Alumni Spotlight: Alexandra Perkinson


After volunteering with Art Relief International for three months, Alex returned in January 2014 to fulfill the position of Funding and Outreach Coordinator for Cultural Canvas Thailand. Alex is originally from Baltimore, Maryland but spent the last six years living in New York, New York. She studied at Syracuse University and Pratt University, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Art Photography and Master’s degree in Art Therapy and Creativity Development from these institutions respectively.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Art Relief International in Thailand?

I had just finished my Master’s degree in Art Therapy and I knew that I wanted to travel but not lose sight of my professional goals. The Art Relief program was a perfect way to integrate my interests.

What made this experience unique and special?

Art Relief International is one of the few programs in the world that specifically advertise volunteering through the lens of art activism therefore the program is inherently unique. Once here, my expectations were not only met, but surpassed, and I was able to integrate what I had learned over the past two years of graduate school while learning new and innovative approaches to the discipline of art therapy and art education that are practiced here.

How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, academically, etc.)

This experience was a natural continuation of my career path and I was very fortunate to be offered a part-time position at Cultural Canvas Thailand upon the completion of my volunteer term. This worked out in a lot of ways for me because I really wasn’t ready to leave and I am able to work now towards long-term personal and organizational goals.

What was the highlight of your experience?

The highlight of my experience was getting to know some of the individuals that we work with on a more personal level. Because I was here for three months volunteering, and now back as a part-time staff member, seeing people every week enabled me to build up trusting relationships.

In the beginning, workshop participants may have been tentative about communicating with me, whether due to language barriers or just shyness, but after a few weeks the same kids were sitting on my lap and chatting my ear off. It is really rewarding to see that kind of growth happen.

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Thailand?

Go for it! Thailand is a beautiful and culturally rich country. It attracts “professional” and novice travelers alike because it offers a range of experiences. Just in Chiang Mai, you can visit areas where people speak fluent English, eat western food, etc. or you can travel a short distance outside of the city and find yourself in a village or hill tribe with no real connection to urban life, speaking dialects you’ve never heard of and practicing completely unique and foreign customs.