Mason Wallace is a student at the Northern Michigan University. He is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Bangkok, Thailand.
The first step off of a plane and into a brand new country is one of the most exhilarating feelings to ever experience. It is both exciting and scary at the same time, and all it takes to experience that feeling is an open mind and a craving for adventure. Now that I have settled into my school and made friends in Bangkok, Thailand, I have become fascinated with witnessing a new culture as I immerse myself head first.
Food for the faint of heart
It is definitely not easy to mix sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavors all into a single dish that will leave your taste buds dancing off your tongue, but Thai cuisine gets the job done. Street vendors can be found almost anywhere, with prices that some will think are too good to be true. If you’re not a fan of Thai food, don’t sweat it because food from across the globe can usually be found all on the same street. Another great option for a delicious treat is to head over to one of the numerous markets that offer all the fruit you could possible want– mangoes, coconuts, pineapples, durians, and many more. Finally, when it’s late and everything is closed, a quick run to a 7-11 never hurts. Finding one is never a difficult task as they usually are every fifty feet, sometimes even right next to each other.
Time is merely just a number
As I quickly found out, the only thing that runs on time here in Thailand is the airport. This is all thanks to a concept known as “Thai time.” Basically, when something has a time listed, it is only a simple suggestion. The real time could be anywhere from 20-50 minutes after the posted time and sometimes even later. At first, this was rather difficult concept to grasp, but I’m nothing if not adaptable, and over time I’ve grown accustomed to the idea. Thai time seems like night and day compared to the United States, where everything is timed to the very second. With a schedule filled from early in the morning until late at night with class, work, and extracurricular activities, coming to Thailand and not having to worry about being punctual is a much enjoyed break.
A new political scene
While no stranger to a volatile political environment where a president uses social media to address citizens and defeated opponents publish book after book and appear on talk show after talk show to try and explain “what happened,” I had to quickly become acquainted to living under a stricter society. Civil liberties, such as freedom of expression, are extremely restricted with the goal of creating uniformity among all citizens. I was eating lunch with some of my Thai classmates and I was shocked to learn they have never simply googled their current king or military leader. After discussing the topic for a few minutes I felt one of the Thai students summed up the situation perfectly when he said, “The less I know the better because knowing myself, I would let something slip out and that would be the end of me.” This was a frightening response to hear for someone coming from a society in which you are able to do and say almost anything you wish.
It is easy to see that from food to time management and even government structure, no two places could ever be the same. But that’s all part of the process. While one might have entered into a new and unfamiliar place already with a set of values and ideas, it is safe to say by departure time, the only thing that will remain the same is the place from where you came.
Your discovery, our people…the world awaits.