Same same but different

My exchange semester in Thailand, Phuket.

Category Archives: Yleinen

Famous last words

So all good comes to an end in one point, even my stay here in amazing Thailand. I have experienced a lot and learnt things about myself and changed a bit my worldview. Studying in so different environment than home can open your eyes and you start to appreciate things in your own homecountry. Finland’s school system is very functional and education is free for us. Sometimes you forget these things because they come to you granted.

What I learnt is that I don’t always need to say my opinion outloud, because you get easier way in the end and other people get more attention. I’m underlining word always. Of course you need to have own opinions and sometimes say them to take part of discussion, but not always.  Also I have learnt to be more calm and having this “sabai sabai”-attitude. First time in many years, I was totally stressfree, because I didn’t have to work at the same time and I could just consentrate to study and enjoy my time here.

What I really like about Thailand is the people, because they’re usually smiling, happy and helpful. Even you never know what’s behind that smile 😉 After tsunami, they had to re-build everything again and start fresh, even they had lost everything and some even familymembers. Still they’re smiling!

But the most I’ll miss is food! After 5 months of eating thaifood, I can take another five. I love the spiciness, freshness of the ingredients and variety. Eating in restaurants is actually cheaper than buying from supermarkets.

 

Anyways, back to school topic: I pass all my courses with honor and got good grades actually. Final exam week was very stressful for thais, but I was lucky and had only two exams: marketing and even management. Thai exam which included oral and written, we had week earlier. I’m gonna miss our language teacher. Her jokes and always being happy made me feel good too. Every class I left smiling. In intercultural communication our final exam was a big report about everything what we learned during the semester. The topic was very interesting: what cultural differences India, UK and China could experience in business life. My group included me and four thais so I was a bit struggling with communication, but in the end, we made it and got a good score too,yey!

After my exchange semester it is going to be hard to get back in JAMK and back to “real” studying with exact reporting orders, etc. But I kinda miss it too…AND OF COURSE MY SCHOOL MATES AND STUDEN PARTIES!

All I can say is thank you Thailand and all the people I met during my exchange semester! My adventures will continue in Greece with an internship…

T for a travel!

So I visit this beautiful country..Of course I need to travel a bit round.

Koh Racha

Near by Phuket in the south is a very nice little island called Racha, where snorkkeling is a must. Me and my friend booked a daytrip there and Coral Island. Well the boats were full of chinese (not my first choise for travel buddies) tourists and I can tell you that it is very amusing to see a beach full of red lifejackets floating, because usually chinese cannot swim. The day was full of snorkeling in two different spots and lunch served in beautiful bay with crystal clear water. On the top was enjoying a beer in a sunset with a great mate.

11014917_10206037420391510_9152089741540252105_n

Koh Yao Yai

One weekend me, my german bestfriend Simone and her boyfriend and his friend went for a little getaway. Nea by the west coast of Phuket are two islands called Kh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai and they have a bit different nature than the east coast with blurry water and tall rock islands rising from the sea. We decided to have a little luxury so we spent two nights in a nice ecological resort. We had two bungalows which had shower outdoors, nice patio to hangout and beds from heaven.The hotel had infinity pool, couple restaurants, gym and overall look was cute like a little village. I really enjoyed my stay there. The purpose was to relax, but we also booked a private boat to take us around and it was totally worth it, because we avoided all the tourist traps and enjoyed the secret places. Was very nice weekend to remember.

Becoming sunset.

Becoming sunset.

Hongkong

My visa is a ED-studen visa with multiply entries to the country which allows me travel as much as I want for a year. But Thai gouverment has made it fun for us and every third month you need to either exit the country ( so called visarun) or go to cityhall an renew it. I chose option number one and end up in Hongkong for couple days.

After being in hot humid environment for months, it was nice to go somewhere cooler and in a city where everything works. Hongkong is huge and skyscapers are impressive art of humans. I went to see main attractions as much I could afford.Well after Thailand, Hongkong felt SUPER expensive and I felt my bankcard crying. Anyways I enjoyed the athmosphere “Asia meeting West” a lot by eating European food and shopping till I was dropping.

