Thailand brings adventures and culture to Simpson students

by Alicia CarloStaff Writer

A group of 16 Simpson College students is spending the spring semester studying abroad in Thailand.

While the students are in Thailand, they are taking part in a variety of different activities. One of the things students are required to do is to take a variety of different classes. They are taking classes at the Christian University of Thailand.

Along with their studies, students are taking the opportunity to travel all over the country. So far, they have seen places such as the royal palace, the ruins of the formal capital-Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom and Hua Hin, a beach in southern Thailand.

According to senior Kurt Fogleman the culture in Thailand is different than it is here in America because it is slower paced. Everybody is courteous and respectful to others.

“I think the people have surprised me the most,” sophomore Kelsey Johnston said. “They are so happy and welcoming. They are friendly and helpful. They are excited to teach us about their culture. They are very proud of Thailand and they want to make sure everyone has a great experience.”

Johnston had an experience when a group of the students went to a beach at Hua Hin, where they stayed for three nights.

According to Johnston, the first night they slept at a rundown guest house. There were ants all over and sand from the beach. The students spent the last two nights at an actual hotel.

“We were able to go farther down on the same beach where there were no tourists, and we got a chance to really enjoy Thailand’s beauty,” Johnston said.

Johnston believes that although some parts of Thailand are more westernized than others, because the location of their college is rural, the students get to experience Thailand at its best.

Junior Jessie Eilbert thinks that the Thai culture is a lot simpler than in the U.S. She says that people are not as worried about impressing others and live the lives that they want to.

“The culture shock was huge when we first got here, but there is nothing like throwing yourself in and learning the ropes,” Eilbert said. “I think experiencing a different culture is something everyone should strive to do in life. It really makes you appreciate everything you have at home.”

Junior Courtney Lezanic has enjoyed her experience in Thailand. She believes that it has been a great experience traveling to the markets, hearing the language being spoken, and eating at vendors.

“It is crazy to go from a country that has so much diversity within to a country that does not,” Lezanic said.

Currently the students are taking a Thai language course. They have just completed a Thai culture class. Next they will take a Buddhism class and they will finish off with field experience.

“These students have stepped up to the plate every time they have been asked,” Lora Friedrich, assistant professor of sociology and faculty member accompanying the students in Thailand.

One of the things the students are doing to learn the language is to meet up with a Thai language buddy that they meet with for three hours every night.

“We’re currently in our language unit, learning the Thai language,” Johnston said. “It’s tonal so it’s pretty tough, but we are all working really hard and it’s been really fun.”

International Education Coordinator Jay Wilkinson just returned from Thailand to learn how the program is going and gain the students’ perspectives on the program. He believes things are going well.

“In less than a month, most students have been able to learn some basic Thai language skills to be able to order food, to buy things at the market, and travel around a bit on their own,” Wilkinson said. “They are making friends with Thai students through both formal and informal ways.”

Friedrich believes that the Thailand group is getting along as well. Most of the Simpson students have become friends with the Thai students. However, the students are still staying in touch with home.

“There is a lot of ‘skyping’ going on to help students stay in touch with those back home,” Friedrich said.

In May, students in a May Term travel course will join the semester students. The students will travel to Chiang Mai and do an elephant track. They will also go to Thai cooking school.