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Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management student Nicola writes about her experiences on exchange, all the way from Mahidol University, Thailand

Thailand typically isn’t on everyone’s list as a study abroad destination, but for me it was the only country I wanted to study in. I started researching universities in Thailand, and ones that had an International Hotel and Tourism program. The one university that stood out was Mahidol University, located in Salaya (45 minutes outside of Bangkok). Mahidol is ranked number one in Thailand, and 62nd in the world. 

After researching subjects that I could take at Mahidol, I noticed that there were a lot more subjects that were very specific to my degree and were not offered at Bond. I decided on Mahidol University as there was a wide variety of subjects and subjects that I was very interested in. As well as the subjects and the recognition of the university, the Bond exchange office was offering extra funding for students travelling to Thailand to study for a semester. It was the New Colombo Plan semester mobility grant, worth $5,000. I was incredibly lucky that I was granted this scholarship as well as the Bond Exchange Grant. These scholarships have allowed me to make the most of my experience in Thailand as well as help with accommodation fees.

I am living at Bundit Home – which is about a 25 minute walk away from the university, and a five-minute bus ride away. Bundit provides mini vans that run from the accommodation to the university every 15 minutes every day of the week except Sunday. A majority of the exchange students are staying at Bundit, which has allowed me to make friends with a lot of other exchange students and meet people from all over the world! I have a room with two single beds but I have chosen not to have a room mate. The accommodation fees are incredibly cheap. My rent for one month is 6,900 baht ($300 AUD) and then another 1,000 baht ($45 AUD) for electricity and water. I absolutely love my accommodation. Salaya is very local so not many people speak English and the food on the street is delicious and so cheap! 

The streets of Salaya at sunset

My usual dinner ranges from 30-50 baht ($1.30 – $2.20). When I first arrived, I found a street stall that sells the most amazing pad thai and I didn’t eat anything else for dinner for a week because I didn’t know what anything else was at any of the other food places! After finally trying some other restaurants and food stalls in my area (there are so many, I now understand why Thailand is so famous for their food!). I have found a few of my favourite spots, but every few days I go explore some new places to eat with friends. As well as living in a local area, the costs are so much cheaper than Australia and even Bangkok! Thailand is super cheap in general, one AUD is equivalent to 22 baht.

The subjects I am taking are: 

  • Marketing and sales for the hospitality industry
  • Ethics in hospitality operations 
  • Event management
  • Human resource management and development 

These subjects are all incredibly interesting. My favourite is Human Resource Management and Development as my lecturer is absolutely fantastic and teaches the class in lots of different ways. She also tends to use real life experiences, which I find super interesting. I have found that my workload here is a lot less than my workload back at Bond. I think the reason is that most assignments and homework here are group projects; therefore, I am able to work collaboratively with other people instead of doing a whole project by myself. I am loving the group projects here as I am able to meet a lot of full-time Thai students, which is amazing as they have been showing me around and showing me all different things about Thailand, Bangkok and Salaya. 

The grading system here is very different to back home as well. A pass in classes here is 70% (which is regarded as a C). The lecturers do spread out the workload so participation and attendance is apart of the grade as well as homework. If a student misses four classes (for one subject) without a valid reason, they will not be able to attend the final exam.

I have been exploring different areas of Thailand and immersing myself in the culture as much as I can. I have a few stories about some crazy experiences, such as the time I went to a monkey temple. To get there, we travelled from Bangkok by train for three hours. We hopped on a third class carriage as it was only 28 baht for a three-hour train ride! The train ride was definitely hot and long. There was no air conditioning and only a ceiling fan every few seats. The temple was covered in monkeys. They were crazy and climbed all over me and my friends who I was with. One even stole my Pepsi out of my bag. At one stage, I had ten monkeys on me. It was insane! I had to spin in circles to get them off me. 

It was all super fun and exciting to be around monkeys until one bit me…. yep a monkey bit me. 

So after a six-hour trip home (Bangkok traffic is next level), I went straight to the hospital at 11pm at night to get a rabies shot. The hospital I had been advised to go to if I had any medical emergencies was only open from 6am-6pm, so instead I walked 2km at 11pm (with a friend) to a local public hospital. 

What came next felt like a scene from a horror movie. The hospital was on a dirt road with no streetlights. When we arrived, it was really quiet and there were no other patients. Luckily, a woman with perfect English approached me and she translated everything the doctor and nurses said. I had to get five rabies shots over a period of a month. The first shot cost 900 baht ($40 AUD). I had to get my second shot three days later so I went to the Golden Jubilee Hospital, which is associated with Mahidol University and is the one my advisors from Mahidol told me to go to if I had any issues. The Golden Jubilee was incredible, definitely one of the best hospitals in Thailand and the nurses and doctors took great care of me every time I came to get a shot. So, a tip for anyone considering Thailand – stay away from monkeys! 

I have had a lot of hiccups (thankfully none too bad) since being in Thailand, but isn’t that what travelling and studying aboard is all about? For anyone looking to study at an Asian country, research the culture and be prepared. If you plan to travel outside of the country you are studying in, make sure you triple check your visa! I went to Singapore without getting a re-entry permit before leaving and my student visa got cancelled and I had to re-apply for another one, which was stressful. This happened due to language barriers at the university and airport when I was trying to ask if I needed to do anything about my visa before leaving. I am still currently on a 30-day tourist visa as the embassy is still processing my request for another student visa. If it doesn’t get approved, I have to leave the country and then come back again on another 30-day tourist visa and re-apply AGAIN. So fingers crossed that everything gets approved!

Nicola standing in front of a palace

I have absolutely loved Thailand though! I have been completely immersed in the culture and seeing the importance and impact that Buddhism has on everyone here is incredible. The temples and sacred areas are so beautiful and peaceful - I am always in awe. Every shop, bus and taxi will have an offering to pay respect to Buddha and the King of Thailand. Shrines of both the King and Buddha are everywhere and many people place food, drinks, incense and more on the shrines as offerings. 

It is an incredible culture and a majority of the people are so lovely and always willing to help. The food is incredibly and so delicious. It was a culture shock to begin with, but it is simply beautiful and I am so glad I chose Thailand. I still have so much of the country to explore, which will probably bring more wild stories! I am so incredibly grateful for this experience and Thailand will always have a piece of my heart.

Want to take your Bond University degree global? Find out more about going on exchange.