University Studies Abroad Consortium Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Annabel Drayton

Major: Anthropology
Minor: Sustainability Leadership
Hometown: Haverford, PA
Paterno Fellow

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about USAC programs through online research. I knew I wanted to study in South or Southeast Asia and they offer very affordable programs.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My time here has allowed me to really engage in a culture so different from anything in America. The combination of experiential and academic learning has helped foster so much personal growth for me and all the strong and beautiful people in my program. I'm getting the chance to travel to different countries and interact with different people and communities. I'm learning important life skills and a lot about myself. Most importantly, this experience is helping me value adventure and understand that no expectations can be the best way to enter the unknown. I'm so grateful for this experience and all the people who have helped me get here.

Most importantly, this experience is helping me value adventure and understand that no expectations can be the best way to enter the unknown.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I'm so grateful to be able to attend Chiang Mai University. Similar in size to Penn State, CMU is a massive institution for Thais and international students to study. My program has students from universities all over the United States in all different fields of study. Being exposed to people with different passions and different majors has taught me so much. I've learned so much from the other amazing people in my program and my Ajarns (professors). With classes in all different fields, I've had the opportunity to focus my anthropological studies specifically on northern Thailand. I'm involved in a field study program with the northern Hill Tribes and it's taken me to villages and to meet new people. This program is filled with opportunities for experiential learning and it has been so refreshing.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I have a deep relationship with the natural world and a passion for helping the environment. I would love to start a career after college that combines environmental education, activism, and community engagement to promote positive social and environmental change. I'm open to all types of organizations and initiatives but my main goal is to share the same passions and goals as my employers. While I know my career will always be driven by my duty to protect our earth, I also have a love for teaching and practicing yoga and I know it is something I will continue to do. This program has helped me learn so much about people, social norms, human interaction with the environment and how it changes everywhere. I'm hoping to take what I have learned here and carry it with me through my future careers and plans.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would definitely recommend this experience to someone who is looking to step out of their comfort zone, experience a new culture, and meet different people with various passions and goals.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

If it weren't for the Paterno Fellows Program I wouldn't be at Penn State let alone living and studying in Thailand for a semester. The funding and guidance that Paterno Fellows has provided me with has directly contributed to my continuation of academic and experiential education. Without the opportunities they have provided, I wouldn't have gone through so much positive personal growth during my first three years at Penn State. I am so grateful for the opportunity they have provided for me and other students. Paterno Fellows has supported not just in my studies in Thailand but also in other out-of-the-classroom learning experiences I've sought out. This experience has greatly shaped my undergraduate education and will continue to help guide me in my future endeavors.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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