Program Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Program Term: Yearlong 2012-13
1. Why did you choose the program that you did?
I decided to study abroad in Chiang Mai because I wanted to experience a culture very different from my own in order to have a better understanding of the world around me. I knew Chiang Mai was a nontraditional and developing program and because I had no friends in this program it would be a great opportunity to gain more independence. All in all, I really wanted to put myself out there and experience something completely new.
2. If or when you study abroad again, where would you like to go? Why?
This is a question I have been thinking about quite a bit lately as I become more and more interested talking to my friends about their experience, reflecting on my own adventure and looking at the many options available. If I am to study abroad again, I would like to go to a Spanish speaking country because I want to be surrounded around the language in order to have a better chance to learn it. This gives me many possibilities as I find Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile and Spain to be enticing options.
One of my favorite parts of studying abroad was a field study tour I participated in. On this trip we trekked a luscious mountain, rode elephants around the village, assisted in making a raft out of bamboo to float down the river, and even bathed an elephant in the river! The whole while I was in awe of the natural beauty I was surrounded by, the trip really made me re-recognize the greatness in simplicity. It was such an awesome and fun trip! While abroad, I made friendships I will never forget, these friends and I shared an unforgettable experience and have created a wonderful bond. Additionally, I loved traveling around South East Asia, strolling through lively street markets, eating delicious food, Thai people’s remarkable smiles, and exploring Chiang Mai.
4. In your experience, what are the major benefits of studying abroad?
Studying abroad is one of the greatest decisions I have yet to make and I have found many personal benefits in the decision. Through studying abroad I gained greater independence as I left home and went on my own to discover a new country. I gained more confidence as I realized exactly what I was capable of and how I could easily adapt. I expanded my understanding and interest of the world as I saw how different places can be from what I was used to.
5. What were some of the special/unique things you were able to do or see?
I had time to visit different countries, such as Myanmar and Cambodia, both which were fascinating, beautiful and stole my heart. While visiting I was able to see things I could have only hoped to see such as the thousands of Pagodas in Bagan, Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I visited the breathtaking beaches of Thailand. I was also lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai, Thailand for two amazing festivals; Loy Krathong and Songkran. Loy Krathong is the festival where hundreds of lanterns are released into the sky, floating flower baskets are sent off in the rivers as a thank you to the river goddess and fireworks are set off in celebration. During Songkran I experienced a city-wide water fight that lasted for three days, which was one of the most fun things I have ever participated in.
6. What was a funny cultural experience?
I am sure there are many funny cultural experiences I had during my time living in Thailand. Although, something that always comes to mind is the time I was at a market and pointed to a painting and attempted to say in Thai, “that is beautiful,” although instead what I had said was, “that is unlucky.” As the market vendor helped me pronounce both words, we had a laugh about the miscommunication.
7. What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I am capable and enjoy adapting to new places, people and things. I found it exciting to leave my comfort zone and have to put myself out there to meet new people and enjoy my time abroad. I learned I could go to a completely new place and leave with amazing friendships and lasting memories. I have realized that even when things aren’t the way I was used to, things generally work out and in embracing those differences I have found out how much I appreciate different cultures and ways of life. I discovered how much I love to travel and how I want to continue to make it a part of my life!
8. How did studying abroad change you?
Again, studying abroad has provided me a greater sense of independence and confidence that I am forever grateful for.
My studying abroad experience is something I will never forget and has induced the discoverer in me; I want to see and experience new places, cultures, foods, people and more.
It has encouraged my interest in engaging with exchange students and visitors here, I am fascinated with hearing their stories and what their home countries are like. Also, while studying in Thailand I made the decision to add an Asian Studies major as I have realized Asia is developing and I think it will benefit me in the long run as our global interaction in the world continues to expand.
9. What’s one thing you would have done differently?
I would have practiced the language more. Thai is a difficult language to speak, but it means a lot to the people when you do speak their language.
10. Now that you’re home, how has study abroad impacted your life?
Now that I am home I want to get involved with International Education. This coming school year, I will be interning in my home university’s Study Abroad Office and will also serve as a mentor to international students. I am constantly encouraging friends and strangers alike to study abroad. I am sure I drown my family and friends in the stories and memories I excitedly tell them. I continue to connect with the amazing friends I have made on my USAC program, with the people I met while traveling and with some of my professors from Chiang Mai University.
It will take me 4 to 4.5 years to graduate as a double major in Business Administration and Asian Studies and a minor in International Relations.
12. What are you doing now?
I am enjoying the end of my summer as I spend time with family, reconnect with friends, meet new friends and take in the sun before entering my Senior Year at Chico State.
13. What, in your opinion, are the biggest myths students believe about study abroad?
One of the biggest myths I have heard about studying abroad is how it will take too long to graduate if you do so. I have many friends who have studied abroad and graduated in four years’ time. I too may graduate in four years, and if I do stay the extra semester it is because I added a second major late in my studies. Regardless, I find the extra semester completely worth every memory I made. Additionally, there is the myth that studying abroad is too expensive. Although, often times studying abroad can be cheaper or the same cost as attending your home university. Something to keep in mind for those who are worried about the expense is that there are many scholarship opportunities available.
14. What advice would you tell students trying to decide whether or not to study abroad?
Just as I have told my friends who have dabbled with the idea to study abroad, I would tell them to do it! I have yet to meet someone who has regretted their decision to study abroad; rather they wish they had extended their study abroad time. My heart continues to long for the moments and memories I have made. Studying abroad will change you as a person; it will make you more aware, independent, driven and understanding. It is an amazing opportunity and every part of me encourages the decision to study abroad.