Group 130 Yearbook: We Loved and We Learned


As their service comes to a close, Peace Corps Thailand volunteers from Group 130 reflect and answer the question, “What’s one thing you loved and one thing learned during service?”

Loved and Learned: Humility. “It’s not about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less.”

Skyler Matthias, 130 YinD

1 thing I loved:

The people; from my students, to my counterparts, to my host family and most importantly my fellow PCVs. ❤️

Loved and Learned Ali
1 thing I learned:

That good relationships are built with communication, effort and flexibility from both parties.

Ali Talwar, 130 TESS

The one thing I loved: Should it be only one thing? Smiling faces and fantastic food
One thing I learned during service: Alone is not the same as being lonely

Triveni Rao, 130 YinD

One thing I loved was getting weird and dancing to Isaan music with my kids, my community, and my fellow volunteers anytime I could. One thing I learned is that the journey we call “life” is more about the experiences we have and the people we meet, rather than the destination.

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Cyrus Ebadat, 130 YinD

I loved how peaceful and quiet my site is – living next to rice fields, waking up to temple music, literally stopping to smell the roses.

But that forced me learn how to take things slow. Everything here moves at a slower pace. We work slow, we eat slow, and we arrive to meetings slow! I’ve had to learn to really yen my jai and be sabai sabai.

Lucy Zhao, 130 YinD

One thing I loved about my service was getting to build community with some of the best people I’ve known in my life. PCVs are a rare breed of human, and I am so honored to have been in their company for the past two years. And this extends beyond my own cohort to include Groups 128, 129, 131, and now, 132. While it is bittersweet to say goodbye to my communities in Thailand, I am looking forward to joining the extensive RPCV network back in the States and to seeing what the future holds for the relationships I have built here.

One thing I learned during my service was how to be present with myself. As a recovering extrovert, I used to seek energy, inspiration, and insight from outside myself. But here, I found myself alone most weeknights and sometimes all weekend long. Even when I was surrounded by people, I sometimes felt alone. It didn’t take long before I realized that I would need to get reacquainted with myself or I wasn’t going to make it to COS. This meant turning inward and facing some of the fears and patterns I had conveniently pushed aside for so long. And while it was painful at times, I am so glad I had the opportunity to get to know myself again after all these years, because I’ve gotta admit, I’m kind of a big deal 🙂

Casey Butler-Camp, 130 YinD

I have loved the way that I have intentionally built relationships during service both in my community and amongst volunteers. This practice has taught me patience and increased my listening skills. It has allowed me the chance to accept and appreciate people for who they are in their own context without projecting myself onto them and having that define the potential of our relationship. I am excited to experience my family and current friends through this new perspective as well as create new relationships and expand my personal networks.

I have learned to value a sense of home and stability that I was not as passionate about in the past. I am known by everyone as a nomad of sorts and I have a new appreciation for stillness, putting down roots in one area, indefinite opportunities to build relationships, getting to know my neighbors, and routines that don’t change that often. I look forward to practicing that sense of community and stability in the next phase of my life.

Love Zari aka ใบตอง (BaiTong) #Dirty130

Zari Havercome, 130 YinD

I loved all of the solitary moments of reflection, and I learned that I am capable anything.

Nicholas Evans, 130 YinD

I loved the randomness of the days. The odd request. Sing a song? Got it. Officiate this wedding? Okay sure. The shy kids. The adorable Thai babies. The thunderstorms dancing on my roof in the evenings during rainy season. The homies visiting me in Thailand. The pristine beaches of the South. Coconut smoothies, Khao Soi, and Thai style Christmas.

I learned that genuine, authentic, relationships take time and work. I showed up to my community on a honeymoon note, but as time past, and my presence settled my community and I realized we didn’t know one another that well. It took a lot of listening, compromising, blind faith, and understanding of cultural differences to get to this new place of trust, love, and respect for each other.

Daylisha (Hall) Reid, 130 YinD

I loved the delicious Khao Soi and the people in my community, I learned that having a jai yen helps mii kwam sook jao.

Pi Air- my momma, who loves me like I’m her luk-sao jing jing.

Psian Avilés-Quiñones, 130 YinD


Loved: I enjoyed stripping the title of teacher and putting on the one of friend with my students. One on one conversations underneath tamarind trees talking about nothing of importance but feeling a sense that you’re exactly where you need to be.

Learned: Once you move past the obstacles of fear in which you’ve created, an unimaginable world opens up for you to prosper in.

Monique Ogunsusi, 130 TESS


I loved the laughter, hugs and high fives. I loved dancing in the morning and biking in the evening. I loved the the kindness and the sense of humor. I loved Thai fruits in all of their glorious forms. I learned to slow down, bike fast and smile. I learned that one CAN eat too much somtom. I learned there are many ways to live life and that, above all else, we just want to be loved and understood.

Nicholas Melrose, 130 TESS

30 Days remain until I vacate this wondrous country and its people, the unabashed gazes & the never ending army of ants, the mornings of endless hugs from my kids & the camouflaged homeless dogs hiding in the bushes, the random acts of kindness from strangers & the lizards that have managed to perfectly attach their excrement upside down on the bottom side of yet another of my toothbrushes, my kids who have shared their imaginations, creativity, thoughts, hopes, dreams, senses of humor, and above all else, their ability to look past my foreign-ness and see the human & the adults who, so locked in their ways and traditions, unwittingly squash all of these wonderful attributes in their children. I have loved and learned many things in my two years here. I could wax poetic about all of the wonderful self-discoveries, the kindness of Thai people, how spicy has now been reduced to a whimper of just spice, or the quiet moments, alone, sitting, praying, zoning, forgetting, releasing, forgiving, forgetting, burning, asking, shouting, screaming in the temple, however, I will not. I will stick to the game plan and do what I came here to do: tell you one thing I have loved & one thing I have learned.