But would I go back? Definetly when I have money enough to enjoy all the treats of Hongkong, because now I only got a little piece of it.

Lost in Hongkong.

Lost in Hongkong.

Similan Islands

This place is the cherry on my cake. Similan Islands are only open for tourists from October till end of April and I went there on the very last days. I booked a one night trip with tent accommodation (cheapest of course, I’m a student), but I must say it was an adventure!

The trip started with a smaller speed boat packed with tourists and we went to very popular snorkkeling spot, which was way too busy for my taste. After we went to an island for a lunch and where the accommodation were and I wasn’t feeling very good about the money I spent and what I was getting in that point, because it was full of crazy tourists (especially chinese <3) and too much fuzzing and buzzing. I had booked a trip to paradise and was this what I was getting?! But then it changed totally, because 95% of the travelers left after the lunch, I got my tent ( no even words to describe) and afternoon we spent on bigger boat with much smaller group. We had an amazing snorkkeling quide who took us to spots where we can actually see something and told about fish and coral there. I swam with seaturtles and saw a reef shark and other awesome creatures of the sea. The evening ended with AMAZING sunset and delicious dinner on the boat. When I got back to the island, where I was supposed to sleep, I was so tired and fell asleep happy 9pm. In the morning I woke up 8am feeling very relaxed and ready for a new excitin day. Breakfast was served on the big boat and afterwards we went to snorkkeling. In the afternoon other boat came to pick me up and took us to main spots of Similan Islands (round rocks) and on the way back to the mainland, storm hit us and I was a bit afraid , but we got back to the shore safetly thanks to the very skilled boat driver. Overall the trip was worth of every baht I spent and two days of full power snorkkeling took all the energy of this girl and I must say that I slept like a little baby next night. Highly recommed Similans to everyone, but stay one or two nights. One day trip is not worth it, because all the magic happens on the big boat! 😉

BEAUTIFUL

BEAUTIFUL

Lock and load…

It’s time for Songkran aka waterfestival!

Songkran is celebration of buddhist new year and it always takes a place in April for three days 13th till 15th. Then everybody take buckets, waterguns, hoses or what ever and pour water on everyone. Then whole Thailand is sinking. That tradition symbolizes washing all the sins and bad luck away.

Many people rent trucks or pick ups and pour/shoot water from there. It’s crazy and you cannot stay dry longer than 2 seconds, I assure you.

Minnie and Daisy werent a big help around here :(

Minnie and Daisy werent a big help around here 🙁

Locals know how to celebrate

Locals know how to celebrate

Buddy Program and Homestay in Phananga

In PSU they offer us a great opportunity to get deeper in thai culture with Buddy program. All the international students who want, can have a thai student as their buddy for whole semester. They help you to understand more about their own culture and habits and of course if we have any difficulties in our normal life (like me with my phone bills :D) or with the school. As exchange, we tell about our home countries and the differences between Thailand and home. I must say that thais were amazed how good eveything are in Finland and how beautiful it is with four different seasons because they have only two: monsoon and dry.

My buddy took me different restaurants which I would have not found myself and introduced to different foods which I would have never tried without her. She also explained me a lot about relationships and normal life in Thailand. For example, Thailand is known for sextourism and prostitution is very openly available, but overall sex is a bit tabou and they don’t talk about it openly. Like in Finland we have a lesson about puberity, safe sex, etc. There they have a lot to improve, because now HIV is a issue in Thailand.

Having a thai bbq dinner with thais and Simone.

Having a thai bbq dinner with thais and Simone.

Also some of the international students had a possibility go for a overnight trip to the countryside to stay with a local family. That was a great weekend! First we traveled couple hours with a minibus to the “jungle”. Then we arrived to a small yard where was two buildings and about 7 smiling thais welcoming us to their home. I must say that it was nothing like a luxury hotel: old house with brickwalls ( no bamboo, thank god), kitchen was outdoors with a little roof and two toilets with real toiletseats. Flushing worked with a bucket of water and there was electricity too so not too bad at all. Boys got one bedroom and girls another and we slept next to eachother on the floor with little geccos.

