By Bailey Brammer | Editor-in-Chief
By attending Baylor, students have the chance to experience traditions and practices unique to the campus and the community. Only after graduation do students have the special opportunity to teach at the King’s School in Bangkok.
Kathryn Mueller, senior lecturer in the sociology department, began the Baylor Teach in Thailand program more than 25 years ago. After receiving permission from the royal family to bring recent graduates to the Chitralada Palace School to teach English, Mueller has built the program from two initial spots to eight positions for Baylor graduates only. This year’s group leaves for Bangkok around May 20, and two spots still remain vacant.
The program started out as a study abroad opportunity and then transformed into teaching positions after Mueller received a letter from the king of Thailand allowing the graduates to come and teach. Mueller said she’d wanted to visit Thailand since she was a child and was finally able to do so when she came to Baylor.
“It’s a fantastic dream, and part of that dream is wanting to share it with anyone at Baylor,” Mueller said. “Anyone who would want to live in another country that loves Americans, that is very giving and very reciprocal … I want them to have that experience that I’ve had.”
Students who choose to participate in the program have most of their expenses covered, including the travel visa, room and board, round trip airfare, healthcare and most meals. Mueller said graduates’ salaries are extremely competitive compared to other teaching positions in Thailand, and participants have the opportunity to tutor for additional spending money.
Klein senior Shelby Velasquez will be one of the members of this year’s program, and she said she is looking forward to both experiencing a new culture and giving back through teaching.
“I desired something more out of my post-grad experience,” Velasquez said. “I have always been inclined to help others, and I have always loved helping children, and this opportunity gave me a chance to do both.”
One of Velasquez’s close friends, Baylor alumna Crystal Roth, took part in the program last year, and Velasquez said her friend helped her decide this was what she wanted to do after graduation.
“[Crystal] was a huge influence because she assured me that I could make an impact and help these children,” Velasquez said. “She told me all about her experience and how life-changing it was for the children she taught. I felt more and more called to do it.”
Along with a passion for service, Mueller said she looks for a few other key traits in her applicants –– specifically, a love for rice, the ability to handle warm weather and a friendly smile. Mueller also said students of any race, religion, background or major can apply to the program.
“What a gift they’ve given me … what a gift they’ve given to Baylor graduates,” Mueller said. “My hope is that some day this program can become an institution at Baylor.”
One of the first groups of graduates that took part in Teach in Thailand included alumni Suzie Anderson and Kirk Person. Mueller said these two would never have interacted during their time at Baylor, but because they both traveled to Bangkok, they fell in love and got married.
The couple has spent more than 20 years living and working in Thailand ever since. Their oldest son, Bangkok sophomore Andrew Person, attends Baylor and returns home to Thailand during the summer and gets to spend time with the Baylor graduates because his mother still teaches at the Chitralada School.
“The Chitralada program in particular gives Baylor grads the opportunity to explore a part of the world most students are unfamiliar with and build cultural sensitivity and respect that can benefit any career path,” Andrew Person said. “Thai people are incredibly welcoming and considerate of foreigners, which is great for people who have never traveled abroad before.”
Those interested in filling the last two spots for this year’s group of graduates can receive more information and an application from Mueller by email at Kathryn_Mueller@Baylor.edu.