4 Weeks Left in Thailand

As her semester at Thammasat University ends, Talia Bhaiji reflects on her semester on the Student Exchange Program and encourages you to go abroad too!

According to the calendar, I currently have 28 days left in Thailand, and it makes me so sad to even think about that. I can’t believe my experience is flying by, and I’m definitely not ready to go home just yet.

I’m not sure if you need any more convincing about going abroad, but if you do I hope this post will do so. At Ohio State, I’m involved in a lot of things, studying a subject that I thought would make a lot of money, and working a job while maintaining leadership positions in a bunch of clubs. It’s everything that I thought I needed and was supposed to do in college. Student Exchange was more of an afterthought when it came to priorities and necessities in college. I took it as more of a vacation and more of a time to relax from school, but that was nothing like my experience.

Yes, it was definitely a bit less stressful than Ohio State, where the possibilities of what you want to do and be a part of are numerous, but it was just as much of a learning and growing experience as anything else, if not more. I didn’t think Student Exchange would change my life and I highly doubted people when they told me that it did, but my semester abroad did exactly that.

I not only learned to appreciate a whole other culture around the world, but it gave me such a strong appreciation for the United States, my status as an American citizen, and all the possibilities and opportunities that I have back at home. The rest of the world doesn’t give you open doors to do what you want to do, and to have unlimited opportunities. So many places are still so far behind, but not the United States. It really is the land of opportunity and I feel so lucky to live there and to have access to anything and everything.

Student Exchange has also really taught me what’s important in life. When you’re traveling with a backpack and have a 15 pound weight limit (it’s true, be careful!), you really learn what’s important to bring and what’s unnecessary. Same goes for packing for Thailand; you’re really forced to pay attention to what’s important and leave behind the things that aren’t. It actually taught me to be way less materialistic than I am at home. When you see how people here live, and how they don’t need much, it really makes you think about the amount of things you have and how much you don’t need. The other thing that I thought about a lot was the consequences of pollution and my actions in the U.S. Bangkok, and the rest of Thailand, doesn’t have a strong sewage and trash collection system, so all the trash is displayed on the streets and in the river. It makes you think about your effect on the world’s pollution and how to decrease that. In the U.S., we can be more environmentally friendly because we have the money and resources, but we choose not to be. Thailand doesn’t have those financial resources, and they’re suffering the consequences. It’s up to us to take on these responsibilities.

Environmentalism rant aside, Student Exchange has taught me more about myself than I ever thought I could discover. You’ll be placed in situations you never thought you’d be in, around people you never thought you’d see, and experience some of the most beautiful things on Earth. You definitely change, and you feel things you weren’t sure were possible. I’ve never felt so connected to so many people; I also never knew how little I knew. I learned how to take care of myself when I was traveling, how to push through my emotions and not give up when I was frustrated, how to take care of myself and others when I was homesick, I learned my boundaries and what I’ll take and what I won’t take, how to be spontaneous and enjoy the unexpected things in life, and more importantly how to be a better person. This has been one of the most transformative experiences of my entire life and I leave this semester with absolutely so regrets. It is so hard to walk away from so many amazing people and places, but it just gives me another reason to come back.

Thank you for everything Thailand, Amarin, Thammasat, and all of my friends, I’ll never forget you!

Packing List for a Student Exchange in Thailand

In one of my other posts (Budgeting for Student Exchange in Thailand) I mentioned that a previous student sent me a comprehensive document of everything that she spent in Thailand. The document also included a partial packing list that she found important. When I was packing I did lots of research and read lots of travel blogs about what would be important to bring and I think I’ve finally got it down. Here is my packing list for Thailand. Hope you like it!

<What to Bring>



  • Toothbrush – I use a bamboo toothbrush so I brought them (3)
  • Mini Disposable Toothbrush – perfect for the 30 hour flight over


  • Mini Contact Solution Bottle (2 oz) – good for traveling (buy “dropper bottle” at the Container Store or Amazon)
  • Contact Solution Bottle (1 8oz)
  • Glasses  + Glasses Case
  • Contacts (6 months worth)
  • Contact Cases (6 pack)

Body Care

  • SPF Moisturizer -Thailand only has bleaching stuff and you need the SPF here
  • Lotion – again, Thailand really only has bleaching stuff
  • Tweezers
  • Travel Mirror
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume (if you want, but it’s hot here and everyone is smelly so I didn’t use it)

Shower Stuff

  • Towels (2) – Quick Dry/Microfiber (look on Amazon, these are amazing for travel and they dry so quickly and take up almost no space)
  • Face towel/s
  • Body Scrub/Face Wash
  • Razor
  • Shower Shoes – $1 flip flops from Old Navy are great


  • Ponytail Holders
  • Headbands/Bandanas – good for pushing your hair off your face when it’s absurdly hot
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair product – if you use it regularly bring it. It may not seem important but the heat does things to your hair.


  • Makeup + Makeup Bag – pack no more than one small makeup bag. You will think you’ll wear it but you will not it. It is 105 degrees here every day and it will get sweated off.

Feminine Products

  • Tampons – women in southeast Asia don’t use them. You won’t find them anywhere.
  • Wet Wipes – necessary anytime you’re traveling. Not a lot of toilet paper
  • Hand Sanitizer – many times bathrooms don’t have soap



  • Digital Camera
  • Charger
  • Extra Batteries
  • Extra SD Cards
  • GoPro
  • Disposable Camera – I brought one and I cannot wait to see my prints. I had a friend who took 6 with her to India and said that the prints were some of the best ones she’d seen. Plus you can’t stress over the perfect picture if you only get one chance.