The ladies of the house showed us how to make coconut milk from the draft and men of the house took us to a boattrip. We went by the boat to a beautiful bay and collected clams from the sand. After couple hours of clam hunting, swimming and sunbathing, we went to see the local market street. When it was getting dark, we went to back to the house and started prearing dinner. For the dinner we had chicken skewers, steamed clams, shrimps and other thai goodies which just blew my mind. It was one of the tastiest bbq dinners what I have ever had! YAMMY!

Clam hunting

Clam hunting

In the morning we woke up early to see the sunrise from the hill and gosh it was beautiful: fresh morning air, a bit chilly (yep, in shorts and top) and the sun coming behind the mountains.

10450837_10205763428461883_2077155590641785689_n

Then we went to busy morning market place, where all the local people were already bustling. We bought ingredients for breakfast and drove back to enjoy a full meal. Of course, everybody were very tired so little nap time before hitting the road again. We visited a park where monkeys were ruling the place and hiked in a national park to see waterfalls and enjoy a little swimming break. Then it was time to thank the hosts and go back home with new experiences. It was one of the best weekends I had in amazing Thailand. Khop-khun-kha!

Prince of Songkla University- the place to be

So I came here to study…or at least that’s what I’m telling everyone…

From Monday till Wednesday I put my uniform on and open my mind for the new things I can learn. I also need to put on thailish- mode on so I can TRY to understand what the teachers are saying in the front of the classroom. They like to use microphone, which Im not used to, neither I’m not allow to question what they’re teaching. Their powerpoints are full of text (which some of our JAMK teachers wouldn’t allow) and most of the classes go through playing candy crash, because they don’t activate the students. Nobody cannot listen 3 hours straight. Well okey, there’s 15 min break in between but…Teaching methods are very different from what I’m used to back in Finland. Especially, here the attendance is 80%, which means you can miss the class only 2 times…Very not used to…

But Im lucky, because most of the week I’m off and able to discover the island. Here’s my timetable:

On Monday mornings I have Marketing for the tourism industry, which I find very interesting, but the teacher is not good. She knows what she’s talking about, but cannot make it in practical neither speak good english.

In the afternoon I have my favourite class: Convention and event management. Topic is very interesting and the teacher has been studying in Europe so her english is very good and methods of teaching are great! She likes to make group discussions and she let us disagree with her,but only if we make a point 😉 I also like to see the viewpoint of thais too, but they are very shy to tell their opinion because they’re so afraid to be wrong.

On Tuesdays I have only morning lessons: Intercultural communication. Topic could be very interesting and you could get a lot out of it for the future, but it is ruined by a new teacher who has not even qualified as a teacher. I feel so sorry for the thais.

Wednesday is my favorite day, because in the morning I have Fundamental thai and I love learning new languages and second of all the weekend starts! Thai language is quite hard to learn, because there are 5 different tones and not very easy to hear the difference. But our teacher is a star and has made the learning easy and fun for us.

Here you can learn numbers 1-10 😉

 

The campus area is very lively, because many students live there and they have hobbies till late in the evening. Sometimes me and my friend are going to walk around the campus and see what the local students are doing. The buildings are old, but the area is big, green and functional.

Thai students are working hard for their degree First of all, all the lessons are in english and I can assure you they are not even close our level so most of the time they’re googling or translating all the tasks, etc. which takes more time. Second of all, they have classes from Monday till Saturday from morning till afternoon plus all the hobbies and tasks what they need to do on their freetime. They also need to pass the test in one time or they need to do the whole class again. At least we can do it 3 times in JAMK 😛 And they have exams twice a semester: midterms in the middle and finals. Crazy, i must say… Feeling very lucky that I study in Finland. But in the other hand, two exams splits the study area in half so you dont need to study whole book for the final exam.

