I'm Kia Young, a senior mechanical engineering student at North Carolina A&T State University, and I studied abroad in Thailand.
Thailand was never initially on my radar of places to go. My first choice was Hong Kong, China. However, after being informed that the school I'd applied to had reached their exchange student quota, I started considering other options. Thorough research of other Asian countries led me to Thailand. I was mainly drawn in because of the country's beautiful landscapes and the tales of adventure other travelers had expressed. Today, I’m so thankful that my first choice did not work out. The semester I spent in Thailand was the best time of my life!
To this day I’ve traveled to Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Singapore, and Vietnam, but Thailand is the place that truly left its mark in my heart. Being there for five months allowed me to gain a true connection. Every day I wish I could pack up and go back for another semester, but since I can't I always think about all the memories I miss:
being free and taking trips to new places every weekend.
the journeys we took to get to different islands, and that
time we raced our motorbikes up a winding mountain
road to catch a breathtaking sunset.
the fruit stand I stopped at every morning to buy pineapple,
dragon fruit, and papaya for 10 baht each ($0.30).
eating delicious street food, and risking my life with the
different spice levels,
getting Thai massages on campus, and the lady who always
laughed at me for being ticklish.
the accessibility of cheap public transportation, and the
motorcycle taxis that sped us to class when we were late.
the crazy taxi drivers whom we tried to have conversations
with in Thai for practice. Even though most conversations
went something like:
driver: Kao jai mai?
me: Mai kao jai
going to Khaosan Road to mingle with other “farangs" from
around the world. And that hidden gem of a coffee shop we
found nestled behind souvenir shops.
that trip to Phu Kradueng and the night we hiked to a cliff,
in the freezing cold, wrapped up in blankets, just to stargaze
for hours. That was the first time in my life seeing the
Milky Way in person.
that trip we took to Khao Yai, and how it got dark and started
raining before we pitched our tent. And how could I forget the
leeches we found on us that sparked paranoia throughout the
the Chatuchak market and other street vendors selling
EVERYTHING you can think of: food, clothes, electronics,
mattresses, souvenirs, fried insects, etc.
the smiles, and the Thais who tried to help us even though they
could not speak a single word of English.
being able to use the Thai words I learned, and the proud feeling
that came after managing to order food or get to the correct
destination without English.
seeing monks in orange robes everywhere, and the sound of
singing that drifted from the Buddhist temple near my dorm room
to put me to sleep every night.
the time my mom came to visit and almost missed her flight home!
After all that, what I miss most are the Thai and exchange students I grew to know over those five months. All of us came to Thailand alone, with zero expectations, to experience a culture almost completely different from our own. For a whole semester, people who were just as spontaneous and adventurous as I am surrounded me. I loved it! We actually just had a reunion trip in Europe this past summer. My Japanese roommate became one of my closest friends, and I will be visiting her home soon.
Studying abroad was a life-changing experience. Thailand influenced me in ways I can't even begin to explain. I wish everyone could at least get the same opportunity. I know many students think about doing it, only to hesitate and give up. My advice is: don't let fear stop you. It takes a lot of grunt work, but the study abroad coordinator on your campus is there to help you. The entire process of studying abroad is worth it once you get there. Just pick a country and start planning!