The City With “Ratcha” Streets

Our first full day in Thailand was a fusion of ancient and modern Chiang Mai. We started off the day at quaint western bakery. I knew it was a winner after reading its banner “Bagel House”. Despite Hong Kong’s strong western influence, I have yet to find a bagel while abroad. Chiang Mai filled that void.

After a quick bagel with cream cheese, my friends and I traversed through the streets of Chiang Mai for some friends to make a downpayment for a future Thai cooking class. I purposely use the verb “traverse” because it is rather difficult to navigate this city. For instance, nearly every street begins with “Ratcha”. I kid you not. This common slang phrase is the beginning of nearly every street name making each suffix that much more important. In 90 or 100 degree heat, it’s natural that you misread a suffix and are now trying to reestablish some sense of directions.
Though it can’t describe the city, the roads can easily be categorized as “Ratcha”.

We managed to negotiate a rather low fare for a tuk tuk, which is an open rickshaw frequently used for transportation. From there we went to Wiang Kum Kam, the former capital of the northern province. The ancient city has preserved numerous ruins despite the 700 year old flood that forced locals to flee to Chiang Mai. It was a rather condense area, but we opted to take a horse driven rickshaw through the ancient city stopping at nine of the most well preserved ruins. It was really moving, especially when seeing locals paying homage to their ancestors and praying in front of certain ruins and/or temples. Image

On a complete aside, I know that it’s evident in textbooks and the media that patriarchy is the standard for nearly all cultures. This ideal was even more apparent at the ancient temples with large signs in both Thai and English stating “No girls allowed”. Though cognizant of the gender inequality still present in the world, the numerous signs just reinforced the notion that both sexes are treated differently. It makes you think how far America has come in this regard comparative to other countries and cultures.

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Exploring historic parts of northern Thailand was amazing. The rest of the afternoon, however, was enjoying Chiang Mai from a more modern perspective. The Art of Paradise 3D art museum provided interesting perspective into the world of art. It was so fascinating to walk the gallery halls and notice all the two-dimensional murals, yet, from afar, certain parts seem three-dimensional. The coolest part about this artistic style is that mostly each mural created the illusions of three dimensions without having a protruding object from the museum walls. It was a lot of fun providing many laughs and photo opps! Definitely a must-see location if you want to escape the humid weather.


The rest of the day was spent exlporing day and night markets and managing to get lost, or I as love to call it “Take the scenic route”, a few more times. We did stumble upon a smoothie joint; naturally, I purchased a $1 mango smoothie due to our inability to read a map! Who’s the winner now?

Easter Holiday in Thailand

With most of my exams, papers, and projects complete, I knew that this was a prime opportunity to travel around South East Asia during my last weeks abroad. I am currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which is about nine hours north of the capital, Bangkok. A city filled with golden temples and exotic culture, Chiang Mai was the obvious sight to visit when visiting Thailand. Unfortunately I arrived late in the day, which under normal circumstances would be perfectly acceptably; however, today was the last day of the Thai New Year celebration. Apparently a major New Year festivity is a large water fight. Though we did not witness this said fight nor get drenched in water, the remains of the fight were strewn throughout the streets. Large puddles of water paired with mini water pistols lined the streets. I even went into a 7-Eleven and their salesman tried to up-sell water guns. He just assumed I wanted a water gun with my mentos and tea, obvious complementary goods.

Aside from evading the New Year water fight, my travel partners and I ventured through the streets of Chiang Mai to get some local street food. Just taking it easy. It’s a new country, new timezone, and a new set of rules.

I will try and post about my experiences in real time while still documenting my journey with video. Expect some videos upon my return.



How to Talk About Study Abroad in a Job Interview

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Chris Hickey:

A great reminder that there are many useful skills learned while studying abroad. Whether you realize it or not, you are always assimilating to new surroundings and learning.

Originally posted on ISEP Study Abroad:

You’ve submitted your (stellar) cover letter and (impressive) resume, and you’ve been selected for an interview. Great! As you prepare, remember that studying abroad is more than an opportunity to see the world. The challenges of living in a different country build skills that make you a valuable employee, but how do you communicate that to your interviewer? In a competitive job market, study abroad experiences make you stand out, but you have to discuss them strategically.

