Saturday, May 23, 2015

Why Not Thailand?

My experience in Thailand has been really indescribable. I have loved every minute, at least in retrospect. Sure there were some days filled with frustration, but on the whole I can't think of any days which were terrible.

I only took 12 credits this semester, but the learning experience was invaluable. In most of my classes I was the only native English speaker. Moreover, I was often one of the few students (sometimes the only student) from an actual democracy. Learning about government and policy made me realize how much we take for granted at home. Not all people in the world enjoy the same rights and freedoms we do. Many people can't gather in protest or criticize the government. Some people don't even get to elect their leaders. Meanwhile, at home all we do is point fingers and complain about what is wrong with our leaders and legislation but then we don't vote?

Being abroad was the biggest part of my learning experience. It allowed me to interact with students from Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal,  Philippines, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Australia, Zambia, South Africa, Brazil, China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Bhutan, Maldives, and South Korea. Interacting with people from all over the world has made me realize that we are all the same. We are all excited and curious citizens of the world. For many, including myself, it just took leaving to realize we aren't so different.

Before I left the US and once I got to Thailand the recurring question was always, "Why Thailand?" Well, I never really had a motive for coming here. But, after coming here I have worldly advice for those less traveled: Don't ask yourself why. Ask yourself, why not?

After deciding I was going to study in Thailand, I began telling my friends. Most of them, in disbelief, asked me why. But a comment by one of my best friends, Al Ford, really stuck with me. After explaining to Alec that I was moving to Thailand for a semester he said, "Chase, Thailand will change a man." Al was right. Thailand will change a man.

Thailand has made me more tolerant. I have interacted with so many people from many countries and backgrounds. I have learned that yes, people are very different. People have different customs and opinions. People like different things But being different is good. Once you learn to accept that everyone is different, then you can grow personally and better find your place in the world. The phrase here is, "Same-same, but different."

Thailand has made me more patient. Not speaking the language made every day tasks challenging. Rather than get upset when there is a communication breakdown, it's easier to laugh it off. Acknowledge that there was a communication failure and work to fix it. Unless something is life or death, there is no point in getting worked up. The phrase here is, "Sabai sabai," which means easy, easy.

Thailand has made me happier. Thailand is known as the land of smiles. Everyone really does smile here. Even if it is a subtle purse of the lips, it always seems genuine. There were countless occasions where I felt uncomfortable or frustrated, but then I would make eye contact with someone and they would smile and nod and I would immediately feel better. I would become more comfortable, despite having no idea what was going on. I would feel less frustrated. Smiling is contagious. It spreads good vibes. I have spent 6 months in a mild euphoria from having a good day every day. I feel extremely relaxed.

Thailand has made me respectful. I like to think that I was successfully raised to be a respectful young man. Since coming here, I have learned different kinds of respect. I nod at everyone. I bow when I pass monks. I take my shoes off before I go inside place, especially temples. I stand at the theater to respect the king while the royal anthem is played. And I have realized the importance of learning how to say hello and thank you in the native language. Those two phrases can mean so much.

Thailand has made me independent. From loneliness to frustration, I have had to find solutions to my own problems. I am completely by myself here. I am the first student from Columbia College to come to Thailand. I am my own support system. Sure I have exchange friends, but in the end you have to make sure you have your own back.

Thailand has made me responsible. While I have always been responsible, the whole study abroad process made me more responsible. I had to do the application and get all of the necessary documents sent to RSU. I had to get immunizations by my own means. I had to coordinate my own accommodation through RSU. I had to pack. I had to make my travel arrangements. I have had to pay rent each month. But most importantly in my time here, I have had to say no to things. I have had to say no to partying on the two school nights a week. I had to say no to skipping class in order to travel. I had to say no to going on trips because it was out of my budget. Although it isn't as "grown up" as getting a decent paying job or paying bills and taxes, it has been important to my personal growth.

Overall, I love Thailand. It is hard to think about leaving. I love my new friends. I love the culture. I love the food. I love the excitement. I love the surprises. I love the islands. I love the mountains. I love the cheap prices. I love the ease of travel. Coming here was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

This has been the best semester of my life. This is probably the best 6 months that has ever happened to me. 

