“I got to experience wonderful and diverse culture, a high academic standard mixed with outstanding events and activities.”
Vaidas Sieber studied abroad at Prince of Songkla University in Phuket, Thailand during autumn 2014. He comes originally from Germany and studied at the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences. Read his story below.
I was about to graduate from my home university last summer, when I saw the eye-catching opportunity on an email sent from my home institution’s student organization about going on an exchange study abroad program to Phuket. Within a week, I had been accepted on the program via Asia Exchange who arranges the application formalities at the host university, Prince of Songkla University (PSU) – Phuket, Thailand.
I am very thankful to everyone who all supported me, as I have now completed my study abroad semester, effectively and moreover on time. I am equally grateful to Associate Dean for Research and International Affairs, Aj. Colin Gallagher and Social Psychology teacher, Dr. Bianca Briciu, who gave me moral support and guided me in various matters when the need arose. I was allowed given ample opportunity to integrate into Thai culture.
It has been great honor and privilege to undergo a study abroad program in Thailand. I got to experience wonderful and diverse culture, a high academic standard mixed with outstanding events and activities.
Last but not least, I would like to thank my home university and parents who assisted me in gathering information, providing financial support and guiding me from time to time in making this study abroad semester happen, despite their busy schedules.
Studying abroad in Thailand
Quite differently to the German grading system, Thailand’s universities, including PSU, evaluate and assess each course giving grades or letter symbols. There are eight grades starting from “Excellent” (A) down to “Fail” (E) based on the British academic qualification General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level. Compared to the German 6-point grade system you need to score at least 90 percent for an outstanding achievement, while you only need 80 percent to score an excellent in Thailand. In both grading systems it is necessary to achieve at least 50 percent to successfully pass the course.
When joining the lecture for the first time, I immediately recognized a significant difference within the classroom. Due to compulsory attendance the lecture room was filled with students and to my surprise they were wearing a uniform – black trouser and white shirt. The male students were required to wear ties. Students needed to attend at least 80 percent of the classes otherwise they will fail the subject. Usually, a grade consists of quizzes (20 %), case studies or a research (25 %), midterm exam (25 %) and final exam (30 %). All lectures were delivered held in English, which I most enjoyed, as I had the opportunity to work in a group with Thai students.
I noticed, while walking around campus that a lots of students were preparing for the next lectures in the university’s cafes and learning centers. I would estimate that the majority of Thai students were female, around 70 percent. In general Thai people and students are much shyer than Europe students, due to the fact that shyness is socially accepted in Thai culture. Thai students are very helpful and friendly to each other and to exchange students, especially when working in a group project. They support and try to carry all other the group members.
The International Affaire Centre (IAC), responsible department of PSU for all international exchange students organized a lot of activities and events for international students like the ice-breaking weekend on Phi Phi Island, Asean Contest, Phang Nga James Bond Island trip, Thai-Buddy-Program and many more during the course of our stay.
At the beginning of the semester I selected to join the Buddy-Budder Program. This is where I was paired up with a Thai student as their buddy for the duration of the semester. This made my integration into Thai culture and PSU way of life much easier. It also gave me the opportunity to learn the language.
Both the Associate Dean for Research and International Affairs teacher, Aj. Colin Gallagher certainly made studying in Thailand an outstanding experience without having any problems. I highly recommend involving yourself in as many of the activities arranged by PSU. Beside all the arrangements and events they also care about the Asian exchange students from China and they even offer a shuttle bus service to the PSU campus.
Living abroad in Thailand
I usually don’t talk about religion but when travelling through Thailand you will see monks and a lot of golden statues. The vast majority of Thai people are Buddhist.
Thai people are very obliging and additional they are open minded. As you are probably aware, Thailand has more than two genders. The third being “Lady Boys”, which is very acceptable within Thai society. It just shows that people are allowed and accepted to be what they want to be and no one feels offended by this – everyone is welcomed.
After being in Thailand two months, I had the fantastic opportunity to help Thai people celebrate Songkran, which is Thailand’s New Year. It is celebrated by the throwing of water over each other. In Phuket this events lasts for two days but in places like Bangkok and Chiang Mai it can last for up to seven days. The majority of people take part in this festival-both young and old.
Phuket’s natural environment seems to have improved seen the 2004 Asian tsunami. Tourism is still booming which enables Phuket to continue to be a very popular tourism destination. This is also helped by the fact that Thai people are very friendly.
In preparation of my study abroad program, I was able to research the recommended accommodations on the AE website. I chose Baan Maksong (Palm house) as it was excellent value for money and will covered all my needs. It has the best location to the university and Chanitra’s Café (a very popular café with international students) is opposite – just a few seconds walk. It’s a 10 minute motorbike ride to Phuket Town and only 1 minute to the university.
Compared to some of the other accommodation, I found it to be very affordable with the best locations in terms of easy access to the university and other facilities. Rather the including Tree Spa (offering student discount prices) and the pleasant behavior of the employee’s made my stay in Phuket most enjoyable. If you don’t mind getting in contact with kind staff members you will be soon inspired by the smooth treatment of Thai people.
The size of a double superior room is ideal for a couple and much comfortable for singles. Covering services like cleaning, working air-conditioner, free Wi-Fi and good TV programs e.g. offering sport channels which is pretty important if you don’t want to go out to watch a football game at 2am in the night (because of time differences). All in all a good place to stay for three to four months, and for me a great experience during my stay in Phuket.
When I finally arrived at Phuket International Airport, I realized pretty quickly that I had made a wise decision to study in Phuket although it did take me a few days to get over the jet lag but I soon started to acclimatize to the relentless heat.
For the first few days I was keen to try all the delicious street food until I became ill probably because of some bacteria in the food. Luckily, there was a pharmacy next to Baan Maksong which sorted out my problem with 24 hours. My experience did not put me off from eating street food.
All of the exchange students were very friendly as we were all in the same situation. I soon made lots of new friends and joined in many of the organized activities. Nevertheless, I also decided to make friends with Thai people so I can get a new experience. I soon made friends and was speaking basic Thai which made my experience of living and studying in Thailand even better. Thai people are the friendliest people in the world.
- Go abroad in spring season and bring sun cream with you
- Trip to Similan Islands, Koh Kai Islands, Phi Phi Island and James Bond Island
- Big Buddha at Chalong
- Shopping at the Night Market on weekend in Phuket town
- Kata Noi beach, Surin beach and my favorite Nai Harn beach
- Restaurants like Top Beef on the way to Patong, Chanitra’s Café near the university, Fattys (German food) at Chalong, Cashew Nut on the way to Nai Harn beach, sea food at Rawai, Khao Rang Breeze at top hill of Phuket and many others at Central Festival and Big C
- Bangla Road for partying, Seduction and a lot of bars
- Clean Beach Bootcamp by Krix Luther (also Muay Thai and diving) See Ajarn Colin Gallagher.