Preparing in advance is crucial. Think carefully about how you can use your study abroad experiences to answer common interview questions, showcase your skills and build rapport with your interviewer. Here are several suggestions to guide you as you develop a collection of stories about your time abroad:

See your study abroad through your interviewers eyes. How can an employer benefit from your new-found global intelligence? (Photo by Jessica Siffring, Universität Salzburg, Austria)

See study abroad through your interviewer’s eyes. How can an employer benefit from your new-found global intelligence? (Photo by Jessica Siffring, Universität Salzburg, Austria)

  • Did…

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Lingnan University Campus Tour

After almost ninety days abroad, I have managed to not make a video of this lovely campus I have called home for the past three months. For the record, the occasional Instagram photo (filtered or not) does not do this campus justice. I tried to showcase some of its unique features, campus culture, and some of my favorite places to relax.

I hope you enjoy this long overdue video tour of Lingnan University.


7 Awesome Reasons To Study Abroad In East Asia

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Chris Hickey:

These are some great factors to keep in mind when selecting your study abroad location. This is a must-read!

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

If you are in college and considering a study abroad experience – do it. And go to East Asia.

Go to Shanghai like I did. Or northern Thailand to take in ancient Siam culture. Perhaps immerse yourself in the small but mighty city-state Singapore. Or venture off the beaten path and study in Vietnam, Cambodia or even Laos.

A single week in one of the aforementioned nations (minus Singapore, a polyglot nation where English is primarily spoken) will result in greater learning than a month in dominantly English-speaking Western Europe or Australia.

By leaving out countries in Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East or even South Asia, I am not dishing them. I have not been to many in these regions; therefore, I cannot give a well-informed opinion. However, I am sure they all offer unique perspectives, cultures, art and most importantly amount to personal awakening.

On the…

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West Virginia International

I spent a night under and with the stars this weekend. Well, I must confess that it was just a visit to the famous Avenue of Stars at night. I know some would have hoped for video footage of my sleeping under the stars and trying to survive this Asian concrete jungle because it would make a great Survivor audition tape. Sorry to disappoint, but this trip was amusing in its own right!

Having already visited the Avenue of Stars for the Lunar New Year fireworks show, I was not entirely sold on the idea of returning. Though there is a great view overlooking the Victoria Habour with the beautiful skyline all lit up, I didn’t think there was anything else to still be seen. I adamantly agreed to go upon learning that there is a nightly light show with all the buildings. It was nothing short of a spectacle full of colorful lights, sound effects, and many tourists. All that was missing was a dance routine with, of course, jazz hands (a musical theater classical and personal favorite)!

The show was nice, but the performance after the light show was the more fascinating. There was just two local gentlemen setting up an amplifier for their microphone and piano. I stayed behind as the crowds left just to hear their warm ups. Who doesn’t love a free concert, right? Ironically, the pianist began playing a rather familiar chord. It didn’t initially sound familiar until he began playing the chorus. It was the West Virginia classic country single, “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver. For those who don’t follow West Virginia University athletics, this song is always played after a victory. Students, families, and alumni clamor for this song at the end of a winning game. It’s arguably one of the most recognizable anthems of the University and  the state of West Virginia. I was not aware that this song had such an international presence. I was sitting along the Avenue of Stars overlooking the beautiful Hong Kong skyline when a man starts belting out Denver’s beloved lyrics. Needless to say, Mountaineers are everywhere whether or not that man knew the significance of that song!


Benefits of Studying Abroad, Part Four: How Study Abroad Can Make you More Flexible and thus a Better Employee

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Chris Hickey:

Questioning whether or not study abroad is right for you? It’s more than just a trip of a lifetime!

Originally posted on AGU Global Education Blog:


Photo by ISA student Erica Johnson in Departamento de Potosí, Bolivia.

When somebody asks me, “At your level of the company, what does a leader do?,” I always say, “Drive change and develop other leaders.” Jeffrey Immelt, CEO, GE

Through this series of posts on employability, we’ve been observing that studying abroad makes you more employable by enhancing your sensitivity to cultural differences, by encouraging you to be a team-player, and by forcing you to become a problem-solver, all of which skills are at a premium in times where leaders “drive change” rather than seeking stability. Today we highlight the fourth and final trait of internationally savvy jobseeker: flexibility or adaptability. If the essence of the economy is change and uncertainty, might this be the most important of them all?

