Category Archives: Student Trip Reports (archived)

Cultural Differences

By: Siri Wieringa and Kaylene Moulton

Being immersed in a new culture, there are differences that everyone will notice compared to their own culture. Some people may not notice the same differences as others, but some of the differences we noticed are the treatment of animals, the definition of beauty, obsession with working out and sense of community among the population. Traveling all over the country, we have noticed all of these differences in every place we have visited.

In the U.S. animals are part of the family and are treated that way. My own dog is so spoiled and if we take him in the car with us he has to have ice water or else he won’t drink it. In the U.S. it is also a requirement that you have your animal spayed or neutered. If you adopt an animal from  a pound, they will normally have the animal fixed for you. Looking at the treatment of animals in Thailand they are treated like animals. Many people can say that it is good that they are treated that way because they are animals but it was really hard for me to get used to. I also haven’t seen one animal that has been fixed which will result in too many stray animals.

Continue reading Cultural Differences

Thai Time: Mai Pen Rai Lifestyle

By: Mamta Chaudhari and DeAnna Castro

We all know that Americans are always running to their next appointments and never seem to have much time for leisure. Leisure time is almost non existent in the U.S., particularly during the week. Even eating is a chore that must be squeezed in on your drive to your next meeting. Everything in the U.S. is carefully scheduled so that time can be used most effectively and productively. Leisure time is reserved for your ten vacation days a year. However, half way around the globe things are very different.  Here in Thailand, leisure time is a necessity. If the Thai people acted the way we do in the U.S., they would have no energy to do anything.

What seems to be the main reason that Thai time is different is the heat. Trying to do anything at midday is almost impossible. It is simply too hot to be outside. When we did things around midday we were regarded as crazy Americans. The Thai people accommodated us in this, but only because weare American.

Continue reading Thai Time: Mai Pen Rai Lifestyle

Welcome to the 21st Century

By: Nathan Calies and Chris Roundy

On May 19, 2011, we went to an AIDS Hospice that I believe was called Chao Khun Phra Udom Prachatorn, located in Wat Pra Baht Nampoo, Lopburi. The clinic was located at the base of some mountains. It was a beautiful area that was well kept, had a good vibe, especially since it was for end-stage AIDS victims, and was an area for teaching. Han and Peter tried to prepare us for what we were about to see, but by our surprise, parts of the tour were not nearly as sad or touching as some of us expected.

Continue reading Welcome to the 21st Century

The Power of Thai Women

By: DeAnna Castro and Mamta Chaudhari

Historically, men have held most of the leadership roles in most societies. Women don’t usually have much power or many rights. In the United States, women in any sort of political leadership role are hard to find. We have observed otherwise in Thailand.

Many of our encounters with leaders have been women.  The woman behind the entire trip, Noi, is always the one negotiating, planning, and organizing where we go in Thailand. Without her, we would be lost and could not accomplish what we set out to do. She is the one that has the final word, even our male professors follow what she says. This woman has all the qualities of a leader, yet in Thai culture this seems to be the rule rather than the exception.  Everywhere we turned, it seemed as though women were running the show.

Continue reading The Power of Thai Women

Service can be Selfish…

By: Chris Roundy and Nathan Calies

In thinking about the trip so far, especially in thinking
about the service portion of the trip which is now behind us, the many reasons
for doing service have become more apparent. Before we left for Thailand, the
group read and discussed two papers that addressed the ideas behind service and
how it is viewed. It was refreshing to see a straight-forward analysis of
service that wasn’t afraid to say that some reasons for doing service are more
selfish than others. Some of the reasons for doing service that were discussed
include: 1) a love of whatever god(s) you choose to believe in and his/her
children; 2) we’re all human and occupy this planet; 3) I can relate to your
problems; 4) bragging rights; 5) karma points. When serving internationally,
one might also include a desire to see the world as an excuse or reason to do

Continue reading Service can be Selfish…

Biking in Sukhothai

By: Victoria Valencia and Katie Jobst

From Victoria:

As a nerdy history major who actually wrote my research paper on the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya kingdoms it was really great to see the ruins of the first official Thai kingdom in person. Seeing all of the ruins- the wats (temples), the still standing Buddhas, the remnants of things we can only guess at- really puts things in perspective for me. It was one thing to research about Sukhothai and its empire from the safety and relative comfort of the Giovale library, but quite another to see the actual ruins firsthand and wonder about the actual people who lived there and marvel at the work of whoever built the monuments we still see today. And it puts the short history of America into perspective where we think things from the 1970’s are old.
There we were in Sukhothai standing next to ruins older than our country- well actually we biked around them. While many people had their own bike, some students shared. Both Katie and I had the unique opportunity to ride around the ruins on the backs of our professors’ bicycles. Being chauffeured around on a bicycle by your professor while discussing the history of an ancient culture is something you can only experience on a May term trip. And it is only after spending almost two weeks with them living in rural Thai villages, bouncing along bumpy mountain roads for hours on end, and putting up with Han’s endless picture taking that I would feel comfortable riding that close to a professor’s behind. But that’s all part of May term- bonding with your fellow students but with your professors as well.

