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Students immerse themselves in Thailand

Students immerse themselves in Thailand

An Otterbein student rarely has a summer “off” as there are too many great experiences available through the university.

Students in the Senior Year Experience class The Art of Travel: Thailand traveled across Southeast Asia in May, combining volunteerism and education. These students participated in a wide variety of activities first-hand, using Thailand as their classroom.

“We started traveling on May 4 and began with a week of volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand,” said accompanying professor Shannon Lakanen. “We then moved on to Koh Chang, an island in the Gulf of Thailand, where we worked with students in a fishing village to improve their English conversational skills and learned about the impacts of mass tourism on the environment.”

As part of their travels, students created art from travel experiences by using writing and photography to chronicle and explore the significance of their three-week journey. The group experienced first-hand the effects of tourism on Thai economies and learned about the history of elephants’ paradoxical treatment in Thai society. The group returned to the United States on May 23.

“From my experience at Elephant Nature Park and everywhere else, I feel that I’ve learned how to be a better global citizen,” says Emily Klipa ’17. “It felt so amazing to help other living beings during our time at the park and I'm so grateful for the experience.”

Highlights from the course’s itinerary included visiting historically and culturally significant sites in Bangkok, exploring temple ruins at Ayutthaya Historical Park, and bathing, feeding and caring for animals at the Elephant Nature Park. Final projects were drafted during a writing retreat on Koh Chang. Students were required to draw upon their own individual perspectives from their Otterbein major and reflect on how their trip impacted Thailand and themselves.

“Often we see good being done in the world and praise it. As we should do that, we should also look at what kind of forward progress can happen. There is always more room for change,” said Michaela Miller ’17.

Lily Grace ’16 discovered just how resourceful she can and will be in the future.

“I realized that I can do a lot more than I thought. I have never cut corn stalks, built a dam or bathed an elephant. My abilities expand outside my classes and activities at Otterbein. Hard work comes in many different forms and I am now more confident in my abilities to do all kinds.”

The Art of Travel: Thailand is all about giving students an opportunity to fully see and invest themselves as members of a global society. From feeding elephants to tutoring village members in English skills, these students did just that.

“The combination of the people, the animals, the small moments, and everything in-between, I’m left in awe every day of where I was and what I was doing,” said Carli Alaura ’16. “This experience is one that touched my heart and influenced my mind.”