Tag Archives: post-college life

On Teaching and Trains

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. Having been here for a month, I feel a lot more settled in the Land of Smiles. Reading the blogs of fellow teachers in Thailand has made me super interested in how other teachers go about their daily routines. Here’s a snapshot of mine:

7:00 (approximately..) wake up to alarm, surf Facebook/email/Foreign Service forums for 5 minutes. Heat up some instant coffee and eat a very sugary breakfast plus maybe some yogurt if I’m feeling healthier that day

7:45 head out the door of my on-campus apartment, remembering to turn off the air conditioning or “they’ll never come and fix it!” (quote from school coordinators)

8:00 daily school assembly begins, aka 30 minutes of the Thai national anthem, school song, and long speeches in Thai that I understand none of.

11-12:40 pick an hour for a lunch break, the cafeteria food is ridiculously good and a mix of very authentic Thai/attempted Western food. 4/5 days this is followed by a trip to the best coffee shop in town right next to the school. Thais love their coffee strong and very sweet, so I’m in heaven!

8:30-4:30 are our official school working hours. I teach 20 classes of 50 minutes a week, though they are often way shorter due to “Thai time” and students arriving 10-15 minutes late. Each day I have 4 classes of English ranging from very beginner rowdy 9th graders to some intermediate-mid 12th graders who I love. This means I have in total over 900 students, who I see only once a week. (!!) They are much better at remembering my name “Teacher Becky!” and treating me like a celebrity whenever I walk on campus. We have several breaks throughout the day, during which I obsess over anything related to the Foreign Service and 2016 A-100 orientation classes.

4:30 wander back to my apartment, usually take a nap! Finding dinner is challenging as we are the only people who walk anywhere in our town, and there aren’t really nearby restaurants. Night markets are an option, but a scary walk across multiple streets without traffic lights. I bought a microwave which has been a great investment so far!

Things I love so far about Thailand: trains! Anyone who knows me gets that I’m a huge fan of public transport. Which we have very little of in Texas. The trains in Thailand are awesome and I have already taken them most weekends here. This weekend I’m visiting a beach (about time!!) only 2hrs away by train. Stations are clearly marked and visible, someone will speak English, people walk down the aisles to sell you cheap and plentiful food or drinks- none of this is available in a minivan or bus. Trains are definitely my preferred mode of transportation here. Check it out for yourself!

Things I don’t love: the language barrier and lack of time to really dedicate myself to learning more than survival Thai, being placed far from my friends at orientation, the very low English level of most of my students. Considering these alongside the positives of living here though, I don’t have much to complain about. Other teachers might have better locations in Thailand (mountains!), or higher level students, but no one’s placement seems perfect. Teaching overall has been incredibly meaningful for the students who do care. I am starting to really enjoy life in Thailand and the holidays are coming up, which should give me more of a chance to explore some of its most scenic sights!




Security Clearances: Patience is Indeed a Virtue (that I probably don’t have..)

The original purpose of this blog was (and still is!) to document my process of joining the Foreign Service after college. Right now, I am still in the post-FSOA clearances phase of the process but things have certainly started to happen faster than I expected! Yesterday I received a phone call from a Houston-based investigator to schedule my security clearance interview.

Since this is a necessary part of the security clearance process, I’m excited that it could mean there isn’t much longer until I end up on the Register for public diplomacy. After they meet with me and some of my references at Rice, there shouldn’t be much more to investigate and my case may be ready for adjudications. It doesn’t seem like my clearance will take a year- most people reporting long clearances on the Yahoo group are dual citizens, have years of travel abroad, and extensive foreign contacts or even foreign spouses. I have none of those! I’m hopeful that I could get my security clearance and then pass final suitability in time for (potentially) the June or September A-100 classes.

I’m graduating from Rice exactly a month from today. These developments are putting me in a pretty weird position for pursuing other opportunities after college while I wait on the Foreign Service.  It’s hard to judge how long it’ll take and if I really even need to commit to other options at this point when I could be starting in September. I will definitely still apply for backups to make sure I have a job if something goes wrong from here. I’m looking into teaching in Thailand through CIEE Teach Abroad for a semester and am under consideration for a Peace Corps position, but I’d choose the Foreign Service over anything else.

Obvious disclaimer though: I really can’t be sure when any of the clearances will be finished and most of this post is pure speculation. One thing I remember when getting my Secret level security clearance last year was that things moved quickly after the personal interview. It was maybe 1-2 weeks after that I got an email confirming my clearance. I’m optimistic that the same could happen this time!

Fulbright and the future

I found out today that I was named an Alternate for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Turkey. Somewhat disappointing, but I’m not devastated because it just means I will (hopefully) get to start my first choice, joining the Foreign Service, even earlier than I had thought. If I got the Fulbright, I was planning to defer my FS candidacy for my Fulbright year in Turkey and wait for an offer to join afterwards. I even considered saying yes to Fulbright but not deferring on the Foreign Service in case I got a last minute offer. Since it’s unclear if I’ll ultimately end up in Turkey, I have much more flexibility to join the Foreign Service as soon as they’ll have me. I’m getting closer to medical clearance and have a class 7 (pending) medical clearance so far, I just need to send in some official lab reports. Security clearance could be another story, but I hope things are in my favor since I’ve previously held a secret clearance for my internship.

I’m no stranger to rejection- someday I’d love to make a list of all the things I’ve applied for at Rice and afterwards that I didn’t get accepted to, it would be extremely long! Funnily enough, I already have my first choice- the Foreign Service, almost in the bag. This half rejection gives me more motivation to study up on my German in order to get the .17 bonus points to make my score a 5.77, which will really make me competitive for the next few orientation classes. I’m taking that test on April 30, also wünsch mir viel Glück! In the meantime, I’ll be practicing my German, applying for lots of jobs, and hoping things move quickly!