Advice For Future Thailand Study “Abroaders”

First of all I just want to say if you’re a student looking at this blog because you’re going to Thailand, I’m so excited for you! This will be the most life changing trip of your life. I know people say that about every trip, but I’m serious about this one. This was my first time going out of the country and I applied to this program without knowing anyone, until my friend Becca applied last minute and got accepted. 😉

Here is my list of advice to you:

  • Definitely go to the first orientation meeting Cathy and Jill set up. It’s a good way to get introduced to the group
  • Do not pack a full suitcase. I packed way too much and regretted it because I couldn’t fit as much souvenirs to bring home.
  • One suitcase and an extra little backpack is a good idea to bring 
  • Bring a tablet, a laptop isn’t necessary. You’ll want it for writing your blogs and maybe watching movies on the long flights and bus rides.
  • Get out of your comfort zone! You’ll have a lot more fun that way, and make new friends. 
  • Have an open mind! Things over in Thailand are much much different than back home, so you’re going to want to keep an open mind when it comes to new things. Everyone in your group is most likely experiencing these things for the first time too. 
  • Get out and explore the cities when you have free time, and you’ll have plenty of free time
  • Take advantage of all the activities that are offered, like zip-lining, elephants, ect… You won’t regret it
  • Try new foods! Most of the street vendors are only like $2 so it’s worth trying something new
  • Get to know everyone in your group. You’ll make friends that will last a lifetime 
  • Bring hand sanitizer and extra toilet paper when you go places. I’m serious about this one
  • Don’t bring a lot of socks. I packed a lot of socks and I don’t know why, but I barely wore them. I wore sandals a lot
  • Bring a deck or two of cards to play games with the group 
  • You’ll probably want at least $400-600 to spend on food, activities, and souvenirs. Those markets will get to you. 
  • Take lots of pictures and videos so you can use them in you story, and just for days you really miss the group and Thailand. 
  • But, try to take the time to take in the beauty of Thailand, sometimes pictures just don’t do the beauty justice. 
  • Be kind to people they are so helpful there
  • Make sure to go out on New Years with the group (preferably Zoey’s) it will be the best New Years Eve you’ve ever had.
  • Cathy and Jill are awesome listeners, if you’re having a bad day or just want to talk, they are awesome.
  • Don’t take any moment there for granted!
I hope this helps along with everyone else’s posts! I could probably write ten more points. I hope your trip to Thailand is just as rewarding as mine was and that you come back with many memories and 15 new great friends! 🙂

Transitioning Home

Well I’ve been home from Thailand 16 days now and I still think about it every day. The first week was probably the hardest because my sleep schedule was so messed up. I would be wide awake until 3 A.M and sleeping all afternoon. My body was not adjusting well to the food back home either. So, I can say it was without a doubt much easier to adjust to the changes over in Thailand. I was only tired for the first few days there and I never got sick. 

It’s still hard for me to explain to people how amazing Thailand is. Whenever I tell them I would go back in a heartbeat, they are always like “really?” Sometimes, I start feeling like my time in Thailand was a dream because I had to get back into the routine of every day back home. I really miss living every day on “Thai time”. It was really easy and almost sad for me to realize how out of touch people back home can be. Everyone is moving so fast, I miss being able to take the time to take in the little things. 

My life back home has always been very chaotic and stressful. I always have so much school work and then I have to work on top of that. I really took that monk chat to heart, and just the Thai culture in general, of living in that moment and not worrying too much about the past or the future. I of course as any American have many goals I want to reach and sometimes on the way to those goals I get really stressed out. I’ve made it my goal being back home that I want to live my life with more mindfulness. I have to stop and remind myself that everything will be okay and not to let it get to me. I’m still trying to figure out meditation, but I think it’s something I can see myself doing every night. 

