LauraStapletonLaura Stapleton is relishing her time as an educator in Thailand. Speaking to The Munster Express, the Gracedieu native brought us up to speed with what life is like on the other side of the planet at present. And all is going well. “My parents are Oliver and Elizabeth Stapleton. I attended Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School,” Laura began. “And I recently graduated from University College Cork with a 2.1 Bachelor of Arts Degree in Irish and History. “I have two older brothers – Daniel who has been working in Australia for the last eight years and Paul who is training to become an electrician.” For the past six months, Laura has been teaching English in a private school in a small town to the north west of the Thai capital, Bangkok. So what prompted the year-long adventure to Thailand?
“It was towards the end of my degree last year when I decided I wanted to teach abroad,” she explained. “I could’ve taken the easy route and chosen somewhere closer to home but I was seeking a challenge. I wanted to gain some teaching experience while seeing the world. After doing some research, Thailand stood out to be because of its rich culture and breath taking scenery.” Having bid farewell to her family and boyfriend, Laura set off on what has thus far proven a fantastic personal and professional adventure. “It may not have been easy for my parents to see their youngest and only daughter move to Asia alone but they were very supportive of my decision and they knew that I would be sensible on my travels,” she said.
“I completed my TEFL course after training for three weeks on an island in South Thailand with 20 other young adults. We had a four-star resort to ourselves and our own private beach! It was an incredible time.” What’s made Laura’s time in her current place of employment all the more intriguing – and a touch intimidating by her own admission – is the fact that she’s the only westerner working there are present. “But I was blown away by how welcoming and friendly Thai people are,” she admitted. “Thailand is often referred to as the ‘Land of Smiles’ and it has certainly lived up to its name. Although I can speak very little Thai, the locals always greet me and will go out of their way to help however they can.”
Teaching English in Thailand has been, to use Laura’s own words, “an amazing experience”. She added: “Teachers are highly respected and English is placed at the centre of the curriculum, in comparison to Irish in schools back home. It’s a shame to see very young Thai students with such good English when Irish students can barely speak a word of their native language.” Admitting that life in Thailand took some accustoming to (“it was bit of a culture shock”), it’s clear that Laura is enjoying life in Asia. “It’s certainly been challenging and at times I’ve acutely felt the distance between Ireland and Thailand, both geographically and culturally,” she continued.
PicA“It’s coming into summer now and the temperatures are soaring. It was obscure celebrating Christmas in 35 degree heat and it really wasn’t the same as Christmas at home.”Laura stated: “Thai food is delicious. But rice is eaten for every meal, even breakfast which I still can’t adjust to. Thai people regularly eat out for dinner because it’s so cheap. I usually pay 30-40 baht for a meal – which is less than a euro! “I do miss my mother’s Sunday roasts – and blaas of course. Fortunately I have a year’s supply of Barry’s Tea to keep me going and often have Cadburys chocolate sent over!” Laura has six months left of her year away in Thailand and come this May, she’ll be moving to a new school, with a whopping 6,000 students “and more foreign teachers”.
She told us: “I’m looking forward to gaining more experience as well as seeing more of Thailand. Once I return home I plan to apply for my postgraduate degree in Primary Teaching. And hopefully I can continue teaching English in a language school.”
If you have a relative or friend you would like to see profiled in our Living Abroad series email or call 051-872141 for more information.