Social Work Field Placement: Win – Win in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Last year, that’s 2013, out of the blue, I responded to a post I saw on Facebook in the “What’s Happening in Chiang Mai” group.

The post read something like this….

 “Are you an MSW or do you know someone who is?”

My response was….

“Do you mean an MSW as in Master of Social Work?”

And one thing lead to another! I received an email about the need for an MSW to serve as a Field Instructor!  I thought ‘this could be interesting’ and went on with my life in Chiang Mai.


I returned to the US in early September 2013 to sell my house in Houston. Around that time I received another email seeking for my resume to determine my qualifications to be a field instructor for a student’s field placement in Chiang Mai.  Again, ‘far-fetched’ I thought to myself. Besides, I had a house to sell. I had to focus on that because I could not fathom the thought of being away from my family longer than the two months allotted myself to sell the darn thing.  It proved to be a very painful time of my life being away from Emma and Jack for two months in the US while they remained in Chiang Mai! I learned a lot about myself. What I am willing to and NOT willing to put up with.


The house was sold, sort of, because papers still had to be signed after I left the States. Thanks to my Dad whom we gave power of attorney to sign closing papers on our behalf. Most transactions were accomplished by me and the Realtor in Houston, then via email, the American consulate, Fed Ex and it went smoothly!  Eventually! Bamm, SOLD!  All that hard work of my time being back in Houston paid off! AND, the house was sold for CASH!!! Yeah! We like CASH! Okay, I’ve digressed, a bit!


So back to the Social Work Field Instructor opportunity. I consulted with a few colleagues in Houston for advice which was very helpful. I was excited. However,  I didn’t have my hopes up because I really thought ‘well, things could still fall apart etc. etc.’ even though I did have things settled in writing, before I left the US in early November.  My role: to provide social work field instruction/supervision during the Spring semester, 2014. Perfect! Just perfect. Seriously, it’s a dream come true.


The requirement of a Field Instructor to supervise a field student in/from the US indicates that s/he must hold a Master Degree from a CSWE accredited US university. In my case, I hold a Master Degree from a US university, licensed,  have had numerous years of experience in the US and understands the Core requirements by the Council on Social Work Education  (CSWE) from my work with students in the past.

Frankly, this opportunity truly was a win-win.  Win for the Social Work school in the States,  the agency in Chiang Mai, for me and most importantly, for the student! What an incredible opportunity this was for her! Wow! A field practicum all the way in Thailand? Why aren’t more social work students doing this??


I like win-wins.  This was a winner! For the first time in a long time, maybe about four years since I left my full-time career in Houston, I felt alive as a professional. I felt as though I was contributing again, professionally and effectively!  Yup! It was rewarding and I enjoyed working with Kayty so much so that I could have worked with at least three other students!


At the time I agreed to take on the role of a Social Work Field Instructor I had no idea how it would turn out here in Thailand! I have been a field instructor for years back in the US since 2001, but obviously, never in Thailand! However, I saw it as an excellent opportunity. An excellent opportunity for not only the student, but for me as a professional, as a teacher, as a field instructor! An incredibly eye-opening experience for my student, Kayty for sure.

Last week, I received a message from Kayty.

” finished the semester with all A’s and am officially a “BSW”.  I couldn’t have done it without you!”

*BSW – Bachelor of Social Work

Chills up my spine. It’s simple. I am proud of her.

Though Kayty came to Chiang Mai with some anxieties and reservations, I was impressed by her courage and tenacity to make it work!

The Westerners who come to save the day, learn and witness cruel and humbling realities of the human struggles faced by the many refugees from Burma, women, men and children with very little means, and the children and young adults who turn to prostitution and forced labor. That reality opens eyes, minds and hearts widely and deeply.


After Kayty left, I prayed for more students, even if it is in the distant future. However, I realized that this was not within my control. I realized that our plans for our family are different now and whatever happens will happen. Just like the way it did with Kayty coming to Chiang Mai, and me becoming her field instructor.

There are a few things I would do differently, if there is a next time around! There are lessons learned and this is how we improve processes.


For today, I am proud of the fact that I made a small bit of difference. No matter how small of an impact I may have had on Kayty’s education, perhaps even her life! It was an incredible experience to watch her grow into a professional.   Watch her eyes, mind and heart wide open and being humbled by the experiences she encountered and circumstances she witnessed. A job well done, Kayty. You did it! Congratulations. I know you’re capable and I will not be one bit surprised to see you back here in Chiang Mai one of these days.

I am grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to work with an eager student willing to expand and widen her learning opportunities.

Cheers to a Win – Win in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


During one of our weekly supervision meetings at a coffee shop. Flat Stanley also sat in once!


Kayty at her graduation recently!

We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude

We Say NO to the Status Quo.

Live Small. Live Green. Give Large. Take Little.

Take Notice. Take Action.



3 thoughts on “Social Work Field Placement: Win – Win in Chiang Mai, Thailand

  1. thank you for sharing your experience! it sounds and looks amazing. i hold an msw with over ten yeas experience, four of which were uk based. now that i am back in the states i still have that wanderlust and wonder f you could suggest some options to make social work and love of travel one and the same? thanks

  2. I’m just so happy it ended up working out how it did and you enjoyed it that much. I’ll be sure to skip the group next time someone needs a MSW and come straight to ya 😉

    1. Hello John, things have a way of working out like that don’t they? Especially when there are absolutely no expectations. I”ve always liked working with students in the US. I think of it as a special privilege. I do believe though it is a whole new set of circumstances and learning opportunities for students abroad. In this case, Chiang Mai, Thailand. I can imagine students having an incredible learning experiences in Mae Sot as well. Thanks John, for being the connect between Kayty and me. It worked out nicely.

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