Laney Sears is a rising junior majoring in environmental science with a concentration in energy and sustainability. She shares her experience at the Thailand Field Site in the postcard below.
Why did you want to go to the Thailand Field Site?
This program is very unique in that it is seven months long. You get to experience a semester abroad and a summer of research. I wanted to do this field site because it allows for students to really invest time into being in the culture and learning about Thai people and their lifestyles. It also offered research and classes in the energy field that interested me. It is one of the longest and most immersive study abroad programs, you live and interact with local people every day while gaining knowledge in your major.
What specifically are you doing in Thailand?
The classes start in January and continue until mid-May. These classes are energy and sustainability related such as energy economics and environmental chemistry. In January capstone groups and topics are chosen and groups begin researching. The research becomes more intensive after May and goes until you leave at the end of July. The research is mentored by staff at the University and can be on a variety of subjects. My research group looked at waste utilization in the palm oil industry. We looked at ways to utilize the waste as cleaner forms of energy or new products. The research is finished and presented in July.
What has been the most impactful experience you’ve had while in Thailand?
We had the opportunity to attend many energy conferences, one being the ASEAN energy conference. It was really interesting to see in person how leaders in Southeast Asia are dealing with current energy related issues. This gave us a lot of insight as to what people are doing career wise in this field and how other countries view energy issues. It was also extremely impactful to live in a small community in Bangkok where we got to know so many people and learn about their lives and create relationships with them.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve taken away from your experience in Thailand?
I have learned that it pays off to put effort into learning about another culture and interacting with people who have different lifestyles. It was intimidating to be in a country that I did not know much about and could not speak the language. When I started putting in effort to learn the language and be outgoing it was rewarding to create relationships with the people I lived around and went to school with. They appreciated that we were putting in the effort to communicate and understand them.
Do you have any advice for other students who are considering going to the Thailand Field Site?
They should know the experience is what they make it. If they put in a lot of effort into learning the culture, being attentive in classes, and investing in the research they will get a lot out of this program. Seven months is a very long time so you have to be ready to take on challenges like communication and be flexible with the lifestyle. This program is extremely rewarding for those that are willing to embrace a new lifestyle. This program offers a lot of chances to learn and grow as a person.