Category Archives: 2016 Thailand Learning Abroad Blog

Project – Human Interactions with the Natural Environment

Madison Jaschke and Maria Keeler

The natural environment of Thailand is vibrant, abundant and filled with patient energy. In order to understand and preserve that natural environment, focus cannot solely be placed on one area. Instead, it requires analysis encompassing nature’s interactions with humans. For example, an economy’s infrastructure and initiatives as well as community attitudes and knowledge affect the degree of exploitation for natural resources.

As a duo, Maria and Madison, we will address the human interactions influencing the Mekong River based on conversations with Director Krutee and Pe-Chak of the Mekong School in Chiang Khong. Among others, these men have dedicated themselves to spreading local knowledge about the river. We were moved by their passion for this Mother River, the 10th longest river in the world. It spans from southern China through 6 countries, finally flowing into the South China Sea. Over 70 million people are connected to the river, with many different ethnic communities and perspectives. The mighty Mekong River used to have a natural flow, whether it was the dry season that decreased the water level and provided nutrient-rich banks to be farmed on, or the rainy season that strengthened the currents and brought an abundant water supply for communities. The continuum of the Mekong has changed as a result of human influences affecting water levels, sediment distribution, fish spawning and livelihoods.

The largest human impacts on the river are the results of hydroelectric dams placed upstream, causing upsets for the countries and small communities downstream who are reliant on the river to sustain their families with food and an income. The dams, which are primarily implemented and controlled by China, have now created unpredictable patterns in water levels and flow that can fluctuate every 4-6 days. These changes impact communities that rely on the water level for agricultural use as well as base their fishing techniques off of.

Beyond unreliable water levels and turbidity, the dams have been detrimental to the river’s biodiversity. Fish populations have decreased and some species, including the Giant Mekong Catfish, are at risk of extinction. This limited supply directly impacts families who require fish for adequate protein intake. It also causes a trophic cascade within other species connected to fish, such as birds, aquatic insects and macrophytes.

The damages to biodiversity and human livelihoods are by no means local. Resources for one community influence a large web of interconnected communities far beyond the reaches of the river. China’s dam construction is based on their desire to improve their economy and develop a substantial energy and water supply. These motives overpower the need for conservation efforts. It is challenging as individuals to be heard against decisions made by a global superpower.

The first step toward resource preservation is knowledge. Most communities don’t understand the reasons behind the decreased fish populations and peripheral effects the dams are causing. The Mekong School is an excellent example of planting seeds for future change locally by traveling to schools and communities along the river in order to spread awareness. They are in the process of forming a coalition to prevent future dam construction. The Mekong River represents traditions, cultures, and ways of life, something that must not be forgotten in large-scale economic decisions. We return home with awareness and a desire for change. Although we reside far from the Mekong River, issues of water quality and community vitality apply across the globe.

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“In a battle between elephants, the ants get squashed” -Thai proverb

Group Blog — Blair, Crystal, Kellin, & Lizzy

Communication/Human Interaction

Without knowing more than two words in the Thai language, we have gotten pretty creative in the ways we’ve interacted with the locals on this trip. Parallels can be drawn between our interactions with Thai people and concepts outlined in the symbolic interactionism theory. This theory highlights the importance of nonverbal communication just as much as using language in interactions. With the language barrier that exists between the Thai people and us, we have found body language to be very effective in our interactions.

During the homestay, we found it difficult to communicate with the families, as we could not speak the same language. We found that using actions could help us while interacting with our host families. We acted out motions to wash dishes, eat, and determine sleeping arrangements. Although we may have looked foolish, our host mom always laughed and nodded her head as a way of showing she understood. Through our experience at the homestay and other interactions we have participated in with the Thai people, we have learned that smiling, laughing, and thumbs-up go a long way and can be just as significant as verbal communication.

With the nickname, “The Land of Smiles,” how could one not love Thailand? Since we’ve been here, it’s safe to say that we haven’t seen one frown… Or have we? They say that Thai people have 13+ different smiles, some of which are joy, disgust, admiration, disagreement, convenience, etc. These Thai smiles are impossible to detect if you are a foreigner, or farang, but easily readable if you are a native.

As Westerners, we are socialized to always express our emotions outright but as an Eastern, and predominantly Buddhist, culture Thais are socialized to not cause suffering on others, which leads to subtle expression of emotions. An example of this from our trip is when we asked a native Thai if they were at all scared of the government (something that is taboo to talk about here); they answered honestly and said “yes, I am sometimes,” but with a smile on their face. We found it curious how their emotions and facial expression were so contradictory.

