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Isabelle Mamet on UMD-Summer: Thailand (CCJS/MLAW)

Program: UMD-Summer: Thailand (CCJS/MLAW)
Term: Summerterm 2022
Major: Criminal Justice & Arabic Studies 

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study abroad in Thailand for three weeks enrolled in the Human Trafficking in Context: South Asia class at the University of Maryland. 

This class was designed to inform students not only on the types of human trafficking occurring in Thailand but also the consequences of it and reactions to it. When I first heard of this class, I knew I had to enroll so I could get the chance to apply my knowledge in Criminology and Criminal Justice to a real world issue such as human trafficking. Human trafficking is one of the world’s most prevalent societal issues and it is important for every nation to take part in reducing its’ harm on the innocent. Advocating for victims’ rights has always been a passion of mine and it is my personal mission to not only serve my community but provide the tools for others to serve theirs. During this experience, I was able to learn about the many different vulnerabilities that exacerbate the chances of human trafficking, such as climate change, poverty, natural disasters, broken families and political conflict, and how they play into the lives of Thai people. I heard from experts on the issue at NGOs such as the Development and Education Program for Daughters and Communities Centre, Child’s Dream, and Urban Light and conversed with my peers on how we can make life changes to avoid contributing to the issue. I know this educational experience in an international environment will help advance me in my professional career as I have expanded my personal and worldly view on global matters.

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad:  

In Thailand there is more of a homogenous population so being any other ethnicity other than Thai will make you stand out, especially in the rural areas. As a woman I often experienced stares and men videotaping me but overall I felt safe in my environments.

When we arrived to the historic center of Chiang Mai via Tuck Tuck, the first thing that came to mind was just how quiet the atmosphere was. 

Even crossing the busy streets there was never a horn going off or a scream from pedestrians. In fact, I’m almost certain our group was the only people talking at some points.
When we walked into the center, we were met with temples built around the 14th century. We were lucky enough to be visiting during Chiang Mai’s 7 Day Festival, an event to celebrate Buddhist deities and past rulers. Wat Chedi Luang is one of the remanding temples from the original three, (Wat Chedi Luang, Was Ho Tham and What Sukmin) which were destroyed after an earthquake in 1545.
The monks live in this temple as a way to achieve enlightenment. From what we’ve learned, monks cannot have needs or desires if they wish to achieve enlightenment. With that comes a lot of regulated life habits, such as mixing all the food they receive to avoid being picky, living away from their family members to avoid attachment, and refraining from interaction with women to avoid temptation. I found this to be admirable as our professors explained it best: living without wants and desires can be one of the most difficult but rewarding experiences one can have.

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: 

Study Abroad is the chance to gain more knowledge about the world from outside the classroom. It pushes your limits, helps you find your passions, and makes you curious about the world. Most importantly it allows you to leave your own bubble and experience life outside of the environments you are used to.

The hardest part about studying abroad was the language barrier and cultural differences. 

The students a part of this program have not studied Thai or have prior knowledge about Thai culture. All menus, street signs, and surrounding conversation was in Thai. It took a bit to get used to. In some cases people spoke some English but it was very broken and we needed to find other ways to communicate such as using google translate, pictures, maps, and hand signals. When we visited some more rural areas, the lack of English was even more prevalent. By the end of the program I was able to feel more comfortable, but it is important to remember that even though English is considered the "universal language" by some, the majority of people in Thailand are unfamiliar with the language.

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