Global Correspondents, Semester Abroad I Used to Hear the Early Birds Sing
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March 21, 2023
Timethius Terrell, College '24
Mahidol University International College, Thailand
Timethius is one of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents writing and sharing his experience abroad during the Spring 2023 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.
The birds start chirping early in Thailand. I am honestly not sure why, but when I first arrived, I always heard them when I was lying awake at around four o’clock in the morning (I am a night owl). Even if I were trying to sleep, it would be impossible. They chirped on and on. For Westerners, it is more typical for birds to sing only near sunrise. Somehow, nature itself gave me my initial dose of culture shock.
Of course, it was not my final dose. As a student who is abroad through a special petition, I had the opportunity to design my experience with a special focus on immersion and engagement. I intentionally chose housing that would surround me with domestic students, rather than living in the condos that most international students choose.
For me, studying in Thailand is not an excuse to party with no regard for my academic performance, nor do I consider this to be a filler arc in my life story. My time here is an integral part of the main plot. Even in my short time here, my involvement in student life and extracurriculars has attracted many amazing opportunities. I have done exercises with the Debate Club. I attended every event hosted by the Board Game Club. I joined group discussions on romance and dating at Valentine’s Day. I coached Thai students as they prepared for their competitive business club interviews. I even found my way into university media and publications. More recently, I served as Head Delegate of Russia at the 2022 Model Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM).
I have created a life for myself in Thailand that is just as real and profound as the life I lived in America. Through this life, I have developed a more diverse diet (with more vegetables) and unintentionally adopted a dialect that the locals call “Thinglish”. I also have formed close relationships with intelligent, interesting people who I met in the most random ways (e.g., sitting next to them at a restaurant). I will always be an American, but I would be lying if I said my worldview remains the same while engulfed in such a different culture.
It took about a month before I got fully used to the early chirping birds. Now, I do not notice their songs at all. In a similar vein, within a month, I was fully naturalized into the Mahidol community. Living in Thailand has already become a seamless part of my overall existence.
The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.