Another not so obvious norm of the Thai culture comes from the heavy Buddhist influence. It is the avoidance to not cause others harm of suffering, which was brought up by KK in our monk chat. This is reflected in the many different ways to interpret a smile, as well as the kindness and lack of anger and worry as presented by the people we have come in contact with. When encountered with a problem, we have noticed that improvising comes easily and there is usually a very smooth transition so that we are unaware that a problem ever occurred.

We have noticed this is a very positive light, as everyone wants our group to have the best possible experience. However, this has raised a few questions for us. It can be uncomfortable at times to have someone wait on you so heavily, and go so much out of his or her way to please us. The questions brought up are: how can the people handle so much holding in of emotions, and what possible repercussions might this have?

A frustrating aspect of Thai culture we have encountered is the perceived indirectness and roundabout method of communication within conversations. In the United States, we are socialized to be direct and efficient, especially in business. The more efficient we are the more money we will save and generate. In personal settings, we are taught to be direct and open because it’s seen as dishonest if we don’t. I remember as a child in some of my classes we went around the room and “checked-in” meaning communicated how we were feeling and how we could have a happier day. However, in Thailand and other East Asian countries, the maintenance and furthering of harmony is above individual emotions and feelings. To be direct causes others to lose face.

Thais operate in high-context cultures where previous relationships, non-verbals, established hierarchies and indirect communication shape social cues and communicate individual’s emotions. Americans usually operate in low-context situations where words are taken at face value, everyone is said to be equals, and clarity and preciseness are valued. When these two styles come in contact effective communication can become complicated. While driving around Bangkok with Nicki and Minnie, they were providing information about the surrounding area. I remember driving through what appeared, but I could be mistaken, an impoverished area and Minnie, instead of commenting on the reality of the situations, talked about the harmony between all of the religious groups in Thailand. It was troubling to me hear about this interconnectedness while also witnessing the dire poverty we were traveling through. If we look away from our Western lens, however, Minnie might have been focusing on the peacefulness of groups not because she was unaware or unconcerned about the problems facing Thailand but because talking openly might cause Thais or us to lose face.xP1

Human Trafficking


(Mai) I had always known that Human trafficking existed, but it had never occurred to me that it was happening in the places that I hung out and spent free time. Learning about human trafficking in Thailand has opened my eyes to this issue more than I would have ever imagined. If I didn’t see those children begging for money on the streets instead of being in school, I would not have believed that it was such a prevalent topic. Seeing those children made it very personal to me because Laos was the country that my parents fled from in order to escape war and poverty. That kid could have been me. I have learned so much from being here in Thailand, and I hope to be able to apply it to my experiences back in the United States.

In this section I will talk about the types of ways that most people become victims of human trafficking. In particular I will discuss what types of people are more susceptible to becoming victims and how they are entered into the world of human trafficking. According to, stateless people, ethnic minorities, and migrants are at the most risk for human trafficking in Thailand. This is because they may lack legal identification, are easily exploited because of poverty, and lack access to education. Most people are lured into human trafficking through promises of education, work, or better life (I.e. Marriage to a wealthy person). Some people may also be kidnapped, such as children and young women on their way to and from school or work.

In some cases, victims may be given drugs and then become dependent on them, and that is how they are controlled by the traffickers. In other cases, they may be threatened that if they try to leave, the human traffickers will find their families and do bad things to their families. It can be especially hard to return to your family after being sexually trafficked, because in some cultures, sex before marriage can be seen as a shameful thing, thus their reputation is ruined. It is sad to think that when brothels are raided by police, the girls go to jail for selling sex, when they have most likely been kidnapped and forced to work there. While doing research on human trafficking, I found that it is almost impossible to escape from human trafficking unless you are saved.

(Chelsea) My interest in human trafficking sparked when I heard Eve telling her story about her personal experience. I wanted to know more about it and how it happens, so I researched the topic and learned about how young girls in outlying, rural areas are more susceptible to being trafficked. These girls and their families are usually approached by people from the city and offered a lot of money in exchange for the girl to “work in the city.” Often times the girl and her family don’t know what kind of work she will be doing until after the deal is made and she arrives to the city.

I was curious to know what is being done to stop human trafficking in Thailand and if there are any organizations aimed at helping at risk girls. The Not For Sale campaign focuses on poor, minority groups living on the Thai-Burmese border who are often considered stateless. This campaign provides many services for children rescued from exploitation. In 2007, they constructed a children home which offers shelter for rescued youth. They also help the children legally obtain formal identification documents which can help them get more employment opportunities. They also provide education to the children and enroll all children at the home in primary, secondary, or university education.

