Asia Semester Broadened My Horizons Like Nothing I Have Ever Experienced Past Review

By (Political Science/ Writing, Coe College) for

Chiang Mai University: Chiang Mai - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It changed the way I viewed the world because I met people from all over, living simple, peaceful lives, pursuing their dreams. I had been considering the military when I went, but upon my return I decided that there was more to life and that I was not ready to commit to something like that. I wanted to keep traveling and see the world and meet its people and immerse myself in its rich cultures. I am now looking into traveling journalism as a career interest after graduation. I am also boxing at a local gym - a love that I picked up while studying Muay Thai kickboxing in Thailand.

Review Photos

Chiang Mai University: Chiang Mai - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo Chiang Mai University: Chiang Mai - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo Chiang Mai University: Chiang Mai - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo Chiang Mai University: Chiang Mai - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo Chiang Mai University: Chiang Mai - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Đại học ngoại ngữ-Đại học quốc gia Hà Nội, Chiang Mai University
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The difficulty with Chiang Mai University is that the students are going on break about the time we are arriving - because of this there is little interaction with students our own age. All our interactions were with professors and guest speakers. They did a good job, it just would have been nice to interact more with peers. More outside activities or practical activities would have been nice to include, rather than just language lessons and culture lectures. If we needed help outside class, we went to our professor from our college who stayed with us - he is quite fluent in Thai. Thus our interactions with the University was limited to the hours we were in class. In Hanoi, we had students with us all the time. They were friendly and eager to help us. The program was not as structured as in Thailand - the language component was new and rather difficult to grasp. At times it felt like we didn't learn enough or in the proper order. There were many events planned outside of the classroom though, and this gave us ample time to spend with the students submerged in the history and culture. It was very rewarding.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

First several weeks in Thailand we stayed at a wonderful guest house named Mountain View. It was located inside the moat and close to open food markets, convenience stores, bookstores, bars, a jazz club (which was our favorite), many restaurants, easy transportation, and the Muay Thai stadium. It was a ways from the university, but our professor had arranged our rides in the morning and afternoon so this was not a problem. IT did mean, however, that we were in the heart of the tourist part of Chiang Mai, which may have made it harder to become submerged in the culture and language. Second half of our stay there we were in a guest house owned by the university. We had to learn a whole new part of the city. This was an issue for me because I was taking kickboxing at a local gym and the change in location put me much farther away from that gym. It was also problematic because if we went within the moat walls, it was either a 45 min walk or a song tow ride - but drivers didn't always know where our guest house was and didn't want to drive that far after a certain time of night. It did put us closer to the university, however, and new markets and restaurants and the Thai clubs rather than our foreign bars. In Hanoi we stayed for several days with a host family. My host family, due to certain problems I encountered, was kind enough to let me stay a week and a half with them. I tried many more foods and had totally different experiences exploring the city than I would otherwise have had. Also, my host brother and sister were very helpful with my language, wanting to know what I had learned about in school and showing me their customs. My host parents did not speak English, so it was interesting to try and communicate with them. The rest of the time was spent in a hotel in the old quarter of Hanoi, far from the university. We were submerged in the life, alright, but so submerged we felt we were drowning sometimes.

* Food:

I was a picky eater, so I had issues finding food I wanted to eat, but I could usually find something. Professor Drexler would often order a lot of different foods and we would all share them. We had two vegetarians in our group, as well as a girl who was allergic to shellfish, peanuts, and just about everything else. Even still, they could always find something to eat - fresh fruit and rice abounded. Even for those of us who aren't a fan of spicy food, there is plenty. And you can always say "mi pet" (not spicy) if you want to be sure that your food is bland. But be adventurous - there is a lot to try. In Thailand, my favorite restaurant was the UN Irish Pub - they have great stew. My second favorite was the market across the moat from Mountain View Guest House. There were lots of vendors and great, cheap food, especially this one man who cooked pad thai. It is easy to live off 50 baht a day probably if you eat at the vendors and not the restaurants. In Vietnam, I didn't really have a favorite restaurant, but there were vendors who sold sandwiches - the meat was skewered like a cone and would rotate and they sliced it off to put on your sandwich in front of you. This was my favorite - it was cheap. In Cambodia, we lived on the main street in Phnom Penh and there were several good breakfast shops just down the street - I don't remember the names, however.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There are too many field trips to list them all, but I will highlight a few. Thailand: I trained in Muay Thai kickboxing while I was there - that was my primary social interaction. Warm-Up was our favorite Thai dance club - we made several Thai friends there. We traveled up Doi Suthep - the mountain - to the temple up there as well as to a small village. We went to historical city of Sukhothai and toured the ruins of the temples that were attacked by the Burmese at one point in the distant past. The cities of Phitsanulok and Ayutthaya (the former capitol). We participated in a festival around a temple. We took part in Sangkran - the 3 day water festival. Went to the Snake Farm, floating down the river in Bangkok. Waat Arun - Temple of the Dawn Vietnam: Water-puppet show Ca tru singer Prison museum pottery village traditional dance Ha Long Bay The great Pagoda Boat tour of mountains and caves Cambodia: The Killing Fields Tuol Sleng Prison Art museum Music school for children - we helped teach them English Sunflower Orphanage - spent a day playing with the kids who have HIV/AIDs Laos: Buddha Caves Waterfalls Trip down the Mekong River

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

We had no serious health issues. When one of us got sick or had a cut that may be infected, there was a clinic our professor took us to which got us the medication we needed. The cost seemed a little pricey for Thai economy, but compared to back home, it was fair. I was never sure exactly what I was given however, and just had to trust it would help me. There were several vaccines we were supposed to get - tetanus, etc. The malaria pills were the big thing we were told to get. Some of us took malaria pills, some of us didn't, but none of us had any problem with it. Chiang Mai is one of the safest places to just wander, by yourself, any time of day. We never had any incidents that caused us not to feel safe. Bangkok was not very safe while we were there, but that was because of the Red Shirts and the political turmoil going on - we were down the street from the sky-train when it was bombed. We were not allowed to wander in Phnom Penh alone. As long as we were together though, we felt safe, though this was definitely the most impoverished place we went. The biggest issues we had were in Hanoi - several of us had items stolen from us while we were in the market - my purse was slashed open and my wallet stolen while it was hanging around my shoulder.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

We had to learn the language in order to interact with most of the people we encountered in regular day-to-day life. In order to buy food, order food, shop, use public transportation. You could get by with knowing very little, but it was a far better experience when you could communicate in the native tongue. In Thailand more people spoke English, it seemed, because Chiang Mai is much more tourist-heavy than Hanoi.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hotel
  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Other
  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? If you are considering it, do it. Just take the leap and submerge yourself - you won't regret it. And keep a journal - I did not blog or journal enough so there are many things that I have forgotten. It was, however, the best experience of my life to date. But be aware: once you start traveling, you may never want to stay home again!