Name: Lisa Brougham and Marti Baricevic
Program: Thai Education Exchange
Major: Education PhD
Term Abroad: Winter Intersession 2015
This trip to Thailand was a gift from God--and a blessing from Buddha. Ninety-five percent of the people in Thailand are Buddhist. Combining that fact with the warm, reception throughout our stay, from our truly amazing hosts at Phranakon Rajabat University to the young strangers who found my cell phone in the McDonald's restaurant and returned it to me, the kindness, humility, and respect extended to me was life changing.
Seeing traditional customs co-exist with the youthful adoption of popular global trends was impressive. As was the easy, ready smiles or respectful laughter in response to awkward situations. Their valuing of and acceptance of others seems to create a very peaceful calm environment. Thais don't respond in anger and frustration as many in the US do.
The unique aspect of this trip -- an Educational Exchange -- gave us a type of immersion experience that most tourist would not get to experience. In addition to sharing and receiving feedback on our individual research, we visited an elementary and high school, which were very impressive given the number of students in a class, 30-50, and the amount of engagement and positive classroom management we observed. We also got to see Thai performances and beautiful Thai architecture, temples, and pagodas, and to shop at the Thai markets, aided by the keen insight from our gracious hosts.
It took a moment to adjust to all the picture taking and gifting, they treated us like celebrities. We instantly felt welcomed, and were sad to leave our Thai friends when our program ended.
I participated in the Thailand Study Abroad program in January 2015. I feel that participating in this program, the purpose of which is to provide a format for Pranakhon Rajabhat University, in Thailand, and UMSL graduates to share research, enriched me in ways never thought imaginable. Beyond gaining insight into research trends in Bangkok, we provided the opportunity to visit elementary and high schools and to observe teachers’ instructional methods. Most striking was the difference between the classroom cultures in the Thai schools compared to the traditional American classroom culture. Though, true, we only visited the best of the best, learning appeared to be louder in Thailand than in the U.S. Across the board, lessons were delivered with an expectation of interaction among students and between students and faculty. It would be interesting to know more about the differences regarding the weight of academic assessments.
In addition to the academic benefits of this intersession class, I was able to experience the Thai culture. Again, it was difficult to keep from making comparisons with that of the U. S. I found the Thai culture to be so self-less, which was so evident in the welcome and the treatment we received during our stay. As part of the program, we will now receive students and faculty from Pranakhon Rajabhat this spring. Interestingly, I wonder how we can sufficiently pay them back for the kindness they showed us.