“I will go back to Thailand after I graduate from high school, to the place where I was born. It doesn’t matter if it’s a study abroad or travel by myself”, I would always tell myself. I remember it was just a goal I set for myself. A year past, with a blink of an eye I actually make my dream come true. I got the golden opportunity to share my experience to study abroad in Thailand with twenty wonderful sisters and four caring acharn (professors).
Photo credit to Eve Rungrada
Fast forward to three weeks. I remembered vividly the day that we returned back to Minnesota. It was on the Sunday morning at 3:45 am that everybody packed and went down to check out from Ramada Hotel. It was a bittersweet moment because at that moment I am glad that I will be able to see my family again in the states but at the same time I will be leaving a country that has impacted myself so much in just three weeks. I remember we did not eat breakfast like how we usually in the hotel but instead we were given breakfast boxes. As I exited out the doors of Ramada Hotel I look back and said to myself that I will come back to visit this hotel. I sadly walked away and noticed that it was still very dark outside. As I walked to get onto our bus I quickly get on because I don’t want my memories to pull me back not wanting to go home anymore.
It was around 8:40 that we board on China Airlines to Taipei. After 18 hours on three different plane, we finally arrived in Minneapolis. It was around 11:15 at night that we got off the plane and went to claim our luggage. As I got off the plane I feel dizzy and different the moment I stepped my foot in Minnesota soil again. It feels different because of how long I have been away from Minnesota. I remember following the sign with Shengyeng to claim our luggage. As soon as I got to where the luggage claim location is, I saw my two sisters waiting with the biggest smiles that I have see for the first time for 18 years. I remember seeing my parents down in the baggage claim trying to look for my luggage. I have never feel this much love before since I was away.
I have to admit that ever since my arrival back from Thailand I have been having a hard time adjusting to the time in Minnesota. My sleeping schedule has been messed up for about two weeks until I am able to adjust to my normal sleeping schedule. For two weeks straight I will get tired when it’s only 7 at night and then woke up very early like around four and five in the morning. While I was trying to adjust to my normal sleeping schedule I reflect back to what I’ve learn abroad.
I remember the university we visited called Rajabhat University where we were given the golden opportunity to enjoy a meal of the Khon tote style with very friendly students and professors. I remember laughing childishly and happily as I watched the dancing that the students at the university performed. There is nothing more fun than getting the chance to actually physically participate with the performers to a salavon dance. I was a little slow and shy as others were already getting up to participate. As I looked up, in front of me was a student that sat with me and Shengyeng. He said, “come on! Let’s go dance. It will be fun!”. I slowly stood up and try to follow the lead. It was fun while it lasted.
While abroad I wouldn’t have guess that I will be learning about myself as well as learning about the Thai culture, families, and environment. Before going abroad, I know by heart that I am a little quiet but not extremely quiet. As we stay longer in Thailand I realized I am extremely quiet. I speak very few words and looks bored as everyone is going out at night enjoying themselves. As I am trying to find out more about myself step by step again I figure out that it depends on the people that I hang out with. There are a couple people who shares my similarities which I can bond quicker than some who I still have to learn about them as we participate in activities. It takes time but it works.
Thai people are the happiest people I have seen. They smile a lot. It is hard to tell if they smile because they are mad or if they smile because they are happy. I can see why Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. Thai families are quite different from families I see here in America. Thai families help each other even if they are just neighbors. I was very impressed to see this happen when we went to Cooking at Home. The environment in Thailand is quite different from the environment in America. When we first got to Thailand the first thing I feel is the thick air. It was a little bit hard for me to breathe because of how thick the air was. I also noticed there are a lot of trash everywhere. I wonder if the trash is useful to people in Thailand in some ways.
Today as I am writing this I know for sure that this study abroad trip will not be the last time that I will go to Thailand. A few weeks after we got to Minnesota I have been thinking and come to realized that there are a lot more places that we didn’t get the chance to visit. Therefore, there will definitely be a next time that I will visit Thailand again despite how thick the air is and the trash that is everywhere. I will go and try the fruits and food that I should’ve try, but first I will learn some Thai so I can speak as well as understand.
I will see you soon Thailand!
Mai Mee Lee