For my junior year, I chose to go to Maekok for Global Citizenship Week. Maekok is a relatively remote area in the mountains on the border of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, thus we were able to experience a quieter and more serene lifestyle than the one we live in everyday in the city. This trip was primarily a community service trip, and it was particularly interesting for me because we were able to do a variety of service activities, which included teaching English to children, helping to build a multipurpose activity area for the school, and even painting a mural. A goal that I had for the trip was to make a meaningful contribution to the school at which we were visiting both in terms of the children’s English education and in continuing to expand their facilities and grounds. I felt that this goal of leaving a lasting contribution to the school was achieved because we as a group had completed what the students from last year’s GCW Maekok trip had begun. What is more, I had a wonderful time during the past week and was able to work with children and help to teach them a little bit of what I’ve learned, as I had never done a community service project that involved teaching children before this year’s GCW. However, it was not always a smooth ride and at times, trying to communicate to the children what I would have liked for them to do and what I was trying to teach them was difficult. This was because I was sometimes unclear and at times, they simply did not want to listen and were distracted. Planning the lessons and knowing what to expect were also challenges, as we assumed that they had minimal knowledge of English when the words and ideas we taught were, in fact, sometimes too easy; therefore, we had to improvise and teach them more than we had planned, which resulted in less structure of the roughly 20 minutes we were given to teach each lesson. I didn’t feel as if there was an overwhelming number of physical challenges during the trip, as most everything we did was straightforward. I did, however, feel as if I overcame the challenge of effectively teaching the children by improving and varying the lesson plans the second time we wrote them, as we had to improve and change our original topics to have something else for the same group of children the next day.

Both the teaching and building were extremely satisfying and gratifying for me towards the end of the week and especially the day before we left. I was able to stay for a while afterwards on the Friday afternoon of this past week to finish the mural on the common area wall entirely, and the quotes we wrote made me reflect on what I had done for the community over a period of several days. In addition to the community service component of the trip, we were able to experience the traditional culture of the many different tribes living in that area of Chiang Mai, which I had never been to before. On Wednesday, we took a break from community service and hiked up to a temple and hill tribe village in the morning and built a raft in the afternoon. I was able to have a first hand look at the lifestyle of those who lived in a village that lacked a traditional electricity and water system and had to walk quite a long way in all seasons. This showed me the diversity of the people living in the Northern and all other areas of Thailand.

In retrospect, had I known that we would be teaching the same group of children in some grades over several days, I would have prepared multiple lesson plans in advance in order to give the children the most of what I could have taught them in the time I had. However, I feel that I did the best that I could and that I had an unforgettable experience over the past week in all aspects of the trip. I had lots of fun with my friends and was able to interact with kids that I would not have had a chance to meet otherwise. I discovered a different, more harmonious way of life and was able to observe and be a part of that for a few days, even though I am now back with what I know. I learned that I could do and get through just about anything and that giving back to the community in whichever way possible deserves to be a priority in my life. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that I had to go on GCW Maekok and it was a week that I will always cherish.

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