Beginnings of my study abroad in Thailand

Jumping into a new country and culture on the Student Exchange Program, Talia Bhaiji shares her first experiences of struggles and inspiring interactions, starting her life in Thailand.

Hi everyone!

My name is Talia Bhaiji and I’m a rising junior at OSU studying Finance. I’m studying abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, and I’ve been here for about 2 full days now. Just a little background about me: I’m from Strongsville, OH, raised in a biracial Asian family, and have had the opportunity to travel quite a lot growing up. I knew I wanted to study abroad, and after being here for 2 days I know there is absolutely no way I’m regretting this decision.

With a German and a French!

For starters, I have to say I did a lot of preparation for this trip. Months of planning went into my packing list, things I was going to buy, and every little detail of the trip. I know it may seem tempting to not over plan and go with the flow, and I agree that is a natural part of traveling, but I made sure to have all large logistics down and that certainly fared me well when things did not go as planned. My flight over was very rough and I did not find the travel experience very pleasant. It took me a total of 28 hours to travel from Cleveland to Bangkok, and while it was cool to go through 4 time zones (East, Central, South Korean, and Bangkok time) it was definitely hard on my body. I had to carry quite a lot in my carry on as I ended my suitcase at 49.5 lbs before my flight. It was hard on my back and irritating to lug things around in so many airports, so I would definitely just suggest bringing very minimal and lightweight things. I honestly only ended up using my phone for music and then after that, I watched movies on the long flight (they were included), so I didn’t need all the things I brought. The flight over will be very rough as you’re changing time zones frequently and traveling 28 hours is really difficult. Make sure to book your flight in advance (3 months at least) and give yourself enough time for your connections. Also bring things to do and bring sleeping pills! You will thank yourself later when you can’t sleep on the flight (I can guarantee it).

My time in the airport was a bit difficult with the language barriers. I think the population of people who speak English in Thailand was a bit overstated, and I’ve found that probably about 10% of the people here speak it (at least that I’ve met). The positive is that it has really encouraged me to get immersed in the language and communicate in Thai rather than solely relying on English. I’ve just got my sim card and Google has been such a lifesaver for translating and maps as well. I also was able to transfer money, use my Charles Schwab accounts and my debit card, get acquainted in my room, and finally get on board with the time change, and┬áregistered for classes, so I finally feel as if I’m getting into a schedule, which is always a welcome feeling.

Side note: I cannot recommend using Charles Schwab enough when it comes to banking. They have no international fees, not ATM fees, and that is a huge deal. Thailand is a cash based country as is all of Asia, so you will be withdrawing money frequently and every single time you withdraw it is a $9 fee. Charles Schwab rebates all that money at the end of the month, so you’re getting a lot of money back. Also, you can take money out worldwide for free, meaning that if you forget to convert money before you go to Cambodia, you can get money out at any ATM in Cambodia and pay no fees for it as well. It has been a lifesaver and has made my friends here very jealous ­čÖé I also end up booking a lot of things because my credit card is the only one accepted.

The people here are truly amazing. Not only are the Thai people absolute so sweet (The Land of Smiles!), but the exchange students are wholesome and wonderful and honestly some of the most amazing people I’ve met. I know it sounds weird that I’ve been here for 2 days and know these people well, but when you’re lost in a foreign country and you are stuck with people, you tend to bond very quickly. I also get the opportunity to ask them questions that I never would have thought about. I’ve been able to ask my German friends about WWII and how they’re taught history, and we talk about the French about the recent election, and they always ask us about the election in the US as well. Now’s the time that I get to speak to people involved in these issues and living in these countries, so the view from a local is really cool.

I already know in 5 months it’s going to break my heart to leave. I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet people from Paris, London, Lithuania, Switzerland, Japan, Texas, California, Italy, Germany and they’re all so amazing. The commonality is that everyone is adventurous, chose to be here, and all worked hard to get to this point. There’s an excitement and a drive in everyone to make the most of their time. Something else to remember is that everyone went abroad to meet new people, so they’re genuinely interested in getting to know you. I think that’s so different in the states, especially at Ohio State because we do have so many people from the same geographic region, so it is a different experience. I find myself having amazing conversations about the logistics of the United States versus other countries. We talk about people’s daily lives, so what kind of transportation do they take to school, how do their universities work, what are OSU football games like (all the time!), what do they do after school, what are their families like, what are their classes like, etc. I know that college in Europe is a very different experience; it’s more of a means to an end than an exciting experience. In the US it’s viewed as a privilege and as the “best four years of your life” or as some kind of experience, but I think that may be because we pay for it versus other countries where it’s given as a right to many people.┬á It’s really cool to see what people think of the US and the way that our countries interact. I am so excited to have the opportunity to learn about everyone’s cultures and what their homes are like.

I will be updating soon on how my time here is going. I already know it’s going to be amazing, and I cannot wait for all the upcoming adventures. I’d like to thank everyone for the financial and academic opportunities that got me here and I am so looking forward to all the adventures ahead!

Sà wàd dee kâ (Good bye)!!



Talia Bhaiji

Talia Bhaiji is a sophomore at Fisher studying Finance and is studying abroad in Thailand in Fall 2017. Talia has a wide range of interests and is a member of many clubs at Ohio State. "I've been wanting to do study abroad since I was born (basically). My family had the travel bug and I was fortunate enough to see a lot of the world in a short amount of time, but I found myself really wanting to be immersed and the Student Exchange program looked perfect for me."