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Thrival Academy: Oakland’s trailblazing global scholars arrived in Thailand on January 19th and are now just beginning their third full week of immersion and study abroad. After months of preparation – both academic and social-emotional – our students landed here in Thailand and dove headfirst into the experience, demonstrating from day one that their thoughtful, self-reflective preparation has set them up to be open and deeply present. Throughout our time in Thailand we will share our students’ experiences through photographs and through their words. Below are some highlights from our first weeks in Thailand.

Welcome to Thailand and to the Ricefields campus 

Students were welcomed to our Thailand campus, known as the Ricefields, through a traditional Baci ceremony. The staff  at the Ricefields tied strings onto our students’ wrists to welcome them and to bring them good luck.


Welcoming our Thrival Global Scholars to the Ricefields campus in Thailand


Using the Thai greeting – the “wai” – to greet each other

Staff at the Ricefields campus tying strings during the Baci ceremony


Sharing Meals 

Our students visiting the home of P’Chet, one of our Thailand Program Facilitators, to share a traditional Isan meal with him and his family.  The food is shared family-style and eaten sitting on mats on the floor.


Isan meal


Phibunrak Village Homestay Visit

Students participated in homestays in a nearby village where they stayed with a local Thai family for 3 nights. Our students accompanied their families and “Thai buddies” (school-aged children in their host family) for the entire time, visiting a Buddhist temple, fishing, attending school, helping to teach English at school, preparing meals with their host moms, and immersing themselves into family life in Thailand. This homestay was the culminating experiential learning for the students’ first interdisciplinary unit in Thailand – Thai Culture & Values. One component of their final project included conducting, analyzing, and sharing themes from an interview with one of their Thai family members. Students brought their current understand of Thai culture and values into the interview, while also being mindful of the danger of a single narrative of a culture. Students have just begun their second unit, which is focused on food and agriculture and will include a homestay visit in a farming community that has shifted in recent years to organic farming. Through this next homestay immersion our students will explore the complexity of food and agriculture systems in Thailand, specifically the decisions farmers make as they weigh the economic, social, environmental and health tradeoffs inherent in the choice between conventional (chemical) and organic farming techniques. Stay tuned for updates from this experience!

Thrival Global Scholars & their Thai homestay family

Thrival Global Scholars & their Thai homestay family

Thrival Global Scholars & their Thai homestay mom

Thrival Global Scholars & their Thai homestay mom

Phibunrak School

Thrival Global Scholars & students from the Phibunrak School

Teaching English at Phibunrak School

Teaching English at Phibunrak School


Learning to fish with Thai homestay families

Fishing with Thai homestay families

Fishing with Thai homestay families



A Letter Home to Our Families | By Alejandra Cueva, Thrival Global Scholar

Sawatdee ka! We miss you guys! However, I have had so much fun in these first few weeks. We all just got back from an amazing homestay where we all stepped out of our comfort zones and got to experience real Thai culture by staying with a family for 4 days. Those families welcomed us into their homes with open arms and treated us like their own children. During this homestay we went fishing, taught an English camp, visited temples, and went to a Thai Museum. Those 4 days were packed and tiring, but it was worth it because I enjoyed every minute of it. We lived like Thai people and there isn’t any other better way to get an experience than at first hand. I especially enjoyed the English camp because we all got to teach English to the students at the PhiBoonrak School while playing games and still laughing along with the students. And I know this homestay marked a special moment in our lives because of all the love and joy shared to us in such a short period of time. We can’t wait to share more moments! 


Reflections from Our First Homestay | By Andres McDade, Thrival Global Scholar

My experience with studying abroad in Thailand so far has been something I keep enjoying each day. Our first homestay was one of the most memorable experiences thus far. My peers and I were grouped with a family and learned more about Thai culture through their daily lives. At first, I was nervous about going through that experience, but both the family and the community did their best to make sure we felt comfortable and welcomed. By the time the homestay was over I felt like I actually made a connection with my host family and a few members from the community. One thing that surprised me while I was there was how close and comfortable everyone was with one another and how people knew almost everyone. One challenge that I faced was the language barrier. Many people spoke little English and I only was familiar with a little Thai, so at times it was hard to communicate, but we were able to make it work for us. By going through this experience it has made me more comfortable with doing more homestays and I also gain some friendships.


The Beautiful Struggle | By Louis Bryant III, Thrival Director of Engagement & Experiential Learning

Since we have arrived in Thailand just a couple of weeks ago we have heard of many things happening back home. Whether it is a protest, a march, a signature for an absurd law or the abandonment of a policy that stood for change we want you to know that our hearts are on the frontlines with you all. This experience not only develops the mind and heart, but also encourages unity, which is needed in our divided country. We will continue our beautiful struggle and pray for more positivity in the face of these difficulties.