5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Internship in Thailand


by Shannon Schroeder

During DePaul University’s 2014 winter break, I decided to travel to Thailand to complete an internship with Greenheart Travel. This experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and to say that I learned a lot would be an understatement. We tend to learn the most from our mistakes and experiences, and well, let’s just say I returned home very educated. Before you go on this life-changing experience yourself, here are 5 things that I wish I knew before my internship to Thailand.

 1. It is perfectly normal to find yourself being pushed to new limits.

Whether it’s trying an array of new and unfamiliar foods, or finding yourself struggling to fit into a new culture with different customs and traditions, it is completely normal to stretch the limits of your comfort zone. Traveling to a new country means discovering a new way of life, and getting the opportunity to live differently in a new environment. Traveling and living abroad can not only help you to mature and grow; but also to discover more about what you like, dislike, and what you want out of life.

Tip for Success: Don’t be afraid to try new and ‘uncomfortable’ things! Often the best and most enjoyed moments in life are the ones that completely catch you off guard, surprise you, and are entirely unexpected! If you recognize that you are out of your comfort zone, use that recognition to push yourself further out and seize upcoming opportunities.

Nothing pushed my boundaries more than adjusting to Thailand’s concept of time and scheduling. Locals prefer to take their time with tasks and duties, give estimates rather than exact times, and change schedules at the last minute. While in Thailand, this type of lifestyle made me uncomfortable and very stressed at first. However, after making a conscious effort to adjust and “go with the flow,” I ended up thoroughly enjoying the uncertainty of my changing schedule. Sometimes, the simple act of stepping out of your typical comfort zone can change your life in the most impactful ways.


2. You are not the only one who feels homesick and/or lonely.

It is completely normal to feel homesick and/or lonely while spending time abroad. Often times many people experience the same feelings of loneliness, but hesitate to talk about it with others. Don’t allow these feelings to get in the way of your happiness while abroad. After all, most of these experiences are once in a lifetime opportunities, and will only be temporary.

Tip for Success: Spend some extra time getting to know locals, other people involved in your program, trying new activities or restaurants, and soaking in some breathtaking sights. There are now many apps that allow you to get in touch with other travelers, popular restaurants in the area, or local festivities/celebrations. Getting to know your new host community doesn’t have to be so intimidating if you can listen to music or bring a book along the way either!

Here are some links to popular apps to use while abroad!

Viber  |  Whatsapp  |  Foursquare  |  Wayn  |  Tango  |  Untappd  |  Wechat



3. Culture shock and reverse culture shock are real and are very likely happen.

Travelling to the other side of the globe can almost guarantee you a sense of culture shock. How it will affect you is up to you. It took me almost 2 weeks to fully adjust to Thailand’s culture, sense of everyday life, and low priority for being on time. Culture shock can be an adjustment, but it also helps you to have a clearer understanding of the world you live in. It can open your eyes to new realities, change old habits and perceptions, or even drive you to change your personal life. Culture shock may be even more apparent to you once you are back in your home town, but try to remember that this cultural immersion that you have experienced has been a growing and learning experience, and that this realization (like many other things in life) take time to get used to.

Tip for success: When returning to your hometown after traveling abroad, try to get into a routine (even if it is slightly altered from your previous routine). Set goals for yourself for the next up and coming weeks/months. Catch up with people you have not seen since being abroad and return to safe and/or relaxing hobbies or activities that you have always enjoyed. Switching from polar opposite cultures/locations can be mentally and physically exhausting, so make sure to stay in the habit of a good night’s sleep.


4. There will be some moments that simply cannot be explained.

Sometimes, things happen in life that just cannot be described or explained. Whether it is feeding an elephant, watching a breathtaking sunset, meditating in a temple, or hiking through a national park to view an ancient cave; some events are meant to be lived and not told about. Thailand offers many moments like this, and it is better to know beforehand that not every moment in life needs an explanation.

Tip for success: Bringing a notebook on your trip to jot down some memorable moments in your spare time can really make a difference. Being able to read about what you saw, smelled, felt, or where you were during such an amazing moment can really help you to organize your thoughts and be able to positively reflect on them later. Taking pictures of breathtaking sights can additionally allow to you revisit a place you might not ever get the chance to see again.

While pictures can help you to revisit certain memories; they can never be equivalent to the present moment or the event that was taking place from the picture. Remember to pause and enjoy these memorable moments while they are actually happening, and not use all you focus and energy to capture the ‘perfect picture.’


5. Yes, some sights will be hard to see.

Yes, Thailand is still continuing to develop and evolve as a country. This means that their access to fresh food and clean water are limited. This also means that they struggle with poverty, environmental injustice, and resource scarcity. During my time in Thailand, I was faced with many of these struggles that this country faces on an everyday basis. This may coincide with culture shock, but can additionally be used as a trigger to work even harder to make a lasting difference. It feels good to make a difference in your local community, and it is a great way to know that your time abroad was spent in a useful and positive way.

Tip for success: Simply carrying around a bag of nutritional dog food (highly recommended) can facilitate the lives of many stray animals. Even picking up litter on the street can make a huge environmental difference! During your spare time, don’t hesitate to volunteer at local shelters, community centers, or with helpful non-profit organizations.



Though I wish I better understood these concepts before my internship; I wouldn’t change a thing about my time abroad and would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat. Not only did this internship add a great involvement opportunity to my resume; it gave me memories to last a lifetime. Traveling and working abroad can change every aspect imaginable about your life: your perspective, your passions, your lifestyle, and even your goals. It can inspire you to help yourself, help others, and make a lasting difference on a local and international level.


2 thoughts on "5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Internship in Thailand"

  1. ewaki says:

    i will like t o come then i got this problem with my passport

    1. Chase Chisholm says:

      Sorry to hear that!

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