“Travel is still the most intense mode of learning” -Kevin Kelly
Studying abroad in Thailand has definitely been an intense learning experience for us six students. For four months we’ve decided to take learning outside of the classroom and live the lives we’ve only read about in books. In hindsight, leaving the comforts of our homes was worth the awkward building of a new one here in Southeast Asia.
Asia Pacific Student Abroad Initiative (APSAI) began in Spring 2011 with five students from the same university, the success of that pilot group has been the catapult for other universities to send their students to study abroad. Since Spring 2011, APSAI has welcomed in over five schools, eight groups, and 50 students total thus far.
This semester APSAI is housing six students, I being one of them, from three different universities: North Central, Valley Forge, and Southeastern University. I, along with a few students from the group want to share our experience in Thailand thus far with you.
- Why APSAI? I wanted experience overseas, but not just with a local body, but with actual long-time workers. I knew I wanted a long-term experience.
- Would you recommend this study abroad program to other students? Yes! Absolutely! It’s a great experience for students who are looking forward to working overseas. It’s a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at long-term overseas work, and a time to grow in relationship with the Father.
- How has this experience changed you? It’s changed my view of people in their own environment, it’s also helped me to trust Him and the path He has for me.
- What is one of your favorite memories that you’ve had here? Visiting the wats (temples) on the first day and getting to know the other students. It was nice to experience awe and bewilderment with everyone; we all didn’t know what to expect.
- What is the most difficult thing you’ve faced being here? Loneliness. I know everyone, but they’re not familiar people that I usually go to for help.
- What will you miss the most? Teaching the kids in the communities and having relationships with them. I’ll also miss the randomness–every day not knowing that to expect.
- What’s one quality about the Thai that you would like to take back to the States with you? A ‘cool-heart’. The calmness that the Thai have.
- Why APSAI? I wanted to experience an Asian culture and get a better understanding of what overseas work looked like.
- Would you recommend this study abroad program to other students? I would recommend APSAI to a fellow student because living overseas has been very rewarding and fun.
- How has this experience changed you? Being here has given me a broader prospective on what overseas work looks like, and it has helped me break down stereotypes and mindsets I didn’t even know I had; I see people in a new light now.
- What is one of your favorite memories that you’ve had here? One of my favorite memories was when we got to celebrate a two hour hike through the jungle by taking a swim in a small, local waterfall. Plus, our guides gave us a great lunch of chicken on a stick, watermelon, and sticky rice stuffed in bamboo shoots. It was a fun and relaxing getaway for sure!
- What is the most difficult thing you’ve faced being here? I think one of the most difficult things about being here is being away from family and friends.
- What will you miss the most? Though having delicious foods cooked 50 feet from my door and for only $1 is pretty high on the list, I think what I’ll miss most is the people I’ve met and the slow, sit-down-and-talk culture I’ve enjoyed with them.
- What’s one quality about the Thai that you would like to take back to the States with you? Thai people aren’t half as time-oriented as we are in the West, so it’s really cool to see their relatively laid-back and friendly demeanor that permits talking over coffee and spending time with one another just for the fun of it. I’ve enjoyed this part of Thai culture and I’d love to see it more back home.
- Why APSAI? I have a heart for Southeast Asia. I love to travel, and hands-on learning is best for me.
- Would you recommend this study abroad program to other students? Absolutely! Anyone with a heart for overseas work and likes hands-on learning should consider a semester abroad. Also, if you have a heart for Asia, you’ll fall in love with Thailand.
- How has this experience changed you? Until you experience a couple months abroad, it’s hard to really understand what overseas work is like. This semester in Thailand has really helped me develop a more accurate understanding of the joys and the struggles that come from living abroad.
- What is one of your favorite memories that you’ve had here? My favorite memory was our trip to Chaiyaphum this past weekend. The village felt like home, the house we stayed in felt like home, and everyone there welcomed us in like we were family. Just sharing life with them for a little while was refreshing.
- What is the most difficult thing you’ve faced being here? Being away from home was a little hard for me, but with technology nowadays I can see them every day if I want, so it’s not terrible.
- What will you miss the most? I’m seriously going to miss all my friends here–students, workers, and the Thai. I’ll also miss the service opportunities we have here. The food, of course, is excellent. And I’ll probably miss the beautiful weather-upper 90’s and high humidity-it’s like paradise.
- What’s one quality about the Thai that you would like to take back to the States with you? Their ability to tan and their matchless hospitality.
- Why APSAI? Initially, it was to prepare myself for overseas work in China. Along the way, I dropped my plans to go to China after graduation and dived head first into everything Thailand. I came with only one plan–to learn.
- Would you recommend this study abroad program to other students? Of course! I almost didn’t come because I’m a senior and didn’t want to leave my friends at home, but now I’m so thankful that I came. I cannot imagine leaving the friendships I’ve made here so soon.
- How has this experience changed you? I no longer see people as merely souls, they are people with hilarious jokes, similar stories, and the potential to become some of my closest friends. I’ve made true friendships here and that has changed everything.
- What is one of your favorite memories that you’ve had here? Baking cookies with one of my Thai friends. It was my first time hanging out with her outside of the classroom. It was so much fun to just hangout in a house and make a yummy mess! That day we began to call each other pii (big sister) and nong (little sister).
- What is the most difficult thing you’ve faced being here? Living with others. Our schedules are so busy and being a senior about to graduate only adds to the stress, sometimes I just want to come home to an empty house and unwind, but I can’t. I feel like I have to be ‘on’ 100% of the time.
- What will you miss the most? Friends! The friendships I’ve made here are so special to me, so much so that I’m trying to return after graduation.
- What’s one quality about the Thai that you would like to take back to the States with you? I feel that the Thai are so intuitive and aware of others’ feelings, this is also referred to ‘saving face.’ It’s really hard to learn this complex system of ‘saving face’, but each day I’m observing and trying to get better.
It was a tough decision for all of us to leave the comfort of our classrooms. I’m sure we all had moments where we doubted…
Iwe realized adventure was the best way to learn” -Anonymous