Being an exchange student is something I’ve always wanted. I love travelling and discovering other cultures than my own. I firmly believe that the best experience you can get is an inside experience. Reading about another country teaches you less than seeing it with your own eyes. This is the reason I applied for exchange studies in my home university in Lund, Sweden. I applied to Thammasat university, because I wanted to go far away and since the subject of development studies has its focus away from the Western world. I got accepted, which back then felt slightly frightening, since I had never been to Asia before and not really knew what to accept. I then decided to not expect anything and come with an open mind and see where my journey would take me.
At home in Sweden, I study development studies with human geography as a major. In Thammasat, I could not find many courses connected to that subject, but I fell for the program Social Policy and Development, SPD, since I thought it could be really interesting to see these issues from an Asian perspective and not a European one. I am very glad I chose SPD, since it is a small and new program which is exploring different aspects of society and government policies concerning those. We learn about welfare economics, the situation for refugees and how we humans have developed over time. I also have teachers from four different countries which makes their teaching styles and focus points different.
The school system is also different from the Swedish one. Here in Thailand, all courses are 3 credits which means I take five courses parallel. In Sweden, we have longer courses that are full time studies, usually they range from one month up to a full term, so you most often only have one subject at a time. Also, in Sweden, there is no mandatory presence, you only have to come to tests if you want to. I like going to lectures, that is why I go to university, but I had to get used to the roll call at the beginning of every class. Wearing a uniform was also a new experience, but I like it. It is also interesting how people on the streets smile at me when I walk by and wear my uniform.
Another big plus of course with Thailand is the travelling. There are so many opportunities to travel and see the country and neighbouring countries. I have been to several different places, and have more plans. If I cannot go far away, just going into the city is like a new experience every time. I took me two months to learn how I should use the bus system and to learn during what times of the days the traffic should be avoided. I now have a few favourite places in the city which is nice. Especially markets are nice, I love the feeling of walking through an evening market with the different foods, clothes and other sellers. Thankfully, there is always a market close by.
What I will take home after this experience is clear, considering the big difference from my home country. However, it is the little things that will be remembered most clearly. It will be the fact that buying lunch out is affordable (compared to Sweden), or that you can ride a train with an open window, or that people are so helpful, that fresh fruit exists all year long, the baking hot streets of Bangkok in April and so much more. The best is, that, having lived here now for over three months, this all is starting to feel normal. That is the benefit of staying in countries for a longer period, because it becomes so normal and feels like home. I know that when I come back to Thailand, which I will, then I will almost not feel abroad anymore.