I do look forward to my upcoming summer and getting back to Missouri for school, but in the meantime I will enjoy my last month in the city and on the islands.

Here is to home:
Grand Canyon, Wellsboro, PA

Chase E. Barnes 
Columbia College 2016
Political Science
Study Abroad Thailand

Interested in my experiences? Check out my personal blog: 
More questions about travel in Thailand? Email me:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


One of my big struggles for every trip is paring down the stack of books I'll be carrying along, ignoring rational baggage weight and time allowances.  So, I'll have some novel I've been wanting to read, and couldn't with all the papers to grade, and some new chunk of theory (these days, more Graham Harman and Bruno Latour), but then, some books focused on the trip itself. 

For Italy, I offered a class on Leonardo Sciascia , which, alas, no one took.  He's a (the?) major Sicilian writer, and I much admire his novels, and love his collection of stories, The Wine-Dark Sea, which offers an upclose look at village life in Sicily.  Great stuff!  Beyond just good stories, though, there is a sharp critical eye.  Sciascia has been called "The conscience of Italy. Defiant by definition" (read more in this Best of Sicily article).
A book I've started, but will continue on the plane, is Peter Robb's Midnight in Sicily: On Art, Food, History, Travel and la Cosa Nostra .  This offers a fairly contemporary look at life on the island.

But on the bus, I'll be carrying along the too-weighty, but full-of-good-stuff, Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History -- because there's a lot more to the history and culture of this place than pizza and godfather films.

And beause we want to be able to figure out what all this stuff is...

later, bob
Labels: 0 comments | | edit post

Sparks in Italy!

Greetings everyone.  A bit of info in case you are going along in the Italy trip, and haven't quite worried enough about recharging all those devices.

In general, you can't just plug in your phone or laptop or hair drier or camera battery charger or, well, anything, for two reasons.

One, the voltage is different, and way more.  220 instead of 110.  That tends to create all sorts of interesting sparks, small fires, and adventures in Rome that we'd just as soon avoid...

Two, fortunate, kind of.  Even if you ignore the voltage and want to send your laptop to the electric chamber, you can't, because the plugs are different.

So, unless you plan to be device-free for 10 days (yeah, I teach, I know how likely it is to get anyone to go even 50 minutes without that device), you need two extra bits of technology.

A plug for Italian sockets:

And, some sort of current adapter.  Read more from Rick Steve..., who does point out that some new appliances are "dual voltage," and won't need the new device.   But be sure before you plug in.  I'm more eager to see the Colosseum than Roman firefighters in our hotel...

Here's an article that says all this very patiently, with pictures:

Electricity in Italy - Plugs, Adapters and Transformers

later, bob

Labels: 0 comments | | edit post

Sunday, April 26, 2015

South East Asian Adventures

I recently took a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal. I had the chance to catch up with my Aunt before she did a trek. Scooter made the trip, but it was tough journey and he lost a foot and part of an ear. Mt. Everest was breathtaking.

Thai New Year also took place. It was possibly the most fun and crazy cultural event I have ever participated in. I would compare it to New Year's in Times Square, while also doubling as the world's largest water fight and it was 100 degrees.

The school year is wrapping up. I have one paper and 3 finals. I should be done by May 18th. I am happy to see Donnie and Jara successfully completed their terms in England.

I have been in Thailand for nearly 16 weeks now. I absolutely love it here. I am really not sure how this is not a top study abroad destination…

iPhone Mt. Everest Photo

Scooter w/ Mt. Everest behind

Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal


Bridge over River Kwai

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Lovely Language

If I’m being honest here, I must admit that my number one reason for studying abroad in England is not education or location; it’s the accents. Since I was a young girl, I have been obsessed with English accents and I adored any movie that featured the intriguing inflections. So, needless to say that when I arrived in the UK, I was in heaven. I fell even more in love with the (many many many) English accents around me.