  • External Phone Charger: when you have a 13 hour overnight bus at the end of a day of sightseeing, your phone tends to die easily. Even on airplane mode, battery goes quick. It’s worth it to invest in one, especially if your adapters stop working
  • Phone Chargers (2 or 3)
  • Mini Speaker/Speakers: good for when you’re hanging out with your friends, on the beach, etc
  • Waterproof iPhone Bags: good if you want to take your phone in the water/kayaking/etc. Be careful.
  • Headphones: get noise cancelling ones, and you won’t regret it. People in hostels/buses/anywhere public can be incredibly loud.
  • Earbuds
  • Lifeproof/Sturdy Case: Asia is dirty and dusty and wet! If you drop your phone or get caught in rainy season, you’re going to want something sturdy to keep it alive. I bought a case in Myanmar for $3 and it’s pretty amazing, but it’d be better if I had one before I left and didn’t almost shatter my phone.


  • Mini flashlight: good for the streets, hostels, etc.
  • Waterproof Watch: rainy season is no joke in Asia
  • Waterproof/Dry Bag – good for kayaking/water sports. You can find them on Amazon for under $20. These are the best for excursions. You can find these in all the markets in Asia, but they’re overpriced and usually don’t keep your things dry. Don’t take the risk.
  • Universal Converters/Adapters

Medication/First Aid

  • Sunscreen: bring 1 or 2 big bottles, depending on how much you need.
  • Bug Spray: bring a small bottle (for travel) and then a big one. The mosquitoes aren’t bad in Bangkok, but they’ll eat you alive everywhere else.
  • 5 months worth of Medication
  • First Aid: Neosporin, Bandaids, Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Hydrocortisone/Itching Cream
  • Aloe Vera
  • Medications: Allergy Pills, Ibuprofen, Migraine Medication, Sleeping Pills, Anti-Diarrhea, Tums, Cold/Flu Medication (check that all medication you are planning to take are not illegal in your country!)



  • Lightweight Travel Blanket – good for flights
  • Neck Pillow with Strap
  • Cards
  • Febreeze Fabric Refresher
  • Mini Padlocks (4 or 5)  – absolute a must for traveling in hostels. Lock your things up. Many times I didn’t get a lock included in the room price and needed these.
  • Travel Journal – you won’t want to forget a moment here.
  • 10 copies of Passport & Visa (handle copies with care)
  • 5 copies of License, Student ID, Credit Card, Debit Card (handle copies with care)
  • Lonely Planet Language Book
  • Water Bottle
  • Electrolyte Pills – a lifesaver in these heat
  • American Snacks – you may be running out of space, but you’ll want some of these. My mom spent $80 shipping me Mac & Cheese to Thailand, and it was so worth it. Between all the pad thai, you’ll start to miss American food.


I packed 2 backpacks and 1 suitcase. My flight allows me to bring 2 checked bags home, so I’m buying a suitcase here for my souvenirs and bringing it home with me. If you can do the same, I’d advise it.

  • Large distinct suitcase
  • Backpacking backpack – 50L is perfect for Asia. Just make sure it’s not unreasonably large, otherwise Asian airlines will force you to pay for it to be checked when you travel. Go on AirAsia, Thai Lion, etc and see their carry-on allowances. They’ll post the dimensions and the weight, and I’ll be honest, they are not kidding around.
  • Collapsible duffel bag
  • Collapsible backpack
  • Money Belt/Fanny Pack – absolute necessary. Saves space, is safe, etc. Everyone uses fanny packs in Asia.
  • Passport Holder
  • Luggage IDs for your bags
  • Small purse/Crossbody

And now…onto Clothing!



The motto for shoes is, if you don’t mind them getting ruined bring them to Thailand. I lived in my Tevas and Skechers.

  • Nice Sandals – 2 pairs
  • Chacos/Tevas – I wore these almost every day
  • Skechers – I had a pair of slip ons that I wore every day to school and whenever I needed a gross pair of shoes (walking around cities)
  • Merrells/Keens/hiking shoes – if you want to trek
  • Tennis shoes – good for hiking, working out


  • Maxi Skirt – temples require you to cover your knees
  • Casual Shorts (4)
  • Leggings (3)
  • Harem Pants (2) – you can buy them anywhere here


  • Sundresses (3) – bring ones that don’t show sweat
  • Classy Dresses (2) – for going out


  • Rain Jacket
  • Umbrella
  • Scarf/Shawl/Sarong
  • Cardigan (1)


  • Underwear (10 pairs)
  • Bras (8)
  • Socks (8 pairs)
  • Pajamas (2 or 3 sets)

Business Clothes 

  • Blazer – I needed this when I did Skype interviews
  • White Tank Top


  • V-neck loose shirts (3)
  • Tank tops (4)


  • Sunglasses (2 or 3)
  • Baseball Hat
  • Sun Hat
  • Foot Inserts
  • Swimsuits (2 or 3)
  • Swim Coverup – Asia can be a bit conservative at the beach.



  • Conditioner/Shampoo: you can buy this anywhere here. Unless you use a specific kind, don’t bring it.
  • Lots of makeup: like I said earlier, it is really hot here. You really won’t need much because it won’t stay on.
  • Toothpaste: buy it here
  • Heels: sidewalks in SE Asia are known for being broken, cracked, etc. Everyone here wears flats.
  • Jeans: it was very cold in Vietnam, but I bought things there. It was way too hot in Bangkok to ever wear jeans.
  • Cold Clothing: not worth it. Pack light.
  • Notebooks/School Supplies: buy them at Thammasat’s Book store or any 7/11
  • Expensive Jewelry: pickpocketing is rampant in Thailand.

