Freshers week in South East Asia

January 18, 2019
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Global Grad’s first cohort take on Fresher’s

 

Most adults - regardless of whether they are working or studying a course- limit their travel to whenever their workplace or university lets them have time off. This can impact how they see the world as prices spike up during the common holiday seasons. Instead of it being a place where so much can be learnt and being entrenched in a different but exciting culture, they may not get much further than the tourist bubble. They can say they’ve been to a place, but they haven’t experienced it.

Global Grad, being Britain’s most innovative route of study yet, aims to counteract this. Instead of doing courses in the classroom, they’re completed online. Rather than sitting on your laptop either at home, in university or at a local coffee shop, Global Grad will send you around the world. You’ll get the chance to explore three countries per semester including many more during the fortnight-long road trips. By graduation, you could also have six continents and a wide range of countries under your belt.

The course doesn’t have to be a degree; anything is viable as long as it can be completed online.

January 14th 2019 marked the first group of Global Grad students starting their journey through South East Asia. By May 21st, they will have lived in and experienced the cultures of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.

To kick off the semester in the first location of Chiang Mai, Thailand, students got to undertake their own spin of Fresher’s week. In universities, it’s known as a time of alcoholism, making new friends and trying new things. Global Grad’s Freshers included all three but had its own unique vibe. I mean, how many people do you know that can claim they got to stroke an Asian elephant in their Freshers week?

 

Monday 14th January

All students fortified their own routes over to the meet-up location- Bangkok- so for most of the group, Monday marked a day full of travel. Considering Chiang Mai is over 5,500 miles (8,850 km) away from the United Kingdom, students spent most of the day either in the air or hanging around in their respective airports. For some students, it was their first ever long-haul flight, but everyone could agree that it was a long day. Beforehand were emotional goodbyes with lots of good-intentioned nagging to stay safe.

 

Tuesday 15th January

Day two was when most students finally made it to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport and got to meet the Global Grad crew in person after many a phone call. Georgia- the Locations Development Manager- met students at the gate, before they got the chance to chill out within the airport. To end the journey off was one final hour-long flight up to the Chiang Mai, in the mountainous north of the country.

Upon arriving at the airport, students got picked up by Apple, the owner of Stay with Hug Poshtel, who was accompanied by Harley, her son. On the way to the Poshtel, students got a sneak peek at their home for the next five weeks including the moat surrounding the Old City.

The rest of the afternoon was a chilled one, waiting for the whole group to get together. Some questions posed between students were the location they looked most forward to visiting, their course(s) and who had gone the most hours without sleep. Students got to see their new rooms and meet their three new roommates.

Once the group all got together, they headed out to a vegan restaurant. Because of the ease of vegetarianism and veganism in South East Asia, there were already bets on who would either consider changing up their diet over the period. Upon returning to Stay with Hug was some-much needed sleep. Freshers for Global Grad’s first cohort had begun.

 

Wednesday 16th January

Study HubWednesday quickly established that Global Grad wasn’t just to explore the beautiful South East Asia, but also a time for studying. Students got to explore Chiang Mai’s Regus study hub in which there are two mini-offices dedicated to Global Grad. The sleek rooms contained pamphlets on nearby locations so students could plan trips during their study breaks and some extra Global Grad goodies.

Afterwards was the choice between continuing the vegan streak or having a homelier comfort of KFC, which split the group in half. After everyone returned to the hostel, students used their free time to explore the Old City. On the itinerary included checking out some of Chiang Mai’s 300+ temples and experiencing the local cuisine.

The itinerary for the first week was placed on student’s beds before their arrival, so everyone knew Thursday would be a morning of Muay Thai. So, when one student spotted an advert for an international Thailand vs. England fight, the group decided to go and support their (bar one student’s) home nation. Beforehand, the group once again split up between street food and Western cuisine.

There were seven fights in total. The pacifists in the group flinched when some fighters got thrown around but the atmosphere around the ring was excellent. To break up the fights was a comedy match, in which three blindfolded fighters were put into the ring with a referee who seemed to get hit just as much as the competitors.

Round 5 was the match advertised, and it was interesting to see the Western vs. Eastern differences in the Martial Art. Some students unexpectedly enjoyed the event whereas some were more interested in the selection of maggots and crickets brought out in the interim.

 

Thursday 17th January

As previously mentioned, Thursday involved a Muay Thai taster session. The two-hour long class was hosted by an instructor who has trained in the sport every day for sixteen years. Some students have tried Martial Arts before but this was the first time all students had experienced this branch before.

The class involved learning basics, such as kicks, blocks and elbows. To finish up the lesson was a quick-fire pad work session. The group thoroughly enjoyed the event, and many have chosen to continue with weekly lessons while in Chiang Mai.

