May 2012 saw me shocked and super pleased upon getting this good news: A two-year scholarship grant from ASEAN University Network to study M.A. Korean Studies, a joint international program of Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and Seoul National University in Korea. This month also saw me frantically tying a lot of loose ends at work and school, packing my bags for Thailand, and spending time with my family and friends. So yes, this is my second masters degree.
June 2012 was a period of adjusting to a new culture and a new set of people. As I learned the hard way, living in Thailand as a tourist and living in Thailand as an international student are two entirely different things. I enjoyed my vacation here years ago, and assumed that people will be the same — extremely cordial and knowledgable of English (well, the tour guide and everything tourist-related, at least). But I was wrong. Thai people are nice, yes, but conversing in a deep and meaningful can be quite a challenge.
Aside from the large gap in our levels of English, I observed that Thai people prefer to speak in Thai. And our definition of hospitality is different. In the Philippines, we make an effort to speak in straight English in the presence of foreign friends so that they won’t be left out. Either that, or we make an effort to translate conversations that have taken place in Filipino into English, to make them feel included in the group. In Thai, there is no such thing. They won’t mind if you don’t understand anything, or if you feel excluded and awkward. I’ve witnessed and experienced this countless times–enough to make me re-think my view of my own culture (i.e. to see the great things about my own culture).
But I’m okay now. I’d like to think I’ve gotten past this awkward stage in my Thailand adventure. I’ve made many Thai and international friends during my stay here. During the past six months, these are what I’ve been up to:
Making new friends
Learning from Korean professors from Seoul National University and Thai professors from Chulalongkorn University
Attending international academic conferences
Helping out in school activities
Taking part in Thai festivals
Traveling around Thailand (every international student’s secret motivation for studying abroad, hahaha!)
But my adventure does not end here. Everything is still unfolding. I still have my exchange program in Seoul next year, as well as plans to present my papers in more international conferences. And also, there’s that thing about producing the most kickass thesis and learning Korean language as fast as Korea reached first world status. Wish me luck! ^^