Category Archives: 2012 Thailand Learning Abroad Blog

Advice for the next group of travelers from Naomi Timm

1) Choose to have a positive attitude.
— It’s hard to know what to exactly expect when traveling abroad so it’s best to be flexible and open-minded. Have the mentality, “I’m not in Thailand long enough or often enough to be negative.”
2) Journal!!!
— Not only should you journal about you daily events and on-goings, but be sure to write down your emotions, thoughts, insights, questions, and even describe scenery and flavors. It’s annoying at times, but I PROMISE, upon your return, days, months, even years later you will be happy you did! It’s the best souvenir for yourself!
3) Be adventurous!
— Like I said before, you’re not in Thailand often enough so try different foods, engage in new activities, have insightful conversations with locals and your classmates, and ask tough questions. Step out of your comfort zone and question your assumptions of life, you will grow not only as a person, but also in your faith and beliefs.
4) Pack Light!!
— Bring 1/2 as much stuff and twice as much money!!

Final Reflection – Do what Makes Sense! by Kiara Malone

Looking back on this trip to Thailand I am amazed that this opportunity was presented to me. Thailand was so much of a culture shock; I thought that maybe since I had been abroad before that I wouldn’t feel so out of place traveling but I really did. The language barrier was always present so I felt that connecting with Thai people was harder than I anticipated. One of the privileges that Americans afford themselves is the assumption that everyone should speak English and I am not to be excludes from this presumption. Going into restaurants where the entire menu is in English but none of the staff spoke English was frustrating and mind-boggling at the same time. But even as frustrating at the hand motioning, one word explanation, charades type communication was this did not taint the experience one bit.

I learned so much on this trip that I will always think about. The biggest lesson I wish to adopt is to use common sense and not to over complicate things. This was the country of 1 + 1 definitely equals 2. If there is a problem in the neighborhood, providence, or country that they were made aware of taking the steps to solve and eliminate the problem was the next action taken. In the U.S we over complicate things, we have a department for every single thing that will always give you a “7-10 business days or 6-8 weeks” answer for when things can be done. In Thailand the solution is at the next window. Going to Bumrungrad hospital we were able to see that for each floor/department everything you need is right there information, billing, pharmacy, testing lab, and doctor. You don’t need to waste time or energy going to a thousand different places for one answer. These kind of easy solutions are what Americans need. In Thai culture they seem to be focused of taking care of themselves and their people. There is always money to be made but not at the risk of the health and safety of the citizen. America doesn’t seems to follow a philosophy like this, if you don’t have medical insurance your not getting care or you get bills that make you choose between food and medication. What kind of people are we really? Who are we choosing to run our country? We are spending billions of dollars in efforts to save everyone in the world but ourselves and that makes absolutely no sense. My final take away from my Thailand experience is to Do what Makes Sense and take care of people.

Kiara M.’s Advice for Future students!!!

1: NECK PILLOW and BLANKET!!! This was the most important when on the planes and the extensive amount of time you spend on the bus. I forgot my blanket and I was so sad because there were many times that the blanket on my bed was thin and not as warm as I wanted. Also the beds are pretty firm so if your used to your cushy bed make sure you have you blanket to help you in that department.

2: WALKING SHOES THAT CAN GET DIRTY OR WET you will walk a lot and sometimes on dirt roads and there’s lots of dust so YES bring cute shoes for those times when you go out and about on your own but there are times that when you will get dirty so have not fear. Also embarrassing side note in some places there will only be a squatter toilet and until you master it you will probably make some mistakes. Case and point I threw away a pair of shoes after using one of them SO make sure you are not too attached to clothing or shoes.
3: SNACKS my apple juice boxes and fruit snacks saved the day many times just because sometimes the hotel isn’t close to a store. So bringing a few snacks for days like that is great or if you ever miss a taste of home.

4: CAMERA I’m sure you all will bring a camera to capture this experience but make sure you bring all your stuff battery charger, converter or adapter, case, SD card, whatever! Forgetting any of the above will be tragic.

5: COMPUTER no matter what anyone says bring your computer. Nothing will happen to it, and you will NEED it for blogging and Internet when you have it. Cathy and Jill have a lights out policy at 9pm so you will more than likely not use their computers. GOOGLE VOICE is amazing for calls home .01 a minute.

