STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI STORY
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I decided to study abroad to broaden my understanding of globalization and how cultural awareness influences the world around us. After meeting several students from across the nation through conferences and undergraduate engagements, I was inspired to complete a ton of independent research on studying abroad. I also spoke with a really close friend that also studied in Thailand the semester prior and her personal anecdotes were enough to win me over. Between my own research and conversation, I decided that moving Thailand would be an amazing move for my personal, academic and professional success.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
One of the first things that attracted me to the ISEP-Direct enrollment program was that it was cheaper to study in that country by almost 50%. Additionally, I was able to use my financial aid and scholarships to cover the cost of the trip. Working with my study abroad office on campus allowed me to leverage resources for money from my university and organizations such as Diversity Abroad. While abroad, the tuition paid upfront was later dispersed as a stipend to covered the cost of rent and food each month.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
Before going abroad, I think I did a ton of research on safety and traveling while in Thailand. But as far as Thai culture, I was completely uneducated on the language and cultural norms. In retrospect, it would have been nice to have more than a basic understanding of the language I would be exploring so that the initial culture shock could have been less alarming, but by week two I was already calling this place my home. I would advise any student that is planning to go abroad to do research on the cultural norms and political climate of their host country, but be careful not to let your research develop into expectations.
Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
As an American, it was very interesting to be in a foreign country at the time of a major presidential election. Other exchange students and Thai students would often ask me my opinion on the election-- and sometimes they would know so much about the nuances of our political dynamics. As a black male, meet and greets with other foreigners became complex because many would shamelessly inquire about my opinion in race relations in America. Of course, this was only after I would explain to them that I was not from, nor had I ever traveled to Africa. Beside these, somewhat awkward icebreakers, I felt very accepted and treated equal during my time abroad in Thailand.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
Since moving to Thailand, I have been challenged academically while being emerged in a completely foreign culture. Running water is unsafe to drink, the infrastructure is often obsolete, and the heat could easily fry an egg on the sidewalk. Despite my temporary discomfort I quickly embrace each moment as a life lesson, for my change of environment is only temporary and will only strengthen my ability to adapt. Above all, it is amazing to engage with the Thai students who are longing to visit America and feel that their English skills are just not good enough. Regardless of their lack of confidence, I encouraged them to never give up and that with hard work anything is possible.
Author: Austin Ogletree