Many of us reach a point in our school careers wondering what we should do next. While some choose to backpack solo across Europe or go on an Eat Pray Love journey, Levonne Goh chose to find herself on a Global Volunteer trip to Thailand that altered the course of her life.
Then a political science major, Levonne faced an uncertain future where she didn’t know how she could make an impact on the world. With a limited budget and full academic calendar, the Sawadee Project came as a holy grail to her. It was a 6 week experience in Phi Chit, Thailand, teaching primary school kids English as an effort to further the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goal of Quality Education (SDG 4).
The Thailand that Levonne had come to know before the exchange was a shopping haven accompanied by beautiful beaches. Phi Chit, however, was a rural province located 6 hours north of Bangkok. She knew that she was going to have her perspective of her host country radically changed and boy, was she right.
Unlike Singapore where development is pretty much equal in every part of the country, Thailand had larger discrepancies between cities. Every morning, Levonne would step out of her host family’s house to be greeted by the sight of sugarcanes as far as the eye can see. WiFi was considered a luxury, not a given, and the toilets were semi-automatic. For a Singaporean, the change of pace was dramatic, but having gone through that was a testament to her tolerance.
Beyond simply testing her limits, Levonne also brought something special to her students. They were not as fortunate as most Singaporeans growing up, without access to the same opportunities as we do, such as quality education. Since Levonne had free reign to design her lesson plans, she made sure to find a way to teach the kids that there is a whole world out there for them to explore, and all they had to do to access it was to put in effort and work hard.
Levonne recalls the inter-school sports day, her favourite memory from the experience. All the schools in the area gathered together to have fun through an array of activities. The children displayed copious amounts of enthusiasm and school pride, which was very heartening to see. Levonne also got to meet the other EPs volunteering at the other schools to chat about their respective experiences and observe how they interacted with their own students.
Seeing the amount of work to be done in the region, Levonne found herself wanting to direct her efforts towards helping the local development. That was when she made the decision to change her major to Southeast Asian Studies at NUS. This experience opened her eyes to what AIESEC can do to benefit the global society as a whole, and it helped her find a life path that both excited her and helps her make an impact on the world.
To all those who wish to go to a Southeast Asian country for exchange, Levonne had this to say: Go with the country you’re most comfortable with and be prepared to completely change your perspective of our neighbouring region. You will be challenged, enlightened, and most of all, fulfilled.