As we’ve been seeing in previous posts, times have changed. There are a lot of people…

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The Wrath of Mother Nature

I guess I chose the wrong night to go to the mall for frozen yogurt!

Since being abroad, I have learned the importance of a raincoat. Needless to say, I really wish I had one this past Sunday night. There was a horrible storm which some local students described as the worst storm they could recall in recent history. I suppose the random cement truck driving through campus that afternoon should have been some indication that today was completely out of the ordinary. This photo also illustrates how secluded Lingnan University is from the urban areas of Hong Kong. We naturally received bad parts of the storm too with it destroying parts of the roof at a local mall and flooding both indoors and outdoors. Shopkeepers were sweeping pools of water out of their shops to avoid any further damage. Where I was standing, the water was nearly ankle deep. I only saw the destroyed panel pictured below; thankfully, no one was critically injured.

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The worst weather, which even included hailstorms, really affected the Kowloon Tong area. At the Kowloon Tong subway stop, there is a huge mall with numerous luxury clothing and fragrance brands and one of three Apple stores in all of Hong Kong. Adding to the upper scale image of the mall, there are glass walls, windows, roofing. While it is aesthetically pleasing, it clearly is not the functional.  Thankfully I went there the day before. From the photos and videos, there is no way most of the products could have been saved with all that indoor flooding. It was a basically a six-story waterfall. The worst part about the entire situation is that you’re totally helpless. What can you do besides whip out your phone and record the unfortunate state of affair? I guess you could also post about on your blog.

In all seriousness, this was a crazy storm! I feel extremely blessed to have been in a safer and less affected area; however, it doesn’t change the devastation. I’ve realized that it is a lot easier to stay removed from a an issue or tragedy if it doesn’t entirely affect you or it’s not familiar. The sheer coincidence that I visited the Kowloon Tong mall the day prior initiated numerous what-if scenarios. It made the entire experience more relatable. Through the photos and videos included in the link below, I hope you can gather a better understanding of what transpired.

Remember to always bring a raincoat, not an umbrella. As Mary Poppins has taught us, they are not effective in stormy weather! Stay Safe.

Top 10 Moments Abroad after 10 weeks

After 10 weeks abroad, I found it quite fitting to create a top 10 list (a la David Letterman) of my favorite moments. Here we go!


10) Mongkok- Night 1:

The first night all the exchange students were present in Hong Kong, a local student led us to Mongkok, a lively downtown area with amazing street food and markets. Living in a less urban area of Hong Kong for schooling, this trip was a great introduction to such an amazing place. It was a group of at least forty people that went out that first night to the markets and nearly filled one man’s entire restaurant. I knew that this was setting a great precedent for things to come!


9) Cheung Chau:

One of the first weekends in Hong Kong, the university’s Office of Mainland Interantional Programs (OMIP) organized a trip to a nearby island, Cheung Chau. The trip provided an interesting perspective on my perspective of Hong Kong. When one researches Hong Kong on the internet or in a book, you don’t think of lush vegetation, towering mountains, and caves. They trip was a lot of fun due to the adventurist nature of the town. Additionally, I got to eat a delightful mango dessert and a fish eyeball. Cool :)

8) Stanley Market:

Apart of another OMIP planned trip, a group of exchange and local students ventured to the Stanley Market, one of the furthest points away from our University in Hong Kong. Loaded with jaw-dropping deals on nearly any product imaginable, the Stanley Market is definitely a must-see tourist attraction. You can purchase anything there for next to nothing. I remember passing one store with a huge bin overflowing with men’s pants retailing for only $5 US. I was shocked, impressed, but unfortunately, not in need of corduroys. I also loved the pier on the outer edge of the market. I definitely intend on making a second stop there before leaving Hong Kong.

7) Taal Volcano:

Over the past ten weeks, I have been fortunate enough to have time off from classes and travel to both Taiwan and the Philippines. The Taal Volcano is the first of a few top 10 moments when in another destination besides Hong Kong. I loved the journey up the mountain to the overlook of the volcano a lot! There was something exceptionally fun about traveling horseback up to the top of a volcano. It was a once in a lifetime moments that had to be done. I also got a Survivor: Taal Volcano shirt which was really cool! Given they have hosted the past four seasons of Survivor, I’m glad the Philippines loves the show as much as I do.

