Sawatdeekhrap! That means Hello in Thai. For the past two months, I have been on this amazing journey of learning about Thailand and about myself. I did not think anything could top my South Pacific experience but Thailand really has surprised me.

Throughout my senior year in HS, I knew I wanted to pursue my passion for Photography and really was not sure I was ready to start college. Yet, I went along with doing the SATs, applications, etc., since my twin sister was all into it. After Christmas, my mom and I talked about a GAP year and going abroad. The possibility of that was very exciting even though I was only looking at colleges no more than 2 hrs away from home.

After looking into GAP programs more, my mom had a friend of a friend who recommended Carpe Diem and said her son had been through the program and loved it. He is now in college so I thought, why not try it too. The only requirement my parents gave me was I had to do it for college credit… No problem.

I was totally sold after talking to Simone, one of the Program Directors, and after reading the blog and other materials on the website.

My first semester was spent in the South Pacific. I, along with a group of 11 other Carpe Diem students and 2 instructors spent 3 months traveling in Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. I had the time of my life. I developed my leadership skills, spent time on an organic farm, and visited a Buddhist retreat. The host families were like my real family. The food was great and the amount of work we put in on the organic farms and in other parts of the community was more than rewarding. I had a few mishaps while traveling but I learned from my mistakes. I left my camera bag on a public bus in New Zealand and after reporting its loss, I was sure I would not see it again. To my surprise, someone turned it in and I got it back. I also went into the water with my new i-pod in my pocket and realized my $200 in downloaded movies I was going to watch when I had some down time, was a thing of the past.. And last but not least, I swam out a bit too far one day during our leisure time and let’s just say; thank goodness we had certified life guards and some locals who saw I was in trouble. It was scary but not life-threatening. Again, I learned a lot of life sessions during my first semester.

When the time came in December 2016 for us to leave Australia, there were a lot of tears since everyone was heading back to various places. We all vowed to keep in touch. Some of the students were doing Latitude Year, like me, but others were heading off to college for their second semester (but wishing they had enrolled for Latitudes.)

Now, let’s fast forward past the December holidays, to a week in Portland in January for Carpe Diem orientation, then to a very scary day on February 6 being dropped off at LAX to start my journey again, but this time, by myself. And that brings me to now, my time in Thailand.

I was really nervous about doing the Latitudes semester without being in a group. However, this is what Carpe Diem trained us for so I knew I had to be ready to be an independent world traveler. After traveling for 24 hours from LAX, I finally arrived in Thailand. These past two months have been so great! I decided to spend my Latitudes semester working with an organization that works with Northern Thailand villages teaching the school children and doing renovation and construction work. I am volunteering at the Mirror Foundation which is located right outside of Chang Rai. I have learned so much over these past two months. I have been teaching the kids in the community, who are so gracious. They greet me daily with a big “Hello Teacher Ski “ . I get a kick out of seeing how happy these kids are and how well they deal with their life situations. They truly have inspired me. SI will be moving on to the outdoor program for my last month here. This is partly because they need more volunteers for the Outdoor program and partly because teaching is tough and I got a little behind on the lesson plans. Sometimes, I took more of a supportive role in the classroom and let the kids steer the instruction based on particular lessons they really liked and wanted to continue. Over a few weeks, that put us off schedule so another volunteer will get them back on track. This is another life lesson for me. Hopefully the kids learned some things from me that were beyond the books that they can use throughout their lives. I have also learned a life lesson from them on just being accountable to yourself and those that look up to you.

I am looking forward to the next month making an impact in another area in Thailand. My time is almost over but I have done most of what I set out to do, which was to make a difference here and to become more self-aware for my own development. Also, I have made some friends that I have enjoyed hanging out on the weekends in town. Another highlight for me was to spend my week break in Bangkok then on to Koh Tao where I met up with some of my fellow Carpe Diem students from my first semester. We had a blast catching up. So for my last few weeks here, I will be try to indulge in as much local food and cultural events as possible but I will mostly be looking for opportunities to help the Mirror Foundation and contribute to the great work they are doing here.

If Carpe Diem Education offered a 4 year program, I would definitely be the first in line to sign up. Education without walls is what we all refer to our experience and it is truly all of that and much more. Thanks to the wonderful staff at Carpe Diem. Signing off now.