Lastly, I’m super fortunate to have at least one person from the trip in each of my classes. It’s nice to have that support system. But, I really miss everyone and I think that’s what makes me the most sad some days. And of course the nice warm weather in Thailand. 🙂

Transitioning back to the cold weather

From the minute I got off the plane I started to missed Thailand and especially with the cold weather it was easier to even miss it more. It was an amazing trip which helped me develop as a person it was the first time I had traveled on my own without my parents and I am really glad I did that. I grew so much from this trip and my family has surely seen. The hardest part is to show pictures and tell my family and friends about the trip but the pictures don’t even get close to what the actual place looks like, there are no words to describe what Thailand looks like until they go there and see the beautiful culture combined with the beautiful land. This trip was the beginning of my many trips to come to Thailand.

Future Advice

Being back home and in the States, I am feeling bittersweet about my experience in Thailand. Although I am overjoyed to be back home, a part of me longs to return to Thailand and its way of life. As I reflect back on my experience, there are certain lessons I have gained that have personally impacted me as an individual and my learning experience in Thailand. Therefore, I am going to list a few pieces of advice for future students.

First being, live in the moment.Thailand is truly a land filled with beauty, grace, and hospitality. To not live in the moment is to be missing out on Thailand’s grace and beauty. Living in the moment is not only geared towards embracing Thailand’s culture but also to take risks. This is because when you take risks (my risks were eating a cricket, zip lining, and so much more!) you build upon yourself as an individual. Plus, you can also go back home and tell all your risky stories to your loved ones!

Secondly, bring only essential items! I personally brought just enough items for myself to use in the span of three weeks. Thankfully, I limited myself very well to the point where I could fit all my souvenir gifts in my luggage when coming back to the states. From my observation, I definitely think some of my fellow peers over packed. Over packing can definitely be a overwhelming when you are traveling from one location to another. In addition, also make sure your suitcase is durable. Towards the end of our trip in Thailand, my luggage started to deteriorate to the the point where I had to purchase a new one. So make sure that when you pack, your items/luggage are in good condition and not overly packed.

Lastly, make personal connections with Thailand and your fellow peers within the group. My connection with Thailand revolved with the idea of “homeness.” Meaning, I felt a sense of belonging staying in Thailand. I am not quite sure why or how this connection was born, but I enjoy knowing that I can call Thailand part of my home.

So remember to live in the moment, pack only what is needed, and make connections! Best wishes to you and your journey in Thailand. I hope it will be as revitalizing, energizing, and wonderful as mine!

Advice to Future Thai Study Abroaders

     I cannot begin to try and count the number of times I have told people to study abroad if they can at all swing it in their college career.  And I’ve been home from Thailand about ten days.  I was extremely apprehensive going into my study abroad experience in Thailand.  To the point where I almost decided not to commit to it in the months leading up to it. I knew no one going or even applying, it is half way across the world and a place I never dreamed of traveling to. However, after a little soul searching, a couple long talks with my parents and a realization of the possible benefits, I decided to go.  I will never regret my decision to go.  It was by far one of the best experiences of my life.  I made fifteen new friends, had experiences that changed me as a person and made memories that will never be forgotten.

     Instead of me lecturing away for pages, here is a list of advice for studying abroad in Thailand:

1.  Forget your comfort zone, forget your shyness, forget everything holding you back and GO!
2.  Pack light.  Laundry facilities are easily accessible and sickeningly cheap.  ($3 max to wash, dry and fold a large pile of clothes)
3.  You will have to wash your own underwear.  This is not enjoyable or extremely sanitary so bring as many pair as possible or good laundry soap.
3.  Bring snacks.  Plane food is gross and a protein bar hits the spot better than chips.
4.  Remember everyone in the group is in the same position so get to know them as soon as possible.  You will be spending a great deal of time with them through the next weeks.
5.  Keep an open mind.  At some point you will become home sick and it will be difficult to be accepting of culture.  I challenge you to try harder during these times.
6.  It isn’t one big honey moon.  Remember everything is part of the experience so find joy in it all.
7.  You will feel uncomfortable at times.  You will be crabby at times.  Odds are others will feel the same way but don’t let these emotions get the best of you.
8.  Chang and Singha are good.  Too much Chang the night before a full day of lecture is not good.
9.  Read the materials prior to going.  It gives great insight and the stories are relevant.
10.  Go and do.  Experience the culture.  Dance.  Laugh.  Buy.  Look.  Listen.  Feel.  Learn.
11.  The food is wonderful.  You will like it, but you will get sick of it at some point.  American food is relatively easy to find.
12.  Learn a few word a of Thai.  Language is a bit of an issue but if you can say ten Thai words before going, you will be ahead of the curve.
13.  Always carry cash and very few valuables.
14.  Have a good camera, not just your phone.  Don’t sacrifice taking in the sights for getting a good picture.  You can easily miss what is right in front of your eyes.
15.  Adjusting to life back home is much more difficult than adjusting in Thailand.
16.  Accept that friends and family will not fully understand the stories and scenery you portray to them.
17. Enjoy the amazing experience you are lucky enough to have.  Soak it all up.