6) Wulai Hotspings:

My favorite area I visited in Taiwan was most definitely Wulai. It was a small, remote village with fantastic street food, great shopping for trinkets, and natural hot springs. I was mostly interested in the hot springs before arriving there. I read online that they were some local gathering place, so I wanted to see how people utilized this natural phenomena as a meeting ground. Also, I wanted to take a dip in nature’s hot tub. I was extremely surprised that a local gentleman is paid to just sit and oversee all the happenings at the hot springs. He was a glorified life guard despite the water being no deeper than two feet. What an occupation! You just sit there in the warm water and bask in the sunlight. I was most fascinated that at around four in the afternoon, husbands and fathers, who just completed work, arrived at the hot springs still fully dressed in their business suits. They nonchalantly rolled up their pants and stuck their feet in the hot spring. It was definitely an interesting experience seeing people from all over the city relaxing in one common area.

5) Sagada Caves

After minor traffic issues at the beginning of our journey through the caves, I must admit that caving in Sagada was a highlight of my trip to the Philippines. It was fully packed with adventure. From the repelling to the swimming and climbing, I definitely got my money’s worth and then some. The tour guide led our group through the smallest crevices and deep cold water, but it was totally worth it.

4) Victoria Peak

When I think of Hong Kong, I think of a robust city with an amazing skyline. Victoria Peak is the location overlooking the towering buildings of Hong Kong. It was a great photo-op for me and my West Virginia University flag. :) As I’ve learned, WVU is everywhere!

3) Pingxi Lantern Festival

Somehow my luck was fantastic when in Taiwan. I just happened to be in Taiwan during their world famous lantern festival. Despite the relentless rain, it was a fun night. It was so cool looking at the sky every thirty minutes seeing multiple lanterns being let off from one central location. My travel group and I even purchased our own lantern, adorned it with messages and paintings, and let it go freely into the atmosphere.

2) Batad Rice Terraces

The Batad Rice Terraces were one of the places I really wanted to visit long before getting to the Philippines. The UNESCO world heritage site provided great scenery for pictures and beautiful surroundings for a lengthy hike. The waterfall at the end of the hike was equally breathtaking. The entire experience was rather eye opening. Multiple times during the hike I saw men transporting goods through this pathway. I could not imagine constantly traveling to and from Batad with a lot of heavy materials day after day.

1) Lunar New Year Fireworks

Upon learning that Hong Kong spent approximately 1.67 million US dollars, I knew that this ordeal would be one for the ages! It was a crazy thirty minute show with constant exploding fireworks. There were so many people camped out at the strip at Victoria Harbour. Even though I was felt claustrophobic for about an hour, the fireworks show was unmatched to any other I have seen. It was the perfect start to the Lunar New Year!

If you want to catch up on any of my journeys thus far, check out my videos documenting these posts at


Sushi Supper

Somehow I have been living in Hong Kong and traveling to other areas in Asia and have managed to do a seemingly impossible task- not eat sushi. This was not a conscious decision at all. I was simply eating food that more accessible at my University. I prefer to get street food at the nearby market or the occasional Western cuisine rather than traveling twenty minutes and waiting a while for sushi. In reality, the wait time seems worse than it is. You draw a number similar how you would order at a deli. I must admit, however, after waiting for eighty numbers to go by before we were seated, it was definitely worth it!

image copy 4Unlike most of the locals, I decided to order off the menu. That may sound strange, but there is a conveyer belt that stretches the length of the tables  with fresh sushi ready to be consumed. It’s the same price as ordering from the menu. You just don’t know what the price is and, unless you’re some sushi guru, what you are actually eating. Also, the overall price of your meal can increase a lot quicker since you simply taking the available food in front of you and not waiting. Once it’s off the conveyer belt, it’s yours. Similar to the “Break it, you buy it” principle, if you touch the sushi, you have to buy it. Anyways, I decided to play it safe and just order off the menu.

I didn’t get anything too radical. I ordered a plate of cucumber rolls since they are my favorite vegetable and crab rolls. They were both surprisingly good. I didn’t have the most positive of expectations going into the restaurant. I had only tried sushi a few times before, so my stomach and taste buds’ verdict was still unclear. As of now, I am a sushi lover, or at least those two types of sushi. I know this sounds really anticlimactic after eating fish eyeballs all those weeks back, but it was blog-worthy in my opinion.

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I plan to blog more from now on. This past week was hectic filled with exams, group projects, papers, and presentations. Expect fun things to come!


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