(Halle) About five years ago I watched a documentary that told the stories of human trafficking survivors. I was introduced for the first time to this horrific immense global issue. My worldview was impacted forever as I was educated on this severe violation of human rights. Today, human trafficking is a $99 billion industry that has claimed 32 million known victims. It is a growing underground industry that takes place in plain sight while those in the midst of it remain oblivious.

Nomi Network is one of the many organizations that does profound work in helping victims of human trafficking. Nomi Network helps survivors of trafficking by creating economic opportunities for them by working with them to improve leadership and entrepreneurship skills to become independent. Nomi works primarily in India and Cambodia with victims of sex trafficking as well as those at risk.

In this blog, Mai focused on the types of people at risk of human trafficking, while Halle and Chelsea focused on organizations aimed at helping and preventing human trafficking from occurring. We were all intrigued through our experiences in Thailand and can also tie it back to our own personal experiences. Through this trip and the things we have learned about human trafficking, we are now more alert and aware of our surroundings. We hope that Eve’s seven tips will come in handy back at home and in our future travels.

Influence of Buddhism

By Nina Thao & Verona Deenanth


Buddhism influences Thai people in many ways. We saw that that Buddhism influences the way Thai people live daily with a balanced life and how they treat people and things. We didn’t come to Thailand expecting to gain knowledge opposite of what we were taught in school. Buddhism is supposed to be a religion and a belief that people follow. We learned that Buddhism is a way of life, not a religion.

The founder of Buddhism is Buddha Shakyamuni. He was prince and had a wife and son. At the age of 29, he realized that life was impermanent and full of suffering from desires. He wanted to achieve happiness and mindfulness so he left his wife and son to the forest where he started a spiritual life of meditation. After six years of meditation, he was enlightened in Bodh Gaya, India (Gyatso). The three Buddhist path is “to lead a moral life, to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and to develop wisdom and understanding” (White).

P1During the first week of our trip we heard a story that made us both reflect on the good and bad intentions in our everyday lives. Before telling the story, we would like to clarify that we were not present during this time and we are telling the story second handed from what we heard. In one of the vans there was a spider lingering around and one of the students said that they should kill it. I, Nina, would’ve personally killed it or ordered someone else to kill it because the presence of spiders scare me. Our tour guide said to not kill it because it’s not the Buddhist way meaning that it’s not the right thing to do. A student asked a question similar to: Why is killing animals (to eat) not wrong but killing a spider is wrong? Another student stepped in to answer and said that it’s okay to kill animals because humans need meat to eat in order to survive whereas killing the spider would be wrong because it’s not harming anyone and it’s not doing anything for us. Buddhism is all about intentions. Decisions seem to be made by whether the intentions are good or bad.

During the Monk Chat in Chiang Mai, it was very interesting talking to the Monk. A few of the things he said stood out to us. The five precepts stood out especially. They are, respect life, don’t steal and respect others, don’t be sexually promiscuous, don’t lie and don’t do drugs. Because he said these things, we started to wonder about the significant impact Buddhism has on the Thai community. One of the main things he talked about was intentions. One of our guide brought up the topic about cell phones and asked if he thinks it’s okay for Monks to have them. He said that he believed that it was okay for Monks to have cell phones. He believed it was only okay if they had good intentions. Many monks use their cellphones to learn about the modern world, and to keep up this fast changing society that we have. Some Monks use their cellphones to call their families and to keep in contact with them. That’s when we realized that your intentions are they only thing you have control over. You can choose to do good, you can choose to avoid the bad. But it’s all dependent on you. Being in Thailand we noticed, especially in the more rural area people are very kind and welcoming. Before coming to Thailand we were always told to keep track of our things because it might get stolen but based on our experience we saw that in the communities where we were, people had good intentions and they were very good to us.

Another thing we noticed is that though Thailand is an evolving country, communities in the north, in the mountain area, they still have intentions of being one with nature. A lot of the villages depend on farming and agriculture for a base of income. But, even though they depend on it for their income, they don’t take advantage of nature. They work towards using natural products to grow their vegetables. Also, nature is something that helps to bring calmness and mindfulness. From my personal experience I, Verona, am always more calm and peaceful when looking at plants, trees or flowers, anything in nature that’s green. Even in Bangkok, where the city is insanely busy, there are green spaces on the roads and at a lot of corners. We view these green spaces as a way of promoting calmness and mindfulness even in a hectic and busy city.

Overall, although the many view Buddhism as a religion, coming to Thailand we were told that Buddhism isn’t a religion, it’s a way of living, a lifestyle. Through just 3 short weeks in Thailand we have observed that Buddhism truly affects how Thai people love daily. We can also see that Buddhism is a very important part of the lives of Thai people considering the large amount of temples in Thailand, in very convenient locations as well so the locals have easy access to the temples.