I know this list is long so I hope it doesn’t freak you out but everything on here is important and has been useful since I’ve been in Thailand. One of the most important things for me was making sure to by 3oz travel containers and various different sizes for other things I used before I left for all the toiletries I’d need. I brought extra ones and always found use for them. I got them from Amazon and the Container Store and they’ve been my best friends when I backpack.

As always, do your research before you go. I hope you enjoyed my list!


Here is me all packed up at the end of my trip 🙁

Life as a Thammasat University Student

Studying in Thailand, Talia Bhaiji shares her experience of a different education system and culture, while she attends Thammasat University on the Student Exchange Program.

The university that I’m studying at in Thailand is called Thammasat University, and it’s located in Bangkok, Thailand. The location of the school is really unique; it’s right near the Grand Palace and all of the oldest temples in Bangkok. It is a bit far from the center of the city, which can sometimes make it difficult to experience all that Bangkok has to offer without paying for a 200 baht taxi ($6- as of November 2017).

As a BBA student, we’re all required to wear uniforms. They’re short-sleeve white blouses and long black skirts with a belt and buttons and black shoes (usually optional). The girls are lucky though; the boys have to wear long white shirts and long black dress pants which are an absolute killer in the heat. Some people wear different clothes to school and change and some people play around with the dress code and test the boundaries. You do have to wear your uniform every single day to class, otherwise they won’t let you sign in at the beginning.

Required to wear these every time for class, BBA students only

Which leads me to: absences and sign ins! At Thammasat, as a BBA student, you’re only allowed to miss 4 classes per subject, and if you miss more than that you need to get dean’s permission to take the final exam, so basically you run the risk of failing. You have to sign in at the beginning of the class which is the first 15 minutes of class and they are very strict about it. Don’t miss this time! After that time, you’re considered late and it’s 1/2 an absence.

Now to my classes. Between Fisher and Thammasat, there are only 3 approved classes to take, so I’m in those 3 and I’m also in another class as well. The system over here for education is a lot different from the US, so if you’re studying abroad here I hope you’re really ready for a big challenge. I came in with expectations that I shouldn’t have and it gave me some challenges.

I’m currently in:

  • Marketing 201: An interesting class with a really cool professor. Very engaged and loves to talk about the United States and marketing campaigns around the world.
  • International Business 311: Interesting class, outspoken professor who challenges you.
  • Operations Management 211: Very difficult class. I struggled really hard with this one and found I had to study much more than in the United States to get a good grade.
  • Entrepreneurship 211:  Good class, doesn’t teach you too much about how to be an entrepreneur, rather studying previous entrepreneurs and their methods.

The way that Thammasat Business School works is very much on a group based system. The school really advocates for group projects which means leadership skills are tested and so are teamwork skills. I’ve done group projects in the past, but they were no comparison to the projects I did here. It’s not necessarily that the content is more difficult because it’s not, rather you’re dealing with students from around the world, many of whom are not native English speakers, and who also have different systems of doing work. For example, many of my teachers have informed me that it is typical of Thai students to do assignments right before they’re due, which is different from how a lot of students in the United States do work. Another thing is that the size of group projects is generally a lot larger, and I found many of my projects ranging from 7 people – 13 people in a group. This was one of my biggest challenges; unfortunately I enjoy being a leader, so I put myself in positions of leading groups a lot and this was a challenge I wasn’t entirely prepared for. If you’re coming here for exchange be ready for group projects.

Another intercultural challenge is the concept of “Thai Time” that doesn’t just extend to time. It follows through with communication, assignments, and the accomplishment of most tasks. In the United States, we have a culture of doing things almost instantaneously, and while I usually thrive in that culture, it’s not always the least stressful way of doing things. Thai culture is an extreme opposite. Professors rarely email back, our exchange coordinator rarely emailed back, class cancellations and reschedulings were posted days before, and anything under the sun you can think of. An example: it’s currently November 26th, and I have 2 weeks left of school here (which is very sad). I have none of my grades for any of my classes yet, which would be an atrocity not to see any of my grades on Canvas. At home I usually check them all the time, and calculate my grades on excel so I can get a rough estimate of my GPA. Here, that’s impossible in Thailand. I asked for my grades and was told I would receive them “maybe in the next month or so?” and when I asked for my grade I was told “you’re doing above average!” That’s just how things are here and you have to evolve to adjust to the difference in the culture. Call on all the skills you learned at home to manage your time, your groups, and assignments, but also learn to relax a little otherwise you won’t make it!

I won’t say Thammasat was an easy school because it wasn’t. I enjoyed my classes (except for Operations, yikes) and it was really cool to experience a different style of school. Our uniforms show the rest of Thailand that we’re students of an incredible institution and it’s gotten me much respect (and many taxi discounts) by being a Thammasat student. I will say that I have encountered some difficult times, just because of the intercultural boundaries and the lack of immediate (or any) responses like we expect in the US. That being said, you should understand this before you go, have no expectations, and be prepared with an open mind. Either way you’ll have a great time and you’ll meet some amazing people!

10 Things I Learned in Thailand

Navigating a new culture is fun but challenging! Talia Bhaiji shares the 10 Things she learned in Thailand, while she was abroad for a semester on the Student Exchange Program.

Living in Thailand and technically being a Bangkokian has been one of the most fulfilling and life changing experiences of my whole life. I traveled a lot when I was younger, but only stayed in places around 3 days, so I never got the opportunity to immerse myself in the cultures. I always vowed I’d live somewhere abroad and get the chance to see what the world was like. Being in Bangkok was exactly that opportunity and I learned more than I ever thought I would.

That being said, these are the top/most prevalent things I’ve learned since being here.

