Reverse Culture Shock and Jet Lag, but yet a Learning Experience

After being home for a couple of days, I am still adjusting in all areas. First off, I am so jet lagged. I cannot seem to get back on my normal sleep schedule. Now with school started and deadlines and due dates already approaching, being sleep deprived is affecting my productivity. In addition to school starting, as soon as I got back up to Duluth, I had to get out my planner and plan out my week and make a to do list. This is completely opposite from “Thai time” where I was simply just living in the moment. If I had a choice I would much rather live the Thai way, but I know with my busy schedule I would loose my mind.

Aside from school starting and being tired, I find myself having a little bit of reverse culture shock. Although three weeks isn’t a huge amount of time to be away, it was enough time to change my perspective and feel comfortable in a different culture. I am used to seeing many Thai people and having them look at me because I was the minority, and when I did see other Caucasian people it was almost automatic to want to ask them where they were from, because often times they were from the states or Europe. This was exciting as a foreigner. Now back home I see Caucasians and people may think I am crazy if I asked where they are from. And even though Thailand was busy, especially Bangkok, there was no attitude involved with the busyness. For example, in traffic there is road rage here that people in Thailand don’t have. It is going to take some time to adjust.

Most importantly, this was such a great learning experience in all areas. It simply became clearer to me that I love learning, and being a prospective teacher that is probably a good thing. I love learning about myself, what and who I value, what I believe, and what really makes me happy. Apart from growing within myself, I also love learning academically. I want to be a well-rounded person with knowledge in many areas. This trip was a great eye opener on my perspectives about life and who I am and want to be. I am grateful for the professors, new friends, and sister I got to spend this life-changing trip with. Thank you!


Although it is my wish for everyone to go on this trip and make memories and experiences of their own, I would like to share a little advice to make the trip just a little bit better than mine, but I am not sure if that is possible. 🙂

First and foremost, be open-minded and willing to learn and grow! This in my opinion is crucial. You will be pushed outside of your comfort zone to do, see, smell, taste, and feel things you have never done before. Be open to immerse yourself into the culture and take in the many things that Thailand has to offer. You can form and opinion of something after you have tried it and it can be either good or bad, but please try it first. When you are being pushed outside your levels, this is when the most learning and growing occurs. It will scary at first, but remember you may never be able to do something like this again so make the most of it while you are there. I am a true believer in that you get out of it what you put into it and this held true for my trip to Thailand. I was truly open and ready to learn and grow and that is why I believe I had such an amazing experience. Being open to step outside the box will make your time in Thailand even better and your experiences much more memorable.

Secondly, journal everyday. This may be difficult because the days get long and busy and at the end of the day you may be exhausted, but sooner you do it you will be able to remember exactly what you were thinking and feeling and get it down on paper. You will also not only be able to look back at it five years later and realize how great your experiences were, but you will also be able to look back at it a week later and the memories will stay fresh. Just in general it may be helpful to document everything. Make a quote book of the crazy things people in your group say or quotes that you hear in a lecture that really inspire you. You will truly appreciate it later.

There are many pieces of advice that could be said, but being willing to grow is what will truly make this trip uniquely yours!

Advice for Future Thailand Travelers

After reading my traveling counterparts submissions, it is difficult to think of original responses, but I will do my best! First of all, every person will take something different away from this experience which may be either good or bad. From my Thailand experience, you MUST keep an open mind! You have to be ready for just about anything and everything. Second, go with the flow and live in the moment. If you have a difficult time changing destinations or plans on the fly, you will most likely get frustrated. This trip has taught me so many things that I would have never learned in school and despite its harsh price tag, it is worth every dollar. I not only gained a deeper and broader perspective on life, but I made some long-lasting relationships that I am greatly appreciative of.

