Category Archives: Post-Trip Reflection (archived)

Post-Trip Reflection

By: Rachel Wong

Over the course of my trip to Thailand, the most important thing that I have learned is the quality of flexibility.  Being open, ready and flexible for anything that is thrown at you during the trip will ensure that you will have the best trip of your life.  Thailand is extremely different from the United States, and there are more than a few times where you are out of your comfort zone. Continue reading Post-Trip Reflection

The Value of Education

By: Karsten Gillwald

How can you determine the wealth of a nation? Is it through something as simple as adding up all the money in the banks or evaluating the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)? Or is it through something else entirely? After spending a month in Thailand in some very remote locations, one thing stood out more than anything else: discrepancy in the equality of education. In Bangkok, there were several schools with beautiful buildings that looked well supplied and prepared to teach its students. Then, as we traveled to Kalasin, and later to the Ban Toong Ting school, two things happened, the overall poverty increased, and the accessibility to education decreased. In Kalasin, we visited several schools, all of which, with the exception of the Pattana School, were small, one or two room schools with many needs. The school in the Kokjaruen Village was a one room school, with a kitchen, and two bathrooms that is responsible for 40 students. Continue reading The Value of Education

The Importance of Cultural Context in Doing Service

By: Melody Van De Graaff

In the week that I’ve been back, many have asked for one experience that captures the essence of the trip. No matter how hard I try, I cannot find one experience. However, there are a collection of experiences that stuck with me and shaped a lot of my thoughts on service and social work. Continue reading The Importance of Cultural Context in Doing Service

Post Trip Reflection- Kendall Brannen

Thailand Reflection Blog Post

Kendall Brannen

While travelling through Thailand I kept remembering a discussion I had prior to the trip with Professor Peter Ingle. I don’t remember specifics, at least not enough to quote, but I do remember a discussion that surrounded what it meant to be a global citizen and what role service had historically played in developing countries. For many, service is a self-serving act and in the long term, turns out, is not sustainable. Without educating we are only doing, which in developing countries, we become very expensive and unskilled labor.

booms mom and peter brooke planting natalie weaving

Meanwhile I had already started reading a book called Poor Economic which takes a comprehensive approach in understanding the logic and reasoning that poor families in poor and developing countries use. It was not until I had arrived in Thailand and our group had arrived in our first village where I began to connect all these pieces of the puzzle. The discussion with Ingle, the readings from Poor Economics, and the experiences on the ground in Kalasin all came together where I started to have a point of clarity of why I was there.

There are many reasons for people to do service work and many other reasons for why people travel. For me it was not about just one or the other. It became a synthesis of both service and travel. The travel experience of northern Thailand gave me a better understanding of who the people were, why the do what they do and how much alike we both are. Yes, some cultural differences but they make decisions based on a lot of the same reasons American do, it is just on a more basic level because they are in a developing country instead of a privileged developed country.

The service part of the trip came a little later when we made our first visit to a school south of Chiang Mai called Ban Mai. The service was not about service at all. We did not go to Thailand to physically give back to community in the form of labor but rather to help build community involvement and trust. It was a way to bond with the local school by offering our labor and time to help experience more of who they are and to prove that we can listen and learn how they would do it. I will also admit it was very hard to initially set aside my western ways and become more Thai thinking. Think of it as a go with the flow mentality. Of course this is a give and take of information with both sides giving and taking but it becomes a dance in which we hope that by our presence that we are able to help this small school and village somehow in the long term and through it all they will be better off than if we had not come at all.

This synthesis style of approach is a large key to why this program has become so successful. It is a creative approach to development and it may seem slow, but that is because it is. Good things take time to build and over time it is more sustainable and ensures that the community will be able to sustainably manage the improvements.

It is my hope that in the future I am able to continue to help this village/school/community is some way in the future. It was more than a learning experience. I fell in love with the people and the culture and it is something that I hope to return to again, someway, somehow.

Lasting Thoughts

One of the most important things I learned being a nursing student on this trip revolved around resourcefulness and flexibility in nursing. Here in the U.S. we have access to endless supplies, state of the art equipment and a plethora of doctors to choose from. Prior to the village assessments, I found myself focusing on the supplies we didn’t have rather than what we did have and what we could accomplish.

So much of what we learn in nursing school feels rigid to me when, in actuality nursing is also an art. Yes, there is a foundation which is important to have studied and will serve as the basis for knowledge, but this experience impacted my approach. It prompted me to think more broadly about realistic intent when providing healthcare in varying parts of the world. The approach in the village was rudimentary compared to what we might do here in the States, but the impact was still great. It served in gaining knowledge and information about the priority health concerns among the children and we did it with less.

This experience gave me insight on how to assist populations globally and will serve as a lifelong reminder to be resourceful, flexible and think outside the box. Yay!


Final Reflection

By Erin Ward

My trip to Thailand served as a wonderful enhancement on my nursing education. Not only was I able to complete hands on assessments, but I was also exposed to many different health problems that I have not encountered in the states. My experience thus far with nursing has always been in a controlled setting. I am either in the classroom for lecture, or shadowing a nurse in the hospital. Being placed in a rural environment with limited access to medical supplies, textbooks, and a language barrier on top of that truly made me draw on a nursing “touch” that I didn’t know I possessed. I have heard that when trying to learn a new language, one day it will click and you will actually start thinking in that new language instead of continuously translating in your head. For me, nursing school has been like trying to learn a new language. While I am at the hospital or in lecture, I am constantly trying to sift through the mass amounts of material in my head, trying to translate my book knowledge into my work as a nurse on the floor. This trip made something click for me with nursing. It was the first time that I have been placed in full control of a clinical situation; it made me learn to think like a nurse, observe like a nurse, and interact like a nurse.