  1. Thailand loves 7/11. It might sound weird to Americans, since 7/11 isn’t really held in the highest regard, but 7/11 is amazing here. They’re on almost every corner and if I had to guess, I’d say I ate there at least 5 times a week. Anything you could ever need in Thailand you’ll find at 7/11. They have food, ice creams, milk, full meals, candy, chocolate, incense, face masks, cleaning supplies, beauty supplies, etc. Also, if you’re out in the city and have to buy water, 7/11 is the place to be. Bangkok is hot and you’ll need more than 1 bottle of water during the way.
  2. “Land of Smiles”: Thailand is definitely land of smiles and you’ll experience it almost immediately. It can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that people can be so nice and so helpful and they are such bright wonderful people. The curse can be that you’ll never really know how Thai people feel since acts of emotion besides smiling in public can be perceived as disrespectful.
  3. Thai Time: If you’ve read my other posts, you’ve read about my gripes with Thai Time. Thai Time is broadly defined as things never being on time, including buses, planes, people etc. They have a very laid back approach to things, so nothing is ever done on time. It goes back and forth. In some places I’ve been in, Thai Time does not exist! So please be careful and don’t show up somewhere an hour late. You just have to wait things out, all the time. You wait for professors to show up, you wait for the ferry, you wait for people that walk slow, etc…Speaking of which….
  4. People Take Their Time: And mainly, they walk really really slow. Either get used to this (I didn’t) or deal with shoving and moving around people all the time, almost everywhere.
  5. Taxis and people will try to scam you: Thailand is one of the biggest tourist destinations on the planet, and with that comes scams, as does any other destination. Don’t take it personally, just realize how they see tourists and stand your ground when you know you’re being scammed.
  6. Sometimes things don’t make sense: And there’s no rules, and there’s no signs and nothing is in English and no one speaks English. I still don’t understand the majority of things that happen to me in Thailand, but as my professor calls it “organized chaos” everything here seems to work itself out at some point.
  7. Buying groceries is not a good idea: I’m a big grocery person and I found it nearly impossible here. Food doesn’t stay good with the warm climate, and it’s hard to beat a 50 baht pad thai. Cheese and most western foods are really expensive at the grocery store, so most people end up eating out. Hence the popularity of street food and small restaurants everywhere.

  8. Thai people can be traditional: Whether it be with religion, or with the clothing you wear, Thai people are very traditional and don’t appreciate having their customs disrespected. Be careful about what you say and how you dress, especially when you’re at a temple or you’re somewhere that is not particularly touristy. Even when you are in touristy places, don’t be obnoxious or loud. Don’t make fun of things about Thailand in an obnoxious manner. Just be a little bit more conservative in your dress and your speech. It’s about knowing the time and place to say and do things, which you’ll learn no matter where you travel. But here, traditional practices are on a different level and you’ll have to conform to that.
  9. Thailand is cheap!: It’s super cheap, take advantage of things you can’t do at home. Go around the city, take taxis, get super cheap meals and enjoy crazy experiences that are a fraction of the cost. Although it can be good to compare costs to home, don’t do it all the time because it will get you out of the mindset that you’ll be in when you live here.
  10. Traffic in Bangkok is horrible and crazy: The traffic here is absolutely absurd. It will take you hours to get places if you go anywhere in the middle of the day (i.e. from 11am-6:30pm) and you will pay for an expensive taxi and you might miss your plan. It happens, so be prepared for it. If you take a tuk-tuk (3 wheel decorated covered bike), you may get scammed. If you take a motorbike taxi (my personal favorite), it’s may challenge your comfort level but it will get you somewhere quicker. Plus, you’re riding on a motorbike through the city, and that feeling never gets old.

Hope you enjoyed!

Life in Bangkok – A Typical Week

Live through a typical week in Bangkok, Thailand with Talia Bhaiji, as she shares her week as a student at Thammasat University on the Student Exchange Program.

There’s no typical week in Bangkok, but I’ll do my best to try and describe what I do here, and how a week here goes.

Monday: I usually head to the school library or the cafe next to Amarin to get some work done. I prefer to get my work done early in the week, so that I can have the opportunity to enjoy my weekends with my friends or on a trip. Sometimes, if I am on a trip, I’ll fly home/take a bus home this morning, so that I can have a full day before school; lots of my friends have class on Mondays, so it’s cool for me to go shopping or go to a museum I missed out on earlier.

Tuesday: Class 9-12, Class 1-4. I’ll stay on campus all day, breakfast at 7/11, and lunch at the canteen. At the end of the day, I’ll usually head home, get a quick nap in (the heat takes it out of your body) and usually do some homework at night or spend time with my friends.

Wednesday: Class 9-12. Sometimes I’ll stay on campus and get lunch at the canteen (it’s so cheap, food is on average 30 baht=$0.90) and maybe go to the library for some work. Sometimes we’ll go do something after school, a couple days ago we went and did laser tag after class which was so much fun! At night, we usually all hang out on the rooftop or play cards in someone’s room. Sometimes we’ll go check out a live band, or hang around at an event around Bangkok; there’s always lots of concerts and lots to do in the area. If you have a Facebook, start RSVPing to a bunch of events and you’ll see the hundreds of things to do in Bangkok all the time.

Thursday: Class 9-12, and after class I usually always head home after an exhausting week of class and take a nap. If we’re going on a trip, we usually always leave at night, or if my friends have already gone, I’ll usually leave right after my class and head out. If not, we’ll enjoy a nice night in Bangkok, maybe staying in and watching a movie or walking around a nice new neighborhood.

Friday: If I’m not on a trip, I’m spending a lot of time with my friends. Since the majority of people have class Monday-Thursday, Fridays are usually off for everyone. We usually go somewhere and do something fun, or take the time to explore somewhere new in Bangkok. There’s so many places to get lost in the city and so much to do, minus the pricey taxi rides.

