Tenzin Kyisarh ’16

Last summer, I interned at The Mirror Foundation in Thailand as the recipient of the Kevin Sanborn ’87 Internship through the Wesleyan Summer Experience Grant Program. As a member of the foundation’s indoor team, I worked in primary schools in different parts of Chiang Rai, Thailand, teaching English to kids in grades 1 through 6, as well as spending time with the younger children in daycare once each week.

Teaching in Thailand and being able to interact with the students and experience their culture was an amazing experience. Because I lived at one of the schools with the other interns, I was able to connect with the kids and their families and experience Thai culture on a more personal level, which made my teaching experience all the more interesting and fun.

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Experiencing Thai culture firsthand enhanced my knowledge of the country and its people and gave me hands-on experience in dealing with and approaching new cultures—as well as insight into Thailand's social and political spheres. But as much as I enjoyed learning about the country itself, teaching the kids and getting to know them on a personal level was the highlight of my summer experience.

Seeing these kids come to school eager to learn every day made me realize that my work made a positive difference in their lives. But I can honestly say that I benefitted more from the relationship. Before my trip, I definitely took a lot of things for granted. While some of us in the U.S. might feel "entitled" to easy access to running water, air conditioning, phones, or beds, these things are very precious to people in Chiang Rai. Working with the kids taught to be more appreciative of things in life and to smile, even when things are tough.

While some might consider it cliché, words cannot describe how much this life-changing opportunity meant to me. Leaving the amenities of New York and moving to Chiang Rai, Thailand, for the hot bug- and mosquito-filled summer months gave me the best summer of my life.

Tenzin Kyisarh ’16, from Long Island City, New York, is an anthropology major who is also pursuing a Certificate in International Relations. Visit her visual travel diary at The Paper Plane Series.

The Kevin Sanborn ’87 Internship was established in 2002 with gifts from family and friends in memory of Kevin Sanborn ’87 and is awarded to individuals with an interest in social service, political activism, or community organizing. During his time at Wesleyan, Kevin was a member of Mystical Seven, and graduated with a degree in sociology. He passed away shortly after graduating.