Samantha Yturralde, Thailand, Thammasat University (Global Studies)



  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

I was afraid of the culture shock and not being able to properly adjust to living in Thailand. After a couple weeks of settling in, I became extremely comfortable in my surroundings and got to meet and see so many new and interesting people and places! I got to travel around everywhere and be independent. I’ve never traveled alone, but through studying abroad, I gained a great sense of confidence and awareness.

  1. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I wish I realized how to speak better Thai before going abroad. As a student without any history of Thai language, I had a lot of difficulty getting around and communicating with the locals. Many Thai people don’t speak much English, especially the older locals. Many times throughout the day, I would face language barriers when interacting with people in the city. I think, getting a bit of exposure in Thai would have helped me in being more adjusted.

  1. What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?

I’ve always loved taking classes about art and history, so my favorite class in Thailand was the Art and Architecture of Thailand! I got to learn about the interesting and vast history of Thailand as a country along with getting to learn about all the temples, murals, statues and their meanings! Classes in Thailand are very different compared to UCSB. In particular, I only had one three hour lecture a week for a class. The teaching styles are very different, and it can sometimes be hard to understand and comprehend the material, but overall, I think it was good to be exposed to a teaching style that was completely different! 

  1. What is one of your best memories from abroad?

Being able to travel all over Southeast Asia was such a great experience for me! I was able to fly all over during the weekends, spending one weekend in Laos, then Malaysia the next, and then Singapore, and so on! It opened my eyes up to a vast array of cultures and foods and arts! I loved every single minute of traveling. I met so many interesting people whilst traveling as well.

  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

My biggest challenge was not being confident in being independent. Back in Santa Barbara, I had a close knit group of friends, and now studying in Thailand would leave me all alone. But honestly, the fact that I had traveled alone was what allowed me to grow into a better version of myself! I had never imagined I could be able to live by myself, and fend for myself. I realized how resilient and independent I could be.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect of Thailand’s culture was definitely the food culture! Amazing and delicious food is readily available everywhere you go. From the Thai tea to Mango salad and everything in between, Thailand definitely has the best Thai Food. Food plays such an important role in Thailand’s culture and it definitely shows. Sometimes I can be a bit picky with my food choices, and there’s some definitely questionable foods in Asia, but being open to the foods, and just trying a little bit of everything can open up your palate.  

  1. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

I interned with Boat People S.O.S., a Non-Profit Organization that helps Southeast Asian refugees in Thailand through legal, educational, and financial support. I loved working at my internship, because it was such a close knit group of hardworking people dedicated to helping those in need. It opened up my eyes and I realized what I was truly passionate in. It gave me a career path to follow. I got to work closely with refugee women and collaborate with a social enterprise project. It was such a rewarding experience that I am so lucky to have been a part of.

  1. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I definitely miss all the amazing foods from Thailand! It’s pretty hard to figure out what I miss the most, but I think my favorite would be the mango salad that was sold right outside my apartment. After school, I would head straight over to the stand, and have it freshly made. I came by so often, they already knew what I would order! Thai tea is also a favorite of mine. For 60 cents, you could get fresh Thai tea that was so deliciously sweet and creamy! I think that there’s definitely no comparison to the real Thai tea than those sold in California.  

  1. How have you changed since your time abroad?

I’ve definitely become much more mature and confident throughout my time abroad. Comparing myself to before I studied abroad, I was definitely less sure of myself and timid and a little bit lost. Taking the time to study abroad gave me the necessary push to grow as a person and led me to future career options. Coming back to UCSB, I feel much more motivated and excited for the future.

  1. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

I think the best advice to take is to be confident in yourself. Trust that studying abroad will be an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. It might be a little rocky at first, but take it easy, try all the different food, travel around, meet new friends and just have fun! The months abroad fly by so quickly, by the time it’s time to come back home, you’ll be itching to go back abroad!

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