Saturday: We’ve used Saturdays as a day to start exploring new restaurants all around Bangkok. Unfortunately there’s almost no restaurants around Amarin, so we’re usually forced to go outside of our neighborhood, but there’s a ton of nice restaurants in Khao San. If you’re on the road, check out Ethos Vegetarian Restaurant, May Kaidee, and Taste of India! Even Burger King, their veggie burger is absolute amazing. They’re some of my favorites that I’ve been able to find just by wandering around and exploring.

Sunday: Many times Sunday is the day we’re getting back from a trip so it’s filled with lots of laundry, cleaning, and showers. I know that doesn’t sound glamorous but not all of Student Exchange is. If we’re not traveling I’m usually still doing homework and getting ahead for the weeks that I am traveling since it’s nearly impossible to get homework done while you’re backpacking. We also go to Yimsoo Cafe and hang out and do homework!

I hope you enjoyed a week in Bangkok!

Budgeting for Student Exchange in Thailand

It was important for Talia Bhaiji to go on the Student Exchange Program on a budget. She selected Thammasat University in Thailand for lower costs, applied to multiple scholarships, worked with Financial Aid, and managed to get her semester fully funded. Read how she was able to pull that off!

This post is really important to me and share in hopes that it will help future students fund Student Exchange. I’ll explain my process of participating on the Student Exchange Program and how I was able to get it completely funded and pay no money out of pocket!

Researching the Program

I began looking into Student Exchange during April of my freshman year, exactly 6 months before I applied during October of my sophomore year, and a year and a half before I left in August of my junior year for study abroad.

I did a bit of my own research by reviewing all the locations and budgets from the FCOB Student Exchange Partner page

After I went through these links, I looked at average cost of housing/food/life in each place using online data from Numbeo and Expatistan, two websites that give you amazing data! I had a couple ideas of where I wanted to go but wasn’t entirely sure, so the numbers helped reinforce just how much I would have to spend there.

When I first met with the Fisher Exchange Coordinator, I expressed my interest in Student Exchange, and I asked her candidly what the cheapest place I could study abroad was. She told me it was Thailand, and gave me a budget sheet that a previous student had made to share. This student had written down EVERYTHING she had done; the food she had eaten every day, how much money she spent on trips, etc., everything was on the document for me to read. After crunching her numbers and creating my own spreadsheets and budgets, I realized that if I got scholarships, I would be able to do a Student Exchange Program. This is how I decided I was going to Thailand and began to do my research about Student Exchange.

My first things to do were to make sure my classes lined up and I would graduate on time, and the second thing to do was make sure my finances were accurate. I did my 4 year plan and had the Exchange Coordinator review it. Once I knew my classes line up, I really did a lot of financial planning for this. I did as much research as I could online and after I had done a budget estimate, I double checked it with the Exchange Coordinator as well. I also met with a previous student who did a semester in Thailand, to ask her about the trip and see if she had any advice for me. She was one of my best resources, and helped me out so much. We reviewed her excel spreadsheet, I was able to ask her average costs of rent, food, transportation, and traveling, and then I asked her general tips about packing, the weather, being away from home, and what her general expectations were going into the program.


Applying to the Program

Once I had decided I was going to Thailand, the hard part began.

In September, I met with the Exchange Coordinator again to talk about the reality of this happening and make sure that I was on track to get everything done in time. I submitted my application for the program which consisted of: an approved 4 year plan by my academic advisor, a letter of recommendation by my international relations professor, and statements about why I wanted to go. Shortly after, I received my acceptance! A large part of me knew I was going to go, so right after I submitted my application in early October, I began applying for scholarships immediately. Fair warning about this process: The programs are first come first serve and usually only take a maximum of 1-4 people each location. The year I applied Thailand took 2 people. APPLY EARLY!


Applying to Scholarships

Here are the scholarships I received and where I looked for them:

I first clicked on the Office of Global Business’ Funding Your Global Experience page. It should be your FIRST place to check when you’re looking for scholarships.

  1. I applied for the Office of Global Business’ Scholarship and the Robert Bartels Scholarship. I then emailed my recommender immediately and got a copy of the recommendation letters for the Bartels Scholarship. I was lucky to receive both of these scholarship.  APPLY FOR THEM IMMEDIATELY. These scholarships have been the biggest asset to me while I was abroad, and I wouldn’t have been able to go abroad without them.

After I had exhausted the Office of Global Business’ opportunities, I went around to other OSU resources to find more scholarships that were available to OSU students. I’m an honors student, so I looked at the Honors and Scholars Enrichment Grant.

2. I applied for the Honors & Scholars Enrichment Grant. I didn’t receive it, but it was good exposure to get me in the zone for applying for scholarships.

Afterwards, I went through the rest of the options that OGB had put on their website. I went to OIA’s website and applied for a couple scholarships there. I applied for the Asian Festival Scholarship, as well as the Firebaugh Scholarship. I didn’t receive either of them.

3. I then went and applied for a USG Scholarship, and was lucky enough to receive 1 of them that covered my flight to Thailand.

Afterwards, I went to Fisher’s website and looked for general scholarships that could help me out with tuition. I also went to the main OSU Undergraduate site and applied for the Special Eligibility scholarship too. I definitely checked the websites multiple times to make sure I had applied for everything that I was eligible for. Your work and efforts really will make all the difference. I actually didn’t apply to any outside scholarships mainly because I wasn’t eligible for the majority of them, but I know a really big one is the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which gives money to Pell Grant students who are studying abroad.

After that was done, I waited to hear back. I also went to the Office of Financial Aid and had them confirm that my current OSU scholarships would be applicable for my semester abroad in Thailand. They confirmed that since I was in fact still paying OSU tuition while abroad, I would be receiving all my scholarships and loans. This is very important and you should make sure to confirm your scholarships will transfer over before you leave.