I love children and more so in being able to support their dreams.

I have learned that often times, and sadly at that, adults (parents) tend to be the ones that suffocate all of the hopes and dreams out of their kids. While parenting is by no means an easy task (or so I would imagine), we, as adults, have this insane ability to cast or thrust our fears, doubts, and concerns on our children. We fill their heads and hearts with our troubles. Not because we desire to impede them and their growth but because we wish so strongly that one day they will be able to go to the supermarket of life, get what they want, and check out happily; that we forget that kids need to take that shopping cart, pop wheelies, run around getting all of the sugary snacks, draw cartoons on the frozen food fridges, play obscene songs over the supermarket PA system through a phone found in aisle 10, end up in the express lane (ten items or less) with 100 bags of the same candy, explaining to the check out clerk that, yes, it’s one hundred bags, but…but…it is all of the SAME candy, so, technically, it’s one item. Kids need freedom to explore, grow, adapt, learn, dream, live & die in all of those moments of exploring, growing, adapting, learning, and dreaming.

Summarily, I love children and I have learned that I want to be one of the “adults” that is bumping into their carts in aisle 10 as I’m about to conjure up another prank on the supermarket PA system phone.

Bryan Newruck, 130 YinD

I loved the energy drinks. Carabao, M150, Red Bull. Y’all were the true MVPs. You got me through the hard times and the days were I just couldn’t get out of bed (I’m tearing up).

I learned that an excessive consumption of energy drinks can lead to high blood pressure and sleepless nights.

Michael Wade, 130 TESS

Loved: My unbelievably loving and lovable family and friends(students included) I’ve met in Thailand. And all the hugs and kisses from my students and loved ones! And a million other things.

Learned: A new language. About myself. My way around the least populated province in Thailand and really most of the rest of the country as well. How to cook Thai food that still meets my health goals. How to meditate and be. And a million other things.

Halli Benson, 130 TESS

I think it’s pretty hard to sum it up to just one so I’ll mention a few but make it brief.
One thing I learned is to function and respect a culture that is very different from my own.
I also learned more patience in the classroom, that development work takes strong relationships and time. I learned that having my love language spoken to me is important in the workplace as well and not just in my personal life. And lastly I learned to reduce my anxiety by the fact that so many factors have nothing to do with me.

One thing I loved were all of the genuine friendships I made with my counterpart, co-teacher, students, and fellow PCVS. I loved the support system that my closest friends in PCV have become. I love the travel and get-together memories. I loved all of the little projects I was able to do along the way, and see the impact this work has had on my students. A highlight was bringing them to Glow! And in general I love their curiosity and excitement over things I’ve taken for granted or hadn’t seen as special.

Larissa “Lala” Delgado, 130 YinD

At the end, it’s harder to say what I didn’t love. I learned to love sweating, bugs, awkward conversations, and understanding 10% of situations. Most of all, I loved learning about and being with my co-teachers, my students, and my community.

Timothy Connors, 130 TESS

I loved the newness. Making new friends, learning a new language, trying new foods, living in a new community with a new family. All of it was an opportunity for a clean slate and the ability to become this idealized version or myself. Instead as two years have come and gone all I’ve done is learn most about who I already was. Coming here didn’t make me a new person but it did teach me to be a better one. I learned to be a better friend, educator, and daughter thanks to the generosity this opportunity afforded me.

Yaneth “Janet” Peña, 130 YinD

One thing I learned: Instead of striving for perfection, I’ve learned to strive for excellence. That way I’m not disappointed when something is not 100% to my liking and I still feel fulfilled at 90%.

One thing I loved: I loved the challenge. Being away from the States for two years has allowed me to reflect on what kind of role model and influence I want to be on the next generation. Peace Corps Thailand has challenged me, by giving me a short term mission, to narrow my focus for that impact I will leave with the time that I have. Now, I feel more strategic and confident about my position as a teacher.

Gabriel Reid, 130 TESS

I have loved so many people, so many joyful kids, but I have especially loved my best friend, my confidant, my rock, my mom away from mom, Mae Dam! Some debts are impossible to repay.

I have learned how insanely difficult and vital the art of teaching is. For any current and future teachers: go easy on yourselves, go easy on each other, and thank you for your service. Every day you show up matters.


Philip Hendrix, 130 TESS

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.” — Serenity Prayer

Matt Mikrut, 130 YinD

One thing I’ve loved: the bond I’ve made with my luuk chin vendor. He always asks me where I’ve been when I don’t show up everyday.

One thing I’ve learned: Growth is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Tell people when you’re having a hard time. Sometimes I can’t do everything and that was a tough pill to swallow.

Carissa Anderson, 130 YinD

1 thing I loved from this experience was showing up and playing the game.
“Up to you.”

1 thing I learned from this experience was how to notice, and hold space, for myself.
“All thoughts and feelings are welcome here.”

Andy Cole, 130 TESS

One thing I love about my Thai community is its spirit of generosity and zest for life.

One thing I have learned is the lasting impressions that Peace Corps and its volunteers leave with individuals. My community respects Peace Corps’ dedication and remembers with great fondness several volunteers.

Lee-Hoon Benson, 130 TESS

I loved what I learned, and I learned about love ⁠— the unconditional kind. To those who taught me the true meaning of friendship and family, I love you with all my heart. ❤

Andrea Aribe, 130 YinD


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