This trip also exposed me to health care on a global scale, which is knowledge that I had lacked prior to the trip. I was able to compare health care in the states to health care abroad and see where we had exceeded and where we were lacking. I am not convinced that Western medicine, for all of its technology, is superior to health care systems in other countries.  It was interesting to see their different priorities and methods; this exposure will hopefully allow me to incorporate a more holistic approach in my future career as a nurse.  It also opened up to me the possibility of incorporating global health nursing into my future career, which is a path I had never considered. I loved my experience with global health on this trip and I know that it will continue to impact where and how I work from here on out. I think that I will remember this trip for years to come as the pivotal point in which I gained confidence in my abilities as a future nurse, and excited about the career that I have chosen for myself.


Final Reflection

Final Reflection

By: Erica Houck


Reflecting back on the past three weeks I find myself wishing to help more. I believe that we all contributed from day one; from fundraising and raising money, to giving a donation to the AIDs hospice and other villages in Thailand. Although we gave a great contribution to multiple organizations, there is always need for more help. We donated money to the school in Kalasin, then to the second villages school (Ban Mai), and we also contributed to funding the AIDs hospice and community. These donations may have seemed minor to us, but these communities greatly appreciated our efforts and involvement in their societies.

However, I still think that there is still so much more that we can contribute in future years. It is critical to understand that a little bit goes a long way to others. It is important to pass on that this service learning trip can be more effective to ourselves in some cases, than to those we serve. I have learned a great deal about myself on this trip and my wish to help others who are not as fortunate as I am. There are so many different aspects to this trip that have changed my outlook on the way that we, as Americans live our lives and how truly fortunate we all are. I would strongly suggest to others to take this amazing and incredible opportunity in the years to come. I can only stress that this trip will be more enjoyable and rewarding if everyone puts in their part to raise money and participate in the pre-planning of this trip. With everyone’s participation, not only while on the trip but prior, you can all help to further benefit the villages and communities that you will visit.

The people in each area that we traveled to were all very appreciative for our contributions and services and yet I still think that we could have done and or raised more funds for these people. I am hopeful that in  future years, Westminster students like ourselves will understand and stress to others the need to contribute to helping those who are less fortunate than we are and taking others into consideration.  We all worked together to achieve the things that we did and it is important to always remember this while on the trip. It is not about our own needs but helping those who need more than we do and offering above and beyond what we had hope to offer to further develop as global citizen.


At the Ban Mae Tuen School in the second village we mixed cement for the cafeteria.


The principle of the Ban Mae Tuen school asked us to paint these water tanks. We all worked together to pant and add a bit of color and pattern to these once bare tanks.

Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Thailand

Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Thailand

By: Libby O’Reilly

As I sit on a China Air 747 coming home from Thailand reflecting on our trip, there are so many things I wish I knew before the trip that could have even further enhanced my experience. So this is for all the future Westminster Thai travelers, some words of advice from my friends and me that I hope you can take on you with your travels to Thailand.

-Eating family style rocks. No other way to do it.

-Thai phrases: take the time to learn (and practice saying) some common things in Thai. Here are a few that we used the most, after it took most of us half of the trip to get the pronunciation down:

Hello: sa-wat-dee (feminine) sa-wat-dee-ka (masculine)

Yes: chai

No: Mai

How much?: tow-rai

Thank you: korp kun (feminine) korp kun ka (masculine)

Bathroom: horng nam

Water: nam

Beer: bee-a

Ajahn- professor I.e. Ajahn Han/Ajahn Peter

-Practice your Wai: The Wai is a palms together Thai greeting. Practice doing it, my first Wai was to the checker at the grocery store and needless to say I was caught off guard and ended up embarrassing myself.

-AIDS hospice gifts: a lot of emphasis is placed on bringing gifts and treats to the villages and schools we visit. I think it is equally important to have something to give the terminal AIDS patients we interact with. When you visit the HIV/AIDS hospice in Lopburi, you will have the opportunity to interact one on one with patients in the last stage of the diseases. Having gifts or treats to share with them would mean the world to them.

-Practice baht conversions: currently the exchange rate between US dollars and Thai Baht is right about 30:1$. Thus, you must become a master calculator to be able to come up with on a whim what an item costs in American money. 700 baht = _______$? 240 baht = _______$?

-It will be hot, hotter than you could ever expect.

-You will be going from sun up to sun down, prepare to be exhausted.

-Close your mouth and simply take in your surroundings

-Bring LOTS of bug spray. You will get eaten alive.

-Don’t even bother with a hair dryer and straightener, I carried both around for a month and all they did was take up space and get in the way.

-Try all the food, it will grow on you. The first few days will be a tough acclimation, but you will learn to love it.

-Your first move once you get on the long flight should be to claim a purple China Air blanket and make it yours for the trip. They are soft, take up barely any room in your backpack and are so nice to have around. It will be ridiculously hot outside but inside the vans and at night you will get cold. My original plan was to leave my purple blanket on the return flight but it’s been such a lifesaver it’s coming home with me forever!

-Make a conscious effort to befriend your driver, buy them a treat at rest stops.

-Don’t judge another culture just because it is different than your own.

-Bring snacks from home. You will like having food you are comfortable with around to snack on and share with your friends for a midnight snack.

-Every time you see a Dairy Queen, you must order a mango and sticky rice blizzard!

-Get to know the Thai nursing students as well as you can. I wish I had made a better effort to get to know them better and learn from them.

-Watch and learn how to cook on the floor like a real Thai person whenever you get the chance. Write down recipes.

-Let the fish eat your feet at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that will leave your feet softer than ever. Beware though; it tickles….bad.

-Take the opportunity in Chiang Mai to go to Doi Suthep to get your fortune. Take a Dramamine in the way up though, the road is vicious!ImageImageImageImageoi