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University of Missouri

Being uncomfortable promotes growth

by Marie F.

I had no idea what to expect whenever I studied abroad in Thailand for a semester. There were some idealistic preconceptions that came to my mind whenever I imagined being on the other side of the planet. In a way, I had this view that throughout my journey I would unravel and absorb what the world had to teach me.

At the beginning of being in Thailand, I was excited, nrvous and uncomfortable. I liked being comfortable. Being comfortable was what ignited strong points of growth throughout my trip. The time zone change of a 12 hour difference really took a toll on me at first and I had never sweated so much in my entire life. At the beginning, I was definitely a tourist staring like a deer in the headlights, mouth open, taking everything in. It was definitely a jolt to my system; the intense food with powerfully delicious spices and insanely hot weather. During our first presentation, a group of 30 plus students sat upstairs and watched a PowerPoint after eating. Running on one hour of sleep, I nearly passed out around a bunch of strangers that soon became family. I remember thinking, “This is going to be harder on my body than I thought.”

I lived in Salaya, Thailand, about 30 to 45 minutes west of Bangkok. Salaya was developing rapidly, especially becuase of the influx of students. I attended Mahidol University, which was about 10 minutes down the main road by bus. Famously, Soi Bann Tangsin was the international street, and the upper-middle class Thai studentss main whereabouts.

The taxi drivers always said the name whenever we came to the street, but the accent was so heavy and vastly differed between drivers that no one really knew what was being said. Body language was a huge indicator of what needed to be communicated. Thailand is the only southeastern Asian country that has never been colonized. Thai people knew more English than flang (foreigners) knew Thai, which was practically nothing. The language barrier was, at times, hilarious, but also extremely frustrating for both participants.

Being able to give directions in Thai was key becuase taxi drivers were pretty much your only transportation. Tourists and the general population in Thailand heavily depend on taxis — especially those in suburban to urban settings. There were taxi [syndicates] in every location I visited in Thailand. The police bled into various taxi [syndicate] groups and controlled the operation through law enforcement. I wasn’t necessarily bad or good, just the way things were.

Thai people are especially non-confrontational in a physical manner. It’s impolite to show any public acts of physical aggression, even raising your voice too loudly. There’s a sense of strong fmailial ties that run deep through the community. Who you know matters much more than what you do for a living. Thai people were content with what they had and always worked with an overall acceptance of the ebb and flow of the world. I really admire this about them.

There’s such a thing called “Thai Time”, which sometimes frustrates foreigners and takes them quite a while to get used to. Instead of rushing through their day, Thai people view that day as being completely new and independent, so they take time for what they view to be the most important thing to accomplish. Of course, Thai people stick to a professional schedule based on their occupation, but if rest or runing errands throuhgout the day is necessary for their mental or physical healthy, people will make the decision to relax or do something off schedule. So, while living in Thailand I expected a 15 minute buffer before any scheduled event, whether it was riding a bus up north, going to class, grabbing something to eat or meeting people somewhere. This taught me to remain in the present moment and go with the ebb and flow that particular day had to offer.


About the blogger

Marie F. is studying abroad on the ISA: Mahidol University program in Bangkok, Thailand.

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