DEXTER REFLECTS ON SEMESTER ABROAD

 

 

Students decide to study abroad for a variety of reasons.  Maybe they are studying a language and want to immerse themselves in the culture.  Or they could simply be interested in traveling and seeing as much of the world as possible.  Whatever the motivation, UCA students have the opportunity to study abroad through one of UCA’s many partner schools agreements.

Currently, UCA has 22 students abroad and has semester exchange partner schools in South America, Europe and Asia.  In the fall semester of 2017, Lauren Dexter was one of four UCA students who spent their semester studying in another country alongside other international students and locals.  A senior business minor from Bentonville, Arkansas, Dexter studied at Mahidol University International College in Thailand. While abroad, Dexter took business courses taught in English.  Most of UCA’s partner universities offer English-taught courses.

“Compared to the American school system, Thailand was pretty laid back,” she said. “The classes were definitely structured to help the Thai students with interpersonal skills, so we had a lot of group projects.”

When she wasn’t in class, Dexter was traveling.  Dexter said she the majority of her travel was within Thailand; however, she did venture off into Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, as well.

“One of the things I liked most was how open my experience was,” Dexter said. “I had a lot of freedom to go where I wanted and to plan my own trips.  Thailand was really cool and so inexpensive. I was able to travel to another country for maybe $10, so every weekend we could travel to a new place.”

For students considering a semester at Mahidol University, Dexter recommends doing some research beforehand.  “I would make a bucket list of places you’d be interested in visiting,” she said. “Keep in mind, you’ll still be a student, so you need to plan around being in classes.  I lost so much sleep staying up Wednesday nights booking arrangements and then leaving for the trips right after class on Thursday. If I would’ve already known countries I wanted to visit, I could’ve booked earlier and saved myself a lot of time and stress in the process.”

Students who decide to study at Mahidol are encouraged to take a Thai language and culture class offered by the university.  Dexter also recommends writing down a few basic phrases in Thai.

“I didn’t realize they have two versions of the Thai language—one is written with English letters and the other in Thai symbols,” Dexter said. “Before you leave, have some basic things written out in the symbols.  I would keep a card with your name, address and phone number on it, if anything, for safety so you’ll always be able to get home no matter where you are at. Not everyone can read the English letters, but if you have directions written in the symbols, they may be able to help.”  

Overall, Dexter said Thailand was unlike anything she’d ever experienced before.  “The campus was beautiful and had a mix of different nature elements. It reminded me of the rainforest, but there were also palm trees,” she said.  “It was nice, for me, to visit somewhere I didn’t have preconceptions about. I was learning a new culture in addition to what I was learning in school.  My semester was a cool, unique experience I’ll keep with me forever.”