That being said, I have both enjoyed and been confused by some of the things people say / don’t say in this country. There are so many different words that have different meanings and they have a lot of slang terms we are unfamiliar with, and I thought it would be helpful for future travelers-to-England to learn some of what I have picked up. (Disclaimer: you may already know some, and others may seem trivial, but as I said I’m obsessed with this country’s language so I made diligent notes).

  1. When in a restaurant, do not ask for the “check.” They will have no idea what you mean. Ask for the bill. (Side note about restaurants: the service here is nothing like in the States. They make a certain wage and don’t rely on tips, so the service is slower. You will have to ask for the bill because they won’t bring it to you otherwise. Also, expect to be given a single bill no matter what company you are in, as it is unheard of for places to split it. We have received many a stink eye for requesting to pay separately, so always be prepared. Many places will accommodate individuals paying their own part, just be aware of the cultural difference and don’t make a big deal out of being given one bill).
  2. Queue: they don’t say “wait in line.” You queue (which is quite fun to say once you get used to it).
  3. Cash Machine / Cash Point: very few people will know what you mean by “ATM” so be sure to say cash machine if you are looking for one.
  4. Quid: just another way of saying pounds (their currency). So if someone says they spent 50 quid on something, they spent 50 pounds. Easy peasy. Also, they call their bills “notes” or “bank notes” but I haven’t encountered that as much.
  5. You alright? This has to be one of the hardest phrases to adjust to for me. When you see someone, they will usually greet you with “you alright?” It’s just their way of saying hello and asking how it’s going. Every time I hear it I still think they are asking me what’s wrong or something, but it’s merely their version of “hey, what’s up?”
  6. Food can be confusing. Fries = chips / chips = crisps / cookies = biscuits / dessert = pudding (though desserts is a common term).
  7. Zed: the last letter of the alphabet in England is pronounced “zed” instead of the US’s version of simply “z”/”zee”. It can be really confusing hearing this for the first time. (And can you imagine calling Jay-Z “Jay-Zed”? It’s just not the same…)
  8. Keen: this is possibly one of my favorite English phrases. When one asks if someone would like to do something and the other is up for it, instead of saying, “Yes, I’d love to do that,” they might say “keen!” Like they are keen / excited to do it.
  9. Toilets: it’s a general rule not to ask where the bathrooms / restrooms are. They call them the toilets. (Honestly, I’ve only heard the term “loo” a couple of times, so I wouldn’t recommend saying that unless you heard otherwise in that instance).
  10. Fancy: fancy is a very common term to say one “likes” something or someone. It’s not a measurement of style or posh-ness.
  11. Academia is riddled with a ton of different words that I cannot even fully explain. “Professors” are considered the top tier of teaching in a university, so not all of the faculty are professors. Most are called lecturers or your academic tutors. Just note what your module handbook (syllabus) states about the title of the teacher.  
  12. Higher education is called uni or university. They have primary school, then high school goes up to the age of around 16, and college is from 16-18. It’s their pre-uni schooling, so do not equate college with uni. Also, what they call public schools is what we call private schools, and vice versa. "Public schools" here generally mean exclusive and expensive. Very confusing.  
  13. Yes, they do say mate when talking to / about a friend.
  14. Finally, cheers. People use this as a parting term or a way to say goodbye. It took a long while for me to get used to hearing this one, but it is a very fun phrase once you adjust to it. 
I will say that one must be selective in the phrases they adopt. I mean that it is easy for people to come across as "phonies" for lack of a better word when they automatically assume the language of a new area. Use the words you have to in order to get by, but don't go around calling everyone mates and saying "cheers!" That's not what is expected of you. People will know you are not from the area and expect you to speak differently. I've encountered some American exchange students who started spelling things the British way and using all of the English terms, trying to make it seem like she had always been a part of the community, and it could seem like a bit of a mockery orotherwise just fake. So be authentic and aware in how you communicate.

There are many more terms / phrases / pronunciations that any American will find confusing at first, even if the words are simple (such as aluminum or salon). Past the confusion, though, it is very fun to learn the language of a new country. One expects that because England is English-speaking just as America that there will be little discrepancies; however, every culture has its own style of language. It’s all part of the experience to try and learn as much of it as possible. And I have certainly enjoyed observing the many different dialects in Canterbury.



