Summer High School Programs in Thailand with Rustic Pathways

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About

Rustic Pathways first offered Thailand programs in 1999, and the country has since become the hub of our Southeast Asia operations. We have an extensive team of incredible local staff who are experts at ensuring our students have authentic, transformative experiences. Thailand offers the widest range of Rustic programs, from gritty service trips and animal conservation programs to outdoor adventures and immersive cultural experiences.

Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand will immediately welcome and captivate you. The local people are incredibly friendly and deeply enjoy sharing their Buddhist culture, spicy food, and love for laughter. There is a peacefulness about the country, and the scenery is always entrancing.

Questions & Answers

This trip is very safe! Base houses are owned by RP, so it's is completely RP-Staffed. Trips that are not in base houses are still very safe and there will always be RP staff with you. I have never felt unsafe on any of my Rustic Trips.

Reviews

97%
based on 71 reviews
  • Impact 9.5
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.2
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.5
  • Program Selection 10
  • Pre-departure Help 10
  • In-program Support 10
  • Impact on Student 8
  • Value 10
Showing 16 - 30 of 71
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Olivia
10/10

The Land of Smiling People- Thailand

I traveled with Rustic Pathways for the first time this summer and spent a month in Thailand. I made so many friends from all different parts of the world and my perspectives on happiness and friendship were changed forever. Getting the opportunity to sit down with Thai children and engage them in English vocabulary and make a strong connection with a person who doesn't speak my own language was mind blowing. We may not have spoken the same language, but friendship is able to transcend all barriers. I loved being able to bond with so many new people who were all compassionate, caring people. Also, the program leaders were so amazing and were a large reason to why I had an amazing summer being that I got sick and had to go to the hospital twice and they were extremely professional. During my program, I was able to to see how kindness is the best medicine and how it can really change a life for the better. I only learned these extremely important lessons because I traveled with Rustic Pathways, and I will always be grateful to have had that opportunity.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Lucy
10/10

Thai Elephant Conservation Project

The Thai Elephant Conservation Project was my first program that I had done with Rustic. To be honest, I was very nervous because a few weeks prior to my Rustic program, I had done a different service program with a different company. It was not a good experience to say the least. I won't get into it, but because of my experience with that company, I was very nervous. I was also nervous, because I would be traveling across the world with a group of people that I've never met before. The only other time that I had gone to Asia, I was with my school for an exchange program and had my sister and my friends with me the whole time. Lastly, since I'm deathly allergic to nuts, I was worried that I would have an allergic reaction. But, I was really worried about nothing, because Rustic was so amazing and I had a life-changing experience.

Right when I got to the airport, our flight leader made sure that everyone knew each other's names and played a lot of ice breaker games. I don't know how, but I became friends with the people on my program before we even stepped foot in Thailand. So, my worry about going to the other side of the world with strangers disappeared, because it was like I had known all the students for the longest time.

Rustic was also so helpful and accommodating with my nut allergy. My program leaders already knew that I was allergic to nuts and there was not a single nut in any of the food options. In addition, the program leaders carried med kits with them at all times and there was an epi-pen in the med kits just in case. It was amazing that Rustic went out of their way to make sure that I wouldn't get an allergic reaction and feel safe eating anything.

With my actual time at the elephant sanctuary, it felt like I was in a dream. I was doing things that I never dreamed of doing. Ever got assigned a partner randomly and an elephant with their respective mahouts (elephant handlers). Within the first 10 minutes of meeting our mahouts, they were already joking around with us and teaching us everything about elephants. We got to ride elephants, bathe them in the river twice a day, feed them sugar cane, corn, and potatoes, and, of course, clean up their poop. It was one of the coolest experiences in my life. I will never forget how amazing it was getting up on Red Moon, my elephant, for the first time and seeing the world from so high up.

