Miranda Brown is a student at Point Loma Nazarene University and an Fall 2015 ISA Featured Blogger. Miranda studied abroad with ISA in Bangkok, Thailand.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a senior studying business communication, writing and public relations at Point Loma Nazarene University. I’m from southern California, so I’m a huge fan of the beach, warm days, and any activity that involves exploring outside with friends. I’ve always been interested in traveling and learning about other cultures and languages, and studying abroad has been the perfect opportunity to see the world and have life-changing experiences while earning my degree.
2. You already studied abroad once in college. What drew you to go abroad again–and this time to Thailand?
Yes! I studied abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica the spring of my sophomore year. It was an incredible time, and I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to travel again in college. My school’s global studies office was very helpful in making that happen. My advisor recommended ISA’s program in Bangkok, which fit perfectly with my budget and the classes I needed. Traveling is an incredible opportunity to better understand the world and to grow as a person. I was open to studying anywhere, but I was drawn to Thailand because of its unique culture, food, religion and natural beauty.
3. What has surprised you most about studying abroad in Bangkok?
I could write an entire blog about how Bangkok has challenged my assumptions. Where I actually live and study is a bit outside Bangkok, so it’s been nice to have access to the city without being overwhelmed by all it all the time. I’ve been surprised by how quickly I’ve gotten used to things here, like finding ways to communicate despite the language barrier. Prices are so cheap here – most of my meals are around $1, I’ve booked a round-trip plane ticket for $32, and you can get an hour-long Thai massage for $6. And then there’s random things I see every day that surprised me – 7-Elevens are on every corner, Pad Thai isn’t as popular as I thought it would be, and cars drive on the left side of the road. I’ve also been surprised by how people here have gone out of their way to be friendly and hospitable, whether it’s a stranger helping me with directions, or our housekeeper Papin taking us to visit her temple on the weekend.
4. Can you tell us about the ISA excursions that you’ve been on with the group?
As soon as we got off the plane, our advisor Aaron (or P’A as we call him) took us on a week-long whirlwind of a trip to introduce us to Thailand. We rode elephants, hiked to waterfalls, toured temples and museums, browsed a local floating market, and tried so many kinds of Thai food. That first week was packed full, and it taught me so much about Thailand before I even started the semester. Halfway through the term, we went to Pattaya, where we explored an island, went to a turtle conservatory and visited an art museum. It has been so nice to be here with ISA, not just because of the excursions, but because we have a built-in support system to help us adjust and find our way in a new country.
5. Where have you traveled in southeast Asia thus far?
So far, I’ve spent most of my time in Thailand since there’s so much to see here! A few weeks ago, I went to Indonesia with a few friends, and it was incredible. I’ve met a few exchange students at Mahidol who are from Indonesia, so they gave us some recommendations on where to go. We stayed with a local family in Ubud, Bali for a few days, and they took us on a tour to some beautiful temples, a monkey forest sanctuary, and a gorgeous black sand beach. We went on a bike tour through some beautiful Balinese villages and rice fields. Then we spent a few days on the Gili Islands, where we snorkeled, scuba dived and took a yoga paddleboard class – it was the most clear and beautiful water I’ve ever seen. My semester’s going by too quickly, but I’m planning on making it to Cambodia and Vietnam in the next few weeks.
6. How are your classes at the Mahidol University?
Of course, it would be nice if my weekend trips could last forever, but I do have to actually go to class every week. Mahidol is a pretty impressive university, and it’s one of Thailand’s most prestigious schools. The campus is gorgeous, there’s always clubs and events going on, and it’s a great opportunity to meet Thai students. All of my classes are a mix of Thai and international students, and I love hearing perspectives from multiple cultures in all of my subjects. My favorite class is Principles of Marketing, and we’re developing a marketing campaign for a local Floral Culture Museum for our final project.
7. What’s the craziest thing you’ve eaten? What’s the most amazing scenery that you’ve stumbled upon?
Well, this morning I had noodle soup with chicken feet, just as an example. I’ve eaten a few fried bugs, green noodles, blue rice, and there have been so many times when I have no idea what I’m putting in my mouth. But overall, Thai food is absolutely delicious and I haven’t missed California burritos nearly as much as I thought I would.
As for scenery, that’s a difficult question because I’ve seen so many beautiful things here. When I was in Chiang Mai, we visited the twin pagodas at a national park called Doi Inthanon. We were close to the highest peak in Thailand, and these pagodas were perched above the clouds. The buildings themselves were gorgeous; the king’s pagoda was brown and the queen’s as purple, and both were covered with intricately designed murals. Standing on top of them, you could see this gorgeous flower garden down the stairs, and then the clouds and rolling green mountains in the distance. The whole place felt incredibly peaceful.
8. Would you recommend your experience to other students? Why study in Thailand?
Absolutely! I am so happy with my decision to study here, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I feel so lucky to have experienced a new part of the world while in college. Go to Thailand if you want to challenge yourself with something outside your comfort zone. You’ll try new things every day and constantly challenge your assumptions of how the world works. You’ll experience adventure and beauty, and you’ll meet the most interesting and kind people. Thailand is so many things – it’s both modern and traditional, and it can be peaceful or overwhelming. It’s really what you make it. Go with an open mind, and choose to show up and enjoy every day you’re there. You won’t leave the same.