Allison Hemhauser received an Anthropology Fieldwork Award during Summer 2013 to attend the NCSU ethnographic field school in Thailand. Her perspective on the experience is below.
Prior to studying abroad in Thailand this summer, I had never been to Asia. In fact, I had somewhat of a limited knowledge of Asian history and culture as my studies up to this point had been focused on the geographic region of Latin American. I chose to study abroad in Thailand for this very reason; to expand my knowledge of cultures outside my own familiarity.
NCSU’s summer study abroad program in Thailand offered me a unique, independent learning experience. Not only was I learning about the history, cultures, and people of Southeast Asia in a classroom setting, but I was also completely surrounded by and immersed in it on a daily basis. This program also taught ‘hands-on’ ethnographic research methods which required us to go out and navigate the city, talk to local Thais, and learn how to gather information. Dr. Wormsley has created, what I believe to be, an excellent example of what a study abroad program should be.
Just as New York City is called the ‘big apple’ and Paris the ‘the city of love’, the country of Thailand is known as the ‘land of smiles’. After spending six weeks completely immersed in the culture of this beautiful country, I understand why. It’s easy to see why people visit Thailand, fall in love with not only the country but the people, and never return home. Generally speaking, Thais are quiet, conservative, and non-confrontational. They are respectful, gentle, and proud. This demeanor is quite different from anything I had previously experienced and I found this way of living to be quite inspiring. I believe that these experiences which prompt intellectual and personal growth are one of the most attractive and moving aspects for those who have studied abroad.
It’s been said that Thai people ‘never forget a tourist’. I hope someday to find out whether or not this is true. One thing is for sure, I know I will never forget the wonderful people and places I encountered during this amazing summer abroad. I hope someday to return to Thailand for both personal travel as well as further ethnographic studies.
Allison’s experience was made possible, in part, by donations made to the Anthropology Fieldwork Award fund. If you would like to contribute to student opportunities such as Allison’s, please see our website at http://sociology.cofc.edu/giving/index.php.