Alumni Spotlight: Emma Weller, Sophie Weller


Emma and Sophie Weller are 19-year-old filmmakers based in England; they have been featured in a documentary, produced promotional videos, short films and music videos.

In addition to producing songs and digital paintings in their spare time, the girls have been busy working. Emma is currently working as a Post-production Intern for a TV and film Advertising agency in London. They will be starting their first year studying Filmmaking at the University of West England in September 2015.

Why did you pick this program?

We chose to be a Media and Film Volunteers in Thailand because we wanted to explore the Thai culture. Learning their norms, values and customs combined with seeing Media and Film in a whole new light. For us this was a filmmakers dream, to film the practices in the Temples and learn about the religion first-hand as well as see some unforgettable events plus scenery. We were also very intrigued as to how Media and Film is perceived from a whole new cultural perspective.

We wanted to make a difference by using our media and film knowledge to teach the subject in a developing country. We personally loved to see the students of Pangnew school in Doi Saket and of Mae La school in the Karen Hill-tribe. They were able to harness their imagination and creativity to tell their own stories, which was something totally new to them.

Furthermore, we loved helping the students gain a better understanding of the subject. It is a personal belief that teaching is a great way to meet new people and connect with them.

What is the most important thing you learned abroad?

One of the most important things we learned abroad was that you don’t need an abundance of material possessions or technology to be happy.

Living among the teachers, kids and villagers of the hill tribe in particular, we began to understand that we don’t need half as much as we have in a western society. The kids that live in western society have a greater access to technology in a way that the hill tribe kids don’t; but the kids in the hill tribe are 10 times happier.

We found ourselves communicating by talking with people more and learning about their culture whilst playing with the kids too. Even looking back we still can’t get our heads around how free the kids were and how happy we were without the normality’s of a western lifestyle.

We have learnt the importance of simplicity and just how wonderful it is to live in an area where your possessions don’t have a hold over what you do everyday. We live in a digital age where technology is handy and more often a necessity, but it does it truly make us any happier?

What do you tell your friends going abroad?

Go for it, what have you got to lose? It’s a learning experience you can’t gain from being at home and it’s also one of those things that you’re going to remember for a lifetime. It’s an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and live, learn and experience things that others might not. You learn from the people you meet and they also learn from you.

When you help them, whether it’s building new places or teaching new things, you are comforted in the knowledge that you are benefitting their future.

One of the greatest parts of going abroad is meeting new people you would not have encountered plus helping them. The experience is what you make it, if you go with a positive attitude and with no pre-conceived judgment of what it will be like, the people you help will benefit the most and you will learn more from them.

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?

This experience to us has been incredible for the both of us; throughout this trip we have encountered so many things that are so different from life back in England. These experiences have not only expanded our perceptions and skills as filmmakers but as individuals as well. It’s changed our perception on language barriers and how we can still form rapport with people even with a different native tongue.

I believe that the program has also changed our perception on our own abilities, if you asked us a few months back “do you think you could interview monks and film a promotional video and teach Thai children media and film?” we would probably say you got the wrong girls!

The media program changes your perception by allowing that versatility to explore, create, and film parts of a place you have never set foot on. It allows you to gain a rapport with people and open a gateway to a whole new community. It’s through these things that change us and challenge us and alter our perceptions. You might not notice it while your there, but you definitely look back after each day saying, “wow is this real, this is awesome”.

We like to say that this experience exceeds the boarders you never thought you could reach both physically and mentally.