STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI STORY
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I have always known that I wanted to go study abroad somewhere, however, experience in college is what really tailored what kind of program I would apply to. Due to being in an engineering major, it seemed easier to do a summer study abroad so that I would not miss classes during the year possibly risking me being behind in my studies. Then when I learned there was a study abroad program in Thailand, I felt that it was the program I was meant to be on. This is because part of my heritage lies within Thailand. However, the person who has always inspired me to travel and study abroad is an old friend who travels often. He showed me long ago that I can make dreams into a reality simply by pursuing it making it happen.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
I funded my study abroad experience from a variety of sources. First of all, I chose the program that cost the least at my school. Second, I chose a country where for example you can get a filling and delicious meal for less than a dollar. So I chose a country where I knew my money would go a long way. I fundraised money via a website called “YouCaring” and thankfully had wonderful friends willing to donate. I took out a few loans sadly. I worked and saved up money. My parents also helped me out. And I graciously received the summer Diversity Abroad scholarship. These all worked together to help make it all happen.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
I wish that I had brought fewer things and that I simply had a camera and a watch. A phone is not necessary when traveling and can only become a distraction. All you need is a watch to keep time and a camera to take photos, the rest is extra.
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?
I identify as multiracial. And something interesting that I experienced abroad is how even in Asian countries they simply assumed I was from some part of Asia. They would be surprised to hear that I was American and almost confused. And trying to explain I was multiracial seemed to be more confusing. Then on the flip side, I did have some Thai people say I wasn’t really Thai even partially, but in all respect, we do come from different cultures and technically my culture is not Thai, it is American. Nothing was ever offensive, I only caused people different forms of confusion, which happens back at home from time to time.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
My experience has benefited me in several ways. It has given me a wider lens to look at life through. It gave me insight on why my own family acts in certain ways by learning about Thai culture. Academically it gave me a breath of fresh air from my usual academics, which after a long year it was needed. A long term goal it has given me is that I want to pursue learning Thai. After taking some language classes, I learned it wasn’t as hard I had expected. By knowing even, a little of the language, it helped me connect with people greatly. I think this will be beneficial in the future if I can say that I am bilingual. My trip included visiting Cambodia and traveling to Japan by myself afterwards. This trip overall gave me a better understanding of where those different countries are at and allowed me to compare and contrast them. The result was a better understanding of Asia and its many differences within each country, where in America we tend to group it all in one large glob thinking it is homogenous. For example, Asian American is used to describe any person with Asian descent as if we all fit together, when in truth, we are all quite different. I think this will help me if I ever wish to work in Asia or work with companies in Asia.
Author: Amber Jaitrong