Category Archives: 2016 Thailand Learning Abroad Blog

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  1. I’m glad we had the opportunity to visit the Wat Temple before heading off on our adventure because for me, and I’m sure for everyone else, this gave me great insight into the culture we will be immersing ourselves in. Learning how to interact in the presence of a monk was especially helpful because I would never have known how to act otherwise, and this is something that we will need to know during our time there. I know that the culture is conservative, but seeing it firsthand was very helpful. I also think that interacting with the people at the Wat Temple was interesting because they were so nice and welcoming. I know this is also a part of Thai culture, and it makes me so excited to be a part of it, even if for just a short time. Overall, this experience made me very excited to leave!
  2. I like to think I have an open mind for the most part, but my biggest goal is to learn how open my mind truly is and make it more open than before. I’ve immersed myself in new cultures before, but I think that I will experience more culture shock in Thailand than I have anywhere else. So overall, I’m hoping that this will allow me to have the greatest experience possible (and make new friends along the way)!

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Question number one

At the Wat Temple I noticed a few things about Thai culture. Body language, body parts, and space between bodies informs others of status, communicates unspoken messages, and can be seen as sacred. In regards to body language, when giving a wâi, the position and height in which your hands are represents how much respect you give the receiver. Saving face is important to Thai culture and one of the ways they do that is smiling even if they are embarrassed, angry, etc. Additionally, different body parts have different meanings. One’s feet should not be pointed towards others, especially the Monk. The head has a spiritual importance and they do not touch or pat someone’s head because it is seen as rude. Finally, the space between each other also informs on who holds status. The women all sat on the ground surrounding the monk who sits on a higher platform that was distanced from the audience. The meaning and interaction of and between bodies shows how unspoken communication plays an important role in Thai culture.

Question number two

During our trip to Thailand I hope to understand how religion, tradition, and rituals positively impacts the people. Often times Millennials, including myself, see religiosity, tradition, and practices as something of the past that actually harms and discriminates against populations instead of uniting them. I have seen the harmful effects of conservative ideologies and racist institutions that use a narrative rooted in “maintaining the status quo” only because it ensures the survival of a few privileged persons. Thailand appears to be a place, whether accurately portrayed or not, where the maintenance of these old beliefs, rituals, and practices benefits the population as a whole and fosters an environment of perseverance, peace, interconnectedness, and respect. Hopefully, my cynical views can be broken down a bit!


What excites me about Thailand? (;

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I have always wanted to learn about another culture especially Thai culture. I like how calm Thai people are because even if they are angry you will see them with a smile. I love their food and desserts. I have always wanted to learn how to make their desserts and food. I am excited about the food that I will get to try and how much I will be able to learn about Thai culture. I want to know the differences and similarities between my culture and Thai culture. While going on this trip I don’t have any concerns other than just making sure I don’t catch a fever and ruin the trip for everyone.

My academic goal is to learn about Thai culture through the service-learning that we will be doing and also communicating with people from another culture. I really hope I will be able to learn as much as I can from this three week study abroad.

Blog Post #1 — Lizzy

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.


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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!




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  1. The experience I gained at the Wat Temple was the first time I had exposure to the religion and customs of the Thai people. By observing the meal ritual and the monk’s interaction with the people  very interesting to me because I think it’s really interesting to see other cultures and learn about other customs besides my own. Another example of a cultural shock to me was that I was expecting the temple to be those types of temples you would imagine through pictures online. I was surprised that having a location and a roof can become anything you want it to be.
  2. One learning goal I have during this trip is to be open minded and expose myself to as many cultural learning experiences as possible through food, religion, villages, and the city life there.
  3. Mena!


“Back to Reality” by Dave Zablocki

“Back to Reality”

That’s what my mother said on the way back from the airport. I realized then what an oxymoronic phrase that is. The word reality in that phrase implies that where ever I was essentially wasn’t reality – or that where I was broke from my reality. Back, in that phrase, implies I must return to a state where I had been before. The phrase all together implies an inexorable movement to what was before and must be once again. And, that simply is wrong.

I’ve grown from my experience. I am a different person than I was before. Because of the growth I’ve incurred my perception and definition of reality have actually changed. To go “back to reality” would be to dismiss all that I’ve learned and become. The feelings are confusing when returning home. I feel that things should be different as I’m different. But, I see it as a challenge to live my life dignified with the new experience I’ve gained back in Minnesota. In fact, my time in Thailand felt more “real” than my time back home. I think it comes from the attitude I had while in Thailand. The sincere openness to new experiences, learning, and growth, brought on by traveling to a new place, should be carried to my everyday life with the same fervor.

I went to Thailand with a set of principles to guide my life and I came back with an affirmation that I’m on the right track. I found some of my own prospects of life align with some of the major principles in Buddhism, yet I arrived at them much differently. The kindness of the people I met along the way reminded me to have faith in humanity. The energy I maintained seemingly out of will by the prospect of adventure is something I ought to have no matter where I am. Back to reality is a phrase I will never use as I see it relates to a desire for consistency in an inconsistent environment. Oscar Wilde said, “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Well, I won’t go back to an unimaginative reality, I’ll go to Minnesota with a realization of the perpetual state of growth and change we’re all destined to live within. I won’t go back to anywhere, I’ll go to there, wherever there is, with a smile.