Before you leave for Thailand, be sure to explore the many dimensions of their cuisine. It will make for a little smoother transition into the trip, but fear not, you will find western style food establishments in larger cities such as Bangkok if it doesn’t work out. All in all, it is very important to take a little time out of the day and the places you had been to reflect. Reflect, reflect, reflect. If you don’t, you may miss out on how ideas and experiences made you feel. By placing an emotion or feeling to something you did, it will help you establish a long-lasting memory.

Well, that’s all I have for the next travelers. I hope you take away as much, if not more, from Thailand than I did and that you truly let it change you for the better. Until next time…

My Lost Blog–Blog #4

I wrote this blog in Bangkok but it failed to post here on blogger. Let’s try this again!

The lecture we attended at Bumrungrad International Hospital was one that affected me the most. I hope to have a career as a hospital administrator one day, and the material presented created excitement for my future. The entire concept of this hospital was quite intriguing as well; the overall environment felt more like a hotel than a hospital. The facility was very modern and had basically all the amenities of a hospital especially the patients rooms that closely resembled an apartment. I was also astonished to know how less expensive their health care is compared to ours in the United States. Some surgeries can cost one-fourth or one-eighth the price we pay domestically. Even the financial reporting aspect of Bumrungrad was impressive. They are reporting at an impressive margin, partially due to the amount of patients they receive paying out of pocket (cash, essentially). I also was surprised that they do little advertising and marketing to countries around the world in which they rely on patients telling other people about their experiences at Bumrungrad. Simply amazing, I can barely wrap my head around it. All in all, I really learned a number of things that I can take back to the US in hopes to make a small difference in a rather large problem we are facing.

Advice from Dave for the next group going on the Thailand course

It’s hard for me to write this. Everyone’s experience will be unique to them. It is up to the individual to make their experience. I’d only suggest that whenever someone travel he or she try to be as open to new things as possible. If things were the same as before, or if you’re hoping for them to be, there isn’t really a point to traveling at all. I believe one ought to make an effort to push one’s self outside their comfort zone. So, expect nothing but be ready for anything.

That being said, there are some things that will inevitably be the same with our trips. The lectures were all really interesting. If you have the time, the more research you can do to get an understanding of the Thai culture and healthcare system before hand the more you’ll get out of the lectures. Don’t be afraid to go out and do what you want on your own or with a few people. It’s too hard to go everywhere with a big group so the group will have to split up at some point – and that’s okay. Don’t expect people to speak English – it’s probably best if you assume they don’t speak any English. Write in your journal. It will help you remember the trip but it will also help you understand it as you go along – thinking critically is the essential part. You’re going to be tired so push through it – you’ll thank yourself later for doing so. In the end nothing is neither good nor bad, as those are human concepts we ourselves apply to things relatively. Those that get to go on the next trip ought to be excited and ought to be ready to experience new things. I’m fully confident, even if the specifics of the trip are different, that the trip will be well worth it and will be a great experience.

“Back to Reality” by Dave Zablocki

“Back to Reality”

That’s what my mother said on the way back from the airport. I realized then what an oxymoronic phrase that is. The word reality in that phrase implies that where ever I was essentially wasn’t reality – or that where I was broke from my reality. Back, in that phrase, implies I must return to a state where I had been before. The phrase all together implies an inexorable movement to what was before and must be once again. And, that simply is wrong.

I’ve grown from my experience. I am a different person than I was before. Because of the growth I’ve incurred my perception and definition of reality have actually changed. To go “back to reality” would be to dismiss all that I’ve learned and become. The feelings are confusing when returning home. I feel that things should be different as I’m different. But, I see it as a challenge to live my life dignified with the new experience I’ve gained back in Minnesota. In fact, my time in Thailand felt more “real” than my time back home. I think it comes from the attitude I had while in Thailand. The sincere openness to new experiences, learning, and growth, brought on by traveling to a new place, should be carried to my everyday life with the same fervor.

