Alumni Spotlight: Priya Subberwal


Priya is a Colorado native with roots in India, who grew up with a close relationship with nature. Hiking and skiing in the beautiful Rocky Mountains created a love for the natural environment, and a strong desire to travel, explore, and adventure across the wonders of the natural world.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the Spirit of Greng Jai because I’ve never really spent time in Southeast Asia, and Thailand had always been on my bucket list. The focus of empathy and and Buddhist practice that the program empasizes was also intriguing to me, and Greng Jai (the concept of putting others before oneself) was something that was so far from the western culture I was raised in that I was eager to see how it affected Thai communities and lifestyles.

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

The program was really good about planning flights and providing packing information - I only had to organize how I was going to meet the rest of my group in LA. From there, transport, housing, and money we’re all handled by the instructors.

We had paid in advance for housing and food, so there was little organizing on the part of this students. This being said, the instructors took out opinions into account when planning the agenda (how long we should stay at a monastery, what the group was prepared for, and how much energy we had), so in that way, all the students had a say in the planning of the trip.

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

Be prepared for challenge. The days are long, the conversations are difficult, and you end up feeling emotionally and physically drained at the end of the day. But from this challenge, there springs incredible growth. You come out with a better understanding of yourself, the world, and your place in it.

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

The average day really depends on what part of the trip you’re on. During our homestays, we would spend most of the day with our families, but meet up in the afternoon as a group for lessons or activities. During our time at the farm, we would spend the day together, learning about sustainable life in the community. It really depends on the location and what the group is prepared for.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it?

I was really afraid that I would have difficulty adjusting to the intensity of the program. Long treks, difficult living conditions, and exhausting days scared me, and I was afraid I would retreat into myself and distance myself from the experience.

This was so far from the truth - with a group of friends as afraid and nervous as I was, we all jumped into the challenge with no hesitation, and embraced the uncomfortable. It really taught me how to accept the unfamiliar and learn and grow from these new experiences.

Do you reccomend this program?

I cannot reccomend this program highly enough. I learned so much about myself, the world that I live in, and my place in it. During one of our homestays, we stayed in a Karen village and learned about indigenous life in modern Thailand, and the struggles that local tribes have with the national governments.

We learned about their culture and community, made friends, and played music together. It taught me how little language matters when we try to connect with people - although we had almost nothing in common, I made incredible friends on this journey who I’ll treasure forever. It was a remarkable experience, and one that drastically changed my worldview.