Post-departure Blog

Nyob Zoo!

My name is Brenda Xiong and my gender pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a upcoming Senior majoring in Human Resource development. I am a proud first generation and Hmong-American who enjoys traditional Hmong dancing. I love being involve with my AAPI community and am always looking for opportunities for self growth and development. My favorite season is summer because I can travel and do out door things!

Thailand has always been a place where I knew I wanted to travel to. I did not expect to be able to achieve my goal this soon. Thailand is one of the many homes of my parents. As refugees, they fled to Thailand during the Secret War to seek refugee. With this experience, I hope to re-connect with my Hmong identity that has many intersections with the Thai culture.

– Brenda Xiong

Thailand Blog #1 2018

Hey, I’m Greta Mertes. I just finished my sophomore year in the College of Education and Human Development, majoring in Family Social Science and minoring in Spanish. I really like to go for runs and something that helps me to destress is playing the piano, which I’ve done since I can remember.


One goal I have for myself is that I push myself to go outside my comfort zone as far as communicating with Thai people. Since I’ve grown up speaking Spanish, I’m comfortable communicating in that language; however, with Thai, it is definitely a new language and culture that I will have to push myself to get comfortable in. I will want to try to blend in as much as a redhead can in Thailand, but a goal I have for myself is to push myself to communicate with others outside our group because I think that way I will be able to gain more from the cultural experience.

Blog post #1

Hey everyone!

My name is Rachel Diers and I am a graduating senior, majoring in marketing. This study abroad trip is my last requirement for my degree and to celebrate I will be staying for two weeks after our program is over in Thailand and traveling with my three older sisters and mom who will be meeting me in Thailand!

                                           These are my sisters, my mom, myself and my nephews.

I love traveling, music festivals/concerts, spending time with my family, hanging out with my amazing nephews and most anything dealing with the outdoors.

I’m very excited about a number of things we have lined up for our Thailand trip, the itinerary and course outline seem very well rounded and I really feel like we will be fully immersed into the culture.  A big goal I have for myself, which was stimulated by our second orientation as a class, is to try to fully understand the differences between my culture and Thailand’s culture with an open mind.  Acharn Cathy made a point during our orientation that really stuck with me, instead of looking at the garbage on the streets of Thailand and thinking it’s dirty and that people should be cleaner, we should try to understand why we’re responding that way. We should also try to open our minds and understand that it’s not just as simple as throwing trash in a garbage, you need the infrastructure to support the garbage system and everything that goes behind that. So overall a big goal I have for myself in this program is to try to have as open of a mind as possible and to appreciate why our cultures are different, why we handle things differently and to understand that that’s not a bad thing.

Can’t wait to experience Thailand together!

Blog Post 1- Pre-Departure Samantha Zomok

Hi everyone! My name is Sam, I have just finished my junior year at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. I am a major in Family Social Science with a triple minor in Psychology, Leadership and Family Violence Prevention. It sounds like a lot, but I love it. Every class I take makes me want to learn more, experience more, and challenge myself even more. It’s constantly keeping me on my toes for what to do when I graduate.

I am really looking forward to this trip to Thailand. It was never a place I really saw myself going, which is exactly why I want to go. It is something new and out of my comfort zone. Thailand is also going to let me utilize and see all of the things I have learned about in the last semester. Seeing a new culture and being apart of it even for a little while is more than I could ever hope.

Here’s to a fantastic trip!

“A memorable memory”.

“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.

PicMonkey Collage

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


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.

Little reminders while in Thailand


As I reflect on my experience at the Pha Nok Kok hmong village in Chiang Mai. I noticed that there is a similarity between the Hmong names in America and Thailand. As an Hmong American women I have two names–Hmong and English. My name is Shengyeng . The Hmong spelling of my name is Seev Yees. I also have an American name as my middle name which is Emily. Growing up it was easier to pronounce Emily in grade school, so I went with that name. It didn’t bother me much, because it was easier to write. However, I felt like a piece of me was missing. I’m still on the journey to find that missing piece.

During the discussion with the Chief of the Village I was curious about why the Hmong Thai have a Thai name.  I learned about this in a recent Hmong movie that I watched. I never knew the reason why the Hmong Thai people changed their names to Thai. I wasn’t sure if they kept their Hmong name. It wasn’t until the Chief explained that ‘Thai’ is a Universal language. Since they live in Thailand it was easier to understand Thai. In order to adapt in the Thai culture they must have a Thai name, but still have their Hmong name. In addition, he even mention that sometimes nick names are given.  With this explanation from the Chief I was reminded of my own name in America. I now have a deeper appreciation of my name whether it’s in Hmong or American.