Future Advice to Students

Future Advice for Students
Take advantage of all the opportunities that are there, especially events that are optional and just part of the program. Just say yes. Go out with people from the group, explore, have an open mind, you’re in Thailand- do something. Apart from that, here are some other points I thought would be useful.
I packed really light, just a large backpack and this worked well. Having a secondary smaller backpack or bag was nice to carry things around, whether it was our visits or just going around the city. Pack enough to sustain a trip, but realize you will have laundry and you will be able to buy something you forgot. If I was to do it again, I would have a normal sized backpack and then a small carry on luggage, I think this will be most appropriate. Also, a traveler’s wallet for your passport, tickets, and currency was definitely nice to have. Don’t bring two (or more) things of luggage, you will be left behind.
Again pack light; you will have the opportunity to do your laundry. Having a lightweight jacket is something you will want. Materials like cotton and nylon seem to do well in the Tai heat. Bring a few nice things to wear, but this won’t be the majority of your clothing. T-shirts (or something lightweight for girls) and pants worked well (girls- light cotton dresses, or whatever you guys call them) I wouldn’t suggest too many pairs of jeans-or any. Pack fewer socks then you think you will need. Undergarments, you can decide what’s best for you, I went with ExOfficio, very easy to wash out, again you probably can decide that. I would pack a pair of sneakers, something versatile- then a pair of sandals.
I really liked the food over in Thailand. The food stands were great and you can try lots of different foods for very cheap. So take advantage of this. If you do have a sensitive stomach, stick with rice, you’ll find plenty of it I promise. The Tai’s are very accommodating; just tell them what you would like and they will try hard to make it work. The gas stations do have a fair amount of snacks, varieties of chips, and cookies but if you are looking for granolas, jerky or a protein bar, you should bring these things. And bring plenty of them; don’t be afraid to load up on them before you leave the states.
Phones & Devices
Hopefully you will be busy enough over there, where you will only use technology sparingly. But as far as computers, tablets, and phones this is what I suggest. I brought my smartphone (without service) and my tablet, and this worked great for the academics and minimal browsing. I wouldn’t be afraid of bringing your laptop over there, however. Bring a camera of some sort, lots of things, people to take picture of . As far as phones go, if you do not have an international plan, I would suggest buying a phone over there, if you do wish to keep in contact. They are around $20, and the minutes are very cheap. Last thing, load up on music, movies, anything before you leave.. it will be nice for the long flights/bus rides. But have a conversation or something first, it’ll be good for you.
The exchange will take a little time to get use to but you’ll figure it out. Bring a fair amount of cash to exchange immediately; I did $200 USD at first. They do have ATMs and currency exchanges nearly every other block. Plan on spending (at least) an additional $400-$500 for the activities, food, transportation, souvenirs. Depends on what type of spender you are. Things will be cheap, $2 for a meal. Have some fun, blow some baht on a silk robe or something.
Other things
A couple other things that were nice to have
-Tide to go, tide washing packets.
-Hand wipes/ hand sanitizer
-Bug spray, sun screen, aloe- small amounts
-Benadryl (sleeping), tums (tai food), ibuprofen. –again smalllll amounts
-emergency supply of toilet paper. 
-Plug in adapter- bring a small one- smallll
Things to leave at home
-Water bottles
-Hair dryers, curlers. 
-Large books
-Large scissors-ask Sheng
-Pillows, large blankets (small one wouldn’t be terrible)

Well that’s all I have. Other than that, have some fun, meet a friend, have a Tai beer or two and learn something new.