Methods and equipments are quite old school, but that’s what I expected. All the reports and tasks have to give back as papers (not like we return in Optima). The most bad thing is that the students dont get feedback so actually, they cannot improve their skills. That’s the worst thing.

Also, group work with thais is sometimes SUPER hard and these are the reasons: 1. Language barrier 2. It takes a long time to understand the given  assingment. 3. Brainstorming is totally new for them. 4. The idea what we should complete is from another planet. 5. They do everything in a last minute.    But somehow it all works out or you do everything by yourself that it looks decent enough to return.

 

But anyways, I secretly enjoy the easiness of the classes, uniforms so we’re all equal, no matter of your backround and overall campuslife with coffeebreaks in cafeterias 🙂 I like it here…..for one semester.

Campus main building with german Nicky :)

Campus main building with german Nicky 🙂

 

Kathu hoods

So THE place Im staying is island called Phuket, if anybody didn’t got that already.

Facts about Phuket:

-the biggest island of Thailand

-main income comes from tourism (very popular sextoursim place among the westerns)

-busride to Bangkok(the capital of Thailand) takes about 13 hours, but it goes fast in a nice spaceful nightbus and the ride cost only about 20€.. If you are in a hurry, a flight takes only couple of hours and arent that expensive either.

Well, my home is in the middle of the island, a place called Kathu. Here’s not too much tourist. Mainly locals and students and that makes the place cozy. Near by is a big shopping centre Central Festival, where I have spent WAY too much money and there are many nice cheap restaurants. One we call a fishplace where you can have the tastiest steamed lemon fish with spicy somtam (papya salad), The Cafe is popular lunch place among international students and Number 8 serves the best green curry I have ever tasted.

Also there is a lake near by where lots of people go for a run in the afternoon when it’s not too hot (yeah, still about +30 degrees :D). The spirit of the lake is great. If you go there for a run, everyone is smiling and cheering for you. Especially when you feel exhausted and youre only half way and then you see another person who says to you “come one, you can do it!”. Its just great and gives you the extra boost what you needed. I love this place!

But here you have to have a scooter to go around. There are no walking streets (or at least proper ones) and shopping is impossible, because the grocery stores are 5min scooter ride away. Having a scooter is a MUST, but I like to have one. It gives freedom and you can visit beaches and it is SO cheap. I pay 50€/ a month and full tank of gasoline cost about 3€. Patong beach is 10min ride away and Phuket town about the same.

I have my own studio apartment here. Its located next to university and its also a new building so I have a gym and pool here too! Awesomness. Rental prices are a bit higher in Kathu, because of the exchange students, but compare to Finland is cheaper. Thoug, electricity and internet are weirdly quite expensive to compare normal expenses here.

 

Jogging at the lake. +33 degrees and I'm still alive!

Jogging at the lake. +33 degrees and I’m still alive!

 

Asia Center Foundation, Surf House and day trip to Phi Phi

14.1.2015 whole bunch of exchange students made a visit at charity Asia Center Foundation. They offer different programs ( more info here: http://www.asiacenterfoundation.org/ ) for kids who don’t have a possibility to have an education otherwise. We visited a preschool/ primary school in Phuket, where Asia Exchange & PSU donated some money. We also took a part of the kids snacktime and in the end kids sang a thank you-song for us. So cute!

IMG_1556

We also promised to help in the future, if needed and suprisingly they found us a job. So 30th of January we went to their old building to paint walls and clean. Yeap mummy, I’m doing charity work and yes, totally willing to do it without a payment (almost, we got free brekkie and lunch. What would suit a better for a poor student than a free meal?). Was a great, but hard day!

10665889_10153045594519367_8606759451440128510_n

Cleaning gang!

