Thailand, 50km north of the city center. The place we stayed in was called Maekok River Village Resort located adjacent to the Maekok River. The resort had an outdoor education center which we stayed in, and the majority of the time we spent there, was spent on two community projects. The first one was to teach English at a local school called Maesalak and the second community project was to help finish an outdoor meeting center that last year’s GCW trip started. The rest of the time that was left, the MRVR project managers organized a range of different activities for us to do, and the resort itself, has forms of entertainment itself.

Since this course was a community service course, a lot of time was spent teaching and building. Each of these was very different from each other, yet unique because it was different from what I experienced before. First, building the outdoor meeting center taught me an important thing: that manual labor is hard work and machines should never be taken for granted. While we were moving wooden planks, cement, sand or rubble, working together also became very important. In many situations in the building site, making a line was always quicker at getting a job done. Finishing the project on the last day and seeing the students at the school use it is also an amazing sight, to know that we helped build a facility that the school needed. In the second community project, I learned a lot from teaching English to elementary students. First of all, it was the first time I played the role of the teacher in teaching a class, so it was a new experience. I learned that teaching is not as simple as what I see as a student. Lessons are carefully planned, and planning takes time, the teacher must know the students well, and create proper lesson plans for it to become successful. Although the local students at the school know very little English, with some help from a Thai speaker, everyone is able to get involved in some fun games. I learned that teaching is not easy, and when the goal is to let the students understand the contents of what is being taught, planning a proper lesson sometimes take more time than the lesson itself. Timing is also hard to pay attention to and to plan a lesson length right, requires a lot of experience since we always found our lesson too short or too long.

This trip filled many of my expectations in terms of what the school I will be teaching be like, and the type of building we are constructing. Although new, many past pictures and similar activities were close to the two community projects we did. However, something different from what I expected was the extra activities that we did outside of the community projects. These activities were never mentioned to us until we arrived so it was surprising. The activities include hiking, rafting and a range of games. The resort was also a little surprising, although it was a little unrealistic to expect a hotel-type service, the dorms/rooms we slept in were relatively clean and the food was good.

Overall, I felt that the most challenging part of this course is getting used to the students and the teaching environment the first couple days, after that, teaching the students become a fun interactive experience. The most rewarding part of the trip was completing the meeting center for the school, painting it and seeing it being used for the first time. It was an expressive seen when performances were performed by them and by us inside the meeting center on the last day of our stay.

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