So, my internship in Chiang Mai, Thailand has officially come to an end. I felt both rejoice because my internship ended well with great memories, but also with regrets that I had so much more to offer and to learn from the students.
From this internship, I learned a golden rule to make this experience the best one that you can ever have: To take initiative! So here are some tips for the incoming interns for ERS.
First, when staying in a foreign country, it is hard to fit in and get accustomed to the food, climate, and culture change. However, knowing that you are on a greater mission to integrate into the culture and build friendships with local people, you can gain so much more by being open and receptive to changes. Take the first bite of that strange dish on the table with curiosity and appreciation. Open a conversation with someone you do not know. Be patient with someone who is trying to make a conversation with you and help them out if they need it! There are so many ways to be actively involved in making yourself more acquainted to your new home. Furthermore, having new friends will make your time here more enjoyable and fast-fleeting.
Second, as an ERS internship, you will need to develop good teaching skills and work ethics. Since you will be teaching adult ESL learners, be mindful of their backgrounds, English levels, interests, work, and motivation. These will provide you with plenty of information to build your lessons around. One useful method for getting to know the students is to shadow them in the classroom. When you are shadowing a student, you will learn their habits, their preferred place to sit in the class, the rate to which they raise their hand in class, how motivated to learn the materials they are, and eventually, how to improve their learning experience in your classroom. After that, the curriculum should be customized according to your students’ liking. I knew that my students had more interest in playing fun games and learning conversational English than formal English writing through getting to know them and asking about their needs. As a result, I was able to create a classroom that would attract the students’ interests and fit their levels. It is a good practice to shadow your students and know them well.
Third, since you will only spend a short time working with the students at ERS, you would want to help build autonomous learners, not learners that would depend on you for every assignment that they write. In order to accomplish that, you should find resources online and share with the students for them to study on their own. Give them simple homework to prepare individually or with a friend. Teach them skills so that they can search on Google for the information they need. It is important that they learn the skills necessary to be successful independently. As a teacher, do not presume that they already have the most basic skills to work in English. I have encountered countless times when students came to me with technical problems, problems with not knowing how to look for a word’s past tense, and problems with expressing their ideas into a complete English sentence. Then, how they can search for the information is crucial to their learning. If you teach them to follow you once, they will only know that one instance. Instead, if you teach them how to solve their problems, they will never have to ask again!
Lastly, enjoy yourself! Do not be intimidated by the amount of work that you have to do, or that you have never worked with an adult learner before. It will all boil down to how much you can adapt and learn from your students. Therefore, make your number one priority when arriving at ERS having as much fun as you can with the students. Then, you will naturally know your way around with the students. Also, making the classroom a fun, inviting, and safe place is extremely important to create a good learning environment. Include games that you enjoy playing like Taboo, Speak with your body, Role-play, or songs and movie clips into the classroom. You will have so much fun watching the students figure out the games and competing against each other. In addition, they are great conversational practices for the students without feeling like a ton of work!
I am sure that my experience is unique to me as others’ is unique to them. However, these general tips will provide new interns an idea of how to manage their time as well as some strategies to use inside and outside the classroom. I hope that this internship will be continued and more people will learn about the Southeast Asia region and fall in love with its beauty and its people as I did.