Imagine riding to the store, with four other people, on one motor scooter. Now imagine that all meals are communal, and everyone uses their hands to eat. Sound like fun?
Cayla Poborsky laughed as she described many of these new norms of her daily life. A PA Distance alumni, Cayla has been teaching English in Thailand since 2013, and has come to love her new home.
Strong willed and sarcastic as they come, Cayla is one of a kind. Her parents brought her up to be self-motivated, and that’s much of the reason we were a good fit for her. She wanted to be able to work while in high school, and PA Distance offered her that flexibility. Cayla definitely moved onto college with more independence than the average student.
During Cayla’s senior year in college, she was able to get an internship with Disney World in Florida. Being comfortable with online education, she organized a program with her professors to finish up classes online from Florida, while also working full time. She was able to land her first salaried position soon after.
In time she felt the need to go a different direction than business, so she became certified in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). She started with online jobs, all the while seeking a more permanent situation.
For someone as bold as Cayla, it seems fitting that her first permanent situation would be all the way in Thailand, where she teaches 5-6 classes a day, with 50 students per class.
Nevertheless, there have been a few challenges in making this cultural leap. “Thai people are much more shy and reserved at first,” she told me. On top of this, the Thai education system has a no fail policy.
So, how does Cayla get the class to care?
“Silliness is key!” she told me. “They’re used to a tonal language, and aren’t familiar with the consonants we use. If they struggle to make the English ‘Th’ sound, I’ll have them stick out their tongue to say it. It’s all about making class comfortable and fun!”
Even with these challenges, her job is always made easier by her students’ endless appreciation. The culture fosters tons of thankfulness towards education and teachers.
The way they show that appreciation, however, came as a surprise.
“Before I moved, everything I read about the culture told me Thai people are not generally affectionate or touchy-feely.” To her great surprise, that’s exactly what they are. The hugs from adults and hand holding from appreciative kids nearly overwhelmed her at first. But she got used to it, just like she’s now used to lots of people riding on one scooter.
The hugs from adults and hand holding from appreciative kids nearly overwhelmed her at first. But she got used to it, just like she’s now used to lots of people riding on one scooter.
While Cayla points to education and upbringing, I can’t help but think most of Cayla’s success comes from sheer nerve and an all-encompassing sense of humor. I’m sure many of the Thai community would agree with me, as they watch her drive by on her pink scooter.