After I confirmed my scholarships and loans would work out, I waited to hear back from my scholarships and was lucky enough to receive 3 of them! They have covered so much of what I’m paying here and I am so thankful.

If you have any questions about Thailand, Student Exchange, or Financial Aid/Scholarships, please reach out to me at bhaiji.4@osu.edu. Thank you for reading!

Backpacking Around Vietnam

While attending Thammasat University in Thailand on the Student Exchange Program, Talia Bhaiji was also able to visit Vietnam. Join her journey visiting the cities Ninh Binh, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, and Sapa.

This semester has afforded me a lot of time to travel due to the schedule in Thailand. Unfortunately, the King of Thailand passed away in October last year and the country went into mourning for a full year. The king’s cremation was a week and a half ago, and since Thammasat University is near the Royal Palace, we were awarded a week off from school. During this time, my friends and I decided to travel to Vietnam for 11 days. That’s hardly enough time, and I was only able to see 4 cities and only one region of the country. I know 11 days sounds like a lot, but there are people that travel Vietnam for 2.5 months and say that they still weren’t sure they had enough time. Either way, I had an incredible time and highly recommend Vietnam.

Vietnam was unlike any other country that I’ve seen before. I flew into Hanoi and spent the night there before taking a bus in the morning to the city of Ninh Binh, home of beautiful archipelagos and apparently the filming location for one of the King Kong movies. I traveled here alone and made some friends who I spent my time in Ninh Binh with. It was a small, chill little town and I was able to relax a bit and enjoy my time.

I did a boat tour of Tam Coc, which is one of the main attractions in Ninh Binh, and was absolutely in awe with all of the beauty on the water. Unfortunately, since I was not there in April or May I didn’t get to see the yellow blooming rice fields, but nonetheless it was still breathtaking. After my time in Ninh Binh, I took a train back to Hanoi and met my friends there.

Hanoi was absolutely breathtaking. It was a huge mix of French architecture and tons of French cafes. I didn’t realize how much of Southeast Asia the French owned. They had so many territories and it’s still so present today. Hanoi also had a huge blend of Western and Vietnamese food. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of vegetarian food there. My first day I walked around, accidentally stumbled upon a local market, ate some authentic Vietnamese pho, and went to a rooftop cafe. We were able to look out over the entire city and witness a really cool festival going on.

Afterwards, we went down and joined in on the fair and it was so magical. The streets were filled with people, music was playing everywhere, snacks were being sold on the street, and everywhere I turned people were dancing and having a good time.  The weather in Vietnam was much more mild than in Thailand, so it was really pleasant to be outside. We sat down with some locals and enjoyed some drinks as well as we people-watched.

The next day we went to the Temple of Literature, which is Vietnam’s first university, and it is one of the universities dedicated to Confucius. I also hadn’t realized the influence that China had over Vietnam, so this really opened my eyes to that as well. It was also really exciting to learn about how education had started in Vietnam and how the principles of their society had been built around this university.

After the temple, we made our way over to a cafe and hung around the city. We then walked over to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and tried to go to the Ho Chi Minh Museum, except it was closed. (If you are in Hanoi, please go, I’ve heard it’s well worth it!) Afterwards, we booked our tour for Ha Long Bay and were on our way!

I only spent one day in Ha Long Bay, and I’m not really a beach/boat person, so it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, and it also cost me $30 for a day tour, which I thought was a rip off, but you can’t travel there on your own. The town around Ha Long Bay has nothing to do, and you have to pay to get out on the water. Ha Long Bay was absolutely stunning though and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The archipelagos here are also absolutely stunning, and we got to kayak around them which was an absolutely amazing experience. Afterwards, we ate on the boat, and headed back to Hanoi for our overnight bus to Sapa.

The sleeper buses in Vietnam are really nice and we were able to recline and enjoy the night. Unfortunately the drivers in Vietnam are a bit more reckless than in the U.S. and the roads are bumpy. Also the differences on the buses in Asia is that they will  stop and pick up people in the middle of nowhere. I’ve had buses stop on the side of the highway and randomly pick up people, who then slept on the floor. Asia is so different!

Sapa is a small mountain town known for trekking, and it was absolutely breathtaking; it may be one of my favorite places I’ve visited in all of Asia. It was also 48 degrees Fahrenheit, so be prepared for it to be very cold. We got off the night bus at 5:30am and got some really good pancakes for breakfast; Vietnam is really into pancakes for breakfast. Afterwards, we headed over to our homestay and stayed with local people in the city. The first day, after a quick nap, we did some trekking around the town up to the Hua Thao Village. Maps.me saved my life here! We were able to follow the path on the map and trek. Unfortunately, it had rained a lot and it was quite slippery. I really worried about falling (and I definitely did a lot) but it was very cool to learn that the treks were made for the village people not for tourists to trek. It made the experience feel more authentic and it was so cool to meet the local people from the villages along the way. We got to stop into a couple houses and seeing how people lived was amazing. Of course, they all have phones, but they’re very self-sufficient in how they live. They produce all their own food, manage their own animals, and provide for themselves. It’s amazing! After a couple hours, we finally made it to the top of the mountain and it was breathtaking!