6: FINALLY TOLIET PAPER AND HAND SANATIZER there is almost no toilet paper available to you and you may even have to pay to use it. So bring it, or buy some there immediately. Also they don’t seem to believe in paper towels so if you aren’t a fan of hand drying sanitizer is your best option.

Finally just have an open mind and try things that you normally wouldn’t, don’t be afraid to be adventurous. GET ON THE FREAKING ELEPHANT! Its always worth it, this is not an experience that you will be able to go back to at any time so don’t leave with regrets!

Reflections and Revelations

I am one of two students from this experience that returned to Minnesota and didn’t go back to the “college life”. The past 8 days have been somewhat relaxing for me, I’ve taken full advantage of daily naps and home cooked meals from my new roommates (my parents). Looking back on our trip to Thailand, it seems as though it was all a dream…until I look through all the wonderful pictures that captured all of our memories. There are many things and ideas that I carry with me today that I learned from our time in Thailand. My attitude toward every day life has changed, I’m not so concerned with having my life planned out by the hour or what I’m doing next weekend. I find myself taking each day as it comes and not sweating the small, unimportant details. When eating at a restaurant, I find myself reminiscing about the concept of “Thai time” and how much longer it took to complete a meal.

Overall, I am extremely thankful for the opportunities I have been given in my life and what the people of Thailand have taught me, both directly and indirectly. I have been asked by numerous people, “How was your trip?” I am really at a loss for words. All I can muster is, “It was amazing, to say the least!” But seriously, I really don’t know how to verbalize what I did, the people I met, and the things we did together. I wish that everyone would travel the world to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the life they have been given.

My life now consists of applying for jobs and bracing myself for the next chapter of my life. Before Thailand, I was dreading graduation and the unknown of what lies ahead. Now, I am taking it as a challenge and as another learning opportunity just as those we had experienced abroad. Building character one day at a time!

Reflections on Thailand by Kari Lawrence

I can’t believe that I have already been back in the states for a whole week! Its back to real life! I’ve been trying to get adjusted to being in school again, searching for a part-time job, and trying to get used to this freezing weather!

I had a blast in Thailand and learned so much I’m having trouble explaining to everyone everything I experienced. I feel like before I left for Thailand I heard stories about peoples’ experiences and thought I had a pretty good idea of what Thailand was all about. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There is so much more to Thailand than those who have been there are able to retell. And I am starting to feel that way when people ask me. I am just not able to describe in detail all of the amazing things we experienced,unless of course they are willing to sit down for at least 5 hours, but even then that wouldn’t be enough. I am so glad that I went on this trip and had to opportunity to experience a culture completely different than our own. There is so much more out there besides what we experience in the U.S. and I believe it is important to take any opportunity you can to travel and see what is out there!

I am so grateful that I had this opportunity and I feel like Thailand has really opened up my eyes to a lot of things. After being back I realize that I have a new appreciation for everything that I have here at home. I don’t think that I would have been able to realize this appreciation if I had not traveled to Thailand. It’s amazing what only 3 weeks in another country can do to your outlook on life!

Advice from Kari L. for next group of students going to Thailand

My #1 piece of advice, get a neck pillow!!! (And not the blow up kind either, those are uncomfortable!) It really is a long flight and it will be painful if you aren’t able to get some sleep. I didn’t have a decent neck pillow on the way there, and I bought one in the airport on the way back and the flight was much more bearable.

Also, another important thing to remember when you go to keep an open mind. You need to realize that things are done a lot differently in Thailand. For instance, when you are at a restaurant the waiter or waitress probably wont come to your table until you signal them to come over. They also bring the food out at different times rather then bringing all the food out together. Its times like these that you just need to stay patient and realize that things are done differently in other places, and to get the best experience you need to keep an open mind and just accept that this is the way they do things.

