Thailand Is As Exchange As It Gets

Guest Post By: Edison Wong, a Junior studying Accounting and Information Systems. He studied abroad through a Foster Exchange and Direct Enroll at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, during Spring Semester 2023.

I titled this blog post “Thailand Is As Exchange As It Gets” because I truly feel Thailand is one of the most opposite cultures from America. From when you first land in Thailand you are greeted with big Buddhist statues, everything is shining in Gold, to the crazy Bangkok traffic of thousands of motorbikes just weaving between cars. It’s a fun cultural shock and I’d recommend experiencing this country as your next travel destination!

First 2 weeks

My first 14 days in Thailand. Wow, it’s been crazy, to say the least. I know Instagram can be a bit repetitive with everyone’s “look how transformative study abroad is” captions. But I’m here to tell my story, and to start off, being away from Seattle has not been easy, by any means. This is the first time I’ve been away from the 10-mile radius I call home, the Bellevue Seattle bubble. Learning to figure out when the best time to call friends and family at home was totally new to me. All in all, these first 2 weeks I’ve learned so much about navigating a new culture (of exchange, but also new country) that no book could teach me. I’m very grateful for some of these fellow exchange students I’ve met who I can already rely on and feel supported by when I’m feeling my highest highs and my lowest lows. I can feel these friendships building and becoming something great. Parting words; when abroad, make an effort to meet everyone (and try to remember their names), be yourself, for people want to get to know who you really are, and don’t forget to document your thoughts, experiences, and feelings.

6 weeks later

It finally clicked, this is my life now, here in Thailand!

For the past 2 months I’ve been wrestling with feeling a little lost. My life back home was going great, I was really enjoying my friends & family, the leadership positions I was serving in, and the routine of just being a 20-year-old UW student. and then I was stripped out of this lifestyle for exchange.

Having just arrived in Thailand I quickly found myself falling into the exchange student stereotype of traveling every weekend and going out most nights of the week. Don’t get me wrong, it was so fun, but I felt a bit lost. Feeling like I’ve just put my life on pause, spending my life savings away with no greater purpose here but just what would make me happy RIGHT NOW.

Recently through conversations with friends and family here and back home, I realized that life is never on pause, “you are just living a different chapter of life right now”. And for me my chapter of life was to enjoy and make the most of my time here in Thailand. I also learned I can have fun, try new experiences and be a different version of myself. Just as long as I remember my core morals!

Lastly, I wanted to dedicate this post to all my new local friends. Having had the opportunity to make new Thai friends at a new church, in my Tuesday bible study, and at my host school Chulalongkorn University has just made living here that much more real! Truly the stereotype of Thai’s being one of the friendliest peoples is beyond accurate. I feel so grateful for each and every one of these new friends who I can share stories, laughs, and most importantly FOOD with :)! Thanks for welcoming us exchange students with open arms. I’m so excited for the rest of our program with these new friends and many more Thai friends to come!