Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Khon Kaen, Thailand, *Ana


Where did you study abroad? 
Khon Kaen, Thailand

For how long? (and why did you choose that length?) 
From mid-August to mid-December, only one semester is available with this program. You may choose a fall or spring semester. I studied there during fall 2009.

Which program? 

Pre-departure preparations? 
A physical is essential, but I believe that’s a standard for any study abroad program. Perhaps you may need to get some medical shots, however, if you have traveled to tropical destinations before then there is a good chance you have already acquired all necessary shots. Malaria pills may be necessary if you plan on traveling in Southeast Asia before or after the program. However, malaria pills are less expensive in Thailand and you will not need them for where you will be during the program. Also I suggest purchasing loose, breathable clothes. Linen pants will be your best friends. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any that fit during my trip so I suggest buying those at home. They are super light and usually don’t cost much, a great wardrobe essential for other travels as well.

Beginning experiences and feelings upon arrival?
I absolutely loved it. The temperature and humidity was hard to adjust to at first. Thailand is the quintessential tropical country and Bangkok is incredibly humid, especially during the months between April and August. I suggest learning a couple simple Thai words before your arrival e.g., thank you, hello, and bathroom. This will go a long way; Thai people are very impressed with foreigners who can speak even a little bit of Thai. Although you will have intense Thai classes throughout the program, it’s a good idea to get a head start. Throughout your study abroad experience in Thailand you will be treated completely differently, and will get “star” treatment in Thailand. Also Khon Kaen is located in the northeastern region of the nation, there not many people speak English and you must learn to Thai quickly in order to order food, buy mobile phone cards etc. Unfortunately, Thai isn’t the easiest language to learn since it is tonal. Specifically, it has five tones and a words meaning changes when an incorrect tone is applied, so be careful! The best way to learn Thai is to listen to it. Thai-English dictionaries are often unhelpful especially for a beginner.

Overall experience
The program has completely changed my life. It not only teaches you about the under-belly of development and globalization, buy it also teaches you how to be a better person. The program involves a lot of “group process.” This is a very frustrating process in which decisions in the group are made by consensus, not majority rules. Therefore, everyone must be happy with the decision made. During the first month of orientation the program emphasizes Thai language learning and activities focused on cultivating cooperation skills among the group. However, it is very flexible afterwards and your final project is completely determined by the students. IN fact, after every semester the staff changes the curriculum to reflect student feedback. Honestly, there is too much information for me to write in this entry. But know this, if you want a life changing experience and you want to become a better person, choose this program! In fact, I loved my experience so much that I came back a year later to do my senior thesis research.

Information about Khon Kaen 
There is a huge mall and a movie theater that did not exist there when I studied abroad. However, the restaurants located around the CIEE office offer amazing food. Please try the grilled bananas from the banana lady that can be found to the right of the 7-11. Also Thai massages are a must; you can get an hour massage for less than 4 dollars. In terms of safety, I never felt completely safe anytime I was in Thailand, at night, in cities, regardless. Of course I suggest executing your best judgment at all times, but there is little to worry about. However, before going I would check news on the red and yellow shirts political movements after spring 2010 unrest, the violence is in no way directed towards foreigners. Nonetheless, you don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Cooking Sticky Rice at a Homestay

What you learned
I learned how to better communicate with people as well as a plethora of knowledge regarding grassroots and community organization. I applied a lot of what I learned in the classroom and I changed my college major upon my return. Also the Thai “ajaans” (teachers) are incredible at teaching the language. You will be amazed by the amount of Thai you will be able to speak at the end of the program. For example, you will be able to have heart-to-hearts with Taxi drivers in Bangkok…it’s awesome.

Any advice you’d give to a prospective study abroad student?
If you want to party and barely scrape by in your classes this is not the program for you. However, if you want to learn more about the world, become a global citizen, and understand the world as a whole better, don’t hesitate to apply.

Water Buffalo on a Farm
Rice Farmer in the Northeast

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