My name is Angela Khoshnoud and I recently returned home after wrapping up my six-month volunteer term at DEPDC/GMS in March. When I first learned about human trafficking a few years ago during my undergraduate studies, I decided this was an issue I needed to fight in one way or another, although I had no idea at the time where that passion would take me. After discovering DEPDC and Sompop Jantraka through my home university, the University of Michigan, I made plans to graduate early, move to Thailand, and join DEPDC as an international volunteer.
In the months leading up to my departure, I tried picturing what my life in Mae Sai would be like and I continually drew a blank. Prior to arriving at DEPDC, I knew a fair amount about human trafficking, less about statelessness, and absolutely nothing about the amazing relationships that I would make in Mae Sai. While my days primarily consisted of teaching the Half Day School (HDS) and Community Learning Center (CLC), my evenings were spent with some of my students or fellow volunteers shopping at local markets, eating street food, and visiting some of my students’ families at their homes. At DEPDC, I was welcomed like family rather than treated like a foreigner, and I learned so much more from being with my students and fellow staff members than I could ever teach in a classroom.
In a culture where showing anger is considered a weakness, patience is a way of life, and smiling is contagious, I was taught countless invaluable lessons. Living in Thailand taught me to trust myself, to follow my heart and not let anything hold me back from what I want, to not stress over things out of my control, and above all else, to enjoy every moment to the fullest. My students taught me to appreciate everything you have, to give whenever possible, and the importance of valuing the people in your life.
When friends and family at home ask me what I miss the most about my life in Thailand, expecting mango sticky rice or my motorbike to be my initial response, I can’t help but smile as I explain that I miss all of my students and fellow DEPDC staff and volunteers the most. Not a day goes by that I don’t smile at the thought of Monday mornings with my first-graders or Friday night dinners with my CLC students. Luckily, many of my Thai and Burmese friends are on Facebook, and staying in contact with them from 9,000 miles away is much easier than I’d anticipated. I’m incredibly grateful to be able to connect with my friends on the other side of the globe via email, Skype, and Facebook and I am so happy to be able to share my experience with everyone at home . I cannot put into words how thankful I am that my path crossed with so many brilliant and amazing individuals in Thailand who touched my life in ways I never anticipated.
I am now back in America, starting a Master’s in Social Work program at the University of Chicago this fall. I plan to continue fighting human trafficking within the United States as well as globally throughout my future career, and I very much look forward to the day I can return to Thailand.
Thank you to everyone who was a part of my experience in Mae Sai and to DEPDC for giving me the opportunity to meet so many incredible people, learn, and grow in ways I’ll always remember. To everyone at DEPDC: kid teung maak na kha!