In the afternoon, the group got to dabble with Thai massage. For an hour, each student was the masseuse to their partner before swapping. The session was intense although nobody had much experience, with many people complaining of ‘pain, but the good type’ the next day. Most students felt some of their joints crack or felt stretched out because of the intensity of Thai massage.

Most students enjoyed having the massage (especially after the Muay Thai session) and the exercisers of the group found a few new techniques to add to their stretch regimes. The head masseuse who taught the group also gave everyone a small pot which contained a cream to relieve skin post-mosquito bite. Many students had already been bitten by this point so appreciated the gesture.

Friday 18th January

The most anticipated day of the week. The students were off to the Elephant Nature Park!

Thailand sits as the tenth most visited country in the world, and one thing that hits a lot of bucket lists is riding an elephant. However, as shown in a video which played on the way to the Park, elephants are treated inhumanely and put into a soul-crushing state to make sure they comply. The video did not hold back in showing how graphic the treatment was to train elephants into working in the logging industry, tourism and the circus.

Even on the way back from the park, students saw people riding elephants. Because of tourism dollars funding the practice, it’ll keep continuing as long as it’s known it can make a profit.

However, Elephant Nature Park is very different. Instead of promoting this cruel tourism, it’s a rehabilitation centre. The elephants have mahouts to keep them in tow but have plenty of freedom. There were no hooks or riding in sight, instead, the Park was filled with playing and eating.

Students got to witness the elephants acting in their natural behaviour with the families they have formed on their own accord. They even fed them banana’s, stroked them and get some awesome photos for the ‘gram with the gentle giants.

The park also homes other animals, including but not limited to dogs, cats and water buffalo. During the trip, the group got to see two elephants who had only been rescued within the past month, and the difference between the newest elephants and those who had been around for a longer period was incredible. The Park also lets volunteers stay for up to a week to help around as two students are doing at a later date. 

Saturday 19th January

To start the weekend nothing was planned, so the day was more chilled out than the action-packed days preceding it. Some students headed to the study hub to either or start or catch-up on their courses whereas others continued exploring Chiang Mai and its surrounding area.

Right next to the study hub is a brand-new sky bar called ‘Level 9’ in which the students spent their evening sipping either alcohol or smoothies depending on their age. With a bean-bag assortment, the skyline of Chiang Mai with its surrounding mountains and getting to catch the sunset, many people rated the evening.

After that was a farewell meal to say goodbye to the Global Grad CEO, Steff, as he started his long journey back to the UK the following day. As it was a hybrid restaurant, some tried out more Thai cuisine, and others chose Italian food.

Sunday 20th January

Some students made Sunday a second day of rest and relaxation, others used it to explore the culture further. To start their morning, the latter group headed off to Mae Sa National Park to see its waterfall and explore the surrounding forest. Afterwards, they joined Harley as he went to do motocross alongside scenic rice paddy fields, made even more beautiful as sunset was approaching.

The night was all about food, food, food. The motocross gang had a taste of traditional Thai food with Apple and some locals before the infamous Sunday Night Market begun. The market was initially a kilometre-long stretch down a nearby road but has since expanded into the side streets and so starts almost outside the student’s Jhaban Road hostel. The group had their fill on food ranging from waffles to spring rolls and there were even purchases of touristy goods, such as the infamous travel pants.

It was a life-changing week. While the phrase is cliché, most UK students go to another city for their university experience and so, while it is a different location, still have a lot of similar luxuries and culture to their hometown. With Global Grad, students will live around the world in countries with a huge variety, be it in a cultural, linguistic or economic form. In the South-East Asia semester alone, students will go through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. Future semesters will also include experiences around Europe, Oceania, North and South America and Africa.

For students who dislike the feeling of being ‘trapped’ in one place for the whole period of their course, or believe travelling will be a fulfilling experience but do not wish to limit it to just the holiday period, Global Grad is a great alternative. The first week alone shows that you’ll get a wide range of experiences within seven days, and the semesters last between sixteen and eighteen weeks. Even if you’re not a student and want to see the world while completing an online course, applications are welcome.

About the author

Jasmin Dawling is one of Global Grad’s January 2019 students and is completing a full-time Bachelor’s degree with the Open University in International Studies. While this is her first time formally blogging, she has had plenty of writing experience in the past, from novel writing since the age of six to working on the school newspaper. Apart from seeing the sights of South East Asia and working on her degree, Jasmin spends most of her time either procrastinating or writing down her novel ideas, be it on her travelling-inspired new ideas or the 7-part series she’s been toying with for almost ten years.

 

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