One of my favorite days was when everyone rode their elephants into the jungle. On the way there, my partner, my mahout, and I were singing at the top of out lungs and having the time of our lives. We got to the jungle and everything was so peaceful. We hiked to a waterfall and swam. We collected bamboo to make cups and plates. We had a huge bonfire where we danced, sang, and played games around the fire. Lastly, we slept under the stars with elephants all around us. I don't think many people can say that and it just shows how in every Rustic program, the students do once in a lifetime experiences.

In addition to just riding the elephants, we got to make paper out of elephant poop. We went to the night markets and mall. Mostly though, we did a lot of conservation work. There were group discussions about the poaching and logging industries and how we can work to end them. We planted grass and sugarcane for the elephants to eat in the future, and spent an afternoon in the elephant hospital to see how the people at the conservation center take care of the elephants and help them if they need it. I loved how we didn't just ride the elephants all day, we did an array of conservation work to make a lasting effect of our time in Thailand.

By the end of the 11 day program, I was an certified amateur mahout, I made some amazing friends that I still keep in touch with to this day, I learned what mahouts dedicate their lives to caring for elephants, and I got to have a connection and bond with an animal I thought I would never have. I could not have asked for a better trip and Rustic has forever changed my life. I would not be where I am as a person without Rustic. I was a leader, a change maker, a person that was heard. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and experience that Rustic gave me.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Devon
10/10

Life on the Margin!!!

Thailand is named the land of smiles for a reason. My eighteen days on Life on the Margin were filled with laughter, dancing, incredible stories, and debrief sessions. This trip is definitely for people who love to engage in intellectual conversations, have a love for children, and are open to a new lifestyle for the duration of the trip. Over the course of our trip we were able to dissect global issues, our surroundings, and ourselves, while still being silly when dancing in the back of Songthaew's, or sliding around in the mud when playing soccer with local children. We engaged in a mutual exchange of culture with the children we lived with in the base house, children we taught, and children we played with. This trip is for anybody who has an interest in global issues, a love for service, and a desire to explore the roots of Karen culture. Learn to embrace a culture different to anything you have experienced, embrace the dirt, and embrace all the new friendships! I have been on multiple Rustic Pathways trips, and the more service the closer your group with become. Laugh with your new friends as you stuff your face with amazing noodles, slip in the mud, and rock some elephant pants with crazy colored crocs. Get to know the amazing staff as you sit crossed legged around the table eating amazing food, while you are surrounded by the gorgeous rice patty fields. Don't forget your bug spray, water bottle, and a journal to document the amazing trip!

How can this program be improved?
I wish the program was longer, and that the first week our group was more separate from other Rustic groups.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Nicoline
10/10

Life on the Margin

Signing up for the Life on the Margin trip in Thailand was quite possibly the best thing I've ever done for myself. The experiences I had teaching, doing service work, discussing, and getting to know the local Karen people were suprising, enlightening, fun, and educational is every way. I didn't expect to learn so much about myself and how my place in the world connects to those overseas. I left the beautiful country of Thailand with a newfound sense of community and the love of all my friends, despite us being scattered all over the world. I would recommend this program to anyone who is seeking an impactful experience and isn't afraid of a little cement or a few chickens. My biggest piece of advice to anyone going to travel is to just let loose and be open. I have always been afraid of the uncontrollable but I had so much more fun when I was able to throw my hands in the air and sing, share my ideas, and be in the moment. The thing I remember most is the fun times I had with my group. Thankfully we were only 9 and that allowed to all become close quickly. Time flies before your eyes and you may not remember the views of the mountains forever, but you will remember embarrassing yourselves singing Taylor Swift songs in front of a group of Burmese students who are far more talented than you. Mishaps always turn into the best memories and the funniest stories stories to share with friends and family. If I could go back I don't think I would change a single thing about my trip. While this program does involve a hefty dose of discussion based learning I wouldn't trade my experience for anything else.

