Alumni Spotlight: Olivia Talbot


Why did you choose this program?

If I am being honest, I don't have an exact reason why I chose The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) but I am so happy I did.

I remember loving the package I got in the mail when I was accepted. It was a welcome packet with all of the information I needed and a card shaped like a passport. Receiving it got me that much more excited for the trip and I still have it.

I also remember the program feeling extremely personal. The emails I received weren't usually mass emails and I even got a few handwritten letters in the mail, which became important to me and I didn't even realize.

I could tell the TEAN advisors cared about the program and making us feel comfortable because they understand it's a huge decision to study abroad but know the outcome is incomparable to how you feel before you go.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I never felt "lost" during the process with TEAN because everything was mapped out for me when I made my final decision. If I didn't understand part of the process, they were just an email away and responded within a few hours.

They helped with everything from organizing my visa, helping plan flights, and recommending what to do at school to make sure my credits transfer. I feel as if my friends who went abroad were extremely stressed when preparing, but I never felt that with TEAN. The process was extremely easy and organized.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

You're probably going to cry saying goodbye to your parents, but I can tell you that you're probably going to be crying harder leaving Thailand.

I have 3 pieces of huge advice:

  1. Let the culture consume you. It isn't every day you get the opportunity to live where people vacation and don't take a day for granted because it goes by WAY too fast. Trying new things is crucial to your time in Thailand because you'll have to fly around the world to be a part of this again.
  2. Keep a journal. You won't realize how much you have changed until going back and reading about your days, what you saw, or the things you learned. Plus, you'll want to remember exactly how your first REAL Pad Thai tastes....because you won't find it in the U.S.!
  3. Take a million pictures but stay off your phone. Living in the moment is exactly what you want to do when you're given this opportunity.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

This is a hard question to answer because it varies. You can create a routine for yourself, or you can make every day different.

I personally like routine, so every morning before class I would go to breakfast with two of my [now] life long friends, head to class for a few hours, then go to the gym. After the gym, I'd either do work at my favorite cafe (shoutout to Rustic & Blue) or hangout with the people in my program.

We'd all get dinner on our Soi (street) or find a spot somewhere in the city. For night life we'd usually go as a big group and our whole program would always end up finding each other throughout the night.

During the weekends, we traveled, had really cool field trips, or hung around Chiang Mai and found something to do. There is no such thing as a "boring" day in Thailand and there is something for everyone, always.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

Whenever I told someone I was going to Thailand, their face lit up. However, it wasn't usually because of excitement it was more for curiosity or amazement.

My biggest fear was the idea of safety because everyone else put it into my mind that Thailand was unsafe. This is wrong and that is ignorance. I cannot sit here and tell you walking around Chiang Mai at 3 am alone is a good idea, but I am telling you I felt safer walking around Chiang Mai at 3 am alone than I did walking around Baltimore at noon this past summer.

I would say my views changed because I started to understand their religion. Buddhism is a peaceful religion and a lot of the issues read about while I was there happened to be because of tourists. Respect them and they will respect you.

Another obvious fear I had was the language barrier I would face. I did not know how to say "hello" in Thai when I stepped off the plane, but to everyone's surprise, including my own, I never had any major issues. If you are patient and pay attention to the basics in Thai class, you'll be gold. However, you might want to make Google Translate a pretty accessible app on your phone because it WILL become your life saver.

Thai people are extremely kind. They are patient and understand you do not speak Thai because they might not speak English. I think one of the most memorable parts of my trip was when I finally could communicate with my Thai language skills. The looks of true excitement on a local's face is priceless and taking the time to learn their language will create friendships and even more indescribable memories.