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)!!

 

 

I Promise I Study During my Study Abroad

Want to know what the university experience is like at Thammasat University in Thailand? Learn from Melanie March’s point of view as she enjoys her time as a full-time student there on the Student Exchange Program in the “Land of Smiles”.

Just to clarify, I really do go to class here in Thailand! My parents confirmed this last week when they dropped me off for class at Thammasat University. I am taking a variety of classes here that includes International Marketing, Marketing Analysis, Operations Management as well as Beginner’s Thai.

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These classes have been interesting and very different than my classes back at Ohio State. One of the biggest changes has been wearing a uniform to school every day. This has been very convenient in the mornings where you wake up and don’t have the energy to decide what to wear for the day. It also means that I have to wash it every day that I wear it because I sweat through it just walking to class. It’s about a 30 minute commute by foot and I get to take a ferry in order to cross the river to Thammasat.

Once we get to class we have fifteen minutes once class has started to sign in. Most teachers don’t start the class until after this sign-in period and then we have a 15 minute break in the middle of class to break up the three hour time frame. I wasn’t so sure about the break at first but it is a great time to stretch our legs or get some coffee. There is also an hour break in between classes that gives students plenty of time to get lunch at the pier or in the cafeteria on campus.

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My favorite part about studying at Thammasat University in Bangkok has been the students that I have met here. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met and are very willing to get to know you. Exchange students are welcomed with open arms and staff and students alike are very helpful with any problems that we have had settling into Thailand. Most of the students have gone to international schools when they were in elementary school so they have been speaking English for many years. A majority of students also study abroad at some point in their high school or college career that allows them to have been in our shoes so they know what it’s like to be in a classroom and know very few people.

In the classroom, Thai students are extremely bright and some of the most motivated students. Many participate in international business case competitions that has taken them all over the world. They also go above and beyond on every task that is assigned which has shocked me because so many people only do the bare minimum in order to get by. Thammasat students are quick thinkers and only want to succeed and work hard to do so. It is motivating to see students my age doing so much and becoming the next generation of business leaders in Thailand.
12573709_1241511272532629_1163249868574369464_nIf any person decides to study abroad, I highly recommend taking a language course. It really gives you the chance to learn the language as well as learning about the culture that you will be living in. It’s crazy to think there are people who lived here years without ever feeling the need to learn the language when I can see the usefulness in my everyday life. We just started learning the Thai alphabet which has been really exciting but also challenging. Thai is a tonal language which means that a word can have many different meanings if you say it with the wrong tone. As Americans we tend to have a rising tone when we are phrasing a sentence as a question which can be a hindrance since many times people will not understand you because it sounds like you are saying a different word than you are trying to say. I was trying to ask a taxi driver to take me to Thammasat but I kept phrasing it as a question using a high tone. When I say it with a mid-tone that does not fluctuate, taxi drivers will immediately know what I’m talking about.

Thammasat University is a school that has immediately made me feel at home. Although frustrating at times, I am so happy that I chose to study in Thailand where the people are welcoming and kind. It really is the “Land of Smiles.”

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About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.

Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!

A Love Letter to South East Asia

More than the beautiful buildings and the breathtaking landscapes, Melanie March says that the highlight of her time in Thailand is the people she met while on the Student Exchange Program. Find out what is so special about the people in Thailand, South East Asia, and how it has become a life-changing experience for her.

I have been many places since coming to Thailand. I have been to Cambodia where I was taught that the problems I face daily are nothing compared to what others face everywhere in the world. I have been to Khao Yai that has shown the natural beauty of Thailand as well as the destruction that humans have caused. I have also spent hours in waters more clear and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I have been in the mountains of Laos that are slowly being taken over by tourists and backpackers but have also given me some of the best views of places untouched by foreigners.

What has really amazed me most here are the people.

The people that you meet in Southeast Asia are some of the greatest that you may ever have the opportunity to meet. Every person has their own story to tell and their own reasons for traveling here. Some are soul-searching and trying to figure out what to do in life and others just need a change of pace. I’ve met people who “just felt like doing something new” and other that weren’t happy with where their life was going so they decided to take a break and throw themselves into Southeast Asia.

I can hardly express my gratitude to these people and what they have taught me. From the exchange students who all have their own unique background to the Thai students who have been more welcoming than I could ever have imagined when I left months ago.

I have met people during my two months here that have changed my perspective about this world. These people have shown me kindness that is often unseen in the world nowadays and I believe the friendships I have made here will last me much longer than the trip.

So what I am trying to say that this experience has been life-changing. Asia will humble a person and remind them that there is more to life than just collecting objects. There are people out there to meet, conversations to have, and memories to be. It is just a waking reminder to live each day to the fullest so you can look back on life without regret.

About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.

Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!