Studying Thailand’s development, globalization and culture close up

Submitted by Carolyn Arnold, Associate Director, Marketing & Communications on June 26, 2014

IMG_1127 copyWhen asked about her study abroad experience in Khon Kaen, Thailand, Astrid Quinones ’14 said three words could sum up her experience: peace, compassion, and growth.

At Fairfield, Quinones chose an Individually Designed Major that focused on social work and justice and also declared minors in peace and justice; women, gender, and sexuality studies; and philosophy.

The combination set her up well for studies in Thailand, where she participated in an alternative study program under the Council of International Educational Exchange in a development and globalization program.

“Everyday was different, Quinones said. “We had Thai language class, lectures, group discussions, Quaker meetings, trips to villages all over the Isaan region and more. Thailand was full of surprises.”

During her program, Quinones learned about the history and economic developmental issues that have shaped Thailand from professors and guest speakers in class. Outside of class she visited village communities around the Northeastern region of Thailand and interviewed villagers, government officials, and non-government organizers to get an in-depth look at the country.

The hands-on, intensive experience changed Quinones views on many things.

“The first Thai phrase I learned continues to motivate me,” said Quinones. “It’s ‘put their hearts in our hearts.’ This taught me that when trying to help others, one must think of how it will be beneficial to them, taking into consideration their morals, values, beliefs, and customs.

Living in Thailand introduced Quinones to many experiences, from delicious spicy food to trips to elephant sanctuaries. But her favorite experience was meeting the Thai people.

“Each home stay reminded me of how universal love is,” she said. Each “meh” or host mom that I had showed me so much care and love even though we could not communicate in the same language. Every smiling child and passionate community activist showed me that Thailand is a truly beautiful place.”

Looking back on her experience, Quinones was happy to say that she had grown in many ways and hopes that other students will be inspired to travel to Thailand.

“I would say you need two things: an open mind and an adventurous soul,” she said. “Everything that is asked of you in this program is challenging, not only in academics, but also because it is truly testing your ideas and perspectives of the world and encouraging individual growth and discovery. Take every moment as an opportunity to learn something new.”

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