Angela Arunarsirakul visits the Ampawa Floating Market, situated by the canal near Wat Amphawan Chetiyaram, Thailand

Language skills, political awareness bolstered during student’s summer in Thailand

Why learn about a nation from a distance when you can make it your own real-world laboratory?

“The best way to learn is by engaging firsthand in the country of interest,” says Angela Arunarsirakul, a third-year UCLA student who is majoring in history and political science and minoring in public affairs and Southeast Asian studies. Arunarsirakul spent summer 2011 in Bangkok at Thammasat University. Thailand’s second oldest university, as part of the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP).

 “I was really interested in the political developments in Thailand, and I saw no better way to learn more about that than by immersing myself in the setting and interacting with the people who knew best.”

Bangkok became a classroom, of sorts, for Arunarsiraku, who improved her understanding and use of the Thai language and experienced Thailand during a critical time in its history, in light of the parliamentary elections that were taking place.

“I was there early and long enough to experience a substantial portion of the process, to pick up on how campaigns were run, and how policies influenced the voting outcome regionally, and to witness the remarkable determination of the Thais to achieve that fine balance between modernization and preservation of traditions.”

The UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies, in partnership with the Royal Thai Government, is currently offering $3,000 travel grants for UCLA undergraduate and graduate students attending the University of California Education Abroad Program at Thammasat University this summer or during the 2012-13 academic year. Grant applications are due March 12.

Published: Friday, January 27, 2012