An Adventure Full of Smiles, Wisdom, Unpredictability, and Beauty

Karen Urdaneta is a student at the Lasell College and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thailand has been an enchanting experience full of uniqueness, cultural awareness, and beauty.  I chose Thailand many different reasons:

  • To experience a world far different than my own.
  • To immerse myself in a new culture and a new way of life.
  • To go beyond fear, where creativity and passion for life reside.
  • To form meaningul relationships that last a lifetime.
  • To go outside of my comfort zone and trust in all that I have learned up to now to guide me through each day and situation.
  • Expand my mind with knowledge, diversity, and brighter horizons.

I did not know what to expect upon choosing Thailand, only that it was a world unknown to me and it’s across the world.  I said ‘yes’ to life and in turn have been blessed with friendships and moments that make me feel connected to the purpose and passion we all carry inside of us. I can proudly say all of my intentions for coming to Thailand has been realized and I have gained so much wisdom and beautiful memories since my first day arriving in Bangkok. Thailand is a world centered around a culture of food, respect, Buddhism, and simplicity.


Upon arrival to the airport, the ISA staff gave us fresh flower necklaces celebrating our arrival to Thailand!


The tallest standing Buddha in Thailand.


Ceiling of a Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. This temple is beautiful and tells the story of the Great Gautama Buddha; there is a profound sense of peace that sweeps through this sacred area.


The ISA program immersed my group in the beauty of this country by taking us on a trip to Kanchanaburi and other excursions, like volunteering to wash elephants. Also, we learned the Dos and Don’ts of the Thai culture. One example is to never point your feet at another person as the feet can considered offensive to the Thai people in some situations. Also, the King is highly regarded and respected to the Thai people therefor it is considered highly offensive to disrespect the King openly, and often comes with consequences if done so. One of my favorite customs is the Thai greeting called the ‘Wai’, which originated from the Indian gesture of greeting ‘Namaste.’ It is a bow done to others such as Monks, the elderly and people in general. There are three levels of the Wai and each is used for a specific person such as Buddhist Monks, people of superior status and someone of familiar status. Another part of the Thai culture is how the Thai people are full of smiles, even though a smile does not not always mean happiness. These cultural differences have been illuminating!


This is a group of Thai School girls who only spoke Thai but asked me to do an interview about why I liked Thailand and introduced themselves to me in English!


Thailand can test your patience, and I believe that this is a value much needed in the world of today. Thailand and its people teach you to be grateful for the simple pleasures in life, such as eating a meal with a friend or just going for a walk and enjoying the sounds of nature. Some people are never truly satisfied with their material possessions and are constantly searching for more, even if their inner spiritual world is lacking in joy and meaning. Here, I see that those with the least material possessions are often the ones that are content with what they have. I find that this contentedness comes from a place of inner abundance and a joy of being alive.


The scenery from the area we stayed in during our first excursion trip with ISA. This photo conveys the tranquility and beauty that nature provides.


I knew I did not want fear of the unknown to control my life and to choose my experiences for me. I have learned in Thailand that it does not matter what part of the globe you are at, what matters is to have an open mind and to embrace life and diversity, to celebrate one another, to cultivate compassion, and to create and seek meaningful experiences where you find yourself. We are given just one life, and Thailand is a part of my story. This chapter of my life is molding me in ways that will last a lifetime.


Victory Monument in the center of Bangkok.




Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

Leave a Reply