Experiencing Cultural Immersion: STELA Exchange Student’s Internship Journey in Thailand

The University of Baguio offers a 5-month internship in Thailand, a program that three promising students were given the opportunity to experience: Mr. Diomel L. Ballado, Ms. Kheza B. Pengi of Bachelor of Secondary Education – Major in English, and Ms. Janelle Rona A. Nigos of Bachelor of Elementary Education. Fortunately, Ms. Nigos was willing to share their journey with the two other international interns. Their internship journey in Thailand started on January 21, 2024, and they arrived in Khon Kaen, Thailand, on January 22, 2024, traveling by aircraft.

Ms. Nigos, a STELA student with a passion for educating the young ones, seized the opportunity to render her internship at a renowned Krasaepattana School in Mueang Phon, Khon Kaen, Thailand.

Looking back on her journey, she began filing her internship application in 2023 alongside other students by attending international OJT orientations to learn about the advantages and disadvantages, expenses, transportation, and more. They were busy throughout January 2024 processing their requirements, which included signing visa documents, and agreement memorandums, providing passport details, processing insurance, obtaining parents’ consent and the school dean’s approval and recommendations, making payments, and undergoing medical examinations. Although at first, she wasn’t sure about this journey, after being selected tremendous excitement and anticipation about the internship filled her. It was through the unyielding support of the University of Baguio that she was able to reach Thailand. 

She wouldn’t have been able to do so without the invaluable assistance of the STELA Dean, Dr. Aida A. Dapiawen; BEED Program Chair and Internship Instructor, Ms. Mary Jane L. Wayang; and the Linkages Office, particularly Ms. Mellanie Rulla Saro, along with her team members, Ma’am Doreen and Ma’am Lyka, who ensured that everything was organized and processed smoothly. Most importantly, she is grateful to the people who believe in her—her loved ones, especially her family, who have always been her bridge to reaching her dreams; her relatives, who have shown their regard and have always been proud of her; her friends, who have been her supporters since day one and always tell her that she can do it; her special partner, who has been helping her ever since deciding to take the international OJT, boosting her confidence and the love that he gives to make her stronger; and others who have always been part of her journey.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being an international intern was the chance to work alongside professionals who shared dedication to the field of education being immersed in a new culture, and showcasing their talents and skills as a Filipino in another country. Beyond the professional path, Ms. Nigos embraced the Thai way of life wholeheartedly. She immersed herself in the local cuisine, appreciating the diverse flavors of street food stalls and busy markets. She also seized every opportunity to explore Thailand’s natural wonders, such as historical places, fostering a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of nature.

However, Ms. Nigos’ immersion in Thai culture had its challenges. Adapting to a new language and navigating cultural differences required patience and open-mindedness. Being homesick for her family and friends was also a prominent struggle during her time in Thailand. Yet, with each obstacle, she grew more resilient and adaptable, emerging from her internship with newfound confidence and cross-cultural competence.

One of the highlights of Ms. Nigos’s internship was her participation in community outreach programs, where she had the chance to engage with local communities and raise awareness of language barriers using English as what they call the “English camp”. Through collaborative efforts, she witnessed firsthand the power of collective action in effecting positive change at the grassroots level. 

International interns from STELA signify a journey that is transformative and adaptive. Stepping outside their comfort zones and embracing new experiences, these international interns show that the University of Baguio lived up to their mission to educate individuals to be empowered professionals in the global community.

Along her journey, she holds onto her life verse, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

As they return home, they carry with them not only memories of Thailand’s beauty but also the invaluable lessons learned during their time abroad, which have enriched their perspectives and broadened their horizons. These experiences have not only enhanced their academic and professional growth but have also fostered personal development, resilience, and cultural understanding. They are now equipped with newfound skills, global connections, and a deeper appreciation for diversity, ready to embark on future endeavors with confidence and determination.

Written by Janelle Rona Nigos and Gabrielle Ann Yvonne Rocha

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