I went to Thailand with a set of principles to guide my life and I came back with an affirmation that I’m on the right track. I found some of my own prospects of life align with some of the major principles in Buddhism, yet I arrived at them much differently. The kindness of the people I met along the way reminded me to have faith in humanity. The energy I maintained seemingly out of will by the prospect of adventure is something I ought to have no matter where I am. Back to reality is a phrase I will never use as I see it relates to a desire for consistency in an inconsistent environment. Oscar Wilde said, “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Well, I won’t go back to an unimaginative reality, I’ll go to Minnesota with a realization of the perpetual state of growth and change we’re all destined to live within. I won’t go back to anywhere, I’ll go to there, wherever there is, with a smile.

Once in a lifetime opportunity by Casey Churchill

These past few days I have been in the states, it has really opened my eyes to what I learned in Thailand; both personally and academically.

First off, I would like to say that I wouldn’t have changed how I spent this trip in anyway. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I made some pretty great friends on this trip. So thank you everybody, for making it so special. If it weren’t for you, it would have been completely different.
Secondly, I have noticed that I have become a changed person since I have gone and came back to the states. First off, I’m a lot more care and stress free. I can see this in a multitude of situations. Traffic; I have seen family and friends get angry because they reached a red light, or somebody cut them off. I look at them and just giggle inside and say “Chill, it’s not the end of the world, were not in that big of a rush.” I feel a lot more patient in these types of circumstances. Also, before Thailand I would sleep in and take a TON of naps. Since being in Thailand and we did SO much and accomplished so many things in one day, I have realized that I should get the adequate amount of sleep at night and get all I can from the day at hand. Why waste it away sleeping till 12? It really is a waste of a day when I do that. As said before, when in Thailand, I am so much more appreciative of my friends, family, and housing. I really am blessed, and that is just a personal lesson I learned. I can’t put it into words on how I learned it or where it came to stand, it just happened. I hope these life changing lessons really do stay with me and don’t fade over time.

After visiting Thailand and seeing their health care system, it makes me so angry; so aggravated. The health care system here in the United States should resemble Thailand’s is some sort of way. But it doesn’t! It is completely inefficient and ineffective! We pay so much for so little. This includes the quality of care, the actual care given, the length of stay and the type of care. We really need to get it together! My sister deals with seizures that aren’t linked to epilepsy; it has something to do with scar tissue on her brain. She has had brain surgery once to try to solve the problem, but it hasn’t worked. The medicine only gives her side effects and she’s a blossoming 20 year old woman. She is looking into another brain surgery, as the outcomes are higher. There’s one problem; her insurance might not cover it. I have been explaining the Bumrungrad International hospital to her and my mother and it might be an option to visit Thailand once again!

I had a great trip, and the memories will stay with me forever. Thanks again everybody for a once in a lifetime opportunity 🙂

Advice from Casey C. for the next group going on the Thailand course

Some advice to the next group conquering Thailand:
I went to Thailand over J-term 2012, it was a life changing experience. This is not an exaggeration or some trick to get you to think about going; it really opened my eyes. There’s a few things I want to let you know before you go. Please take them into consideration, as it was advice I had received or wish I had received prior to going.

1.Try Thai food before going and know one dish you like. The food in Thailand is very different that what most Americans are used to. By knowing you like one dish, it will open your eyes to other dishes as well. If your not sure that the food is right for you, some of the girls I traveled with brought peanut butter and that helped them a ton. Just be sure to pack it in your checked luggage (Right Acacia Marie?) And this is a once in a lifetime experience, so if your stomach can handle it, try crazy and exotic food! When is the next time you can try dried squid? 🙂

2. As soon as you get to the airport start connecting with others. Or even before; through facebook or email. I was blessed to go with an amazing group of people who all got along. It took us about a week to get to this point. So start getting to know each other asap! The relationships you build on this trip will become life long friends (or they did for the group that went in 2012).

3. Travel light. There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of stuff to lug around from one hotel to the next. And there is a TON of markets over there and lots of shopping to do. So if you can, bring simple items that you can wear with different items. (Girls: maxi-skirts and sundresses will be your best friend) Dress modestly when going to lectures and field trips. Bring closed toed shoes. Bring clothes you’d want to go out in at night.