June 2, 2016

Works Cited

Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. “About Buddhism.” About Buddhism. N.p., 2007. Web. 01 June 2016.

White, Brian. “Basic Buddhism.” Basic Buddhism Guide. Buddha Dharma Education Association & BuddhaNet, n.d. Web.

Taylor & Chee on Ethics of Being a Tourist and Tourism

Effects of Tourism

Tourism industries and practices around the world call ethics into question. Specifically focusing on Thai tourism through the lens of an American tourist, many of the attractions have recently been brought to light, focusing on the lack of sustainable and/or ethical practices. According to Thompson-Reuters, an estimated 30 million foreigners visited Thailand in 2015, contributing 2.21 trillion Thai Baht (about $60 million USD) to the country’s GDP. This is a huge portion of the economy, but with questionable practices in some areas, it’s important to delve deeper to understand the country’s tourism industry.

Part I: Ethics of Tourists

As a traveler and tourist myself, while researching for what practical ethics are considered appropriate for travelers such as myself– it was much easier to ask myself, how do I act to ensure that I am responsible, respectful and ready to learn? It was very easy. I thought back to when I was a child in school. We were taught (and to this day still should be practicing these), the three Rs.


We could list hundreds of tips and ethics of being a tourists in another country but the foundation of this results to the basic morals of being a human. First, be responsible for yourself, your actions, words and how that impacts the environment and others. Secondly, be respectful of yourself, others and their differences (including their values, morals, traditions and space) and lastly, be ready to learn, meaning you should be open minded.

Eternal question: is the glass half-full or half-empty?
Eternal question: is the glass half-full or half-empty?

Is the glass half full? Half empty? Full? Empty? Does it really matter?

As a tourist, in my personal experience, I have been let down due to my overly filled expectations of the country and what kind of experience I should get from it due to social constructs and influences. When I go into a country knowing everything I think I could possibly know–I delete the opportunity to learn from my own and on my own. Having too much expectations lead to disappointment and that itself impacts your ability to truly enjoy the true potential of traveling and being immersed in the beauty of the destination.

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According to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism 2010, a collected summary of tips to help foster ethics of tourists consisted of: Honouring local traditions and customs, supporting the local economy, respecting the environment and being informed and respectful.

Honoring Local Traditions and Customs

This would be the time to reflect and ask yourself how much you already know about the destination and whether or not it is appropriate and helpful to learn a few things about it. Whether you decide to or not, it is always helpful to do some research about the destination’s local traditions and customs. This will help you as an outsider coming in, understand the local community and jump start the journey with some excitement. This could include, learning a few local words to help communicate with the local people and have more meaning. Experience and respect all that makes an international destination different and unique from its history, architecture and religion to its music, art and cuisine

Supporting The Local Economy

Throughout Thailand, I was constantly reminded and even without reminder, I knew I wanted to buy local handicrafts and products. This was extremely difficult because of how plagiarized or otherwise noted as “inspired” by designs and clothings of ethnic groups in Thailand. I could never identify whether or not I was supporting the locals or just buying manufactured goods which leads to the tip of avoiding counterfeit products. Unfortunately, it is common that many countries do not have policies that regulate this. Unlike the United States and many other “power house’ countries, Thailand along with a list of developing countries buy the American dollar at a higher rate than most other developed countries. Because of this, it is always good to keep in mind the act of bargaining. You can bargain but you should do so respectfully and keeping in mind a fair trade or transaction. Your purchase may be supporting the cost of living of not just the seller but also the systems and communities that benefit from it. The picture below outlines the breakdown of our travel and it’s impact of multiple systems.

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Respecting the Environment

It is suggested that you reduce environmental impact through being a good steward of natural resources and archaeological treasures. This includes protecting wildlife and their natural habitat, purchasing only goods and products that are not made from endangered plants and or species, fostering the life and growth of nature by taking pictures as an alternative momento of your trip.

Being Informed and Respectful

This portion highlights the importance of obeying rules and laws in your destination as any other country much like our own home country. Please observe national laws and it’s regulations as these are legal laws that ensure safety and harmony for all. The rules are as it would be in your own home. Being informed and respectful also includes respecting the basic human rights. As a child we were taught to treat others how we want to be treated so it is a basic foundation across the board regardless of where you go. In different countries with different social values and traditions, it will be difficult to see this simple rule and sometimes it is close to non existent. However, as an individual I believe we can make that decision to do better and make that choice in loving and caring for others as we would for ourselves. Coming to Thailand and spending over 2 weeks here, being treated so well reminded me of the social construct of classism. I may not see it but for everyone else it probably exists in Thailand. As a host I am privileged to eat first and served first. As a tourist, I need to be aware of this privilege and make sure that it is not oppressing anyone else.