From Katie:

Whilst being toted around through the Sukothai Historical Park, clinging to Han’s sweaty t-shirt, watermelon popsicle dripping down my arm, I realized how good our lives really are. Spending time in a foreign culture, wind sheepishly making its way through the water-thick air, the occasional shout from Han at the front of the bike (“BUMP!!!”); this is a truly unique experience. I felt like channeling my inner Indiana Jones when we stopped to traipse around the gorgeous ruins of a bygone civilization. Except, with this study experience, we have much more to discover than Harrison Ford did.

Mae Tao Clinic-May 12, 2011

By: Alex Guinney and Feli Anne Hipol

Try and imagine going to a  refugee clinic where individuals have minimal options and this place is their last hope. Well, Dr. Cynthia’s Mao Tao Clinic is exactly that place, where the Thai people allow the clinic to help those who are fleeing from the chaos in Burma. The clinic is located in Mae Sot, Thailand where our school group is currently located and where we had the privilege to go visit and take in a greater understanding of this community on the border and the medical needs of the many refugees.

Alex –

Nothing could have prepared me for the experience I had while being toured around the clinic and it’s many facilities each with a specific focus. I found the dental care room and the prosthetics room to be the most interesting, because of the tools used or lack of tools used and the craft associated with them. There was only one dental chair that was simple and looked aged and not much supplies stored within the area, and with looking around at the many numbers of children and adults, I wondered if it met the needs for the community. And there were prosthetics I have never seen before so I was very intrigued by the craft,and how they go about meeting the needs of the refugees whom many had been injured by war and basically all patients were male. They did simple leg prosthetics, as to which I was able to see a refugee who was the owner of two prothetic legs and was able to get around rather efficiently.I think that the hardest part of the whole visit was the surgical center and the children’s care center. They were not very crowded when we Continue reading Mae Tao Clinic-May 12, 2011

Yum, Yum, Yum- Thai food

By: Carson Chambers and Zoe Sirivejchaphan

The following post concerns the food we have been eating and presents the viewpoints of two people, one who is vegan and one who is Thai American.

From the Vegan

I came to Thailand expecting it to be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain my vegan diet.  I also didn’t want to offend any of our Thai hosts by refusing to eat their food.   And I didn’t want to miss out on the full cultural experience which inevitably includes food.  On the plane ride over there were vegetarian options (but plane food doesn’t really count as food does it?).  Once we actually sat down for our first meal in Thailand, the decision making began.  Do I want to eat the rice and veggie dish?  Do I want to try the eggs?  How about the chicken with its tantalizing aromas wafting my way?  No, I’ll stick with the rice and veggies this morning.  For lunch, we were wandering around the big mall across the street from our hotel.  Did I want to try the pad thai?  What about the chicken skewers?  No, I think I’ll go with some green tea cakes filled with red bean paste — so delicious.

Continue reading Yum, Yum, Yum- Thai food

The Learning Center

By: Siri Wieringa and  Kaylene Moulton

Today we went to the Learning Center in the village where there was a welcome ceremony. From Kaylene’s view point, there is no need for words to communicate. Although it would be a lot easier, I believe I connected with some of the Children on a whole different level. The children were very accepting of us being in the school and were so happy to see us. I don’t think I have ever felt so loved and welcomed by complete strangers.  From Siri’s perspective, the learning center is the focal point of the entire village. The school provides a happy and secure environment that can build individuals who can help this village to survive.


Even though there is a language barrier, we found ways to communicate and connect with the children of the Learning Center and our host families. It seems that nonverbal communication could be more powerful than verbal communication. We were encouraged to play with the children and were immediately accepted. When I first walked into the school and sat on the floor with the children, this boy immediately came and sat in my lap. Even though we couldn’t speak to each other I felt so welcomed and so much more comfortable. With my host family, they do not speak any English and I believe that it has made us closer. We will try to speak to each other, especially the younger daughters, and since we can’t we look at each other really confused then just start laughing.

Continue reading The Learning Center

Transportation through Bangkok

By Feli Anne Hipol and Alex Guinney

There are many modes of transportation in Bangkok. They drive on the opposite side of the road and on the right side of the car, like in Europe. We have seen families on a motor bike and the drivers skillfully maneuver their way in and out of traffic. A common sight are taxis in bright colors, most commonly peptol bismol pink. There are also motor bikes with a three person seat carrier attached to the back of it called tuk-tuks, which we had an opportunity to experience today. It wasn’t as scary as people made it out to be, we kept our hands and feet inside the tuk-tuk and our driver was cautious for the most part.

A great way to avoid the traffic was to take a water taxi. It was hot and crowded, but we saw many waterfront houses and businesses and other sites tourists may not have the opportunity to see if they didn’t ride one. It was a quick trip to the grand palace and temple as well, about half the time it took in local street traffic.

Tomorrow we begin our journey on the eight hour drive to our first village in an air conditioned, ten seater van. The transportation we have experienced and the transportation we have yet to experience while in Thailand will be a great adventure during our May term trip in Thailand.