Reflecting on my SE Asia study abroad trip this past winter, I still cannot believe how lucky I am to have been so immersed in the culture of both Thailand & Vietnam while on my International Business Seminar program. The fact I was able to study abroad in two countries over two weeks during my Christmas break from my university was incredible, and the timeframe allowed me to coordinate taking that time off from work. I not only got to tour Thailand and Vietnam as an international student, but I also had so much fun during the trip the seminar felt like a vacation! Minus the (completely warranted) term paper at the end, which I am still working on.
Traveling in Thailand
During our time in Thailand, we got to ride in gondolas through the Damnoen Floating Market, Thailand’s first floating market. A system of canals that serve as an economic hub and marketplace for the local community and tourists alike. That very same day we visited the Maeklong Railway Market, a nickname meaning the “umbrella pull down market” for the slides and canopies that transform into marketplace booths around the local railroad. The Maeklong Railway Market is famously known for being one of the largest and freshest seafood markets in Thailand and is located right along the Maeklong Railway’s track, quite a spectacle to be seen when the train is arriving and leaving! The floating market and railroad markets were incredible; our entire group was surrounded by vibrant Thai culture and food, the ‘Land of Smiles’ captivated all of us that day.
While staying at the Rembrandt Hotel by Warwick in Bangkok, Thailand (incidentally also a company we heard an insightful lecture on and at during the tour) we were right in the thick of the city, surrounded by Thai cuisine and culture. When traveling through Bangkok as a group we got to tour the amazing Temple of the Jade Buddha & Temple of the Reclining Buddha! The craftsmanship and decor of the temples left me awestruck. We even got to peruse the beautiful flower market of Bangkok as a group, where locals buy and sell gorgeous floral bouquets and single flowers to use as religious offerings and gifts.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we traveled to Vietnam. Our very first night we went on a street food tour of Ho Chi Minh City, which was incredible! We ate delicious traditional Vietnamese fare family style as a group, it was an awesome experience to share as a whole team. We then visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, a huge network of underground tunnels used as hiding spots for Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War. It was a very moving experience to be walking the ground that so much blood was shed on, from both sides, during such a controversial war. In addition, we also visited the War Remnants Museum which gave incredible insight as to the Vietnamese perspective of the Vietnam War.
All these incredible places I visited were all in addition to the insightful company visits and lectures that comprised the course itself, and that fact blew me away as a participant. I am so happy I got to be apart of the SE Asia Seminar! My new friends and I had experiences of a lifetime while we all earned 3-6 credit hours towards our home universities undergraduate or graduate programs. And yes, I can confidently say “new friends” because after going on this trip I really gained a broad range of domestic peers from universities all over the nation. The experiences I obtained abroad changed me for the better by improving my self-awareness, instilling in me a drive to seek to understand before seeking to be understood and amplified my respect for cultures other than my own.