The Land of Smiles…And Smile I Did

“Instill life into yourself, make mistakes, explore, find your passions, find yourself, find others, go far, go abroad.”- Patrick Junpradub

 

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At least once in every college student’s mind will the words “Study Abroad” strike us with adventure, adrenaline, fear, excitement, growth, and hardcore partying – let’s be real, study hard, party harder. We sit on the idea; we ponder, and think about the possibilities of a small collegiate world shared thousands of miles away with thousands of other students going through our same struggles, fears, and life’s wonders. For many, those beautiful possibilities and thoughts fade as they bury their minds deeper into their studies. For the lucky few that happen to lift their heads and see beyond a PowerPoint slide; the ones who look down and see yellow brick roads past their IPhone screens in hand, they continue to experience the world through every step.

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My name is Patrick Junpradub. I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand Mahidol University during my spring 2016 semester. Having paid my way to college through a part-time job since 18 (24 now), I decided to stop my routine, drop my worries in my backpack, and leave with a luggage in hand to fulfill a college goal – study abroad. It was nowhere near easy submitting my 2 weeks’ notice to my manager, and by far, was it easy picking-up shifts at work to prepare for this journey. But as everyone who goes through life says, “you can never be ready”.

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Thailand can be summed up in 1 single word, HOT; the food burns a hole through your tongue the second it dips, the blistering humid heat slaps a huge wet towel on your face the second you step off that frigid plane – makes you want to crawl back on – and the whole country is on fire with lights flashing at night, temples glistening in the day. The moment I landed, I knew I was stepping on a much different “beach” than the one I’m used to in CA.

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Thailand is a country where modern technology and cultural safe-keeps are still trying to find their mojo. You have a 40 story high rise directly next to a temple. Right next to the temple is an above ground electrically run train; and beside that, is an old foods market that has been established since the 1600’s – or even earlier – and still continues till this day. All around is a sudden clash between new and old, and in some aspects, it just works.

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And travel just outside of Bangkok; you come across an old and culturally rich city, Ayutthaya. This place was designated as a world of heritage, this amazing city lasted for many centuries dating as far back as the 1300’s. When looking at the ruined temples and buildings that once stood, you can see many burn marks on the bright red bricks. Sieged by war, and what is left of the city, it’s remarkable to even imagine how large and beautiful the city once was. I was very fortunate to be able to witness and appreciate such histories.

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Thailand’s beaches are some of the most beautiful I have ever set foot on. The water is clearer than crystal, it’s difficult to remember you’re even in the ocean and not some freshwater lake. As you walk and feel the water touch your toes, it’s surprising to realize, the water is nowhere near freezing like back home, but a nice, warm to the touch feeling.

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However, I wasn’t concerned with the beaches as much as the caves. In Phuket, Thailand, which is down towards the southern tip, you can come across the world famous islands that were featured on numerous shows, or go outside the box and canoe into sea caves.

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There was not a moment where I regretted any part of my experiences. The amount of growth I was able to do on my own, the people I met and the experiences I encountered will forever be with me. It’s difficult to resist a smile in a land filled with so much beauty. Food was in my reach at all times at such a cheap price ($2 -$3 for street food). After letting yourself take every opportunity and moment in, I felt like Jim Carrey in Yes, Man trying all the food, backpacking into hostels and meeting some of the most amazing people flying in from all over the world.

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If I could change any part of my trip, it would be my plane ticket – and stronger mosquito repellent.

Patrick Junpradub – Class of 2016

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