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28

February

Our students are now in week six of their immersion experience in Thailand, putting us at our halfway point of our three months abroad. It’s amazing to see how much they have grown and how much they have accomplished in just the first six weeks.

Last week was a work intensive week as the students finished up checkpoints and projects. They wrapped up their second Thailand unit on Food & Agriculture with the organic farming homestay and site visit that we shared in our last post, and are now beginning their unit on Biodiversity & Conservation. As a part of this unit the group will travel to our campus in Luang Prabang, Laos. This excursion will focus on biodiversity and conservation issues in the region, and will include a visit to an elephant sanctuary that rescues elephants from the dangerous and abusive elephant camps that are unfortunately common to this region of the world.

This past week also included a visit from our “Thai buddies” from our first homestay! In our first homestay our students were paired up with students who were close in age to be their hosts and tour guides in the community. Our students stayed in touch with their Thai buddies and organized a visit for them to come to our campus over this past weekend.

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The students spent the day playing Thai games, which are essentially a series of relay games that require devouring certain foods at rapid rate, carrying pingpong balls with chopsticks, racing down the field with water balloons then smashing them with your bottom, and a chaotic team balloon smashing competition. After the games ended everyone cleaned up and rushed to the pool. The students enjoyed the cool water after competing and running around so much in the early afternoon. The Thai parents had accompanied their kids to the visit and they sat and smiled by the poolside as their biological kids and homestay kids (our Thrival students!) played water games together. Everyone eventually dried off and sat together for a communal dinner.

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After dinner, the approaching evening was signaling a close for our day with the Thai families who had to return back to their homes. The students completed a traditional Baci ceremony, tying bracelets on all of the students and the parents. This was following by hugs, smiles and tears all around. The final words closing words were delivered by Mr. Bryant and Alejandra. The Thai students finally bid a formal farewell and – after a round of photos and selfies – they returned home.

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In closing and to mark our halfway point, below are two reflections – one from one of our students, Rob Ramos, and one from our Director of Engagement & Experiential Learning, Louis Bryant III. Our next update will come from Laos, stay tuned! Thank you for your continued support of our brilliant global scholars.

 

A Refreshed Mind by Rob Ramos

Coming from Oakland and only wanting to stay in Oakland was my mindset before traveling to Thailand. I’m glad I was encouraged and often pressured to come on this program. It has changed my way of viewing the world and wanting to go experience different environments that I’m not used to. Going on homestays and doing school work all ties together for a reason. I really thought I wasn’t going to enjoy this experience. I was truly nervous when I first arrived here in Thailand, but the staff here at Ricefields base house was so welcoming and caring. They are part of the glue that is connecting the entire year together from Oakland to Thailand and back to Oakland in the spring. I can’t wait to share these experiences with my friends and family back in Oakland, and maybe encourage some others to try the program.

Halfway Here & Home by Louis Bryant III
As we’re halfway through this flight
And one might ponder
Or have a slight confusion to that line
Let me cite this: it’s an illusion of peace of mind
We left a piece behind
And some of us hope its ramifications are left resigned
But as we soar on such great heights
Let me brutally remind
About the remaining eyes that are open, yet blind
So, allow this to define… you
As this experience intertwined through
The basis and ingredients to your beautiful souls
Empowered to know you actually posses control
And can mold your outcomes from matter you invest
Let this halfway mark not be a source of stress
But, a reflection of how 6 weeks of progress
Has no contest
On the things you thought mattered…
As barriers once stood, a disciplined mind made it shatter.