Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Thailand Ecotourism Exchange

Tristan Orford submits this report on the Thailand study tour that took place over winter break. (Note: IPE Prof. Kontogeorgopoulos also participated in this program.)
Even leaving aside the flawless weather and equally amazing cuisine, the ecotourism exchange program to Thailand, offered through the UPS business department, proved to be a great way to learn about and experience Thai culture over winter break.

As previous research had put me in contact with Thailand (albeit in strictly financial terms), when presented with an opportunity to travel there and learn more about the culture, I naturally was curious. After the information meeting on campus, I decided to apply. Upon being accepted to the program, the seven other UPS students and I quickly learned more about the nature of the program itself and prepared to host the six Maejo students, who came to UPS for two weeks beginning in mid-October. While at UPS, we took the Maejo students to see a number of local attractions, including Mt. Rainer, sights in and around Seattle, Ocean Shores, and some more mundane activities like bowling.

Bangkok’s activities were mostly geared towards seeing some of the main cultural attractions of the city, with visits to the ruins of the old capital, famous temples, and the like, but also including a trip to a floating market and some other local experiences. We also took classes in Thai language, giving us the ability to engage in simple conversation.

Leaving Bangkok for Chiang Mai on New Year’s Eve, we began to get to the meat of the exchange program, learning more about ecotourism and business in Thailand, traditional and modern. We kicked this off with a trip to a buffalo farm (pictured here) to learn about the traditional production of rice and farm life in the extremely rural regions of the country. Over the course of the next two weeks, we took classes in tourism, aquaculture, small business operations and rural Thai economy, with excursions tying into these subject and issues of development and conservation in Thailand.

In short then, while a very educational trip, we were also given ample time to interact with the Maejo students and faculty on a more personal level, which allowed us to better understand all of the experiences we had taken part in. Getting to know the students in Bangkok and Chiang Mai was definitely one of the highlights of the program.

For those interested in participating in the program in the future, it is organized by Professor Jim McCullough of the business department, with applications circulating for a brief window in mid to late September. We were in Thailand for about two and a half weeks from December 26th to January 13th. As a point of interest, next year will also be the last year this program will be put on, at least in its current form, as the Maejo school of Tourism is restructuring, so go while you have the chance!

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