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Senior spends semester studying in Thailand


Kimberly Williams ’15 of Washington, D.C., who aspires to become an elementary school teacher, received the education of a lifetime last semester when she studied in Bangkok, Thailand, and explored Southeast Asia.

While studying at Mahidol University, she incorporated extensive travel into her experience, visiting nearby countries such as Dubai, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

It was purely happenstance that Williams came to study abroad.

“I was walking out of a meeting with Manat Wooten in Career Services when she encouraged me to sit in on a study abroad meeting with an International Studies Abroad (ISA) representative,” she explained. “I chose Thailand because it was literally the next deadline. I didn't really care where I went. It was more about going somewhere new than anything else.”

C:\fakepath\Kimberly Williams elephant riding crop.jpgEvery day in Thailand was a new experience. “That is the best thing anyone can get from traveling,” Williams said.

In addition to exploring Bangkok, Williams visited the city of Chiang Mai, as well as smaller communities like Kanchanaburi.

“The ruins of ancient Ayutthaya were incredible. The history of Thailand was especially pronounced since I was taking a class about all of those ancient kingdoms all over Southeast Asia,” she explained.

Williams also enjoyed the “incredible” cities of Hanoi and Ha Long Bay.

“They were filled with ancient temples, Confucian reverence and more motorbikes than I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Williams found the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage City of Luang Prabang to be not only immaculate, but the most peaceful place she had ever been. “It was like time didn't exist.”

Although her classes at Mahidol University were conducted in English, Williams took a conversational Thai class.

“It was super hard. They have five tones so every word can have literally five different meanings. It was really fun though, and I tried to use it as much as possible while I was there,” she said.

Although it took a little while to get used to wearing a school uniform, “After a while it was nice to not have to worry about picking out clothes.”

Her experiences in Southeast Asia reminded her that she should “take advantage of all the benefits of growing up in America,” including the educational opportunities and freedoms she enjoys as a woman living the United States.

Bitten by the “travel bug,” Williams is looking into Spanish immersion opportunities abroad she might take advantage of this summer.

“I learned that sometimes the simplest path is the best one, and that it doesn't take a million dollars or months of preparation to go out and travel somewhere completely new,” she said.

Back at MCLA, “It’s been a lovely experience academically, because my professors have been really, really good at their jobs. My advisors are also wonderful, and actually help me get things done, like keeping me on track to graduate and getting a study abroad application done in a week.”

As an MCLA student, Williams was involved with various opportunities to serve the North Adams community, such as volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and working with the students and teachers at nearby Sullivan Elementary School.

Although she plans to attend graduate school, Williams wants to continue to make a difference for others. She said, “Maybe I'll join the Peace Corps or another program that will use my skills in education and allow me to travel.”