University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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Twelve UW-Eau Claire Students
Now Studying in Thailand


 MAILED:  July 1, 2004

EAU CLAIRE - Seventeen students from University of Wisconsin system schools, including 12 from UW-Eau Claire, are currently in Thailand, taking part in another new summer study abroad program that will help prepare students to live and work in a global society.

Payap University, located in Chiang Mai, an international city of 250,000 in Northern Thailand, is hosting the visiting students. Two summer courses offer a mix of classroom instruction, field excursions, and lectures by local activists, scholars and representatives of various issue-oriented organizations.

Thai students are acting as mentors and cultural guides for evening and weekend activities when the students are in Chiang Mai. But several UW-Eau Claire students, writing from Thailand, have already cited the academic field excursions outside the city as among the most rewarding of their experiences.

Senior Kathryn Wineke, Verona, said in the past weeks she's done things she never expected to do, including spending a week in a mountain village and riding an elephant in a tropical forest.

"The last three weeks have been amazing and every moment has changed and shaped who I am," said Wineke, an elementary education major with a minor in language arts.

The program's field excursions focus primarily on providing more in-depth interaction with some of the Hmong groups in Thailand, one of the six major upland or tribal groups who call the country home. Upland groups are estimated to include somewhere between 700,000 and 1 million people.

"Living in the Hmong village has been the best experience thus far," said Julie Abraham, a senior art/ceramics major from Chippewa Falls. Abraham said she hopes seeing other cultures will give her more ideas to use in her art.

But it was one of the ten Hmong-American students in this program, junior Kara Der Lor, another elementary education major from Wausau, who had the most to say about both her reasons for visiting Thailand and her experiences there. Lor said she wanted to know about the lives of the Hmong in Thailand - what kind of education they receive, and whether they have the same opportunities as other groups there or experience discrimination. After meeting and questioning Hmong college students in Thailand and living in the Hmong village, she said she has learned a lot.

Of the two courses the students are taking, one compares the major societies of Southeast Asia, emphasizing the historical interaction between the upland or tribal groups and the ethnic minorities or lowland groups, while the other focuses on upland communities, their environment, and broader issues of sustainability, including indigenous practices, natural resource management, political ecology and globalization.

But Lor agreed with Abraham that visiting the Hmong village of Mae Sa Mai was her favorite experience.

"Their lifestyle is a lot more simple than ours … it was also a lot cooler up in the mountains, you don't smell pollution and hear traffic that is associated with city life," said Lor. "Up where they live all you see is green, the beautiful view of the village and more mountains - so peaceful and beautiful."

Applications for the summer 2005 Thailand program will be accepted beginning Sept. 1, 2004. The priority application deadline is Nov. 15, 2004.

For information on other requirements, costs and financial aid available, contact Colleen Marchwick, study abroad coordinator, at UW-Eau Claire's Center for International Education, (715) 836-4411, or marchwcc@uwec.edu.

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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Updated: July 1, 2004