250394_10153046246934367_7467719824913384495_n

They see me rollin’

18th of January, Ajarn Colin had fixed us a boat trip to Phi Phi islands and I saw wild dolphins! So happy!! Here you can watch a video of our awesome day: https://vimeo.com/118586031?from=Facebook

All exchange students were invited to Surf House Phuket ( located on Kata Beach) to have some dinner and try surfing. First of all, most of us didn’t know where it is located so we drove all together (about 20 people) from PSU. Yep, badass motorbike gang! Second of all, I didn’t suck on surfing that bad and wanna try it again! Now I just need to travel to Bali or Australia to catch bigger waves 😉

Riding those waves!

Riding those waves!

That’s all about it this time!

 

 

Orientation week

So the school started 5.1 (have been busy :P) with a orientation week. On Monday 8 am sharp I was standing in PSU Lodge feeling nervous. There was a loads of other Finns, handful of Germans, couple of Sweds and the minority were presented by USA, Czech Republic and Philippine. If I forgot a nationality, I’m truly sorry. The heat melts my brains and I’m getting way too chill here. HELP! Anyways, we’re all together about 40? people so not too big or small, just perfect. And I have to admit, they all are quite all right.

So there we all were looking at each other and thinking who’s who and what’s their deal. From the Lodge we got a busride to a resort hotel called Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort, must say: quite fancy! There we had a “welcome meeting” with loads of speeches (yep, maybe way too many) and some videos of the PSU (Prince of Songkla University) but got pretty helpful info too. Rest of the day we spent on the beach playing team building games. I was part of the winning team ( GO PIZZA/ MARIO TEAM!). That was great fun!

IMG_1508 IMG_1512

On Tuesday morning we went to Phuket Town to purchase our uniforms. We’re supposed to wear a white collar t-shirt and a black (knee-lenght) skirt with PSU’s own accessories (buttons, pins and a belt). Boys wear trousers, of course. Now the question comes: why we need to wear a uniform in university?! Simple: they want us look equals. No poor or rich, just the same which is quite nice. I bought 3 shirts and 2 skirts for 1000 baht ( about 25€) so it’s quite cheap.

Looking smart ;)

Looking smart 😉

The afternoon we spent on campus and got to know different buildings. The campus area is huge, compare to JAMK and have to admit that I still get lost.

Day three was the most boring day of all week. Morning we spent in the computer room practising all PSU’s “programs” relate to Optima, Elmo and Asio. Well still don’t know how to use them all but I’ll learn. I also finished my course selection and I must say that my schedule is looking good: Monday is the worst because I start 9 am and finish 16.30. Subjects are painful too: convention & event management and marketing for tourism and hospitality. On Tuesdays I have only morning class: intercultural communication which is quite useful. And my week ends with a fun class of thai language so I have only school from Monday till Wednesday, AWESOME! I have so much freetime to do traveling around. Cannot wait! But back to the orientation week: In the afternoon Ajarn Nu (one of the teachers) told us about the policies, expectations and procedures during the semester and Ajarn Colin introduced us different activities which we can do on our freetime. For example: homestay which I’m going in Feb, clean the beach, cooking class and charity “work”. Excited!

On Thursday we had whole day learning about Thailand, culture and language. It was fun and I felt that I will never learn this. There are so many different tones and it just sounds funny. Sawatdii-kha!

The weekend we spent in beautiful Koh Phi Phi. We had to fix our own accommodation, but Asia Exchange bought our ferry tickets. There was no much planned program: only ice-breaking party in Ibiza club and clean the beach- bootcamp on Saturday morning. Well what you can do and what you’re supposed to do in Phi Phi is party. I looooove beachparties because first of all: you don’t need shoes, you dance on sand. Second of all: there’s the sea just next to you. No need to say more! I had a great weekend and I got to know more of my fellow students. Thanks guys!

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi

On Sunday morning I spent my time in a toilet vomiting non stop ( yeap, great ferry ride back to Phuket) and next days having a diarrhea and fever, but most of us got sick after Phi Phi because of the icecubes there. Happy days!

Popping pills!

Popping pills!

