How is this possible, for time to pass without warning me that I would crave more?
I am one of 300 other students in the Puey Ungphakorn Library at Thammasat University today, just a few days away from the start of our finals. The sunshine pours through the windows, but we are enjoying the cool air conditioning — it’s 98 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). All of our laptops and textbooks are open, but some students are laughing with friends or fast asleep on the desks.
The academic portion of this study abroad experience is nearing its finale on May 16 — that’s way too soon. Time passed so quickly here. Instead of introducing myself to new classmates, I’m preparing for my final exams by reviewing my professors’ handouts and attending my last group meetings.
These last four months have radically impacted my view on my home. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to step away from my home and understand more about people’s perceptions of it.
Life Moves Quickly Once You’re Abroad
Because I couldn’t neatly tuck my dog or best friends into my luggage, it was up to me to stay connected with my home in San Diego. I text everyone back home often, sometimes staying up later just to chat at convenient times for them. I keep my social media up to date as well, but I scrolled through the feeds for hours, wondering what everyone else was up to. I had to video chat with my sister while my dog passed away; I had to send out updates for my family via text; and I had to watch the Aztec Winter Guard’s performances from my laptop instead of performing with them. It’s tough.
To counter the homesickness that would rise up even mid-semester, I focused on the friendships that I established with my friends and my host family. Sure, I didn’t have my sister to give advice on my outfit, but I could ask one of my friends out here while we shopped. Creating wild, adventurous memories with my friends ensured that I fulfilled the third tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Love and Belonging. We laughed over the sillier topics and discussed the profound, worldwide concepts. These are six short months for friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.
Representing My Home
I felt like a foreigner for the first month, which is nothing new to any other exchange student. After Thai language mishaps and noticing my American clothing style in comparison to my peers’ styles, I slowly began to understand more and more of student life here.
My classmates also learned more about San Diego through me. While some classmates have lived in America, I answered questions from classmates about the country — our politics, style, food, opinions and all. It seems like I represent Southern California or the West Coast, depending on who I am with, considering that my other friend is from the South — North Carolina, specifically. Of course, I am thrilled to share my experiences, but this also helped me understand how others feel when they’re faced with difficult questions. I couldn’t possibly explain everything about Trump, collusion or the trade war, but I tried to help my classmates understand from my point of view.
Telling people more and more about my hometown makes me realize how blessed I am to live in San Diego, with its coastal climate and variety of cultures. I am counting down the days until I can enjoy a beach bonfire or devour some street tacos; soon I will watch the lazy sunsets from the Torrey Pines cliffs.
I will travel to southern Thailand and northern Vietnam before returning home, and with my new international friendships, I know I’ll be back in Bangkok or on a plane to Amsterdam or Prague soon enough!
Enjoy this snippet of beauty from Thailand! I’ll write again soon.
Mariah Hugo is a third-year student majoring in journalism with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in leadership. The San Diego native is studying at Thammasat University in Rangsit, Thailand.