We went to sleep that night in our mosquito nets in our homestay overlooking the mountains. In the morning, we woke up to the sounds of roosters and crying babies (the homestay family had a new baby) and went down to get some pancakes with honey and chocolate and condensed milk. Afterwards, we met our tour guide, who was a local girl in the Lao Cai village and was 20 years old, which was the same age as me and my friend Hannah. She talked to us about her life in the village and it was very different from ours. She is 20, with two children, and told us how common it is for people in her village to marry at 15 and have children shortly after. She told me about how they don’t have electricity and how different their lives are. She has never traveled outside of her village as well. It’s so crazy! We started our trek in the morning and along the way 3 village women decided to join us. It was a scary trek  so it was nice to have 4 guides helping us around. I truly think they carried me up the mountain. All my clothes were super muddy but it was so much fun. When we made it to the top, we got to see and trek through the rice fields, and the trip was truly breathtaking, probably one of my favorite activities throughout this entire trip. We came back, hung out with our new friends at the hostel and had a good night sleep.

Afterwards, we had a nice day off, so I was able to catch up on my pictures and do some homework (yes I’m in school!) and the next day we headed out and went back to Hanoi. While we were in the town center of Sapa, we were able to visit an old cathedral, hang out in some of the cafes, and spend some time relaxing under the Christmas lights. It was absolutely amazing.


I ended my time in Hanoi and was able to pick up some really cool souvenirs for my friends and family. Vietnam was beautiful and I will never forget it.

Moving Around Myanmar

Abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Thailand, Talia Bhaiji shares her travels to Myanmar and her favorite places she has visited!

After my weekend in Cambodia, I took a 2 week break from traveling and then made my way back out of Thailand to Myanmar! I was surprised how much I loved Myanmar and would highly recommend it to anyone who is in Southeast Asia.

There was almost a point where I was considering scrapping my trip to Myanmar and it’s because of the current issue with the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims. In the far west of Myanmar near the Bangladesh border, the Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted for nearly 20 years now. The world didn’t learn about it until the military regime left Myanmar, but the persecution had been going on for years before. Basically, Myanmar is very Buddhist and very traditional, and with the Rohingya Muslims coming in, it caused a huge religious clash. Because of this, the Rohingya people are not recognized as real people and have little to no rights in the region. I knew about this and felt I’d be personally liable if I participated in tourism for the country while ignoring the intense humanitarian problems going on. A friend of mine had already gone, and after doing my research (as well as with his advice), I read that if you don’t go, you are not helping the local people, rather you’re hurting them and it’s incorrectly directed anger. When you travel to Myanmar you should avoid funding government activities, rather look into being a sustainable tourist and helping the local people. It’s not fair to the local people to not travel to Myanmar because of the government’s actions; either way they’re hurt by this. With this in mind, I decided to do my research and head to Myanmar.

Our first stop was in Yangon, the capital city, and I think I fell in love here. Our hostel was 200 meters away from the Sule Pagoda, the center of Yangon and a beautiful landmark seen all throughout the city.

We were right in the heart of everything and got to experience so much. There was so much Indian food in Myanmar, due to the influences from India and Bangladesh, and it was also mixed with Thai food, so I loved getting to eat food there. There’s a lot of ethnic populations in Yangon and the food is so authentic. We took some time doing a walking tour around the city and got to see the train station, a park, a famous cathedral, and a really cool market. Our first night there we also accidentally stumbled upon a fair for the Lighting Festival of Myanmar. During this time, many Burmese people get off work and are free to travel around, so the city was completely packed. It was so amazing to see everyone all together.

After our time in Yangon, we tried to book some bus tickets to the ancient city of Bagan, but since so many Burmese people were on holiday, everything was booked. This was one time where I wish I would have done some more planning, which is usually the opposite in Asia. Although there are different travel styles, what I head on the way to backpack well in Asia is to book your ticket into the country, get your visa, and book one night in a hostel. The rest of your planning (buses, hostels, tours) you should do while you’re in the country and with locals and tourists who have already done the activities. Unfortunately, we didn’t do our research to see that everything was so busy that week, so we struggled during the whole trip to plan things well. Plus, my companions were a lot more laid back than me, and I struggled with that too. I’m a planner by nature, and when things go awry I tend to panic. Finally, after wandering the streets, we found a travel agency and were able to book a bus to Inle Lake.

Inle Lake was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. We all rented a boat for the day and it was $5 a person, which was amazing. I was taken to an authentic silver shop, a handmade cigar shop, and a bunch of other places with traditional Burmese handcrafts. It was absolutely amazing and something I highly recommend. There’s actually a village in the water and the people get around by using boats everywhere. It’s reminiscent of Venice but so so different. They also have limited access to technology and to the outside world; it was quite refreshing to see how they get by and how their lives are so different.

After we went to Inle Lake, we took a day van to get to Bagan. The driver sped through the mountains and swerved on the edge of the road.  It may have been one of the scariest car rides of my life. Either way, we made it safely to Bagan and were able to enjoy the beauty of the ancient city. Bagan is known for having nearly 2000 pagodas and they’re all very close by. There used to be around 10,000 but so many of them got destroyed by nature. It’s really sad but there’s still so much beauty in the city. We spent the whole day in Bagan and had a nice picnic at one of the pagodas.

Finally, we finished our touring in Bagan and made our way back to Yangon. Here I finished all my shopping and was able to get some really good Burmese noodles in a nearby shopping mall. We also went on the local Yangon Circular Train and enjoyed the sights of the city.

Myanmar was surely somewhere not to be missed and I’m so happy I could go. I did have my concerns with the Rohingya crisis going on, but after learning about the situation more and deeming it appropriate to travel there, I ended up going and don’t regret it. As a country that was largely oppressed and hidden from the world, I think it was so important for me to go and see it.  It was also very budget friendly and I found myself spending way less money than expected! Overall, Myanmar is definitely less touristy than both Thailand and Vietnam, which I definitely enjoyed, and I really found myself so much more immersed in the culture than before. My unpreparedness made me a little bit uncomfortable, but I definitely learned to be adaptable and more flexible when things didn’t go right, which was super helpful in the future when I was trying to adapt to Thai Time in Thailand.

