World Traveling Teen Teaches English

by Christian DeMichiel / Oct 10, 2013 / 0 comments

My family and I have been traveling through the United States and Europe for the past six years. Through these travels, we have met all kinds of unique and interesting people. When I was eight years old, I met Zoe Evans. We became instant friends and she is one of the coolest people I know. She has become someone I can look up to, and I am truly inspired by her!


At the age of 17, Zoe traveled independently for more than four months to Guzhen, Guangdong, China, to teach English. Now 18, she is currently in Changwat, Phichit, Thailand, and loving every minute of it. I had a chance to find out a little more about what Zoe does and how this experience is impacting her life.


Zoe Evans in Thailand - with a tiger!


Combining her enthusiasm for working with kids and traveling, Zoe decided to try teaching English in another country. When her older sister, Auvi, traveled to Lithuania with International Language Programs to teach English,Zoe became very interested in trying this herself. “All growing up my family has traveled together and I love going to new places and seeing new things,” explains Zoe.  When Zoe left for China, it was her first time being away from her family and traveling alone. She has been highly successful so far, and describes it as “One of the best experiences of my life!”


Teaching English in Thailand


In Thailand, Zoe is working with Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade students. What she teaches the kids is dependent upon their grade level. Some of the Pre-K kids have not even learned how to speak any language yet, so with them she mostly sings songs and plays games. She spends most of her time at the kindergarten level. They are learning how to spell and read English and can speak well enough to translate for her when she speaks to the Thai teachers. The first graders are learning grammar rules and can read, write, and spell better than most kids their age that have English as their first language. The first graders are also exposed to social studies, history, science, health, and a few other classes. Zoe says, “I am constantly amazed at how smart these young students are!” Just the other day, a six year old student ran up to Zoe and said, “Teacher Zoe, here is my hypothesis” and went on to talk to her all about space, dinosaurs and the water cycle. Zoe describes it as cute – I describe it as incredible!


Teaching English in Thailand


The methods Zoe used to teach in China are similar to those that she is currently using in Thailand. Zoe claims, “The biggest difference I have found between the two cultures is the level of expectation that the parents hold for their kids in each country.”  In China, the parents expected a great deal more, so the kids were better focused in class and were easier to teach than the kids in Thailand. However, in Thailand, some of the kids live at the school with Zoe, so she gets to spend more time with them, and has developed a closer bond as a result. That has made the classroom environment much more different than the one in China. In Thailand, she gets to take care of the kids and put them to bed every night, so she plays more of a parent role than a teacher role in their lives. Zoe describes the classroom in Thailand as feeling more like play time. But in China she had to have more discipline, developing a stricter classroom environment.


Teaching English in Thailand


Zoe has found that traveling without her family has been really different. “It has its hard moments, but it is also really exciting to get out and do things on my own.” At the end of the day, she can’t wait to tell her parents about her experiences via Skype or email. Trying to navigate these countries alone was very hard and frustrating for her at first. She would go to a restaurant and try to get a glass of water, but would end up with a huge plate of chicken feet. She would get lost and walk around for hours before she could find her apartment. Her first attempt at taking the train to another city was a disaster! After a while, she got really good at acting things out. “I always keep a notebook with me so I can try to draw pictures of the things that I need.”


Zoe feels that everyone is so nice in China and Thailand. The people truly enjoy trying to talk with her and find it really funny when she tries to speak with them. Zoe definitely finds it a lot harder than it is in America, but that challenge is what makes it so fun for her.  Zoe states, “Most of the time trying to get somewhere is the best part of the adventure. You just have to try to keep a good attitude about it and not get frustrated when you are lost in a strange city eating chicken heads and fish eyes.”


Teaching English in Thailand


The biggest hurdle for Zoe, traveling alone in a foreign country, has been the small things that are so different than they are at home. Being away from her family, not being able to understand the language, eating rice every day for every meal, and not having a toilet or mattress have all been huge adjustments.  She notes, “getting used to not having all the little comforts of home is definitely the hardest part of international travel.”


Zoe never realized how much she loved food until she landed in a foreign country. She misses her favorite American dishes, such as pizza, cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, and Nutella. In Thailand, Zoe is trying to enjoy the Thai food.  “I have developed a newfound love for rice – more than I ever thought possible. Every meal includes some sort of rice. It is in their snacks, desserts, and even drinks. Rice is everywhere!” In China, Zoe did not enjoy the food! “I ate chickens feet, intestines, bugs, brains, eyes, and so many other things that I didn’t even recognize at the time.” When I go to China, I’m going to skip the bugs and order the orange chicken!!


Teaching English in Thailand - and elephants!


Zoe prefers being a teacher instead of simply being a tourist. It has given her a more personal experience with the people and cultures. She loves being a part of everything and meeting the people in her town. She has been able to learn so much more this way, rather than just traveling and passing through.


Zoe explains, “The biggest impact on me has been my kids. I have learned so much and have felt so much love from them. Being in my town and seeing how everyone interacts together has taught me so much about life. There are so many amazing people out there!” She has learned a lot about herself and other cultures. Getting to see how other people live and being able to experience their culture with them has made her realize how lucky she is to live in America and have the opportunities that she has been given. “ I have been able to see so many people and families living in very tough conditions and working hard just to get by. I have been able to witness how much love those families have and how willing they are to help anyone that needs it.”


Zoe Evans on the Great Wall of China


Zoe feels that a learning experience can be found any time you travel. Being able to do service work or helping children can provide opportunities for growth in every situation. Zoe advises anyone considering teaching in another country to, “Just do it! It can be scary to take that first step because moving to another country is a big change, but so worth it! There will be hard times, but there will be so many more good times and you will make a lifetime of memories.”


Teaching English in China


Zoe is not sure where her travels will lead her next, but she knows she wants her next trip to be outside of North America or Asia. She plans to include working with children and travel as part of her future career choices. “Traveling and teaching in a foreign country has been a life changing experience for me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”


I know that wherever my friend, Zoe, goes she will inspire others and make a positive difference in our world!





Christian DeMichiel is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


All photos courtesy and copyright Zoe Evans