An Unforgettable Trip in the Land of Smiles
by Galuh Prima Sabarina
Traveling abroad is one of my dreams since childhood. Thailand was the first country I managed to visit through the International Field Experience Program Activities (PPL for short) of University Negeri Semarang in collaboration with Dejavato and VSA Thailand. The uniqueness of Thailand makes me interested in making it as destination country in running PPL.
Learning to be a teacher is a challenge for me, especially being a teacher in a new environment with different cultures and languages. Of course this will be harder compared to teaching in a local school. But this is the challenge that makes my trip interesting.
On August 2, 2018 my journey began. I along with two of my colleagues namely Zulfa Dwi Febriani and Nadya Damayanti departed from Soekarno-Hatta airport to Hat Yai by first transiting in Malaysia. We arrived at Hat Yai the next day, August 3, 2018. During our stay in Hatyai we stayed at Learning Home together with volunteers from other countries such as France and Spain to take part in training before running their respective projects. There are so many new experiences and knowledge that I got while living there.
The actual trip began on August 6, 2018. In that day, we split up to run our project. I got an assignment to teach at Sangkhom Islam Wittaya School with Nadya Damayanti, while Zulfa Dwi Febriani got the assignment to teach at Wattonglongmittrapp 198 School which was separated about 1.5 hours from our place.
The first day at school, we received a very warm welcome from school residents both teachers and students. They tried to communicate with us asking many things from simple questions like where we came from to questions about our culture. I was very excited because they accepted our existence and wanted to know more about our language and culture. This made the fear I always imagine disappeared instantly, especially when I knew that I would stay in a dormitory with other teachers who also came from Indonesia. This made my happiness highly increase.
Living in a dormitory is a new thing for me and inevitably I had to adjust to all the rules. Certainly, I experienced a lot of unique things while living there. On the first night of staying in the dormitory, I was shocked by the very loud door breaking that made my beautiful dream come to an end instantly. After asking a roommate who had lived there for a long time, it turned out that it was the sound of a dormitory guard who knocked on the door to wake up the dormitory to perform worship. It was the sound of the full knock from the dormitory guard who was the alarm for me during my stay there.
Another interesting thing I observed while I was there was watching students carry out a ceremony and prayers together every morning. Religious values and discipline are clearly illustrated here. On the other hand there was one scene that was quite interesting for me when I witnessed students being punished for being late for school. In contrast to the penalties applied in Indonesia there are ways to punish them which are quite unique, namely by striking a rattan into the student's bottom, a scene that I never witnessed as long as I was a student. Maybe this is what makes Thailand have a fairly high level of discipline. However, despite all that, the relationship between students and teachers is very well established. Their chumminess and friendliness made me feel comfortable socializing with them like in my own country.
The existence of an obstacle required us to end our beautiful journey at Shangkom Islam Wittaya School and move to Mattayom Siriwanwari 2 Songkhla on September 6, 2018. Unlike previous schools, Mattayom Siriwanwari 2 Songkhla is a government school that is predominantly Buddhist. Even so, they really appreciate and accept us well. There we were guided by Teacher B as a physics teacher. She is a very open and creative teacher. She teaches students to apply physics in everyday life. They are trained to create and run a program, such as automatic plant sprinklers, automatic fire extinguishers and many others. I learned a lot of knowledge from her especially regarding physics learning at school.
During teaching at Matthayom Siriwanwari 2 Songkhla we lived with a host family. She is usually called P’Ban. She is a director in charge of 3 kindergartens. She is a figure who is very hardworking, loving and helpful. It was she who helped me every time I had difficulties, and from her I also got a lot of information about Thai culture.
Other than teaching at Mattayom Siriwanwari 2 Songkhla we also taught in several kindergartens along with P'Ban. There we learned and played with children. Of course it required extra effort and patience to understand what they wanted and to make them understand what we were saying. But this was a very fascinating experience for me to be able to meet great teachers and play together with great kids.
Thanks to Universitas Negeri Semarang, Dejavato, and Thailand's VSA which have given me the opportunity to experience the beautiful and friendly Thailand.