Welcome to the Study Abroad Crew, fellow human! There is no denying that you, with your magnificent ambitions to tackle education in another country besides the US, possess an outstanding mindset! However, there are precautions that one must take to ensure they do not jeopardize their education… along with having fun and travelling. I have been in Thailand for over a semester-a-half and I believe I have some “critiques” that will benefit you.
- Plan, Plan, PLAN – Do not forget you are a student before you are a tourist. Your education must be your priority. I understand that students may find this new freedom some sort of exhilarating but you must respect your professors and advisers. There are no exceptions for missing a quiz or an exam. One should understand that being present in class and participating will result in great grades and a better relationship with the professor.
- DO NOT HANG OUT WITH AMERICAN STUDENTS – This is, by far, my GREATEST regret last semester! Now I am not saying do not make American friends, there is a difference. It is either you have local friends who you barely hang out with or you do not have any local at all! I understand that people are probably shy to make new friends in a different country but it is inevitable! Hanging out with American students will limit your experience and especially your view of the world! You are studying abroad for a reason; maybe it’s because of religion, or education, or your mental well-being–just remember to not limit your exposure to the different culture. The locals know everything and even more than your American peers who have “done” some research; they know the best bars, the best restaurants, and the BEST PEOPLE! So do not take the locals for granted! Learn their names, speak to them in their native language or even charades, and be OPEN to new experiences!
- Do not party every single day – I have met a lot of people while studying abroad but it still amazes me when students show up to class still drunk from the night before and they pass out the moment their names are called for the attendance sheet. Please, PLEASE DO NOT BE THAT PERSON. Save your energy and especially your TIME and MONEY, for an experience much more valuable and priceless. Also, DO NOT SNEAK INTO A CLUB IF YOU ARE UNDERAGE! If you get caught, you will be in a very difficult situation. **For those who will be studying in Thailand, DO NOT DO DRUGS. The punishment is death.**
- Learn the language – This is common sense. However, there will be students who will not take the time to learn a few phrases to make their life easier abroad. Listen to me! If you are travelling to a country to live there for a few months, please try to learn the language or at least a few phrases. The locals will be so happy to see you try and they will even give you a better discount for merchandises. You will also receive more respect compared to other tourists.
- If you are a broke student (like me) and have a budget (like me), DO NOT PACK SUPER LIGHT! – Now, this rule applies especially to YEARLONG students. You will be in a different country for about eight-to-nine months, your clothes will rip and get dirty. You will lose your socks. You will miss your cute jean jacket at home in your sad, cold closet. You will miss your Nike “slides”. Listen to me on this one, especially yearlong students, if you are struggling and have a budget, bring the clothes you love to wear. I understand people will argue with me but I am suffering through this right now. I have been abroad for over six months and I have spent so much money on clothes here in Thailand. A part of me understood why others tell me to pack light, but I packed SUPER LIGHT. Do not make the same mistake I made and bring your cute jean jacket even though you will be in humid weather.
- Leave your American bias at home – This is the topic people will probably not like too much. I have traveled throughout Thailand and have met numerous of Americans. I, for one, am American herself. I was raised there; America is home to me. There is a sense of emotional urge that connects me to that country no matter how disastrous our political climate is today. However, do everyone a favor and leave your American bias at home. I cannot tell you how aggravating it is to witness Americans preaching about how great America is or how people can’t speak English or how Thailand is so polluted with plastic. (I am sorry for bringing this up but I have been too patient for too long.) JUST STOP! The locals know! They know and they understand better than what you bring to the table. They have been living in that country far longer than you ever will. They understand their politics, they understand how to navigate their country, they understand that they have a hand at polluting the sea, and they UNDERSTAND that America is a great country. Please, do everyone in that country a favor and leave your American bias at home. It is not our agenda to teach others who do not want to be taught. Those who wants to be taught will seek you.
Now, we have a better understanding of how to operate in a different country as international students. We, who have chosen to spend a few months abroad to gain cultural awareness, must understand that we should not judge another. We are scholars. We search for understanding and do not belittle those who not know or possess knowledge. Overall, we are people. People should try to understand people. Please, travel abroad with an open mind. Do not stay enclosed in your box–I am not saying do not question, but rather question with respect with a sense of companionship.
Until next time.