The third point is to protect children from exploitation both in travel and tourism. In Thailand such subtle things didn’t occur to me as child exploitation until I saw how massive it was occurring across multiple cities. Things like children selling goods or begging for money on the street.

The last point is self-care. While traveling is an amazing thing, we often forget to take care of our self both physically and mentally. This includes taking safety and health precautions with everything you do, knowing your limitations and being alert while allowing yourself to try new things and being informed of how to access medical care in the case that you need it. Unlike our group, many people travel alone and this goes to say that you are responsible for yourself in case of an emergency it is your responsibility to take care of you before all else.

Part II: Ethics of Tourism

In exploring this topic, we had to also think about the ethics of tourist attractions as a whole. Being a global citizen and informed traveler also comes with an added responsibility of doing research and making sure that they are supporting tourist and local attractions that are ethical and add value to the community.

Elephant Camps

Elephant training and camps have been around for a long time, but the questionable practices of phajaan, or crushing the spirit of an elephant, has only recently come to the attention of many. Looking at it simply through the lens of an American tourist, it’s wrong. The elephants are treated horribly and tortured at a young age in order to populate the camps and attract tourists. However, it’s easy to look at this problem and make an opinion black and white. I’m not saying that phajaan is okay, I’m saying that there’s more to the story. Part of being a global citizen is understanding cultural differences and taking a step back to look at the whole picture. Taking time to dig deeper and truly understand the tourism practices is important. For example, elephants are endangered; these camps are attempting to breed more and increase the population. There is also a deep bond between the mahout and his elephant. They stick together and the elephant trusts the mahout, and this practice has been taking place in Southeast Asia for a very long time, even before elephant camps existed.


Part III

This post isn’t trying to say if certain practices are right or wrong, it’s trying to say don’t look at things black and white (this can apply to more than just tourist attractions), take the time to truly understand the context and deeper reasons for why things are the way they are. Researching and cultural understanding together feeds into a better cultural awareness, and accepting these differences.


Part III: More information & resources

Practical Tips For The Global Traveler


Education and Youth

Education System in Thailand
Mena Lee

Ending spring semester and starting May session studying abroad to Thailand I previously took a class comparing and studying the different education systems around the world in countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Finland, and the United States. This spark of interest and previous knowledge led to my decision to focus on the education and youth in Thailand as I reflect on my experiences in the United States compared to observing the classrooms and schools in Thailand. In order for me to gain a better understanding of how the Thai Education system actually works, I first started researching the education system.
Thailand is divided into 76 changwats or provinces. The Education system is run by the National Education Act of 1999 and the 15-year National Education Plan (2002-2016). The National Education Act allows free public education to all Thai students for 12 years and also two years of free preschool. The main language of instruction is in Thai, although some universities now offer international programs taught in English. The academic year starts in May to March in the school sector and June to March in the tertiary sector with two semesters each year. Each school year has to have at least 200 school days required for the academic year compared to the United States averaging at 180.
Education in Thailand is categorized into three levels, national, regional and local. The national level is overseen by the Office of Higher Education Commission. Whereas the regional level which oversees the 76 provinces are grouped into 12 education regions around Thailand, not including Bangkok. Lastly, the local level of education, each municipality is responsible for primary education within its own conditions and resources.
Thailand school systems run by a 6-3-3 structure, 6 years of primary education, three years of lower secondary education and three years of upper secondary education. In grades 1-6, it is called Prathom, 7-12 are Matthayom 1 – 6. National testing is conducted in grades 3, 6 and 9 with subjects ranging from Thai, science, English, math, and social sciences.
Knowing these facts now, I now have a better understanding of how the education system in Thailand works. Coming to Thailand with a blank slate, I learned about the factors of education based off of child trafficking and privilege. There are many hill tribes in Thailand and each of these tribes have different languages that they speak. In order for Thai schools to meet the needs and educational standards, these hill tribe students had to learn the Thai language starting in preschool all throughout their educational careers. In the means of privilege of going to school in Thailand, some families face sacrifices to educate their children instead of having them stay home and work on house chores or farming. Privilege is also being able to afford a reliable means of transportation for the students in small villages to attend schools 30 to 40 minutes away minimally. Unlike the United States where school busses and close school districts exist, Thailand seems to struggle in transportation and providing standard education facilities for students across the country. As I continue to reflect on the meaning of education and privilege in Thailand, I am saddened that some students aren’t privileged enough to even attend school due to transportation and money. This trip has definitely opened my perspective about how the U.S compares with other developing countries and how important education is for our future youth generations



