NSCS member Danielle Peecher won the scholarship for the Academy Aboard Program in Thailand in 2012.
I have always wanted to study abroad and travel as much as possible, so when I heard about the study abroad trip to Thailand, I immediately started planning. Studying abroad in Thailand was an experience I could have never dreamed up. I stayed in Thailand for 4 weeks. The first 3 weeks I lived at Payap University with other study abroad students as well as Thai students. We were all assigned a Thai roommate, which was a great way to see into Thai culture. During my stay at Payap University I was constantly busy, not only with my Buddhism class, but also with meeting new people and going on adventures. During my last week I volunteered at an elephant conservation camp.
One of the most amazing excursions we took was to a “sticky” waterfall north of Chiang Mai. This waterfall was in the mountains and surrounded by a beautiful forest. At this waterfall we were able to walk up the rocks in the water, as well as swim in the small pools at the bottom. It was completely breath taking to look around at all the giant trees, as my feet were surrounded by cool water from the waterfall.
A major change was getting used to the food, which is usually very spicy! The food in Thailand is amazing though, and you should be prepared to have rice for every meal! There are also many interesting fruits to try in Thailand. A special dessert is mango sticky rice, which is a must try food! And don’t be afraid to get freshly blended smoothies, they are amazing.
Another important experience I had while in Thailand was volunteering at an elephant conservation camp. During my fourth week in Thailand I traveled further north to volunteer with elephants. When I arrived in Thailand I knew I would be doing some type of volunteering, however, I had no idea what it would entail. I heard about an elephant camp and was immediately interested.
While staying at the elephant camp I had to sleep under misquote nets, pick up after elephants, prepare elephant food and help with odds and ends around the camp. The program staff encouraged us to learn more about the endangered Asian elephants. From this experience I gained insight into the plight of the elephants in Thailand and the horrors of how people have treated them in the past. This was a great learning experience and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to volunteer at this camp. Looking back on pictures from my trip a majority of them are of elephants!
The entire time I was in Thailand we were constantly busy, which was great because we got to see so much. Although, it seemed to go by too fast! My study abroad experience in Thailand was absolutely amazing, but after I got home I realized how much I wanted to go back. I’m so glad and lucky to have had such a wonderful experience and I truly hope to study abroad again and continue traveling.
Traveling is an important way to learn about other cultures and see parts of the world people may not know exist.
We had so many more experiences, too many for me to write about but a few were taking a cooking class, going to the Sunday walking street, learning a couple Thai words, getting to see tigers up close, going white-water rafting and visiting the temples all over. Going to an overlook of Chiang Mai at night was truly breath taking.
Academy Abroad also offers a similar program through NSCS in Australia.