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Globalization in Thailand: An immersive learning experience

This past January, UW-Eau Claire students experienced the inaugural Globalization in Thailand immersion program led by Dr. Longzhu Dong, associate professor, and Melissa Emerson, senior lecturer, in management and leadership programs. Blugolds were immersed in the heart of Thai culture, economy, and sustainability efforts while building lasting connections with local Thai students. Over 18 days, the expedition navigated through the captivating regions of Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Phuket.

Students and faculty were welcomed by hosts at Mae Fah Luang University (MFU) in Chiang Rai and paired with Thai student “buddies” who explained cultural nuances and tourism sites. The local expertise enriched the trip by helping them navigate public transit, order authentic dishes, and practice language phrases.

UW-Eau Claire students and faculty happily pose near buildings in Thailand.

Students and faculty were welcomed by hosts at Mae Fah University (MFU) in Chiang Rai.

“Learning basic Thai phrases, sampling exotic food/fruits, and riding crowded public transit – all these experiences pushed students outside their comfort zone and built resiliency,” Dong says.

The immersion continued south with stops at tea and coffee plantations in Chiang Rai, silk production facilities in Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya's ancient Buddhist temples, and seaports supporting Thailand's manufacturing and export industries. Conversations with business owners, monks, and professors enabled students to understand the opportunities and challenges created by globalization. The experiential nature of site visits imparted lessons more impactfully than any textbook.

“My time in Thailand was truly transformative, encompassing personal growth, professional insights, and cultural exploration. Engaging in diverse activities, from cultural excursions to language learning, allowed me to connect with locals and experience Thai life fully,” says Nancy Lin, senior international business major.

Students were inspired to consider how their career paths could incorporate global service, cultural exchange, and responsible business while touring sustainable business sites such as renewable energy companies and elephant conservation centers.

Meeting changemakers like local social entrepreneurs showed how one can make positive impacts in promoting environmental justice or economic inclusion. Students saw firsthand how ethical brands empower local artisans through experiential opportunities.

“It deepened intellectual rigor, professional vision, and personal growth for all involved,” Dong says, “I could not have asked for a more stimulating, memorable, and successful experience.”

Students who participated in the immersion experience were Breana Ashton, Nancy Lin, Katherine Manninen, Annika O'Hara, Julia Paschke, Sara Shettle, Kaylin Sonen, Taryn Tacheny, Raegan Valois, Kou Vang, Aly Weber. 

Learn about UW-Eau Claire's study abroad and immersion programs online