Sa wat dii kha!
My name is Tiffany Geer and I am currently a fourth year student at San Diego State University. I played on our Division I womens soccer team for the past four seasons and have decided to celebrate the ending of my collegiate career by studying abroad at Thammasat University (TU) in Bangkok, Thailand this Spring semester!
I am majoring in communication with a minor in psychology at SDSU, but will be studying in the journalism and mass communications program while abroad at TU.
Once I made my decision to study abroad in Thailand, not a day went by that I didn’t think about it. What was really amazing to me was realizing how many people I knew, or would meet, that had traveled to or lived in Thailand. It truly is a small world after all.
After talking to various people about Thailand, I honestly hadn’t heard one bad thing from anyone. Everyone seemed to love it there which made me even more excited about my decision. One guy that I met while in Mexico with my family even told me, “If I could recommend one place for you to travel to in your lifetime, it would be Thailand.” He told me this before I had said anything about me studying abroad there. This immediately put the biggest smile on my face and made me so appreciative of the circumstances that led to me choosing to live in Thailand for six months.
I have now been in Thailand for a week and I understand why I hadn’t heard a single negative comment about this beautiful country. It certainly lives up to its nickname, “The Land of Smiles.” A lot of people stare at my friends and I, basically because we’re foreigners and we stand out, but if you smile at them, they will give you the biggest smile back. I have already met some of the most kind-hearted Thai locals within these few short days. There are two Thammasat University students that have personally positively impacted my experience drastically.
The first is Pete. I met him on my third day in Thailand when my roommate, Emma, and I went shopping for our school uniforms (yes, we wear school uniforms, and I love it). When we got to the bookstore, there were two Thammasat University students, Pete and Tatthana, there to help international students get all of the pieces to their uniform. While Emma was trying on her uniform, I talked to Pete and Tatthana. They were so welcoming and friendly – and spoke really good English (yay!) – so it made TU feel like home already.
The next day was orientation at Tha Prachan campus and both of them were there helping out once again. I was curious to see if they would remember me because I figured that they probably met so many students the day before, but when I saw them they gave me a big smile and said hi. Pete was the cameraman during the event, but at the end of orientation when a women was teaching us some Thai words/phrases, he came and sat next to me and helped me out.
I don’t think he understands how much I appreciated that because the woman was going through the words really fast and I definitely needed that extra help. Thai is a pretty difficult language to grasp so having him encourage me to pronounce words multiple times until I got it right was inspiring. Each time I’ve seen Pete on campus, he’s been nothing but friendly to me and has gone above and beyond to make me feel like I’ve already made a new Thai friend.
The second heart warming story is about a girl named Geegee. After uniform shopping, Emma and I took the hourlong school shuttle from Tha Prachan campus to the Rangsit campus to go apartment hunting. The Rangsit campus is huge so we felt immediately lost when we looked at the campus map to figure out where the apartments were.
We decided to ask the next person we saw for help, and it just so happened that we were sent an angel. I approached Geegee, only hoping that she might speak English, and asked if she could tell us how to get to the City Park apartment complex. She spoke clear English and said that she was going that way and would come with us.
Next thing we knew, it’s three hours later and she’s walked to five different apartments with us and called three others trying to see if they have any available rooms. Due to the language barrier, apartment hunting was 100 times easier with her there. She never complained about the walking, heat or anything and was determined to help us find a good place to live.
We eventually made our way to a new apartment complex, Teddy, and fell in love with everything about it. Geegee liked it, too, and said that she would totally come visit us! After having her translate between the apartment manager, getting us a six-month lease, and making sure that everything was taken care of for us to move in two days later, we took a quick taxi back into campus. She asked to be dropped off at the library, so I’m still unsure if she was actually going out of campus near the apartments or if she just said to be kind.
Either way, she was a savior and I couldn’t be more appreciative for her coming into our lives when we needed help most!
Helpful deeds like these aren’t uncommon in Thailand. Whether someone speaks clear English or none at all, they will go out of their way to try to help you. I may have only shared two stories that really stood out to me so far, but I have encountered numerous helpful people here each and every day. From the women at the market who gave me a discount on her orange juice simply because I spoke a little bit of Thai to the taxi driver at 3 am that helped us get home even after we freaked out on him because we thought he was driving the wrong way to gauge us (I still feel bad about that and, yes, we tipped him), I feel like I am surrounded by such wonderful people.
I believe that it is the collectivistic mentality of their culture that creates the Land of Smiles. Everyone helps everyone which, in the end, leaves everyone with a smile on their face. Their collectivistic culture is so inspiring and makes this country feel like home already. I am so grateful to be living in such a marvelous place and I look forward to seeing what the next 6 months have in store for me.
I’m only one week in and the Land of Smiles is leaving the biggest smile on my face at the end of each day.
Tiffany Geer is earning a bachelor’s degree in communication at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Thailand for the 2016 spring semester.