South East Asia- It’s Not What You’d Think!

Photo by Lizzy Southard

So South East Asia isn’t exactly on everybody’s radar as far as study abroad destinations go. Traveling overseas can be daunting regardless of your destination, but studying somewhere you might not even be able to point out on a map— ridiculous, right?

Nope, not at all. When students think of Asia, many get stuck on just how exotic or different it seems from everything they know, and that can be kind of scary. After spending a semester studying in Thailand and traveling around South East Asia, I have a million reasons why I love this region and why it’s a lot more familiar than you’d think. However, for the sake of your sanity, I’ll narrow it down a bit.

Here are my five reasons why South East Asia is a college student’s haven:

1) Budget Friendly
Living in Thailand was amazingly cost effective. I was able to make my savings last without even trying. When a meal is less than a dollar and a cab ride across town is 60 cents, it’s safe to say that you’re going to get some pretty big bang for your buck.

2) Food, of course
The great thing about Thai’s is that they love to eat—all the time. From sit down restaurants to street food or even 7/11, you’ll be hard pressed to find somewhere that you aren’t within an arm’s reach of something delicious. Check out a fruit vendor for breakfast and try some of the best pineapple out there, play it safe with a plate of authentic Pad Thai for lunch, and then throw away any inhibitions as you try anything and everything from the never ending line of street carts for dinner. And if after a while all you want in life is a burger, western comforts like McDonalds are always there for you to fall back on.

street food
Photo by Lizzy Southard

3) Language Requirement
Is English your first, second, and only language? No problem, many people in this region are familiar with English. Going about day to day life in Thailand was a breeze without knowing any Thai; but I strongly recommend using new vocabulary as often as you can. Locals are incredibly kind, and they love it when visitors make an effort to speak their language— even if you are pretty bad at it. If you’re still having trouble getting your point across, a little bit of charades usually does the trick.

4) Best of Both Worlds
This region has got it all; the picturesque mountains and hidden waterfalls of Northern Thailand are only a short plane ride away from the glistening urban utopia of Singapore or the high rise skyscrapers of Malaysia. I could go to a massive indoor shopping complex to hit up H&M and the sleek new movie theatre, or I could weave through the local night market and haggle with vendors. Just try to get bored— I dare you.

5) Unique Place—Unique Opportunities
I was able to have some truly spectacular experiences during my time abroad. I went full on Rapunzel as I got to participate in Yi Peng, Chiang Mai’s spectacular lantern festival. I visited the Elephant Nature Park where I could get up close and personal with everyone’s favorite five ton land mammal, while learning about how to ensure their safety and conservation. I was given the opportunity to volunteer at a military base twice a week teaching English to soldiers which was more fun than I can even describe— but respect your professors kids, teaching is HARD.

Photo by Lizzy Southard

Photo by Lauren Gabell

Written by: Lizzy Southard

Lizzy Southard is an Education Abroad Peer Ambassador. She is a sophomore studying International Studies, and she participated in a UK Partner program (The Education Abroad Network) in Chiang Mai, Thailand.