Once in a lifetime opportunity by Casey Churchill

These past few days I have been in the states, it has really opened my eyes to what I learned in Thailand; both personally and academically.

First off, I would like to say that I wouldn’t have changed how I spent this trip in anyway. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I made some pretty great friends on this trip. So thank you everybody, for making it so special. If it weren’t for you, it would have been completely different.
Secondly, I have noticed that I have become a changed person since I have gone and came back to the states. First off, I’m a lot more care and stress free. I can see this in a multitude of situations. Traffic; I have seen family and friends get angry because they reached a red light, or somebody cut them off. I look at them and just giggle inside and say “Chill, it’s not the end of the world, were not in that big of a rush.” I feel a lot more patient in these types of circumstances. Also, before Thailand I would sleep in and take a TON of naps. Since being in Thailand and we did SO much and accomplished so many things in one day, I have realized that I should get the adequate amount of sleep at night and get all I can from the day at hand. Why waste it away sleeping till 12? It really is a waste of a day when I do that. As said before, when in Thailand, I am so much more appreciative of my friends, family, and housing. I really am blessed, and that is just a personal lesson I learned. I can’t put it into words on how I learned it or where it came to stand, it just happened. I hope these life changing lessons really do stay with me and don’t fade over time.

After visiting Thailand and seeing their health care system, it makes me so angry; so aggravated. The health care system here in the United States should resemble Thailand’s is some sort of way. But it doesn’t! It is completely inefficient and ineffective! We pay so much for so little. This includes the quality of care, the actual care given, the length of stay and the type of care. We really need to get it together! My sister deals with seizures that aren’t linked to epilepsy; it has something to do with scar tissue on her brain. She has had brain surgery once to try to solve the problem, but it hasn’t worked. The medicine only gives her side effects and she’s a blossoming 20 year old woman. She is looking into another brain surgery, as the outcomes are higher. There’s one problem; her insurance might not cover it. I have been explaining the Bumrungrad International hospital to her and my mother and it might be an option to visit Thailand once again!

I had a great trip, and the memories will stay with me forever. Thanks again everybody for a once in a lifetime opportunity 🙂

Advice from Casey C. for the next group going on the Thailand course

Some advice to the next group conquering Thailand:
I went to Thailand over J-term 2012, it was a life changing experience. This is not an exaggeration or some trick to get you to think about going; it really opened my eyes. There’s a few things I want to let you know before you go. Please take them into consideration, as it was advice I had received or wish I had received prior to going.

1.Try Thai food before going and know one dish you like. The food in Thailand is very different that what most Americans are used to. By knowing you like one dish, it will open your eyes to other dishes as well. If your not sure that the food is right for you, some of the girls I traveled with brought peanut butter and that helped them a ton. Just be sure to pack it in your checked luggage (Right Acacia Marie?) And this is a once in a lifetime experience, so if your stomach can handle it, try crazy and exotic food! When is the next time you can try dried squid? 🙂

2. As soon as you get to the airport start connecting with others. Or even before; through facebook or email. I was blessed to go with an amazing group of people who all got along. It took us about a week to get to this point. So start getting to know each other asap! The relationships you build on this trip will become life long friends (or they did for the group that went in 2012).

3. Travel light. There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of stuff to lug around from one hotel to the next. And there is a TON of markets over there and lots of shopping to do. So if you can, bring simple items that you can wear with different items. (Girls: maxi-skirts and sundresses will be your best friend) Dress modestly when going to lectures and field trips. Bring closed toed shoes. Bring clothes you’d want to go out in at night.

4. Go to the skybar in Bangkok. It’s where the hangover 2 took place and it’s a great opportunity to see the city at night. It’s very classy.

5. Be open to new ideas. Try new things. All in all, have fun and enjoy the ride. The three weeks will go by faster than you want them to.

The Power in Simplicity by Kiarra McCain

Looking back over my notes I can’t help be see so many themes. While abroad as a group we often brought up the practicality of the people in Thailand. The systems, rules and overall way of life, could be categorized as simple. They do what’s needed to be done and worry about the rest when the rest presents itself. They believe in simple rules; do good and good will happen or concepts like have a social worker present when dealing with victims of the sex trafficking world because they’re trained in that area. All of these things seem simple and obvious but it’s a way of life that most of us here in the states couldn’t imagine living.

There, we met a man that was working on the problems of the river. The river was being used for commercial business from other countries but it’s a river that has been used for survival for the Thai’s. His job is to educate and come up with solutions as to how to gain control of the usage of the river so that the Thai people can maintain their way of life. The problem was big, but the way they’re going about fixing it is complex and simple at the same time. He educates the people on the situation and has meetings with all parties involved to come up with solutions. This is powerful. Not only is it a reminder of the power that the grassroots people have no matter the country, but the power of a good leader. He explained how they talk about the river, and it’s in such a practical way. They don’t talk about it in terms of science. They talk about it in terms of immediate consequences and life. The education piece is something that’s shared. As a group they educate each other on the usage of the river and they unite communities to figure out a way to solve the issue. Our presenter simply said “We talk about it in a way that makes sense, we don’t have conversations about distant consequences but we talk about the immediate…the fisherman would suffer meaning the food supply would go down…things that make sense to their lives”. If only we could communicate more effectively like our Thai counterparts, so many issues would be minimized, internalize, and solved, but apparently that’s too simple.