Written by Melissa Broest – Outreach Education Volunteer
I stared at the blank Word document in front of me for a good half hour before beginning to write this article. I thought about how it’s been almost a year now since I’ve graduated from University. My life has changed so much since picking up my life, moving to Chiang Mai, and getting involved with The Branch Foundation (TBF). I suppose you might want to know a little about me. My name is Melissa Brobst and I am from St. Louis, Missouri, USA. I graduated in May 2012 from the University of Missouri- Columbia with a degree in Elementary Education. I was that little girl who, when playing “school” with my siblings, was always the teacher and they were always my students. I couldn’t wait to begin my own teaching career. Little did I know that I would have the amazing opportunity to begin it in Thailand.
I began thinking about teaching abroad during my final year at University. My cousin had already been teaching in Chiang Mai, and after hearing about her experiences I was convinced it was the place for me. I got TEFL certified, packed my life into one suitcase, and went on the longest plane ride of my life. I was offered a job as the elementary Physical Education teacher at Nakornpayap International School (NIS) and began work in November 2013. Last year, I never would have thought that I would be teaching PE in Thailand, but here I am and I love it.
Through my cousin, I have met some wonderful people in Chiang Mai. Through these wonderful people, I met Shonali Banerjee and became connected with TBF. When Shonali asked me to lead a workshop on CVs, cover letters, and personal statements, I was initially terrified. I thought back to when I wrote my own CV/cover letter and how much help I needed along the way. We had an entire class at University dedicated just to those two documents. After thinking about it, I realized this was my chance to help others the way so many had helped me. Nobody likes the daunting task of writing a CV or a cover letter, but it’s something that everybody needs.
After agreeing to lead the workshop, I met with Iona Proebst and Tom Rosen to work out the details. I was provided with ample resources created by a woman named Glynnis, who outlined the entire workshop for me. The lessons she created and examples she gave allowed me to focus on my job at NIS, but still be completely prepared for the workshop since everything was laid out perfectly. I don’t think the workshop would have been as beneficial as it was without Glynnis’ lesson plans.
When I found out my students were going to be age 18+, I was more than slightly apprehensive. Being an Elementary Education major, I specialize in working with kids between the ages of 5 and 12. When I walked into BEAM on my first day, all my fears were eased by the warm smiles and friendly atmosphere. I met my 10 students and found out most of them were between the ages of 18 and 30, of Burmese background, and were taking this course in order to apply to University. As we went over multiple examples of CVs, I was amazed at the work ethic of these students. While the students were working, I overheard comments such as: “Wow, I had no idea I had done so many things!” I wish everyone could have seen their faces when they printed out their complete CVs because it was a moment I will never forget.
By the time the workshop is finished, each student will have a complete CV, a complete cover letter, and a complete personal statement. The students are eager to have all these finished documents and work very hard during our sessions. I want to thank Glynnis for creating the lesson plans, Shonali for suggesting me for the position, and Iona and Tom for believing in me to carry out the workshop. I hope to stay involved in TBF the rest of my time in Chiang Mai.