Student Stories, GRIP, Internships Abroad

Moments to Remember

August 26, 2019
By Xiong Her, GSE '20

UNESCO - Bangkok, Thailand

There are so many amazing moments as I reflect on my experiences, professionally, socially, and culturally, while living and interning with UNESCO in Bangkok, Thailand. For instance, on July 11 and 12, I assisted my team, Non-Formal Education and Literacy, on a two-day workshop to launch an online course on lifelong learning and community learning centers. This workshop allowed me to participate and co-facilitate two sessions, "Finance Adult for Lifelong Learning" and "Good Governance System," an opportunity to advocate and educate over 50 Ministry of Education officials as well as non-governmental organizations’ representatives. The workshop advocates Asian-Pacific governments to create an equitable educational platform and policy to enhance lifelong learning, allocating adequate resources and funds to build new infrastructures and facilities, and to provide human resources and professional training among others. According to UNESCO, nearly half of the countries worldwide spend less than one percent of their educational budget toward non-formal education and lifelong learning, and 63% out of 758 million adults worldwide who are illiterate live in Asia. This issue is problematic because under-privileged people do not have chances to learn and be equipped with the necessary skill sets to compete in the workforce. Therefore, the two sessions that I co-facilitated allowed me to learn from and engage participants about their countries’ efforts to collaborate with local, national, and international stakeholders to enhance systematic change and policies. This workshop taught me the importance of collaboration and partnership across different levels of power to make a real change, providing education for all.

On the cultural and social aspects, I have had opportunities to travel to and explore a couple of beautiful, unique, and rich historical sites of Thailand: Ayutthaya, the second ancient capital of Siamese Kingdom (Siam is previously known before Thailand), and Chiang Mai, a northern city of Thailand. At Ayutthaya, I visited unique monasteries and Buddhist relics that showcase the peak of Siamese cultural and economic influence and power between the 13th and 18th centuries in Southeast Asia.

On the other hand, Chiang Mai is full of diverse ethnic minority groups, vibrant cultures, and delicious food. There, I had a chance to visit a Hmong village on the mountain, encouraging me to reflect on my Hmong heritage and identity who grew up on the opposite side of the world. I explored the village and conversed with Hmong elders to better understand their lifestyles and the unique Hmong culture and traditions that have evolved over time. This encounter inspires me to continue cherishing and preserving my native Hmong language, traditions, and cultures.

Moreover, I visited an elephant sanctuary that works tirelessly to rescue elephants from abusive circus camps or riding camps. At the sanctuary, I fed and played with both baby and adult elephants. One of the most amazing moments was mud bathing with these beautiful animals, an opportunity to be a part of the wildlife and to protect and preserve these elephants’ home.

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The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce. Placements and funding awards are available.