Students in Thailand and Students in the United States
Mai Mee Lee

Before coming to study abroad in Thailand I was told by my professors that we will visit schools like Susksasong Chiang Dao School to learn about how students are like in Thailand compare to students in the United States. I was expecting to see students do similar things like what we do in America, but students in Thailand are taught skills that will help them to live independently after they graduated from high school.
During my visit to Susksasong Chiang Dao school I noticed that the students are taught the skills to farm, cook, do housework, and care for each other. The food that the students grow from their hard work they can sell to help support themselves while they still attend school. However, I noticed that schools in the United States do not have their students learn how to do housework or learn how to grow their own food to help support them.



I was surprised to learned that students who live in dormitories at school are expected to wash their own dishes and fix their own bed. Unlike in the United States we are not expected to do as much as the students in Thailand. The most the students will do is study and go to school to find what they are passion about to help them find a career. According to the director from Chiang Dao school, he spoke about how Chiang Dao school does not have a high percentage of their students going to a university after high school graduation.

It is because the school would rather their students have the skills like farming, cooking, and doing housework so they can find a job and live independent after getting the education they need. The students focus more on how to live a real life rather than just study and go to school. I really like the system that Thai schools have for their students which is to learn the way of living is a very smart way that we should learn in the United States as well. In the United States we have more students who attend college after they graduated from high school compare to students in Thailand. It is because if students don’t go to college then it will be difficult to find a job. But although most of us do go to college after we graduated from high school, we still don’t get a well pay job. After I had see the students at Chiang Dao school, I have learned a lot about what Thai students do compare to what students in the United States would do.

Education and Youth: Recruitment at Boarding Schools
By: Shengyeng Lee

Imagine going to a school where you learn for a day and come back home in the evening. Now imagine going to school for the year or more and being far away from home. Which school would you rather go to considering the distance for the education? As for myself I would rather go to a school where I feel like it’s going to make a difference in my life. For the past three years I have been studying away from home. As a student from Minnesota State University, Mankato studying far away was a challenge. With every challenge I was able to endure my own sacrifices and focus on my education. I can only imagine the challenges each student from the Suksasongkroh Chiangdao School experience being away from their family. The visit to the School in Thailand reminded me of my own experience back in the United States. My experience at the Suksasongkroh Chiangdao School gave me a clear understanding of my own reality.

As a Child Development and Family Studies major, I am passionate working with young children and their families. Growing up as the oldest in my family of eight it inspire me to work with young children as my profession. One of my lifetime dream is to someday teach English abroad in a different country for underprivileged children. I want to make a difference in a child’s life and give them a piece of hope. This spark of interest led me to focus on the topic of Education and Youth in Thailand. In order to narrow down this topic, I will be focusing on the recruitment at Suksasongkroh Chiangdao School.


Before the visit to Suksasongkroh Chiangdao School I was excited to see the students and learn more about the School itself. I went into the school with an open mind and curiosity during my time there. The discussion with the Director and Teacher’s from the School definitely spark my interest with the recruitment for students at the School. During the video I was amazed to learn that the School is a not only a School, but also a Boarding School. It made me realize how different the Thai school system versus the American school system. I kept this question in the back of my mind while observing the students and staffs.

During the discussion I asked, “How does the School recruit students to come here?” My question wasn’t necessarily answered until a later time. Since this was one of the main topics that the School wanted to addressed. From my understanding the School goes into the Hill Tribe Villages to recruit students. However, not everyone will get in because each student must meet ten criteria in order to attend the School. In addition, the families of the children must know the importance of an Education for a better life. Sometimes there are challenges for the school to recruit the students, because it’s not easy to convince the parent’s to let their kids come to school. I think that some families want their children to be at home, so that they can help around the house. While some families want their children to go and learn at school, so that they can have a better life.


After the visit to Suksasongkroh Chiangdao School, I now have a better understanding of how the School recruit the students. I can only imagine the sacrifices that each student and teachers have to make. While I can relate somewhat with the students at the Chiang Dao school about being far away from home. I also found it interesting how Schools in Thailand go out to recruit the students from their Villages. This definitely opened my eyes about how the recruitment process is in the United States compared to Thailand.