How can this program be improved?
Longer!!! The general consensus of our group felt that we could dive deeper into the issues we were learning amount and make more impactful, deeper connections with the locals if we had more time. I would also recommend that the leaders start the "debriefs" earlier in the evening as they often ran until 10:30-11:00 at night.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Sophia
10/10

Southeast Asian Adventurer

This summer I went on the trip of a lifetime! Spending time in both Thailand and Laos, I ziplined across waterfalls, belayed down cliff faces, boated down the Mekong, saw river dolphins, and most importantly met the most incredible people. The leaders were all wonderful, each with great stories to share and advice to give, and everyone was so friendly. The trip was excellently organized (like clockwork) and the Base House was amazing!! Definitely pack for two weeks of adventure (bring athletic shorts!!) but do not overpack (I made that mistake). This trip opened my eyes to all the adventure that is out there, and since returning I have been so much more active!! I would 10/10 recommend this program to all adventure and travel lovers.

How can this program be improved?
Improve the packing list, as it could have been more specific. Other than that nothing!!
Yes, I recommend this program
Cailley
10/10

Elephants and Amazing Thailand

Traveling across the world alone is scary. You don't know anybody, you don't know what to expect, you're visiting another country with a different culture, and the food is weird. But what people don't think about is that everybody is thinking the same thing. Nobody knows what is going to happen during the two and a half weeks, and that is what makes it such an adventure.

This past summer, I traveled from New York City to Frankfurt to Singapore to Bangkok to Chaing Mai, with a group of 25 other girls and 1 boy. During those 45 hours of travel, I had no idea that I would meet some of my best friends in the world. Everybody was kind, loving, cared about the environment, cared about all cultures and all people, and genuinely wanted to spend every waking moment living in the present time.

My group spent one whole week living on the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, where we trained to be mahouts. We were each paired with a partner, an elephant, and a professional mahout (or elephant caretaker). My elephant's name was Boon Mee, and my mahout's name was P. Neuk. During those six days, I learned so much from a man who I did not speak one word of the same language as. P. Neuk taught me and my partner to love ourselves, everybody, and everything around us. He taught us to care for our surroundings and be happy ALL THE TIME! We woke up every morning and retrieved our elephants from the jungle and brought them to a nearby body of water where we would give them their baths. Then we would ride them back to the TECC, and spend a day in beautiful Lampang, Thailand, before repeating the bathing schedule during the evening. My time at the TECC was life changing, and I could not be more thankful for P. Neuk and Boon Mee for teaching me how to cherish every moment in life.

For the second week of the trip, my group traveled all around Thailand visiting Buddhist temples, museums, waterfalls, and much more. My favorite moment of the entire two weeks that I was away was the day that we visited a Buddhist Monastery in the mountains. I remember being told that the climb to the monastery was over 500 steps. The whole group groaned and we were all dreading the day that we had to walk up all those stairs. But when we got there and started walking, I noticed that there were signs up against all of the trees that had Buddhist quotes about suffering and sacrifice, making me think about everything differently. The steps were torturous, but reading the quotes made it worth it and so did the destination at the top. When we arrived at the monastery, I remember seeing the hundreds of Buddhas lining the inside of the main area. I remember seeing pictures of renowned monks hanging from all the walls. At the time that we were there, it was a very important Buddhist holiday and all of the Buddhists were visiting the temples and monasteries to pay their respects to Buddha and monks. On this day we got to meditate with a monk at the top of a beautiful mountain in the middle of Thailand. I will never forget how surreal it felt to be meditating with a man who devoted his entire life to following the footsteps of Buddha while sitting in a place so breathtaking and unknown, listening to him speak Thai words and feel like I knew what he was saying even though there was such a barrier between us.

Thailand changed my life, and it will change yours to. I truly cannot say that I disliked any moment of this trip, no matter how hot and humid it was. Please travel to Thailand and experience the same amount of wonder that I did this summer!