Monday, March 23, 2015


Last Wednesday I turned in my last 3 assignments of the term. My summer started on March 18th and I have absolutely no problem with that at all.

I have spent the last week saying my goodbyes to everyone, and now that it's been pretty quiet in Canterbury I have been relaxing with Netflix in bed, and camping out in coffee shops. Once again, I am not complaining.

The remainder of the week is going to be pretty relaxed: on Wednesday I will ship a majority of my stuff back home to save my sanity in the next three weeks by not having to lug 2 suitcases around Belgium and Italy; on Thursday the Queen is coming to Canterbury to unveil a statue at the cathedral (!!!!!!!!!!); and on Friday I head to London for the weekend. Once I leave England early next week I am gone for good to travel with my best friend, Sarah, studying abroad in Belgium.

During my senior year of high school, I became really close with two AFS students, Martina and Alex, from Italy and Belgium. After I graduated, I had the opportunity to go to Lecco, Italy with my brother and visit my friend Martina. In less than two weeks I will be back in Lecco (by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen), after I spend a weekend staying with my friend Alex in Belgium. (It is really convenient having great friends who live in really cool places). When Sarah and I return from Italy we will then meet her parents and spend a week with them in Belgium. My last couple of days with them will be in Brussels and from there I will fly home on April 17th.

I know that when I get on the plane in Brussels in a few weeks, I will be very anxious to get home and see my friends and family. Recently my mom told me that all good things must come to an end eventually, and the time has definitely come for me to start making some money instead of constantly spending. I am also excited to spend time in Kansas City (which, perhaps, still remains my favorite city) with new eyes and perspective.

Now that most of my friends in England are home for Easter break, and the number of Americans left are slowly dwindling down, I have come to terms with leaving. I am at peace with the experience I have had in the past couple of months. If my AFS friends from high school are an example of long distance friendships, I know I should not be worried about the new friendships I have made. I believe that the world is only as big as you make it, and you never know what opportunities will come around in the future. Three years ago, when I was visiting Marty in Italy, I never imagined I could be back in Lecco so soon. And I cannot think or talk about opportunities I've had without automatically thinking about my parents. As my time in Europe is coming to an end, I often think about how amazingly blessed I am for having loving parents who support me and my study abroad experience. I can only hope that one day they will also make it to these beautiful places.

"Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show."

Monday, March 2, 2015

One month left in England

(Apologizing in advance for the somber post)
Exactly one month from today I am packing up all of my stuff in England and heading to Antwerp, Belgium. Just writing this blog makes me feel sad because my time in England has been entirely too short, and, although it's not over, this experience has made me understand just how quickly time passes. There is no way I can squeeze in everything I want to do still in England into one month.
Canterbury, with all of its rain and cobblestone streets that I have tripped on MANY times, has become a home. It's funny how quickly you can adapt and become comfortable in a new environment. 

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Paris, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen during Christ Church University's "self-directed study week." I can assure whoever may be reading this that I was not studying. I was seeing some amazing things...

like this:
(Frederiksborg Palace, Denmark)

and this: 

(Amsterdam, Holland)

oh, and this:

This trip was 10 days long and for 3 fairly inexperienced travelers in 3 different countries, things went extremely smoothly. I was waiting, and prepared, for something bad to happen! When my bus from London made it into Canterbury, though, I was so happy to be back. 

I missed these familiar streets:

Something I think about a lot is that it really doesn't matter where you are, it matters who you are with. You could go to what you imagine to be paradise, but if you are not surrounded by people who make you happy, the experience won't reach its full potential. In Canterbury, I was lucky enough to meet some of the most genuine and fun people I know. The people are what have made my study abroad experience so great.

I'm not entirely sure how accurate this statistic is, but supposedly less than 1% of US college students study abroad for a semester or longer. I am lucky enough to be in the very small percentage, and I'm only hoping my last month passes by slowly. 

I'm closing this blog post with a picture of the Eiffel Tower because it's perfect.

Subscribe to our feed