The students all face the front of the room as the teacher speaks, uncaps a marker, and writes on the board. They raise their hands to answer questions. They play games in class to practice what they’ve learned. They talk amongst themselves and have to be reminded to pay attention.
In many ways, this is a typical high school classroom. But for Kaelin Foody ‘18 and Dominic Uliano IV ‘18, the difficulties of teaching high school students are amplified. Currently living on the island of Phuket in Thailand, they both teach English to non-native speakers. Uliano teaches at a semi-private school for Chinese and Thai students, while Foody teaches at a fully private school.
The journey that the two faced to end up living and teaching full-time in Thailand was not a direct one. As members of Le Moyne’s Integral Honors Program, Foody and Uliano both took part in the class entitled “World of the Other,” during which they traveled to Guatemala. The experience of this trip would become crucial to their time in Thailand. “Le Moyne gave me numerous chances to test the waters of exploration, first just by living on my own, but eventually by going to Guatemala on a school trip,” says Uliano. “My time at Le Moyne was an integral part of my path, giving me the tools to thrive abroad.”
After Foody and Uliano graduated in 2018 with degrees in English literature and language, they spent some time gaining experience in different fields. Foody stayed involved at Le Moyne, working at the Quantitative Reasoning Center and Writing Center, while Uliano was employed as a high school social studies teacher in Watertown, N.Y.
It was during Uliano’s time as a teacher that he and a friend got the idea to move to Thailand. After speaking to a fellow teacher who would tell them about his adventures around the world, Uliano was bitten by the travel bug. At first it was simply a joke between friends to say that they would move to Thailand, but eventually, Uliano became more serious about it. Calling up Foody, he simply asked her, “Want to move to Thailand?”
Soon, Foody and Uliano, joined by two of Uliano’s friends, started planning for their move. They took a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) course over the summer before moving to Thailand in September 2019. Now the two are making the most of every moment in the country: riding motorbikes, eating tom yum, and exploring the beautiful cities, beaches and jungles.
When they’re not busy soaking in the vibrant culture around them, Foody and Uliano explore other areas of interest to them. Uliano, a former member of the Le Moyne Men’s Soccer team, has joined the semi-pro soccer team, Vatican FC, while in Thailand. Playing in games between once and twice a week, Uliano appreciates the mutual respect between players, which he says is “one part of the game that is really missing from the U.S.”
Meanwhile, Foody recently attended a field trip with her students to Phang Nga, a mountainous region north of Phuket. It ended up being one of her favorite experiences abroad so far. “It was an opportunity for me to actually get to know the students I teach,” Foody says, “and they got to see me in this different environment. It was this fun weekend to camp and play games. They got to practice their English, and they got to see me as a fun person, instead of just a strict disciplinarian.”
While the two alumni will be finishing this upcoming semester before moving back to the U.S., they acknowledge that their roots at Le Moyne had prepared them well for this monumental move in their lives. “Experiencing another culture as a tourist is one thing, but living and working within that culture is another entirely,” Foody says. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated living in such a different environment, but Le Moyne gave me the tools to cope with culture shock and practice acceptance and patience whenever I feel challenged.”