Thailand is one of the leading destinations for thousands of international students pursuing their higher education degrees. Every year, students from all over the world – America, Europe, Australia, Africa and other Asian countries, come to Thailand to study. The latest fiures suggest that something like 17,000 international students come here each year.
Leaving home and settling into a foreign country can be of both a good and bad experience. Good – you experience a different culture first-hand. Bad – you experience a different culture first-hand! Being thrown into a culture different from your previous experiences can be exciting as well as stressful. To get to know how coming into Thailand has been as an experience, we talked with some international students studying at Webster University, Cha-Am. Webster University, Cha-Am, is one of several study abroad opportunities away from the home campus at St. Louis, USA. The university is known for its student diversity.
The students come from places as near as Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, Nepal, India, Bhutan, China, and from as far away as Europe, Africa, Australia and America. “Thailand is rich with its aesthetic beauty in terms of nature and culture, it has a certain allure to it”, said Abishesh from Nepal, when asked why he chose Thailand for his studies. Most students, even those from the nearby countries, expressed appreciation for the culture and the people here, which somehow stood as a strong factor supporting their decision to come to Thailand for their studies.
One of the major things that concerned the students while coming into Thailand was the fact that most Thais don’t speak English. The communication barrier is one major problem that every non-Thai speaking foreigner in Thailand faces. One of the other things that concerned the students was the food. Nathan, from Vietnam, cannot eat spicy food and as most Thai food is spicy this worried him (and his stomach) greatly. Some of the students had no concerns or so you’d like to think. “I had no concerns other than the small food portions” one of the students confessed.” It’s always amazing when you meet new people and they tell you how they’ve landed; from where they were to where they are.
Hua Hin Today talked to several students at Webster and everyone had a story to tell, each different; yet they all led to the same destination. Anita from Denmark was invited by a friend and came to Hua Hin in 2011, planning to stay here only for a year. She fell in love with the place, the people and the culture. After one year passed, she couldn’t leave. Well, it’s 2015 now, and she’s still here! “The cultural diversity here, I love it! It is really exciting to experience new cultures, and the Thai culture is so different from what I’m used to and really exciting with so many nice and smiling people.”
What has surprised you the most about being a student in Thailand?
“Among the many surprises encountered in Thailand, the most significant was learning how little of Thailand the majority of the foreigners experience. Experiencing the cities and major tourist attractions in Thailand is only a small portion of the country. The majority of Thai’s live in rural country side communities, which are very different from the cities.”
What have been the most difficult issues for you to contend with?
“One of the most challenging things about living in a foreign country, particularly non-English speaking countries, is the language barrier. It can cause a lot of misunderstandings and frustrations. Thankfully, it didn’t take very long for me to learn the Thai language. I feel that as long as a person is willing to learn and practice with local residents, Thai is a pretty easy language to pick up.”
What has been the best part of your experiences?
“Meeting new people and traveling around! The people here are so nice and friendly. I find myself making a lot of friends, not only on campus but outside too. I love learning new languages from new people and learning about their culture. When exploring Thailand it can be a lot to take in but it’s totally worth it in the end.”
What do you like the most and the least about Hua Hin?
“Hua Hin is situated between the hills and the sea and has a very relaxed atmosphere. I like the tranquility that one can find here. What I like least is being mistaken for someone on holiday that that has money to throw money around left, right and centre.”
Do you think your experience here has helped you to learn to respect cultural differences?
“Yes, definitely! Everyone should go study abroad, into a different culture. It really opens up one’s mind and helps respect cultural differences.”
Will you recommend the Thailand study experience when you return home?
“The study experience in Thailand is amazing; there are so many places to visit, so many food varieties to eat, and the people are so nice. We would definitely recommend it to others.”
If you’re considering coming to Thailand for your higher studies, here are two important tips from the Webster students:
Keep an open mind
Learn the Thai language