A Weekend in Cambodia….

Talia Bhaiji shares her observation of Cambodia, a side trip, while she studies abroad in Thailand on the Student Exchange Program to Thammasat University.

One of the first trips I did while abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Thammasat University, Thailand, was my weekend getaway to Cambodia. I remember sitting in the cafe near Amarin Mansion (my apartment building) and deciding on a whim, “I think I’m going to Cambodia next weekend!” I booked my bus (8 hours across the border) and booked my hostel in the middle of Siem Reap. I was there from Thursday to Monday morning.

I made it across the border fairly easy and after a couple hours made it to Siem Reap. I got dropped off in the absolute monsooning rain (rainy season hits Asia really really hard) and caught a tuk tuk, which is a little 3 wheel vehicle used to get around, to my hostel. I have to say that I was pretty nervous as I was traveling without a sim card, but their English in Cambodia was pretty good, so I didn’t encounter too many difficulties. Once I got to my hostel, I hung around at the hostel for a bit, and then forced myself to befriend some really cool Australian sisters who I ended up spending my entire weekend with!

Street flooding in Cambodia

We were able to go to Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious monument on earth. We woke up at 4:30 am, caught a tuk tuk at 5 am, and made our way over to catch the sunrise at Angkor, which was absolutely spectacular. It was packed with people, and super hot, but it’s also one of the most well known monuments on Earth, and the architecture and vast beauty of it was like nothing else.


Afterwards, we made our way over to Bayon temple, which is known for having all of the faces on the temples.

Finally, we went to Ta Prohm, which is famous for being in the Tomb Raider movies, and is very recognizable by the trees that cover the temple. It was so cool to see so much of history and to be surrounded by such untouched beauty.

Angelina Jolie in “Tomb Raider” at Ta Prohm

At night, we walked around Siem Reap and visited the infamous Pub Street as well as the Siem Reap Night Market, which was really amazing as well. There’s no real downtown, or real “city” in Siem Reap, which was surprising to me as Siem Reap was the capital and it felt very empty. There are some shorter buildings, but if you go, you’ll see that there are no office buildings, absolutely no skyscrapers and it feels mildly abandoned. Google has very few images of Siem Reap as a town as well, which was quite odd to me. All that pops up is really Angkor Wat when you search for Siem Reap.

In the mornings, we ate breakfast at some of the cafes around the city and had lots of expensive Western food. There were a ton of French bakeries, so I was able to get baguettes, croissants, and lots of cheese, but I really didn’t see much Khmer food which was very surprising to me, but after I did some research about Cambodia I was able to figure out why. The experiences with the war wiped a lot of the culture away, which is why it was so difficult to find native Khmer things/food in Cambodia.

I got to do a lot in Siem Reap and it was really cool experience, but Cambodia was really not what I was expecting. To be fair I only spent a weekend there and I was only in the capital, but there was still a fair amount of the culture that I was able to absorb. Cambodia has a sort of emptiness to it that I couldn’t seem to figure out. I did some research on their history to understand and found out that in the earlier centuries (14th, 15th) Cambodia and Angkor, the capital city, were a powerhouse and had incredible infrastructure. Later on in Cambodian history, they were owned by the French which made a lot of sense as to why they had so much French influence in not only their food, but their architecture, and also on some of their advertisements, menus, etc. But I still couldn’t figure out why it felt like there was something still missing in Cambodia. Yes, there were small buildings and stores but it felt like there was almost no one there. As I was talking with my Australian roommates, they brought up the Vietnam War and said that they had seen the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and had seen the destruction that the US, Vietnam War, and the Khmer Rouge had done to Cambodia, and how the country had never been able to recover. I began my own research and was appalled to learn about it.

Apparently, the US had a huge role in bombing Cambodia, during the late years of the Vietnam War in an attack called the Cambodia Campaign, followed by the Khmer Rouge which brought a huge massacre, torture, and forced labor in the country. I leaned that there was no aid from the US to help Cambodia in its devastating years. If you want to know more about the history, you can find information here.

US troops in Cambodia


Khmer Rouge killing fields

Learning this history, it made me so ashamed to be an American; here in Cambodia these people love America, love to speak English with us and even use the US dollar as their currency! They celebrate the day that the US ousted the government and put in a new leader and yet we left them with no aid.

Because of this history (our bombings, the war, the Khmer Rouge), Cambodia to this day has been unable to recover and will need some time before it can get back to where it was before. All of these actions occurred within a 10 year period, so it almost impossible for Khmer people to rebuild a destroyed country.  While I was there I also took some time to watch “First They Killed My Father” which is a Netflix documentary about a young girl’s experience in the Khmer Rouge. It changed how I see my country and how I see myself. I was ashamed to know that I had barely learned about this in school, and that was probably due to the fact that the US lost the Vietnam War and didn’t want to dwell on its failures.

This trip really made me think about my country and about how our actions affect the rest of the world. I felt humbled to have gone and wouldn’t change my experience for anything. I will say that it did teach me that I need to start doing research before I travel somewhere; I know people told me to do that and I brushed them off with the assumption that I knew far more than I did. When I got to Cambodia, I was mildly embarrassed to not have known any of the history of the war, which is still so relevant to them. It also taught me to be more aware of the actions of America, and how I’ll be perceived as an American. It made me want to be more educated and understand my country’s history better, especially since it does affect so many people.

If you’re in South East Asia I encourage you to go to Cambodia and check out Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields, if possible. But if you do go, please do your research about the Vietnam War, about Cambodia’s history, and be prepared for a life changing experience.

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 registered 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 🙂 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.  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)!!