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Thailand exchange program offers cultural experience

April 17, 1997

By Alison Kuehn

Lariat Reporter

The Baylor-Thailand Exchange Program offers students a unique opportunity to teach English for one year to Thai students at Yonok College in Lampang, Thailand.

'This is a chance for our students to immerse themselves in another culture and to gain an optimum understanding of the people and place,' said sociology lecturer Kathryn Mueller.

In previous years, the program has allowed only three students to participate, but this year, four positions will be awarded. The applicant pool is limited to graduating seniors and graduate students.

'I was not quite sure what I wanted to do after graduation, and I realized taking this position might help me decide my future plans,' said Reva Bass, a graduate student from Houston.

Bass, who participated in the program from May 1994 to May 1995, said she mostly enjoyed the students.

'They enjoy learning, and they are really attentive, but also fun-oriented people,' she said. 'I discovered that I loved teaching.'

Air transportation to and from Lampang and room and board are granted. Also, a modest salary, just enough to cover personal and incidental needs, is provided.

'This experience is definitely not about building a bank account, but a cultural account,' Mueller said. 'Extra funds may be accumulated through tutoring in your free time.'

Participants are normally assigned to teach two classes during each of the three semesters they are in the country.

Mueller explained the positions are geared toward adventuresome people who are willing to work with and teach people from another culture, but also people who are willing to share their life experiences with them. A love of sticky rice (which is a staple food) is a preferable quality.

Mueller said the experience is not limited to teaching, but the recipient is able to travel to many parts of Thailand and other regional areas.

Leisure time can be filled with exploring the countryside, beaches or rainforests, bargaining in the open city markets or traveling by train among pigs, chickens and ducks.

The opportunity to meet diplomatic figures, including Thailand's royal princess and generals in the Thai army, are special events.

'The recipients who leave in May will be able to attend the special June 30 celebration of the 50th year reign of King Ramus IX,' Mueller said.

The Buddhist population makes up 97.3 percent of Thai society.

Bass said she was initially worried how she, as an American and a Christian, would be accepted within the culture, but the friendly people welcomed her with open arms.

'It is amazing to me that the Thai people, in the midst of their strong Buddhist belief, actually welcome Christians in to their culture and are truly interested in our lives,' Mueller said.

Mueller said some individuals choose to do missionary work in their leisure time.

'I have discovered that our students come home ready to learn more because they have a more comprehensive world vision,' Mueller said.

Mueller said the Thailand program offers an enriching experience like nowhere else in the world.

'You also learn a lot about yourself,' Bass said.

Applications may be obtained from the sociology department in 316 Burleson, or call 755-1165, ext. 6235. Interviews will be April 30.

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