This year’s GCW was a trip to the Chiang Mai region of Northern Thailand. As a group of 20 students and two teachers, we flew from Bangkok to Chiang Rai airport and traveled northeast in a van to Maekok. We stayed at the Maekok River Village Resort for a whole week during which we performed service to the local community. We constructed the foundation of an outdoor meeting center for the Maesalak School and we also taught the elementary school students English while we were there. We were given some free time after several hours of work each day and during this time we were able to relax and enjoy the facilities provided at the resort. This course was a great community service trip and a fulfilling learning experience.

During this trip, we spent most of the week building and teaching. This was my second time working on a construction and my first time teaching children. Both were exciting learning experiences for me. Work on the construction of the outdoor meeting place was similar to what I did in Vietnam last year. We smashed down and demolished the walls at the old classrooms of a school then moved the debris to Maesalak School where we continued and completed the construction initiated by last year’s group. While working on the construction, we learned to move debris, cement, and sand into the site by forming lines and passing the materials along. This is an example of how cooperation can increase the efficiency of doing work. While mixing the cement, the instructors at the worksite taught us the correct ratio between sand and water to create the most suitable cement for the floor of the meeting hall. We learned a lot about the basics of constructing buildings during this process. The second most important service we performed is teaching English to the children at Maesalak School. Teaching was a first-time experience for me so I was quite nervous before the first day. However, the success in the first few lessons reduced my anxiety. After the first day of teaching, I discussed with the other group members and made slight changes to our teaching plan. I learned through this experience that teaching is not an easy thing to do and that it requires a lot of planning before class, some improvisation, and time management.

During the week, we spent a day hiking, rafting, and visiting a nearby village. Visiting the village and seeing the lifestyle of the locals was a stunning experience. Their lifestyle is very different from ours but the villagers seemed very content with their lives. I learned from this visit that a lifestyle as simple as that of the villagers can give people an equal amount of happiness and satisfaction as an urban lifestyle. During the trip, I realized that while the way I live may seem privileged to others, other lifestyles are just as great if the people living those lifestyle are able to feel content and enjoy their lives.

The most challenging part of this trip for me was getting used to the living and the teaching environments. The living environment was quite different from what I had expected and so it took a while to adapt. It was difficult to adjust our teaching based on the English level of the students. However, after the first few days, we were able to make adjustments quickly and teaching became a more natural process for us. In the end, this course was an entertaining learning experience and a great opportunity for me to contribute to the community.

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