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>

TOILETRIES:

Dental

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

Contacts/Eyecare

  • 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

Hair 

  • 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 + 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

ELECTRONICS

Camera: 

  • 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.

Phone: 

  • 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.

Miscellaneous 

  • 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!)

ALL OTHER THINGS

Travel 

  • 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.

Luggage 

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!

CLOTHING

Shoes

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

Bottoms 

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

Dresses 

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

Coats/Jackets 

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

Undergarments 

  • 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

Tops 

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

Accessories

  • 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.

 

<WHAT NOT TO BRING>

  • 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!

Operations Global Lab – 中国站,14日小结

2017年5月俄亥俄州立大学三年级的学生孔钰参与了Operations Global Lab 项目,并深入感受了中国商业文化。

如果你和我一样,在美国学习但又希望在不久的将来回到自己的家乡工作,那么Operations Global Lab应该会是你的不二选择。在这个项目里,我们来到中国各地,例如香港,上海;我们还会参观各式各样的公司和工厂,也有和政府深入对话的机会。我们看到了那些出现在我们课堂里的概念和策略,其结合了中国特色的文化,生动的在这里展现。

我们首先去了香港。在香港,我们穿梭在各个高楼大厦之间,参观不同领域的公司;也来到港口,感受这个国际大都市是如何操作它的每天货物流通;我们还去了美国驻香港领事馆,了解美国与香港在商业操作上的差异与相似之处。

让我印象最深刻的是TAL公司。TAL是一家服装生产公司,今年刚好是他们成立的70周年。他们热情得接待了我们,并且邀请各个部门的领导,用一天的时间给我们讲解他们的战略策略和操作理念。我在学校也辅修了服装零售专业,并且希望能够将我在这两个领域学习到的知识很好的运用到我之后的工作中。TAL员工们传递给我们的信息弥足珍贵,是无法仅仅通过课堂或实习能得到的。

之后我们又花了一天的时间,跨过海峡,来到对岸的深圳,参观了俄州大校友王先生的工厂。作为一个供应链管理专业的学生,这是我第一次参观车间,第一次切实看到在课堂上被反复提及的5s, Kanban等操作在实际工作场合上的应用。

结束香港的行程后,我们又来到了中国江浙一带:上海,杭州和苏州。在这些地方,我又有感受到了与香港不一样的体验。相较于香港,这些城市里的公司或工厂显得比较没有那么快节奏了。尤其是参观到太太乐,这个中国本土品牌的时,这些对比变得更加明显。太太乐是一个在中国家喻户晓的品牌。我们参观了其在上海的工厂,并与它的总裁共通参加一个亲密的座谈会。在座谈会上,我们了解到虽然太太乐被雀巢收购,但它依旧有一个独立的自我操作系统。而且在座谈会上,总裁也一直谈起“一带一路”政策对公司的影响。这一点是我们在之前的公司里没有听到过的。

这个项目对我而言受益匪浅。在这个项目里,我认识了很多来自不同专业的同学。我们虽然有着不同的文化背景,但却都被这个国际化的经济社会所吸引。在这14天的旅程中,我们相互交流,相互学习。而且,在参观完这些公司后,我更加坚定了学习供应链管理的决心。

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.

A Personal Invitation to Operations Global Lab – China

In preparation for 2018 Operations Global Lab, Professor Dickstein reflects on his own experience in Hong Kong and China.

My first passport in the early 70s explicitly banned travel to and acceptance for passage in China (as well as North Korea, North Vietnam, and Cuba).  But with Nixon’s surprise visit in 1972 orchestrated by Henry Kissinger, relations gradually improved (sometimes referred to as the period of “ping pong diplomacy”, reflecting an early exchange of visits) and the door crept open.  Coincidentally, I was in Hong Kong just months after this historic event, and any worries about using my U.S. passport for entry into Canton (now Guangzhou) were dispelled by a U.S. consular official who simply used a magic marker to cross out China from the list of banned countries.  In the years since I have made five visits into China and twice as many into Hong Kong, a one-time British colony until July 1997 and a logistical gateway with its modern infrastructure into all of Southeast Asia.

Going back nearly 10,000 years China was the largest and most advanced civilization on earth.  The remarkable engineering feat of the Great Wall was completed about 1700 years BEFORE Columbus’ voyage to the New World. As recently as the 1270s, Marco Polo was “astonished at the wealth of China”.

This advancement was not sustained due to violent competition for power, the Japanese invasions in the 1900s, and Mao’s destructive decade of the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s that further impoverished the population.  The past forty plus years have witnessed an unprecedented pace of development.  Today, China is the world’s most populous country and the largest participant in global trade, with 2015 imports + exports of nearly 4 trillion USD.  (The comparable total for the U.S. in second position is 3.8 trillion).

Our trip provides an opportunity to experience firsthand some of the world’s most advanced infrastructure (airports, high speed rail) and oldest culture.  While Hong Kong may be a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, 100 years of British rule have left an outward, global perspective and a strong rule of law.  In the most recent Ease of Doing Business rankings prepared by the World Bank, Hong Kong is #4 (compared to the United States at #8).

We have taken the inputs of the 2017 participants and enriched the program by adding several days in Beijing, the cultural (as well as administrative) capital of China.  I am very excited to share with OSU students such exciting destinations that resonate in my personal life and business career and, hopefully, will prove an equally memorable event in yours.  While my longevity does not quite reach back to the era of Marco Polo, I continue to view the country with a similar sense of wonder.

If you are interested in international business, cultural uniqueness, or history, this trip will allow you to explore an emerging country that increasingly shapes the world’s political and economic landscape.  Please join us for Fisher’s second undergraduate program in China, a two week exposure to business, politics, culture and even a great deal of fun.