How can this program be improved?
More discussion about the difference between cultural elephant preservation and environmental elephant preservation.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Savannah
10/10

Children's Home and Elephant Sanctuary Project

If you're thinking about going on this trip, you should. Going to Thailand was my first time traveling out of the country, and I was hardly nervous. RP staff makes it so easy and comfortable to travel, and upon arrival I felt immediately welcomed. The Children's Home is the most amazing place that I have ever been. The people and staff there are by far the best people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. They love genuinely and are eager to make new friends and build relationships. On one of the first service projects we did, we stayed over night at a school. This night we talked about some of the misconceptions we had about the country. It was amazing to see how many people were warned to "wear their backpacks on the front of their bodies" and "be extra careful of your valuables" because of an inaccurate stereotype of Thai people as untrustworthy. It seems many of us came with the impression that because we had more than someone else, they would undoubtedly want, and try to get whatever we had that they don't. Besides the fact that on this trip I learned that my perceptions of having "more" are very different from others, and that just because I have before seen my life as "better" than those who have less, doesn't mean that is the case, I learned that people are good. From my experience, Thai people seem to be some of the most trustworthy people. Some even leave stores unlocked at night, and invite strangers into their homes with open arms. It's almost as if those who gave us the
"advice" to be extra cautious, actually had no idea what they were talking about. I felt so safe here, and at peace more so than I do back home. Leaving the Children's Home was one of the hardest things I have ever done, I think that it truly may be magical.
Although leaving was hard, the Elephants were worth it. Spending a week learning about and helping care for and understand elephants and their role in Thai culture was amazing. It became clear that though these are still not ideal conditions for the animals, it is the best we can do. Love and learn and protect. The hotel was fantastic, and it was so neat to interact with the Mahouts and learn more about their lifestyle. We also had many other excursions on this trip, such as going to temples, white water rafting, and visiting markets. This trip was the most unique and beneficial learning experience I have ever had the privilege of being a part of, and I fully and whole-heartedly recommend it.

How can this program be improved?
At the Sanctuary, we were taught about what is and isn't natural for the elephants, and although some sacrifices must be made that are not always the greatest option, rustic students were offered the opportunity to ride the elephants, which I believe ti be extremely unnecessary and also confusing, as we were learning what was best for them. I can say now that what is best for them is not to have kids hop on for a quick photo-shoot, but to have kids understand why we need to treat the animals with respect. However the sanctuary is doing most everything else perfectly to ensure a safe environment for the animals.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Callie
9/10

Come with Nothing, Go Home Rich: Mekong Expedition 2017

At first, this program seemed daunting; coming with only a small carry-on for 25 days halfway around the world? Sounds crazy, especially in a culture where checking a large suitcase for a week's getaway at a resort is the norm. But on this trip I not only used every single item I packed, which was a first for me, but I also came home with so many more experiences than I would have had with a checked suitcase.
One of the highlights of the trip was definitely visiting the local markets, particularly the ones hidden from tourists. Although the stench of the meat sitting out in the sun will never leave me, neither will the feeling of experiencing local life when bargaining to buy towels, t-shirts, and crocs. I felt most like a local in those markets, wandering through the alleyways surrounded by local food. I was able to get all of the necessities at these markets, the first of which I visited on the second day, so anyone concerned about the lack of necessities from home will soon find satisfaction with a whole new bag filled with clothes.
The village life is primarily focused on the service, which consists of two three hour sections each day. Prepare to work with a lot of cement in the sun for hours on end. Despite this description, service days were some of the most memorable because sometimes the local children will come and join you to assist in your service. At one point we had about 40 children in an assembly line bringing sand up a hill.
This program allows you to experience a variety of tourist attractions as well, such as the White Temple, the Black House, night markets, a mountain and waterfall, and wonderful Thai massages. Flexibility is required on this trip however, as the itinerary can change quickly. As you bond with a small group of people you grow accustomed to the exotic fruits, squatty potties, and bucket showers that soon feel normal to you.
I highly recommend this program to adventurous students who enjoy connecting with others, the satisfaction of hard work, and immersing themselves in a completely foreign culture. The rewards I reaped from this program were truly priceless and I would have been unable to experience what I did anywhere else in the world and for that I am grateful.