That’s about it. Well this time I got the photos but I’ll try to be more active with this: pinky promise! 😉

Let’s get started…

I know I’m a bit late to write my first post, but better now than never!

This blog is going to include massive amount of spelling mistakes, cruel truth about my exchange semester and bad writing. I’m not a blogger. You have been warned so no complains allowed. And why I’m writing in english? They made me to. Also it’s good for my friends who don’t understand finnish.

Let me start telling you about the process:

I always knew that if I get in ANY university of my life time, I’ll spend one or two semesters abroad. I browsed different options and none of the locations didn’t seem good enough. My ultimate dream would have been California or Miami, but those semester fees are ridicilous so had to bury that thought. Winter, including coldness and snow, is definetly not my thing so some place warm and tropical climate sounds great. Then I found www.asiaexchange.com/fi- website and found the answer! Next problem was which one to choose: Bali or Phuket? Been in both and LOVED Bali and didn’t like Phuket that much. I made a list with pros and cons and some how Phuket won?! I was suprised too…
 
Well then started the loooooooong process of paper work. Sending papers here and there and asking signings here and there. Booking flights, applying visa and all the other stuff. MAKE A TO DO- LIST! Helps a lot and you won’t forget anything. I applied visa very late because I was in Mexico (awesome place, highly recommend) so I was stressing way too much about it. APPLY VISA IMMEDIATELY WHEN YOU CAN. Anyways I got it, even though I had wrong size passport pictures!
 
I think browsing the flights was the most fun part in this process (and of course the approval letter). Flights between continents can be very expensive so my tip for you is: go as many sites you can, compare and search from different cities from Europe. Also very important for long flights: a good airline. I was flying from Helsinki to Budapest (had a small city break there), from there to Bangkok via Doha with Qatar Airways. Great airline with good food, great service, nice entertainment and spacious seats. Then I had booked a flight to Phuket but missed that one because of delay. Well thank god I had this whatever- attitude and went to AirAsia service desk and bought a new flight. Checked in, went through security control and bought a sandwich. I landed to Phuket 6 pm, though about catching a bus, which never came so took a taxi for 650 baht (45min ride) and found my apartment.
 
I had contacted a finnish realtor before I came here and she found me an apartment here. It’s really near the school and has it own gym and pool. You can find  cheaper places and I recommend to come couple weeks earlier and find a place by yourself. But I didn’t have that much time. I just arrived two days earlier and that’s why I arranged my living advance. Anyways when I arrived here, there was no one in the office who could give me the key and so on. Found a security guy who called for me ( of course he didn’t speak ANY english, suprise suprise) and the renter told me that I was supposed to come next day?! I was like ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Well never loose your face in Thailand, keep calm and smile! :))))) Then the call just ended in between me asking how this is possible and I think I talked like 5 minutes even not noticing that the call has ended. Then I looked like a big question mark and didn’t know what is going on: should I go to hotel or will I get my apartment or what on earth?! Security guy was just smiling to me and kept his arm up showing me 5 minutes or something. After 10 minutes a small man or boy (yes, very hard to say in Thailand) came with a scooter and gave me a key. Hallelujah!
 
When I opened the door, I was thinking nonononono, tomorrow I go to office and ask for nicer one. I cannot stand the red leather sofa, small kitchen without any equipments (I love cooking, I have to have a nice kitchen) and wet toilet/shower. I was tired and cranky and everything seemed so bad. I went to tiny market or more like a kiosk next to the flat and bought necessary things like bugspray ( i don’t want any kind of small living thing coming under my door), hangers, toilet freshner and -paper. Went to bed and slept million hours. Next day everything was okey again and went to shopping mall neaby to buy more essentials like a dress from Guess and Victoria’s secret perfume. Such a happy day!
 
I will try to take some pictures so my posts won’t look this boring! I’m also very nervous about tomorrow ’cause my school will start with a orientation week. Wish me luck and fingers crossed that my schoolmates will be fun!
 
By the way, don’t take my blog too serious 😉