Having your practicum for two months is not that bad, but what if do your practicum in a foreign country?
Last April, ten AIT students were sent to Maejo University in Chiang Mai. This is the second time that students from AIT were sent to Thailand for practicum purposes. Chiang Mai became the home of the practicumers for the whole summer.
Thailand practicumers Abegail Igna and Marian Magsino share their experience in an interview with Rachelle Belaro:
Rachelle: How’s the experience of having your practicum in Thailand?
Marian: The experience in Thailand is totally different from my first (Korea) but it was equally memorable. From the sights we’ve seen to the people we’ve met, it was in our terms “nakakataba ng puso”.
Abie: We’re practicumers there right? But what we experienced in Thailand was being a practicumer and at the same time, a tourist. We’re really not working there. Instead, we were studying. We apply the theories that we have learned whenever we have fieldtrips or when we make evaluation reports. But I have to say that this is one of the best summer experiences that I’ve had in my life since unlike Marian who already went to Korea before, this is my first time to be out of the country. So it’s really fun.
R: How’s the food?
A: Yup. It’s spicy. It’s like you’re literally eating a bunch of pepper. There was a time wherein we were buying food and I already said Mai Pet (“not spicy” in Thai) but it was still spicy. I guess what’s not spicy there is still spicy for us. But all in all, the food there is good since there are counterparts to some of the food that we have here in the Philippines like nilaga.
R: Did you have any difficulties in communicating?
M: Not really. I guess the Thais had a more difficult time in communicating with us since they needed to use the English language.
A: Before going to Thailand, the only phrases that I knew were “sawadee krap” and “sawadee ka”. There were times wherein we want to buy something but the vendors couldn’t understand us. So sometimes, they don’t want to sell us their products. Here in the Philippines, even the vendors can understand simple English so whenever foreigners ask how much the products cost, they could easily answer but in Thailand, it’s not like that.
M: When you go to Thailand you really have to be good in miming or acting out what you mean. They’re just learning how to use the English language and in school, they use their traditional language so they’re not yet used to it.
R: Were there issues of racism?
M: None. There are a lot of instances wherein we’re mistaken to be Thais and we’re happy that we’re welcome there.
R: How did the Thais accept you especially in terms of work?
M: Since it’s summer there, there were just a few people around the university. We’re just ten in class (only the practicumers) and most of the time we only have one professor which is Dean Pon. But whenever we go out, the people around are very welcoming.
A: Even if we’re out of the classroom, you could really feel that you’re welcome. If you’re sick, they (the people in the university) would really go to your room and give you medicine since they are worried about you. We even treat the people in the university as our brothers or sisters. They really act as our second family there.
R: Based from your observations, what are the similarities and differences of Thailand and the Philippines?
A: The Thais are very hospitable. In the tourism aspect, both countries focus on the environment or ecotourism.
M: Both countries are still developing. The people are very hard-working. For instance, you saw a particular vendor on a Monday night. The next day, if you go to a different place in the night market, you would see that same vendor. I guess the difference would be the taboo topics like there are times wherein they really say how much they earn. Another similarity is that they also have a jeepney called song keaw but the difference is that you pay not during the trip but after.
R: What do you think are the pros and cons of having your practicum in Thailand?
A: Money because if you’re not willing to pay, then you can’t have your practicum there. The airfare alone costs a lot already. But if you’re going to compare the prices of the products especially the basic necessities in Thailand like shampoo, it’s cheaper there so you really can’t help but buy.
M: Yeah (agreeing to Abie), since there are products there that you can’t find here. But the prices there are really cheaper. For example, shampoo. If one bottle costs 29 Pesos here, it costs 20 Baht there (equivalent to 26 Philippine pesos).
R: What are the highlights of your stay in Thailand?
M: During our stay in Thailand, we didn’t know that UNWTO would be having a conference there, but we got the chance to attend the opening of the conference since the invitation was extended to us. So we got the opportunity to meet the heads of some of the tourism related organizations.
A: We learned a lot of things there, but my favorite would be our encounter with the elephants. We had a whole day with the elephants and we got the chance to feed them and be like a farmer since we really need to pick the bananas before we give it to them (the elephants).
R: Would you recommend this kind of practicum to other people?
M: If they’re into research and academic writing, this is the practicum for them but if they really want to experience how to work in the industry, this may not be suitable. Our practicum is really research based since there are times wherein we make papers for ecotourism and such.
A: We’re still like students there. So it’s not the type wherein when you say practicum, it connotes working already. We’re really like students since there are theories that would be presented and they would really test if you understood those theories. It’s like a training ground for thesis.
M: Yeah, especially if you want to focus on ecotourism.
Learning, working, and touring. Despite some challenges, such as the language barrier, the Thailand practicum practitioners learned a lot – making their last summer, a summer that they will never forget.
Jon kráng dtòr bpai (Until next time), Thailand. – Rachelle Belario