How can this program be improved?
Fixing the European packing lists, which were different from the more current US website packing list.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Alex
10/10

Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children

The program, overall , was an excellent opportunity. From the first moment I set foot upon the Ricefields base, the staff was wonderful. The programs, the food, the lodgings, and the activities all exceeded expectations.

Be careful about the side trip options, however. Though we were told we would have 5 options on the website, we were presented only two at onsite, which was determined via popular vote. The trip itself was also somewhat poorly managed, with little communication.

However, the trip was fun overall, and provided me with memories that will last a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?
The side trip could be managed better, with the options actually provided being placed on the website.
Yes, I recommend this program
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10/10

Children's Home and Elephant Sanctuary

This trip was amazing and impacted me in ways I didn't expect. It was the perfect combination of learning, service, sight seeing, and activities. It was a great experience to be able to connect with children who don't speak your language, while also working to improve the lives of elephants. Our group recognized that the Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary did not provide the best care for elephants, so we changed our itinerary in order to fix that. It was cool to be able to do what we wanted by working on a project we all cared about. If you have the opportunity to go on this trip, I really suggest doing it because it changed my life.

How can this program be improved?
The leaders should be more equipped with the right medication to treat people who get sick.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Josephine
10/10

Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children

I want to start by saying that Rustic Pathways has truly impacted and changed my life forever. I've traveled to both Fiji (I did the Sun, Sand, and International Service program) and Thailand (Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children) which were eye opening experiences for me where my perspective of the world completely changed. I highly recommend traveling with Rustic Pathways.
For my program in Thailand, I stayed at the base house in Udon Thani and it was unbelievable. It was absolutely beautiful, always clean, and I felt perfectly safe. Both in the mornings and afternoons, we had the option of 3-4 service projects, usually construction in the morning and a variety in the afternoon. I loved them all! The two that stood out to me the most were Welcome Homes and Teaching and Tutoring.
For the project of Welcome Homes, we built a house for a woman whose home had been completely destroyed by termites and was currently living in quite a small shack. I loved this project because I could actually see the impact I was making in the community. I got to see the improvements we were making on the house as well as see the expression on the woman's face as we were doing it. As I was talking to her, I could tell that she was truly grateful for what we were doing.
For the project of Teaching and Tutoring, we traveled to a local school and I had the opportunity to teach 3rd graders flowers in English. They were absolutely adorable! Although this was very challenging because the kids barely spoke English, I noticed how passionate they are for learning and how grateful they are for the opportunity to go to school.
I highly recommend this trip if you are looking to break out of your comfort zone, immerse yourself in a new culture, and experience incredible opportunities.

How can this program be improved?
More time with the Thai children!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Brooke
10/10

Mother of a Rustic Globetrotter

My daughter went on the Wonders and Riches of SE Asia trip in July 2017. In 2016, she went with Rustic Pathways to Fiji. I have been very impressed with Rustic Pathways - the education they provide, their safety-mindedness, the amazing experiences they line up for the kids.

My stomach was in knots when I dropped my daughter at the airport to fly to Fiji trusting others' opinions of Rustic Pathways ... she knew no one on the trip ... it was scary! As it turns out, her friends were right: the trip was an experience of a lifetime and she made a forever friend who lives not too far from us here in the United States. Seeing the villages and meeting the people there gave my daughter a different perspective and I was thrilled she wanted to immediately sign up for another Rustic trip.

The Asia trip was just incredible - breakfast with monks, cruises, a visit to an alligator farm. She sent me a photo of her about to eat a fried scorpion on a stick and another with a giant (live) snake. It's a real leap of faith for parents to allow kids to roam the globe, but I do think the kids' minds are expanded - and they appreciate not everyone has the same life experiences we have here in the United States. Parents of Rustic travelers can expect to see an increase in independence, self-reliance and self-confidence in their young world citizens.

