Maria Jacob - 2013 Program Participant

Chiang Mai Grand Canyon, Thailand

Waterfall Pit Stop to Pai

What inspired you to study abroad?

I wanted to go abroad again, and figured it was a great opportunity to travel as a college student. Many of my friends who had done programs were really happy they went, so they absolutely pushed me in the right direction.

Why did you choose USAC for your study abroad experience?

USAC was the most well-liked at my university, and the friends of mine who had studied abroad before did it through them. I was sold when I heard the price for some of their programs were less money than a semester spent at home!

What was your favorite part about Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai was a convenient city, it was large but felt very accessible. It was easy to access other parts of Thailand from Chiang Mai, which is always a bonus if you want to travel around the country or part of the world you are in. Chiang Mai itself had great restaurants and places to go out, mountains to explore via motorbike just minutes from campus, and hundreds of temples within city limits; there was always something to do. Thailand in general is really gorgeous, so I couldn't have chosen a better place to live for four months.

Waterfall in Northern Thailand

Waterfall Pit Stop to Pai

What makes the USAC program in Chiang Mai unique?

It is one of the only programs in the industry in Thailand and Southeast Asia is a fairly new development for study abroad providers. I knew I wanted to go somewhere off the beaten path, instead of simply going to Europe, so it was unique to visit countries I hadn't heard much about for the majority of my life. It was a much richer experience to dive into.

How supportive were local staff throughout your time in Chiang Mai?

They were like our second family, always looking out for our well-being and trying to make the most of our experience. The program directors did everything they could to get us the best internships, field trips, and group events.

What is one thing you wish you could change about your program?

I wanted to stay a year! It felt like four months went by like the snap of my fingers. I had to come back and get some of my more specific classes done for graduation, so I definitely would've planned ahead if I had known that before.

Describe what a typical day was like for you in Chiang Mai.

Wake up and put on our Chiang Mai University uniform (made everything so easy), hopped on our motorbike and headed into campus, and went to one or two classes a day (I was just taking 12 credit hours). We'd usually plan things with friends from the program to either swim in their rooftop pool, get lunch at one of many restaurants together, or make the rest of the day an adventure by heading to nearby caves or lakes. Honestly, this was my life. I still can't believe it.

What is something you enjoyed doing outside of your regular scheduled coursework?

I really enjoyed going to Laos for a week, it is a neighboring country and although the roads getting there aren't super developed and it was a long trip to and from Thailand to get to the places we wanted to visit, it was all worth it. The country is so charming and has so much untouched natural beauty.

Same with a weekend trip we took to Pai, Thailand via motorbike. We rode five hours on the bike through windy, mountainous roads and Pai is a small hippie town in the mountains with so much character. We went with lots of friends from our program, and we had such a great time seeing the Pai canyon, waterfalls, hot springs, and bar scene.

Hanging out at Huay Tung Tao Lake in Thailand

Huay Tung Tao Lake

What was your housing like in Chiang Mai?

I opted out of USAC housing and got an apartment with my boyfriend, who also went on the trip. We were just two streets away from our friends in Uniloft and got to hang out with them often. I liked our freedom best, since it wasn't ideal to live in Uniloft because at the time the dorms were strictly one-sex and a girl couldn't even go into the boys building, and the other way around. It has since changed, which would have been good for us, but now students have a more integrated living experience.

Now that you're home, in what ways has studying abroad impacted your life?

In so many ways. I am so much more educated about Asia and have friends all over the world thanks to meeting people in my USAC group as well as Thais and other backpackers. I am more confident in my travel planning and my ability to adapt to new (sometimes scary) situations. I also got a job at my study abroad office when I got back, and that was such a fun learning experience that I couldn't have had if I never studied abroad.