Back Home

We have been back over a week now and we are starting to get back into our daily schedules with school and other activities. And apart from Duluth’s blistering cold tundra, it’s good to be back. The flight back to the states was long, like it usually is, and the group was definitely ready to be back. For the first few days, jet lag got the best of me and I ended up sleeping most of the day we got back. But I’m back in it and ready to start a new semester.
Couple things I was excited to have when I got home were tap water, a fresh pot of coffee, and some steak. I’m missing the abundance of rice (kao) and the friendliness of the Tai people though. Things back home are like usual, I didn’t have a culture shock like many travelers experience and I’m left with the experience of my lifetime and a new perspective of the world and the people around me. So big thanks to everyone (Ajahn Jill and Cathy especially) who made this trip happen and all the good energy and conversations we had. And I’m going to end this blog by sharing one of my favorite photos from the trip. 


For the last week, as I have tried to settle back into life in the States I have been trying to figure out what I would right my last blog about.  As I tried to make myself at home I found that life was different, and no one could understand the feelings I had toward my trip. I am taking Biology Seminar this semester where we are required to go to seven seminars throughout the semester given by well known scientists.  Dr. Keyler was the presenter this Friday and his talk was entitled Snakebite and Antivenom in Sri Lanka, I can say that I was less than excited to hang around campus until 4:30 on a Friday to hear about snakes.  Throughout the lecture I was nearly moved to tears as I listened to him speak about his passion for the country and culture.  The culture that he described reminded me so much of Thailand, and it was the first time in over a week that I felt like I could relate to someone.  As he talked about the science aspects I heard him but I really felt connected when he talked about the people.  This experience reminded me of a principle we learned about in microbiology this week called “The Prepared Mind.”  This principle highlights the idea that you prepare yourself for moments that others may pass by or not take note of, and when you see this particular moment others will never understand why you think it is such a big deal.  During this talk that Dr. Keyler gave I felt a calling to work with people of another culture and background from my own.  During a talk given by a snake scientist I was moved nearly to tears and felt a calling (while others were nearly sleeping) to work in ways I never imagined I would.  Traveling to Thailand opened my eyes to things and “prepared my mind” for sights and opportunities that I never would have seen or noticed without this experience.  This trip was definitely a monumental experience that will change me forever


Well, as Cathy explained to us it was a huge adjustment trying to get back into the swing of life here at home.  The time change made me do crazy unexplainable things and the pace of life was very unwelcoming.  I felt like I was just rushed through my days and couldn’t really make sense of what was going on around me.  When I spoke with Mike in one of our classes, we both concluded that we felt like we were in a daze the past few days.

The first thing I did when I got to my parents house was to flip open my computer and whiz through all of the pictures.  After about picture 500, my dad wandered off and I knew my mom stuck with me to be a good sport.  They couldn’t be inside my head to understand the excitement and feelings that I had with every picture I flipped through.  I felt like there was so much to tell them and I just couldn’t spit it out fast enough or get to the next picture.

To help ease my way back in the hustle of my life, I didn’t do much the first few days.  I did work the Friday and Saturday to help get into the mode of normal life and to prepare myself for school, but I just didn’t feel like it was me.  Sunday I wanted to do something relaxing so my boyfriend and I went out on Lake Superior to just fish and relax for the day.  Above is a picture of the ice chunks from the first freeze of the year that built up and then was blown into shore.  The sleep schedule was very hard to get acquainted to, I was sleeping by 3-4 pm some days and up at 3:30 am, I was sleep walking and talking.  That was one of the worst things I’ve dealt with.  After almost a week of being back, I finally feel normal.

When people ask me what I took away from this experience, the first thing that comes to mind is that I took away the ability to learn how to relax and just let things happen that are out of my control.  I want to learn how to focus on the things I can control and be positive about those things.  I want to live longer not just because I exercise and have a good family “line of genes” but because I have learned how to eliminate stress from my life in a positive way.  So glad I did this trip, I met some wonderful friends whom I will continue to stay in touch with and had a life changing experience.