Overall, just try to learn as much as you can about the culture of Thailand before you go, the more you know and understand the least surprises you will encounter and the easier time you will have adjusting. Just remember, keep calm and have fun! 🙂

Advice for Future Students

The trip to Thailand was amazing and if you’re considering going, I think you definitely should! It was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life and I believe I grew as a person from this trip. Listed below are a few tips that I suggest for this trip–

(1) Bring some kind of neck pillow / pillow for the plane– anything that may be comfortable for sleep. I wasn’t able to sleep at all on the flights home b/c I couldn’t get comfortable, I wish I would have had a neck pillow just to try to sleep.
(2) Bring an extra carry-on– I brought a backpack and then another fairly large bag, which I just stored in the overhead compartments. I found that extra bag came in handy for gifts and other little miscellaneous items that I did not want to be stored in my checked bag.
(3) Pack a sweatshirt or sweater for the lectures that you attend– in almost all of our lectures they had the air conditioning blasting and it was hard to pay attention sometimes when all you could think about was how cold you are.
(4) Remember to journal– even though it may seem like it’s taking up too much of your time, journal all the time (it might seem like a lot and it probably won’t happen, but try for every night). It really is worth it at the end when you can read your journal and it brings all those feelings back to you. Also, try to be as descriptive as possible, instead of just simply saying what you did that day– you have an itinerary for that.
(5) Do not overpack– upon my return I realized how much I had packed that I didn’t wear. Just pack the basics and clothes that you can switch around– scarves are great and easy way to change up an outfit. Also, I did a load of laundry in the bathtub at Chiang Rai– I did not think it was worth it. My clothes took forever to dry and it was a pain to wash them in the tub. But if you’re desperate to do laundry then I would do it in the tub b/c through the hotel is usually pretty expensive.
Take in every minute of the trip & don’t take anything for granted! Experience all that Thailand has to offer– elephant riding, zip-lining, the nightlife. I would give anything to be traveling again so live it up while you’re over there!

Reflections Since Returning Home

So it has been a week since we have returned from Thailand and it honestly almost feels like we never even went there– kind of like a surreal feeling. Reading back through my journal I cannot believe all that we had done in those three weeks. From all of the different hospitals that we had visited to riding an elephant and zip-lining through the rainforest to the hill tribes we visited. All of the experiences made me learn something and opened my eyes to new things or made me see something in a new light.

It was a little bit of a struggle for me adjusting my sleep schedule back. It took me about four days till I was back on my regular sleep schedule and actually able to function during the day. Those first four days all I wanted to do was sleep and lay in bed, but I forced myself to follow my set schedule of school and work, which I believe helped kick this jet lag.
When people ask me how the trip went, I find myself stumbling to answer that question and all I can seem to get out is “it was amazing.” It’s extremely hard to summarize everything that we did into one word, or even one sentence. I found it was easier to explain our trip once I was able to rely on the pictures that I took, but I found it difficult to describe all the feelings that came with that experience. I’m in the process of working a scrapbook dedicated for this trip and I plan to put everything in this book– pictures I took (some that I stole from others, my journals and blog posts, and some memorable items / brochures that I picked up during the trip). I’m hoping to be done with this by the end of the semester, but we’ll see how that fits into my schedule.

Back in the states by Casie Peyton

It’s hard to believe that the trip is done. I defiantly miss the warm weather! I have been super busy since getting home. I moved into a new house. This required lots of painting, moving, and unpacking, but I’m glad to finally be mostly settled into a new place.

I cannot pretend that I wasn’t excited to be home and see the friends and family members that I missed, but it’s bitter sweet knowing that I may never be able to go back to that beautiful country.

I will always remember how welcoming and friendly the Thai culture is. That is one aspect that really stuck out during our travels. It is so much different than the Minnesotan culture. I think that I will try to incorporate some of that into my day to day life. Saying good morning to strangers in an elevator or talking to people I don’t know on the street doesn’t seem so scary and inappropriate anymore.

I also miss all the amazing people I traveled with. I could not imagine experiencing all those new things with a better group of individuals. I hope that we will all stay in touch.

So, until we meet again. Be safe, take care, and its been quite a ride.

Tips for future trip participants from Casie Peyton

You are in for a real adventure. I would not take back this experience for anything in the world.

However, I do have a few words of advice. You really should get a prescription for an upset stomach. The food is different than what we eat in the states, and even though you might think you will be able to handle it without any problems. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Also, be sure to bring small packets of laundry detergent. It was pretty expensive to get your clothes washed at the hotels we stayed in. So, you might want to wash your things up in a bath tub.

Finally, be sure to bring some nice clothes for going out to dinner. I did not expect to go out to nice restaurants, and I really regretted not bringing proper going out clothes. You can buy clothes when you are there, but keep in mind that if you are tall or heavy, it will be difficult to find things in your size.

Other than that, use your best judgment when packing. Like I said, the trip is amazing and you will have a great time. Just be sure to keep an open mind when going to a new and exotic country!