This piece for Enchanted Serendipity’s expat series has been written by Jenna, from My Restless Roaming Spirit blog.
In the fall of 2014, I packed my bags, left my hometown, and moved to Thailand for 3 months.
It had always been a goal of mine to live somewhere else; to fully immerse myself in a culture different than my own, and to learn a new way of life.
My plan was to move to a Spanish speaking country for an extended period of time, learn to speak Spanish fluently, maybe use my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate to teach children, and attend classes for my master’s program.
Instead, my path ended up completely different, and I wound up in Thailand.
While searching for a school to attend for my Masters, I found Webster University, located in St. Louis, Missouri. The school appealed to me because they offer a Global MBA Program and have many international campuses. When I learned that the Masters Program offers classes at these overseas locations, I immediately knew this was my chance to spice up life a little bit and finally fulfill my goal.
Had there been a Webster University campus in South America, I probably would have moved there, but my choices were between the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, China, or Thailand. After a quick review of the list, I immediately chose Thailand.
Moving to Thailand: The Reality Of It
I knew Thailand would offer me the biggest culture shock and I was ready for the challenge. The more research I did on Thailand, the more I knew it was the best choice for me. Perfect weather, exotic fruits, animals galore, beautiful beaches, and a very nice exchange rate to the American dollar, are just a few of the reasons I chose Thailand – and now my move overseas couldn’t come fast enough!
The day I left, reality sunk in. Leaving family, friends, my dogs, my house, and my job was not an easy undertaking. The first few days in Thailand were the hardest. I had trouble finding my way around and understanding the transportation system; I couldn’t communicate with the locals, and I was paranoid I wouldn’t find friends quickly. Jet lag from travel and the frustration had me in a discouraged mood.
It was typical of me to become unreasonable, however; I love travel and adventures away from home, so it was surprising to me that I wasn’t more enthusiastic at first.
It really only took a few days to snap out of it, thankfully, and I was back to my normal self. The transport system is really efficient in Thailand and I learned my way around quickly, we received some help from the school to purchase local phones, I enrolled in a basic Thai course to help with communication, and I started finding friends.
When I look back at those first few days of frustration and sadness, I feel embarrassed. Thailand was about to offer me some incredible experiences.
What Being An Expat Taught Me About Myself
Over my three months living here, I met some awesome people, I began yoga (which has truly changed my life), I volunteered my time at a local wildlife sanctuary, I taught English to Thai children, and I traveled all over the country.
I’ve zip lined in the mountains of Chiang Mai, experienced the remarkable White Temple in Chiang Rai; learned the history of Thailand in Ayutthaya; visited many markets in the busy streets of Bangkok; lived in the King’s summer getaway area of Cha-Am and explored the crystal clear blue waters of the Southern Islands.
But most importantly, I grew as a person. I learned patience and confidence. Have patience when things aren’t going your way, take a step back, and have confidence within yourself to tackle the issue at hand. I learned gratitude. Don’t take the things in your life for granted; things like hot showers and a nice meal are a luxury for some. I learned to be more open minded. Studying with people from other parts of the world helped me to understand and appreciate diverse opinions and ways of accomplishing things.
Moving to Thailand was an exciting chapter of my life, and now this country forever holds a special place in my heart.
I highly encourage anyone thinking about studying abroad or moving away, to just do it. Try not to place too much emphasis on what could go wrong and think about what could go right…
If you enjoyed this, be sure to read Menorca’s story about moving to Europe from India!