As I got older I find myself using the name Shengyeng more and more. Sometimes I feel self-conscious using the correct pronounciation to others. However, over the years I had learn to embrace my first name in Hmong. I prefer for everyone to call me by my name Shengyeng. I believe that a person’s name is their brand. It should be carried with pride and corrected if misprounced by others. It wasn’t until I graduated from High School that I was reminded of the importance of my name.

Another experience was from the “What is your name?” activity with the High School students at Chiang Dao School  This was definetely a reminder to listen. Just as Eve explained about the different languages and cultures. What I took away from the activity is that listening is important when there’s a language barrier. I had trouble learning the name of the Thai students, but with our body language and hand signals it definitely helped. I truly believe that language plays an important part in life. As Acharn Cathy mentioned from our debrief discussion, “language creates stronger relationships’.


In a nutshell, these experiences will help me grow and shape me as an individual.

Yes! It’s Thailand!

I was fascinated by how respectful the students in Chiang Dao school are. I remember when we step into the building, where we will be watching the students perform one of the students smiled at me and wai to show respect. They really show respects to their older peers and adults. I was very shocked to learn that the students here in Thailand really have the skills that can help them to live independently without depending on their parents. As for the students in America we were not taught the skills to live by ourselves other than focusing on our education, ourselves and find which career we want to do. I also learn that schools like Chiang Dao has goals of making sure after their students graduated the students are able to find a job and have the skills to live independently. I noticed that in Thailand the main language is Thai but then there are also other tribes that still speaks their native language.

I noticed that the climate changes as we go higher up the mountains. When we were in Bangkok the weather was very hot and the air is very thick. If we are not in a room with cool air conditioning it will be hard to breathe. However, when we went up hill to Pha- Nok- Kok Hmong village the air is more refreshing. Although it may be a little bit humid we can survive because of the refreshing air and breeze. I also noticed that uphill in the mountains it is more green then in Bangkok and where we stay at. I think the reason for this is because it is less populated where the tribes live.


On our first day when we arrived to Thailand we went to a cooking class called Cooking at Home. This is where I learn about how families are in Thailand. I remember that our cooking instructor’s husband told us that they own their own business at home. When it is not busy it will just be their family running it but then when they have like tourists like us come, their neighbors will also come to help them as well. This is something that I was very surprised to had learned about. Because in America our neighbors will not help us like how the neighbors will help this family.

Blog Post #1

  1. My experience at the Wat Temple was insightful and eye opening. I gained insightful information on the Monk and  learned that a Monk can’t be near women. I thought that this was beneficial to learn and be aware, since I’ll be visiting a Monk Chat while in Thailand during this trip. When I arrived at the Wat Temple it definetely opened my eyes. I thought that the Wat Temple was going to be a ‘temple’ like how I imagine. However, when I arrived to the Wat Temple it was just like a regular house. I think that this helped me to begin to become familar with Thai Culture by being aware. To be aware that sometimes my expecations may not be what I expect.
  2. One learning goal that I have for myself in regards to this Learning Abroad seminar is to be open-minded and to be able to expose myself to the Thai way of life  and to be aware as a observer and learner.
  3. Here’s a picture of me at the Coon Rapids Dam.Heart

Sawat Dee! #Orientation

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My name is Chee. Like some of you, I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1991. This refugee camp was called Ban Vinai and I lived in section 2. I found a picture capturing the whole of the camp in it’s entirety and immediately I was feeling nostalgic. My mother was able to pinpoint where we lived up until 1994. 

The gallery was not found!

Question 1: My experience at the Wat Temple was great. I think just to be immersed into the exposure of the monk and the Thai religion was an eye opening experience. From observations alone, I was able to learn some Thai mannerism, behaviors, interactions and much more. I saw the way posture and sitting on the floor posed to be quite dificult for many of the students (myself included), I noticed that we were all constantly adjusting and readjusting. I was also aware of how buys the kitchen was and how grand of a hospitality they all provided for our stay. Afterwards, I was thinking of how and in what ways can I learn to project similar things once in Thailand.

Question 2: My learning goal is to be mindful, open minded, and receptive to learning opportunities during our stay in Thailand. This includes learning and practicing the language. Hopefully this will help me foster my sense of identity (being a Hmong woman, daughter & student.