Education in Thailand from a Youth Studies Lens
Choua Lee

As a youth studies major, I was first taught to look beyond what is in front of me. For example, if a student comes to school and lays their head down every day on the desk, most people would assume that they are lazy or do not care about their education. What others do not think about are the possible factors outside of school that may impact their performance in school. Throughout my time in Thailand, I have encountered many youth that helped reinforced the idea that an environment plays a huge role in how they live their life. I have noticed that if a child is not in school, they are finding ways to earn money, helping at home, or doing other activities.
During the visit to Suksasongkroh Chiangdao School was my first time having an understanding of how Thailand’s school system works. I loved the idea of teaching students different ways to survive in their environment. They are realistic skills that many students in America do not have but wished were taught in the school system. This school showed me what I believe youth should be doing regardless of where they are.


While exploring the night market, I spotted a female student wearing her school uniform with the sign “Money for college” next to her as she sings and plays the guitar. She was young, so she got more attention than the adult performers. In addition, there were dolled up ladies and young men who would dance beautifully on the big stage with a tip box in front of the stage. They did not get much tips, but they attracted many audiences. It made me wonder how often they practiced and if they get as much out of it as they put into it.

The day after visiting Suksasongkroh Chiangdao School, we spent half of our day at the Hmong Village, Pha Nok Kok. Here I encountered four young boys playing around in the sand as they teach us foreigners how to play a popular Hmong game (unsure of the name) they play during the Hmong New Years. After reflecting closely about youth and education, I realized that they were not in school when they should have, unless they ended early. I then remembered the head of the village discussing about how education is not something they have easy access to due to their location. If they were to go to school, they would have to go to the cities. This made me think back about Suksasongkroh Chiangdao School and how the students are sort of closed from the outside world to avoid distractions. The way their school function made me felt as if it was college. The only difference is the students in Thailand starts learning about independence at a much younger age than the students in America.

For our free day, we decided to go to the temples. There we spotted these adorable Hmong girls dressed up in Hmong clothes. I thought to myself, “Why would Hmong girls dress up in Hmong clothes at a temple?” I then noticed that their mother hid in the background and avoid eye contact once we told the little girls we were Hmong. After taking a photo with them and noticing how much attention they got from others, I realized that they were dressed up in order to attract foreigners as a way to make money. This idea made me felt super uncomfortable. Why would someone allow their child to do something like this in broad daylight? I could not wrap my mind around this, so I walked away.


I found it fascinating how youth in Thailand are willing to go out of their ways in order to earn a bit of cash whether it is having late performance, leaving their family to get a better education, or doing what their family wants of them. Although I do not agree with all the methods being used, they all have good intentions and are trying to do what they are capable of. This experience have taught me to not be so quick to judge, especially the way people live in an environment, and made me realize that we all have similar issues but different ways on working towards understanding one another.

In conclusion these are the main take-aways that we as a group have observed throughout this trip in Thailand:

-Inefficient transportation for students
-Limited access to schools and ways to make a living
-Different skill base learning compared to the U.S.
-In order for the children to attend the school they must meet 10 criteria/recruitment process

-Challenging to recruit the students and persuade their families

-Education = The le-way for students and their futures.

A pinch of this, a pinch of that!

The first week of Thailand has been wonderful. I am continually amazed at how intentional Thai cuisine can be.  On our first day in Chiang Mai, we learned how to cook Thai food. Each step and each ingredient had a specific purpose; the combination of sour, salty and sweet was a recipe for harmony for your taste buds! As we moved through the week, I start to see how Thailand’s economy is guided by food. Not only in the food we eat, but the growing process.

In Chiang Dao, the school was self-sustaining because they grew their own food. In the Hmong village, they developed the land to grow many types of fruits and vegetables and transition into organic growing. This change has helped to sustain the livelihood of the Hmong Tribe along with provide jobs and training for students and villagers. At the restaurants where we stopped to eat, many grew their own ingredients. The structure of the restaurants allowed for it to be a part of the natural environment.  As we stroll through the city, a large percent of shops were restaurants, neighborhood were not taken up by big department stores.

A culture is very much reflective in their food. Thais cooks their food with meaning and purpose. Each ingredient is a note in the melody of the dish.  It’ll be interesting to see what’s coming next in Chiang Rai.


Beez In The Trap- Life as we know it

Thinking about what we have done so far in Thailand, my mind is bottled with so many thoughts– it has become quite challenging to process what life is like as a Thai person. In the lens of Acharn Linda’s nested model, I see the impact of all three society, natural/environmental world and economy.

From my observation, Bangkok and many aspects of cities such as Chiang Mai are becoming more commercialized and globalized. This can be seen in many forms. My first encounter to this is definitely upon the our arrival in Bangkok. Lavish city sky scrapers were everywhere and more were in progress of being built but contradicting this image were the impoverished homes, trash and construction surrounding them. I believe that due to the booming travel industry, many natural process of living in the city has been altered to accommodate the industry. The buildings and especially the marketing of ethnic cultures and their clothing. For example, it was not shocking to see Hmong patterned clothing and designs but to see it in almost every other vendor and almost in every clothing or good– was a little upsetting. I started to feel as though a part of my identity was being sold as commercialized good and that it’s value is as good as what it was sold for. Secondly, it felt as though these goods from different cultures (Hmong included) were exotic and often sough after since they were marketable and so many foreigners did not know who these different ethnic people were and what their traditional clothing and designs meant, it is just fashion.

