This is the story of Mueda Nawanat, born and raised near the Thai/Burma (Myanmar) border. Born to refugee parents, she was considered a ‘stateless person’ and was denied access to secondary school and the university. Because of this, she helped pass Article 23 of the Thai Nationality act which allows people born in Thailand before 1992 to apply for Thai citizenship. In 2008, that happened for Mueda – she became a Thai citizen. She formed a group called Mekong Youth Assembly that supports communities to protect their environment and fight against unsustainable development.
Click here to listen to Mueda’s Story
1. Going to the Wat Temple was a great way to be introduced to Thai culture. My experience was very insightful into how respectful and welcoming Thai people are. One thing that stood out to me to be vastly different from the American culture was that Thai culture is very intertwined with religion. Being atheist, I was challenged by the fact that everything we did in the house revolved around the monk and the Buddhist religion. However, I appreciated it because even though I do not hold the same beliefs, the Wat Temple and its people were very warm and welcoming which made it easy for me to respect and honor their beliefs.
I think visiting the Wat Temple before going to Thailand was key to familiarizing me with the Thai culture. If I were to have missed the orientation and just been thrown into the Thailand without knowing how married the Thai culture and the Buddhist religion were, I think it might have been difficult for me to adapt. Now that I have a sense of what to expect, I can be less apprehensive and more excited for the transition.
2. I have many learning goals for myself in regards to this learning abroad experience but the main one is to mature and have a better understanding of another culture. I have always appreciated and embraced diversity but I believe that immersion is the only way to truly learn and understand another culture and another person’s perspective. During this learning abroad experience, I hope to be challenged by the cultural differences because I think challenges help one mature, expand horizons, and learn more about oneself.
3. This is me.
Blog Post #1
Unfortunately, I had a performance conflicting with attending orientation at the Wat Temple in Elk River. My current understanding of Thai culture is fairly limited, based only on light reading. From what I know, Thai culture is heavily influenced by religion. Respect, control, compassion and a large value for family are woven into Thai culture. Self-control and outward politeness inform daily interaction. I hope that reading other student responses can add to my familiarity.
I hope to challenge myself and expand my understanding of our changing world. Specifically, I hope to grow in respectful appreciation and understanding for a way of life that is far different from my own. I am excited to learn from and interact with new individuals!