Written by Shelby Cooper, University of Illinois
If I had to choose one word to describe our first day in Thailand, it would be “feast”. Our orientation leaders, Kit and Jessica, were so generous in sharing their knowledge with our group during morning orientation. Lunch was a buffet of dishes shared by the group, wasting no time in challenging even the more adventurous eaters. We climbed 300 steps to see a temple at the top of a mountain. At the night market after dinner, we saw a landscape of tables full of gifts and treasures for family and friends back home.
As an AFA Global Fellow, I was given the option to prefer Asia, South America, or Europe for my international capstone experience through the 40 Chances program. I chose Asia to truly step out of my comfort zone and to see a part of the world I knew very little about but had a huge influence on international agriculture. My interest only grew when I found out we would be traveling to Thailand for our experience, and I was enchanted by the images captured on tourism and traveling sites. Even from what we have seen so far, those pictures don’t hold a candle to seeing and breathing in Thailand in real life.
We still have so much to see while in country. I am looking forward to visiting Chiang Mai University, visiting markets full of food and handmade items for sale, and walking through the Queen’s Botanic Garden. Thailand and its people have such an evident tie with agriculture, and I want to learn more about the influence the Royal Family has on farmers, production, and extension efforts. I want to know how Thailand is working to grow its economy and its people through education, and I want to begin thinking about how I could bring international agriculture to a high school classroom and weave that into my career as an Ag teacher one day.
The peacefulness of the mountaintop temple contrasts with the bustle of busy city streets in Chiang Mai, Thailand. If this is any indication of the diversity we will witness while in country, our group is in for a treat. Even after a full first day, Thailand leaves me hungry for more.