This fall, as I considered the way I would be spending my winter break, I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the idea of going home to do nothing but sleep and sit on my couch catching up on old seasons of Arrested Development (although that show is quality and any time spent watching it should not be considered wasted).  I started to consider my other options, and since I love to travel naturally the first thing I looked for was a trip to somewhere outside of the country.  USC offers a ton of opportunities to go abroad, and one of my friends recommended that I check out Alternative Winter Break programs run through the Volunteer Center.  One of the trips I found was a trip to Thailand, so I decided to apply, and luckily I was chosen to participate!

The trip runs from December 19-January 5, which means I’ll be leaving for the trip the night of my Physics final.  It’s crazy that I’ll be leaving for the airport as soon as I finish my exam, but it’ll be a nice reward for getting through my finals!  The trip is service based, so I’ll be working with kids and novice monks to teach English.  Tourism is a really big part of the economy over there, so teaching them English is a big help!  In addition to the English lessons, I’ll get to interact with kids on an informal level, playing games with them and having meals with them.  Aside from the volunteer aspect, I also get to be a tourist.  I get time each night to explore the city of Chiang Mai.  I also get to go on hikes, visit temples, ride an elephant, shop in a floating market, and visit a nursery where they raise tigers.

Through all of these things, I hope to gain an understanding of the Thai culture.  I believe that as an Engineer, it is extremely important to gain a cross-cultural understanding because it is possible, and likely, that I will be working with people from other cultures.  This trip will put me into a situation where I’m out of my comfort zone – I will be communicating with people who speak little English, or possibly no English at all.  It will require me to think outside of the box and work on my communication skills and my patience.  The trip presents some unique challenges, and I look forward to being in a new place with new people, working to overcome them!  

Samantha Kaplan-2015

Samantha Kaplan-2015

Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2015, Learn more on her profile here!

One Comment

  • Romain says:

    There are also different ways to volunteer and have a similar awesome experience in Thailand – it is also very easy to teach one year in Thailand and have a contract which pays half of the return ticket fee. A couple of website like Sataban offers a list of all the schools, universities, NGOs and centers in Thailand with contact info and job opening. You can find it on:

    It is worth checking it and at least it will give a taste of what to get before going to Thailand.