4. Go to the skybar in Bangkok. It’s where the hangover 2 took place and it’s a great opportunity to see the city at night. It’s very classy.

5. Be open to new ideas. Try new things. All in all, have fun and enjoy the ride. The three weeks will go by faster than you want them to.

The Power in Simplicity by Kiarra McCain

Looking back over my notes I can’t help be see so many themes. While abroad as a group we often brought up the practicality of the people in Thailand. The systems, rules and overall way of life, could be categorized as simple. They do what’s needed to be done and worry about the rest when the rest presents itself. They believe in simple rules; do good and good will happen or concepts like have a social worker present when dealing with victims of the sex trafficking world because they’re trained in that area. All of these things seem simple and obvious but it’s a way of life that most of us here in the states couldn’t imagine living.

There, we met a man that was working on the problems of the river. The river was being used for commercial business from other countries but it’s a river that has been used for survival for the Thai’s. His job is to educate and come up with solutions as to how to gain control of the usage of the river so that the Thai people can maintain their way of life. The problem was big, but the way they’re going about fixing it is complex and simple at the same time. He educates the people on the situation and has meetings with all parties involved to come up with solutions. This is powerful. Not only is it a reminder of the power that the grassroots people have no matter the country, but the power of a good leader. He explained how they talk about the river, and it’s in such a practical way. They don’t talk about it in terms of science. They talk about it in terms of immediate consequences and life. The education piece is something that’s shared. As a group they educate each other on the usage of the river and they unite communities to figure out a way to solve the issue. Our presenter simply said “We talk about it in a way that makes sense, we don’t have conversations about distant consequences but we talk about the immediate…the fisherman would suffer meaning the food supply would go down…things that make sense to their lives”. If only we could communicate more effectively like our Thai counterparts, so many issues would be minimized, internalize, and solved, but apparently that’s too simple.

Advice from Kiarra for the next group going on the Thailand course

Hey guys, my name is Kiarra but everybody calls me Key. For 2011-2012 Winter term I was blessed to go to Thailand with an amazing group of people. As we all know, no matter how much you study in advance or research the best places to go while abroad, the abroad experience itself teaches those things all over again. With that in mind, my goal is not to try and teach or “warn” you of anything but to share my experience. The biggest advice I have is to go with an open mind, but not just an open mind towards the experience, but an open mind towards how others will experience you.

I am a 5’5 African American plus size woman and that’s something that I’ve never been ashamed of. Going on this trip, I never thought about how much my looks would play into my experience. Because of my confidence, I never stopped to think of how different I would look compared to the majority (if not all) the people I would see, but that’s where I made my mistake. Because I didn’t think about this before, once I got their and noticed the stares, it took me by surprise. In the beginning, I was very offended, and even angered at the way I was stared at every time I stepped off the bus or outside the hotel, but once I reflected on it, it made more sense. Yes, I still feel as though it was rude. The pointing and staring and secretly taking pictures are something that I can’t dismiss, but the reasoning was where my comfort lied. I looked at it as a way to teach. I saw myself as a learning tool and trail blazer. I believe it’s safe to say I was one of the first black people (most of) these people had ever seen, so I saw it as a way to break down barriers between the two culture groups. Unfortunately because of the language barrier, I wasn’t able to have conversations with them, but actions really do speak louder than words.

From my story I would like members of the next group to take away the power or need to reflect. Without reflecting on my feelings while abroad I would have probably became very angry and shut down from the group and experience but because I had a journal, I was able to get out all my feelings and read them later to reflect. I also want you guys to know that no one will experience Thailand like you, not even the people that you go with so don’t expect them to. Having a journal is really important. Not just a notebook that you would take notes in during lectures, but a journal that you can be blunt and honest with. Aside from that remember to have fun and that this is a once in a life time opportunity so live it up every day, or in the words of Alex, “Fire up!”