The following picture is one capturing how ethnic cultural designs, patterns and clothing were utilized to make fashionable hand bags, earrings and necklaces all of which were sold in more than one market.

The gallery was not found!

An additional piece to the travel industry, is the romanticized idea of elephants in Thailand. It became quite clear that foreigners love elephants regardless of race, age, sex or anything you can think of. I myself have become engulfed in this wave despite being aware to a certain extent. Below you will see that in Maesa Elephant Camp, Chinag Mai, the crowd bustling to see the many elephants. It is our interest and consumerism that allows globalizing of culture and traditions. Sometimes it is hard to see which part of this is truly traditional and cultural especially the relationship between an elephant and it’s Mahhut. While the relationship may be genuine, the intention is questionable.


The gallery was not found!

The few things I felt at ease watching was the sun setting after the monk chat in Wat Suan Dok. It felt so natural and calm after experiencing the busy city life. An interesting picture I captured was of the wooded pegs that were used to maintain the tree branches. I was curios to why they needed to maintain the tree branches when they can just let it grow naturally.


A calm culture

One of the most striking things I have noticed about the Thai culture is their calmness. Even among chaos and hard times they somehow manage to move through life at a comfortable pace, never seeming to focus too much about the past or the future, but on the present moment.

This became really apparent to me during our visit to the Hmong village. I felt a certain peace among the people while I was there. Even when the rain started to downpour they just rested for a while until it stopped, never seeing a setback as an inconvenience. They’re lives are very continuous, and not broken up into good or bad times. This relates to the Human Ecology Model, specifically the sociocultural aspect. Their calmness and sense of time can be seen as influencing one another in a harmonious way. I’ve observed that the “Thai time” moves slower than our fast paced way of life, which contributes to their sense of calmness. Another time I noticed this calmness and slower time urgency was during meal times. Since the Thai people take such pride in their cooking, it makes sense that they would place value on meal times.

The Thai’s calm nature is something that I hope to adopt in my own life and I can’t wait to see more examples of this play out in the next couple of weeks.



Community and Poverty





Community and Poverty

Coming to Thailand, I was amazed by the great sense of community that I saw. From everywhere, to the School, the elephant camp, the Hmong village and the Elder Home. This sense of community really spoke to me because it’s not something I see often in the states. It’s also something I miss seeing. Growing up in Guyana, there was always a sense of community and strong bonds with families, neighbors and villages. I was very excited when I saw that sense of community here because it reminded me of home and it reminded me of my own values. When we were at the Elder home and they were talking about reasons for these elders to end up there, one of the reason was because they were abandoned. I can’t imagine what kind of person could and would do that to their own parents. Especially if the come from a culture that values community so much. That was one thing that really stuck out to me and just stayed in my head through out the day. It made me think about what if that were my parents, I could never imagine myself abandoning my parents. That experience just made me think a lot about how I let over community, especially within my family.

Another thing I noticed about community is that Thai people, as well as the different ethnic are very welcoming and caring people. From walking down the streets, to the hotel staff, going to the school, village and elder home, everyone has made us feel welcomed. When the students at the school took time to prepare our lunch for us, I thought that was amazing. Their hospitality towards strangers was something I admired. I especially appreciated how welcomed I felt in the Hmong village. I know that the Chief, and whom I believe was his sons, and the other folks that were showing us around and helping us out, they took time out of their day to accommodate us. I’m sure they had other things to do, like their jobs or helping out to take care of other things around the village. I just found it amazing how great everyone in this country has been towards us, and how inclusive they have been.

One thing I absolutely loved was that though there’s so much poverty here, an example is the school and the Hmong village, the children were so happy, they were carefree and just enjoying themselves. Seeing that makes me so happy because since I was once that child. But since I’ve been in the US, I became so dependent on material things that I forget about how much happiness can come from just the very simple things in life. Seeing the joy in these kids, I’m amazed and it also helps me reflect on my life and I think about all the things I take for granted. They have inspired me so much that I’m already thinking about ways to lessen myself of material things when I go back to the states.

Overall, one main thing I’ve noticed is that poverty and community is something that’s very intertwined. In the places with more poverty there’s more community which is something that makes me think about us as a society and our own values