UCR Around the Globe: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Photo courtesy of Marvin Gomez
Photo courtesy of Marvin Gomez

Marvin Gomez

 

Senior

 

Study Abroad Session: Summer 2013

 

Program: The Education Abroad Network; Southeast Asia: Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

Email; Questions About my Adventure: mgome015@ucr.edu

 

 

It took me about four years to finally work up the courage to go on a study abroad program.

 

I was always making excuses to myself about why I could not go. I would scare myself out of actually following through with my sudden bursts of wanting to study abroad by making myself believe that for some reason my trip would somehow not go as planned.

 

But finally I followed through with all the paperwork and went to the meetings, saw my advisers and all that good stuff and before I knew it, I was landing on the runway on the other side of the world!

 

I want people to know that I am kind of shy sometimes and I think that is why I would always back out on doing a study abroad program and never actually go — until this summer of course. So if you are reading this and are thinking about going on a study abroad program, go for it. I guarantee that no matter what happens on your trip you will be glad you went. Just bust it!

 

My study abroad trip this summer was nothing short of amazing! I had never imagined that I would have had so much fun. I did a one-month program in Chiang Mai, Thailand at Chiang Mai University. Just to let you know, I did not speak any Thai before I went to Thailand but overall it was not hard to communicate with most people there because many of them actually spoke some English. So even if you don’t know the native language, don’t worry about it. You’ll find a way.

 

I took a human rights course that focused on a group of people who live in Myanmar (one of the countries bordering Thailand) known as the Karen, and how they have been struggling for many years to gain a place in their country. We learned about how they were constantly being chased out of the country simply because of their ethnicity and were being killed  by guerrilla soldiers that would search for them deep in the jungle. Personally, I never knew that this was even happening.

 

What made this course more personal was that our professor took us to the largest refugee camp of the Karen people near Mae Sot, Thailand — a small town by the Myanmar border. We were taken to meet with survivors who had escaped from guerrilla soldiers after being chased in the jungles. We also visited the small school house in the camp. I thought this was a very moving experience because we were able to meet with the children and they also sang songs for us. The visit to the refugee camp really made an impact on me and I am thankful that I was given the chance to see what it’s like for people who don’t have a lot but make the most out what they do have and fight through adversity.

 

Every single day on my trip abroad was an adventure far better than anything I would have even imagined. I made friends with students from the university and they showed me all around the city. They would take me to different places to eat every day and they showed me certain areas where most tourists don’t go. For example, one of the Thai students I had befriended took me to visit a beautiful temple called Wat Chedilunag. It was spectacular! Also, what made it even cooler was that he had been a monk at that temple when he was younger as part of his high school’s requirements, so he was able to share with me the meaning of all the symbols and pictures of Buddha throughout the temple.

 

Before I knew it, my month-long program was coming to an end and I had exactly two days left. But I did not want to leave — I was having so much fun! I remember before I left I was so scared that maybe four weeks was too long, but now I wanted to stay. So that is exactly what I did. I changed my flight and travelled all around Southeast Asia. I went to the southern beaches of Thailand to Krabi. I went to visit the famous temples of Siem Reap and I even went to Khao San Road in Bangkok. All in all, I ended up staying another month traveling around.

 

I could have never thought about traveling for two months — especially traveling all alone. But man, am I glad I studied abroad in Thailand this summer. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life! The magic really happens outside of your little bubble that you live in every day of your life. Get out of that rhythm and you’ll see what I mean.

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