Yes, I recommend this program
girl in colorful shirt standing in dark
Sydney
10/10

Come with Nothing, Go Home Rich

This trip was everything I could have asked for, but it became even more. Within those three weeks, my mindset on life evolved and I learned values I had never considered. I went with the intention to do community service to better the lives of others, and through this experience I bettered my own. I could go on to tell you my favorite memory, but what is more important is what your future memories can and will consist of: never ending laughter and new friends made, stimulation of your mind and what it means to be who you are, times of fear and even sadness, the growth from low moments, and my favorite, the visible change in your mind and you as a human being from the start of the trip to its finish, because it will happen. Now, all of these may be quite broad, but that's only because I don't want to tell you what I've learned, I want you to experience them yourself. The take away from this rant, quite simply is, go on this trip, and brace yourself for the time of your life! it will change you, and all for the better.

How can this program be improved?
Less down time!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Hannah
9/10

Children's Home and Elephant Sanctuary

This trip has completely changed me, and I am so happy that it did. Before this trip I was so ungrateful for my education and would most often than not, dread going to school. Seeing how limited the Thai people were to education changed my beliefs forever. When I first arrived the Kapuang School, my heart filled with love when I saw all of the students for the first time. All of the students had the biggest smile on their faces and you could see how much determination they had to learn. This experience of teaching at this school actually made me realize that I wanted to be a teacher. Making education available to everyone is now one of my main priorities because it is so important to having a good life. On another note, waking up at the Children's Home every single day put a smile on my face. Whether it was playing kane ball with the locals or singing and playing the guitar with the leaders, I had a smile on my face the whole entire time. I don't think I have ever been that happy. Another component that made my trip much better was being able to disconnect from my phone. I am usually always attached to my phone, and not having to worry about it for 3 weeks made me a much more relaxed person. I recommend everyone to turn off their phones on any Rustic trip, because it betters your experience. I made so many strong friendships on this trip with all of the leaders and I am so grateful and happy to have been able to meet all of the people tha I met. Although when arriving to the Elephant Sanctuary I was very shocked, I still had an amazing experience. A 4-star hotel was not what I was expecting but it was nice to have an actual shower! If you are looking for a more "rustic" trip (as in roughing it, or homestays) I would not recommend the elephant sanctuary for you. But if you are a first time traveler, it may be very comforting!

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I would change is banning the usage of phones because they are a distraction.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Sandra
10/10

Children's Home

This was a completely new experience for me as it was my first trip traveling by myself. It started off organized once I got to the airport since I could see everyone in their Rustic t-shirts. Like most people, I was nervous to go because I did not know what to expect. However, my trip started out well before I even got to Thailand because I made long lasting friends at the airport. Once we got to Thailand, we took a 4 hour drive to the Children's home. This was not a dreadful drive, however, because the scenery was amazing. We were able to drive through the city and see the different culture right away. Once we got to the Children's Home, my first impression was how beautiful it was. The place itself was urrounded by rice fields and mountains. The Children's Home has bamboo huts which people sleep in and there's a main area where people get to socialize and do many different things like play soccer.
The best part of all was getting a buddy from the Children's Home. I got to spend time with her such as going to the local market or helping her with English. Today, I still keep in touch with her. Not only did we get a buddy but we also taught classes one day which was an incredible experience. It was really fun to see what the schools were like and getting the chance to help the children with English. They all giggled and smiled during their whole lesson. My favorite part was when we taught them games such as "Down by the Banks" or "Duck Duck Goose" because they loved to be able to go outside and play while still learning.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this program because it is an unforgettable experience. The different culture I got to experience and the people I met through this program made it a life-changing trip. I'll never forget all the special memories that I had at the Children's Home in Thailand.

How can this program be improved?
I would've wanted to have more free time with the people on my program
Yes, I recommend this program

About Rustic Pathways

Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways to one of many exotic locations.

We take students on unique, rewarding, and safe programs to some of the world's friendliest and fascinating countries. Immerse yourself in a new culture, work on...