Guest Post by: Rob Winkle, a Junior studying Marketing and Operations Management. He participated in a Foster Exchange at the University of Chulalongkorn in Thailand.
The exchange is coming to a close and although I will be leaving Thailand behind, I’ll be keeping with me the memories that were made here forever. As I was flying in to Thailand I didn’t know what to expect, and before leaving for Thailand I was paired with a student buddy attending Chulalongkorn University, the school I would be attending in Thailand, and I have my buddy to thank for the culture shock not being as severe as it could have been. My buddy quickly showed me that although Bangkok was different there were a lot of things from home to comfort me. The first thing that hits you is the amount of people everywhere and the smells from all the street food carts that are set up on the side of the street everywhere you go. On the way to the apartment that I would be living in, my buddy took me to one of the major malls called Siam Paragon for a short while to get something to eat. These malls in Bangkok are not like anywhere else in the world. Giant monstrosities of designer stores and high end merchandise all located in air-conditioned buildings the size of city blocks.
When I started classes at Chulalongkorn University, I was blown away. It was a sprawling campus much bigger than UW with markets, coffee shops, and libraries just like at home. The school itself went a long way in making Thailand feel like home, being able to work in a similar school environment was a huge help in reducing the culture shock. The classes themselves were led by prestigious professors that challenged me. There were a couple, the Global Marketing class in particular, that were just as challenging as back home and many sleepless nights were spent trying to finish a project with people from five other nations and me being the only native English speaker.
I chose to live outside of the school campus and it was a decision I would recommend to any that are considering the Thailand exchange program. You can choose to live anywhere in Bangkok but the majority of Chulalongkorn exchange students tend to all live in a single apartment complex called Nonsi Residence. There are some 10 different nations all housed in the single complex and if you’re looking for a roommate you won’t have to look long.
The atmosphere at Nonsi was less of a bunch of foreign exchange students living together and more of a family. We all referred to ourselves as the Nonsi family all of us, even coming from different cultures and nations, we were able to bond through the fact that we were all far from home in a totally different atmosphere than we were used to. The family atmosphere extended to the restaurants that fed all of us in the surrounding area that we all called Mama’s and Papas and of course there was Shirra’s place located in the complex itself. All of them were what made living there so special.
Bangkok was just the beginning though. As was recommended to me by the school, and what I would recommend to anyone who chooses to go on exchange in South East Asia, I obtained a multiple reentry visa so I could experience the other countries surrounding Thailand if classes permitted it. Living in Nonsi Residence meant that there was always a trip being planned and as everyone was pretty close I ended up going on some pretty amazing trips with people from all over the world. I also traveled alone as well, it has it’s owned benefits that you’re not reliant on anyone else and get to choose your own way. I traveled all over Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia and it was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
The University, the people, the traveling, and Thailand itself all created one amazing semester abroad and I’ll forever be thankful for the opportunity to travel to such an amazing country. If you have a chance I wouldn’t pass the experience to go to Thailand or any foreign exchange program.