My experience in Bangkok was vivid. I met some amazing people, and saw a side of Bangkok I suspect most tourists never get to see.
The trip was a part of UTS’s BUiLD Program, which encourages students to travel overseas to experience learning in a new environment. I chose the ‘Engineering and Climate Change’ program at King Mongut’s University of Technology, Thonburi (KMUTT), it was two weeks long, and involved not only lectures about the topic, but also a vast variety of cultural and social activities.
The trip blew me away, even though I had been to Bangkok before and loved it, I thought living in the city as a student wouldn’t be as fun as holidaying and sightseeing. I could not have not have been more wrong; touring Bangkok, and perhaps any part of the world, is a sham, you don’t experience the real people, culture or food until you live there.
The first official day was the opening ceremony where we met our new Thai buddies. Although there was a slight language barrier that might have easily caused us to stick to our own groups, we all seemed to hit it off from the beginning. The students and supervisors were exceptionally friendly and welcoming and were very curious about Australia. As we met a lot of people in one go, I was having trouble remembering all of their names, so I jokingly said that they should write down their name and draw a picture of themselves in my note book so that I could remember. One guy grabbed my note pad, and scribbled down a little face with a black eye (since he had a black eye from falling down a waterfall the day before) it was hilarious, everyone soon joined in. The waterfall kid (named Get), was subsequently nicknamed waterfall for the rest of the trip.
One of the highlights of the Trip was us going to a retreat called the All Green Learning Centre (AGLC) about 4 hours drive out of Bangkok in the country. The centre held programs for university and school students where they show them how we can all live more sustainably; they had natural dye workshops, mud brick making, solar panels, workshops on recycling and sustainable architecture. I really loved the fact that a place like this existed, in a city like Bangkok, you don’t see issues like climate change and sustainability being talked about like you do in Sydney; the centre opened my eyes to the fact that people from all around the world are really trying to change things where ever they are.
On the way back from the AGLC, we visited an elephant conservation park. The elephants there were those that had been rescued from horrible working conditions, were sick, or who were retired from work. The elephants themselves were beautiful, and we could hug them. A few of us got to go on an elephant ride too. As well as elephant conservation, the reserve also hosts a small school. The school students were the ones that gave us a tour of the park, and taught us about their animals. I was so impressed by their perfect English and public speaking skills, they had one child who could not have been older than 10 speak in front of us. It showed me how beneficial an alternative education can be (going to school on an elephant park) all you need is the right teachers.
During our stay, we were also taken to see the Royal Temples and Palace, a sugar cane processing plant, and to have a go a Muay Thai (Thai Boxing). The temples were spectacular and so detailed in their decoration, however going with some of the locals made it extra special as they gave us extra information about that they all meant; one of the students said how the patterns on one of the temples made him sad, as these were the patterns that were used during funeral ceremonies. Muay Thai was a very sweaty experience also, a couple of the Sydney students are keen to get into it back home.
In terms of actual course work, there was a series of lectures on energy generation and climate change. I found these to be very interesting as I’m studying civil engineering and this is not a topic I would usually study. We learnt about nuclear, solar, wind, wave and thermal energy generation and the importance of energy efficiency. We also learnt that if future generations want to tackle climate change in a meaningful way, it is going to take serious collaboration between governments and strict regulations and policy.
Looking back I am so extremely lucky that these kinds of programs are available to me. It was a split second decision to go, but I’m so glad that I did. The food, people, culture and all the things I learnt will stay with me for life.
Nishani Fischer – 11395872