Exploring Beyond Evergreen: Busy Days in Bangkok

By Amy R. Wolfson, Ph.D.  |  Photos by Jen Lowry, Ph.D.

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We have had several very busy days in Bangkok. Through our conversations, walks, and bike rides, my colleagues and I are getting a glimpse of the diversity and complexities of living in Bangkok, Thailand.

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On Wednesday evening we had dinner with two Loyola and Bangkok Program alumni, Spencer Giorgio, ’14, and Harrison Oztemel, ’14, and one of our Jennings Scholars, Yamilex Pena, ’18.

As a Jennings Scholar, Yamilex (Global Studies major) is volunteering with Asylum Access Thailand, where she is working with them on refugee rights and issues of domestic violence. She explained that the refugees include Christian Pakistani, Ahmadi Muslims, and Somali refugees.

In talking with Andre Colombat, dean of international programs at Loyola, she emphasized that the staff she works with are phenomenal and in a short time she has learned how to get to and from the NGO by moto-taxi and bus. Some of her responsibilities include organizing and documenting information for the refugees and working with interpreters who translate her work into Urdu in particular.

Spencer Giorgio taught at ABAC or Assumption University for a year and a half and is now working for C-Asean (owned by Thai Bev) and completing an MBA at Assumption University. In his position at C-Asean, he helps other companies learn about ASEAN (10 Asian markets are part of ASEAN), blogs, and writes editorials on a range of topics including the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community).

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Harrison Oztemel taught at ABAC for a year and now works for Equator Pure Nature, a fairly new start-up founded by an American that develops and sells bio-cleaning products derived from pineapples grown in Thailand. As the only other native English speaker in the company, he explained that he started as an English checker, in charge of all communication in English.

Recently, his responsibilities have increased and he oversees a team for business development, traveling to Singapore and other countries to represent Equator Pure Nature.

In chatting with Spencer and Harrison, I was struck by how much they are committed to working and living in Bangkok at this point in their lives and how much potential they see for global, international business in Southeast Asia.

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We spent Thursday at Assumption University’s Hua Mak campus meeting with the president-rector, president-emeritus, vice president for academic affairs, dean of the School of Management, and some faculty.

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The day began with an informal conversation with Dr. Bancha Saenghiran, president-rector. Then we were escorted to a VIP lounge where we talked at length with the director of international affairs, Dr. Glen Chatelier, vice president for academic affairs/dean of the School of Music, Dr. Vindhai Crocanul, and the dean of the Martin de Tours School of Management and Economics, Dr. Uree Cheasakul.

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We discussed ways in which Loyola and Assumption might collaborate in new ways in the future, having worked together in bringing Loyola undergraduates to ABAC for 25 years as the oldest study abroad program in Thailand. For example, are there opportunities for Loyola and Assumption faculty to collaborate, ways to bring Assumption undergraduates to study and/or visit Loyola on their summer or winter breaks, opportunities to co-sponsor an annual an academic conference, etc.?

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Following our conversation, President-Emeritus Prathip Martin Komolmas (president for 23 years), who struggles with his vision and other health issues, felt well enough to make sure to welcome us to his University. He presented each of us with a copy of the book, A Meeting of Worlds: The Interaction of Christian Missionaries and Thai Culture, and formally presented me with a traditional Thai wine goblet, engraved with Assumption University’s insignia.

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I was so touched by his generosity and kind words regarding the importance of the Loyola-Assumption relationship. Before parting, he reminded his colleague, Professor Glen, to make sure that the traditional boat trip is arranged for the Loyola students; a trip that President Martin loved doing with countless Loyola students.

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Auntie Sam (Dr. Samusa Nakasingh in an earlier blog) made sure that my colleagues and I had lunch before my afternoon lecture. She took us to a new, local Burmese restaurant just a block from campus. After lunch, I gave the MBA Talk of the Month, Development and Adolescents’ Sleep: Implications of the Sleep-Smart Program, to an audience of about 50 graduate students in management, education, and psychology.

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It was a fun and engaging talk with at least 15 minutes of conversation and Q & A following my remarks. I was struck by the way in which this diverse group of graduate students from Thailand, Africa, India, and other countries connected with the research, practical applications, cross-cultural questions, and personal concerns about sleep and circadian rhythms for adolescents and young adults.

Later yesterday evening, President-Rector Bancha Saenghiran treated us to a lovely dinner back at our hotel along the Chao Phraya River. In addition to the president, Dr. Ian Slater, lecturer at Assumption, and Dr. Soonthorn Pibulcharoensit, the university registrar, joined us for a relaxing dinner of conversation and a magnificent Thai buffet. It was a night to remember.

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Today we traveled about an hour to the new and extraordinary campus at Suvarnabhumi, some 30 minutes to the South of the city campus! The Loyola students take classes on twice a week here. The president-emeritus, based on his image of Stanford University where he completed his graduate work, designed this Suvarnabhumi campus.

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The 200-acre campus, constructed as a university in a park, includes a lake, palm trees, lush gardens, and grand buildings. Dr. Glen Chatelier gave us a tour of much of the campus including the Cathedral of Learning, a 39-story tower which houses student services, the library, reception halls, seminar rooms, and offices; the conference center; the stunning, Thai marble Chapel; and some of the academic buildings, such as the Engineering School.

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We walked and also traversed the campus in a trolley car, reminiscent of San Francisco. Before leaving, Dr. Glen made sure that we saw the Pan Am International Flight Training Center, which includes two simulators (A320 and Boeing 737). We learned that the center is a joint venture between Pan Am Thailand and Assumption where students obtain a four-year degree and their commercial pilot’s license.

This afternoon we returned with Father Kelly to the city to visit St. Gabriel’s College (private school for grades 1-12) where many Loyola alums have taught math, reading, English, science, and social studies over the years.

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Loyola graduates who are participating in Teach for Thailand

After a late lunch we had the opportunity to meet with the current group of Loyola alumni who are teaching St. Gabriel’s students.

Although it was a short conversation, we learned a lot about their experiences and how much they would like to see more Loyola and other college graduates taking the opportunity to teach for a few years at St. Gabriel’s College.

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After an enriching and busy several days in Bangkok, we leave for Taiwan tomorrow morning. My colleagues and I will miss Thailand, and we look forward to our visit to Fu Jen University.

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1 Comment

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