Exploring the rich and diverse culture of South East Asia draws Tulane students to study abroad in Khon Kaen, Thailand, through two CIEE programs: Community Public Health; and Development and Globalization. Khon Kaen is about six hours north of Bangkok and serves as a hub for educational and entrepreneurial development, although Tulane senior Anna McCaffery describes the city as “more rural than not”. McCaffery, a Public Health and Biology major who completed the Community Public Health program, says that “everyday [abroad] was different”. Students take class at the University of Khon Kaen, and also spend time in the field, visiting “HIV clinics, village health centers, various hospitals, and communities impacted by unique public health problems.” McCaffery found the most engaging part of her coursework to be the field practicum, in which students live with a Thai host family and conduct field research through interviews and focus groups with the local community.
The city is located in the North-Eastern region of Thailand, which has retained many traditional Thai customs while also gaining influence from the bordering Lao culture. The food offered is often traditional Thai cuisine, although Western food can be found if you look hard enough. Anna’s favorite dishes included “Som Tam” (a green papaya salad), “Guy Yang” (grilled Thai chicken, yellow and green curries from the University Center), and a wide assortment of fresh fruits. Most students according to McCaffery budgeted about 100 Baht (Thai currency) a day, which equates to about three US dollars.
The conversion rate between US Dollars to Thai Baht offers a lot of opportunity with more than just food. Travel costs and airfare within Thailand and to neighboring South-East Asian countries such as Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam is relatively inexpensive, allowing students to take full advantage of the diverse countries around them. Anna travelled to Chiang Mai, another northern city famous for ornate Buddhist temples and provincial mountains. Anna’s favorite beach she travelled to was Railay beach in Krabi, Thailand. Railay is home to serene beaches, amazing rock climbing, and the occasional run in with monkeys. Other surrounding areas that are full of travel opportunities are Pai and Chiang Rai in Thailand, and Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Student housing transitions from community visits, to home stays, to the more long-term apartment-style housing in which Tulane students live with a Thai roommate; offering another layer of cultural immersion to one’s abroad experience. McCaffery commented that she “loved [her] abroad experience because it was so immersive”; the language barrier present in Khon Kaen requires students to practice and refine their Thai language skills. The program is “definitely a more rural study abroad location”, which attracts the open-minded individual, or could bring out your rustic spirit you may not know existed.
Photos: Anabelle Golden
COVER GRAPHIC: Emery Gluck