By Arun Sharma – Guest Blogger
“Everyone living abroad has their own story and their own little quirks to say and express, so, this is me and this is my experience as a student in Bangkok, Thailand.”
A few months ago, everything was different and now that I look back, I realize that time can do a lot to a person. Today marks the hundredth day living in Bangkok, Thailand away from home and my family for the first time in my life.
Long before coming here I used to think that living abroad would also be accompanied by unexpected challenges and daily struggles that I wouldn’t even have to think about back home. I didn’t even know if a campus in Thailand, a “fancy” beach holiday spot would be a correct fit for my undergraduate studies.
As a child who had never left home alone for a new country and culture, the things for me to be excited about were not as much as compared to the certain things that would challenge me. But having met great people and making amazing friends, studying abroad here in Bangkok, Thailand never became a nightmare for me. In contrast, it actually turned out to be a fun, inspiring, exciting and what I say a “life changing” opportunity.
“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant to almost everything.”
Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve enjoyed every bit of small experiences that I had in this city of angels. Whether it’s boat rides during sunrise or distant bike rides during sunsets, it’s visiting temples or hopping into street food stalls to eat Phad Thai, it’s equally interesting.
The best part by far was how I had to set-up everything from scratch, from finding accommodation and socializing with friends, to searching for restaurants to eat everyday; yet, independently on my own, in a huge city where I’m actually known by none.
People are utmost friendly, helpful and polite. Only the people who have been here understand, how open and accepting Thai culture is to other cultures and traditions. Until today I have only experienced a few moments when I have seen an angry Thai and never have I ever experienced Thai people trying to dupe me. There are motorcycle taxis who overshoot red traffic lights, there are over-speeding tuk-tuk drivers, there are never-ending traffic jams and queues everywhere but no matter how chaotic Bangkok is, for a photographer, it always poses for a smile.
Bangkok is an attack on the senses with smell, colours and noise; an attack on food with chillies, lemongrass and ginger. The Street food here is turned into fine art. Yes, it’s quite awkward for us to see, tangling octopus arms being fried or larvae being grilled. And even some street vendors selling live frogs inside a cage, this city has taught me to respect other cuisines and food.
While “Cha dam yen” isn’t as good as “Chiya”, back home neither is “Pun Sip Neung” as delicious as “Momos” – Thai food certainly has a peculiar taste to other foods. And yet between these multiple flavours, I occasionally make some time to refresh my taste buds hopping into Indian or Pakistani restaurants nearby.
Staying in the stylish Sathorn District has made me appreciate the beauty of urban lifestyle even more. It’s completely different from what we can expect from small cities like where I’m from. Most of everything is mechanized, unique and highly urban, even today I have that same thrill and joy when I am on sky-trains to transit over city centers or when I’m tapping cards to open doors. It feels really different living between hundreds of skyscrapers and tall buildings which is a rare sight for me back home. But still in addition to these skyscrapers, office buildings and luxury condominiums, I get to see those ubiquitous street cart vendors and local eateries wherever I go.
It is this juxtaposition of the old and the new, with the traditional and the modern that makes Bangkok such a fascinating city to live. Webster’s “Bangkok Academic Center”, where I attend my classes is in the Sathorn District, conveniently located near several large shopping malls, cool restaurant strips and the BTS railway system. What I actually love about the american college system is that once you are 18 you are treated as an adult and no-one acts as your guardian to make decisions for you, you are your own person. Students come from countries like Nepal, Australia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, India and others.
By studying and growing up with culturally and linguistically different people than mine, it has undoubtedly broadened my horizons and made me appreciate the beauty in every culture. With teachers and faculty from all over the world, I undoubtedly feel myself evolving into a truly internationally minded person. I have the wonderful opportunity to experience two cultures at once – the American culture that is reflected through the campus activities, teaching style and course syllabus – and the rich Thai culture that I experience everyday. What I actually love here is the small class sizes and a supportive, yet practical teaching environment. I feel the depth and detail of what I am learning is far beyond my high school experience back in Nepal.
During these hundred days in Bangkok, I had more fun and experience than I have ever had in my life. The amazing people, amazing food and the rich Thai culture is what always makes me promote this city even more. Home isn’t something we find in a place, but something within ourselves, and in Bangkok I’ve felt home everyday! I certainly miss my family and especially my brother during festivals, family meetups and gatherings back home but yet, convince myself that I do not need to worry about taking long-haul expensive flights back home and I’m just a 3 hour flight away from them.
“Avid traveler, aspiring photographer and impassioned human being.”
Arun Sharma – Nepali undergrad student
All photos are copyright © Arun Sharma.