Books · Culture · Thailand · Travel

5 Things I Learnt Through Studying at a Thai University.

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Sawatdee Kha!

I’ve spent the last three amazing and slightly exhausting months at Mahidol University in Bangkok. I’ve studied Creative Writing; Comparative Literature: Short Story and the Novel; and Media, Communication, Art and Socio-cultural Perspectives in Southeast Asia, thanks to my New Colombo Plan Scholarship.

Here are five things I have learnt through my experience at Mahidol University…

1. Thai university students wear uniforms.

Yes, uniforms! I felt like I had gone back to high school. White collared shirt, pleated skirt and belt. It wasn’t comfortable, wasn’t flattering and wasn’t forgiving of coffee spills.

On the upside though, it took me far less time to get ready in the morning as I didn’t have to decide what to wear.

2. There is some great literature coming from Southeast Asia.

Browsing the libraries at Mahidol, I found a treasure-trove of contemporary novels, folklore, poetry and short stories from Southeast Asian authors. Why are these books not readily available in Australian libraries?

It seems we are missing out on some rich, diverse and fascinating stories. I would love to see more stories written by Southeast Asian authors available in Australia, allowing us to see the world in new ways, explore different countries though books and gain a greater understanding of Southeast Asian culture.

3. If you love food, Thailand is the place to study.

The canteen at Mahidol University had so much food!!! Even for a vegetarian such as myself, there were plenty of tasty options. Most meals cost between $1 – $2 AUD.

There was also a stall with some of the freshest fruit I have ever had, with dragonfruit, pineapple, rock melon, mango and plenty more (tip: pineapple dipped in a mix of salt, sugar and dried chilies is amazing). I was a bit addicted!

4. I talk a lot.

I really didn’t know this before!

In most of my classes, many of the students were quiet and polite, and not too keen to join in class discussions. This was one of my greatest challenges, as I realized I love to talk about things I’m passionate about.

In some classes, the teacher would ask a question and often there was silence. I answered quite a few questions, but really wanted to hear what other students had to say too, so tried to stay quiet at times. Although, sometimes my teacher would see that I wanted to answer, and say, “Not you Sara, I know you know the answer!”.

My class on Socio-cultural Perspectives in Southeast Asia was an exception though, with many loud and funny film students making class discussions a lot of fun.

5. Our neighbours are lovely!

I have lived in places in Australia where I haven’t known my neighbours. At the time, I was a new mum. I often felt lonely and isolated.

I have also lived in Australian communities where I can pop into my neighbour’s house for a cup of tea, swim in another neighbour’s pool and have monthly BBQ’s with everyone in my village.

Life is so much more wonderful when we connect!

Here in Australia, we are lucky to be surrounded by our lovely neighbours of the Indo-Pacific region. By connecting with our neigbours, we can make our society more inclusive, diverse, and interesting!

I’m lucky to have made some fantastic friends from Thailand and surrounding Indo-Pacific countries at Mahidol. We have laughed, shared advice, learnt about each other’s countries and eaten ice cream; and my life is all the more richer for this.

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My gorgeous friend Hana.

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