Anna Dunlap ’16 grew up in Spokane, where, she says, she couldn’t find Thailand on a map. She didn’t even eat Thai food. “I knew nothing about Thailand,” she says.
Today, she knows a lot more. Dunlap lives in the northern Thailand city of Lampang and works as director of recruitment and development for Teach Thailand Corps (TTC), which places U.S. college graduates in underdeveloped provinces to teach English and other subjects to schoolkids.
Thailand hooked her in the summer before her first year at Puget Sound, when she spent a few months as a volunteer teaching English in a Thai foster home, an opportunity through her former Spokane church youth group leader. As a student at Puget Sound, she majored in international political economy and took THAI 101: Elementary Thai. Two days after graduating, she flew out to begin teaching with TTC. Shortly after, the company director asked if she’d like to do more, and now Dunlap juggles teaching English, math, art, and physical education to first and second graders with her role in onboarding and supporting other teachers.
Changes in visa processes and, later, the coronavirus pandemic reduced the number of Teach Thailand teachers from 37 in 2016 to about 10 in the last year. COVID-19 forced instructors to stay in the United States and teach via Zoom in the middle of the night (Thailand is 14 hours ahead of Pacific time), but the country is slowly returning to normal.
Meanwhile, Dunlap spreads her passion not only for teaching but for her adopted country. One of the best parts of her job guiding new teachers, she says, is “watching people fall in love with Thailand.”