Love from Thailand: Students discover 'Land of Smiles'
Hospitality Management and Fashion and Retail Studies majors take off for first study abroad trip
“Hospitality and Retail Industries: Inspiration from Thailand” gave hospitality management and fashion and retail studies majors the voyage of a lifetime. The 12-day study abroad program prepared students for international business operations and led to the investigation of the cultural, traditional and modern retail and hospitality markets in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
To prepare for the May 2013 international trip, students enrolled in Consumer Sciences 5194, taught by Margaret Binkley, former assistant professor of hospitality management, and Leslie Stoel, professor of fashion and retail studies.
“Students learned about the culture of the Thai people and what to expect when they touch down,” Binkley said. “The class taught them all about business etiquette and they examined Thailand as a country for United States businesses to pursue.”
In the classroom, students developed their foundation of knowledge about hospitality and retailing, consumers and culture in the Southeast Asian country.
“I was most looking forward to seeing their responses to the food and the traditional markets,” Stoel said. “Our group this year was very adventurous, and they loved trying new things.”
Those new adventures included:
- Visiting Mahidol University for a course in traditional Thai cooking.
- The Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, where students faced their fears by posing with 400-pound tigers.
- Exploring small-city businesses, well-known Thai retail and hospitality locations and cultural attractions.
Cody Derby, of Garnet Valley, Penn., a senior in hospitality management , urged, “If students have a chance to study abroad like this, I suggest they take it. Meeting new friends around the world and actually experiencing these cultures firsthand is a great opportunity that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
His favorite experiences included convincing a group of Thai students to join him for a game of basketball and spending time with a monk at a temple in Chiang Mai.
Katy Gamertsfelder, of Johnstown, Ohio, a senior studying consumer and family financial services, was particularly interested in design inspirations from the VIE Hotel in Bangkok. The five-star boutique hotel features its own rooftop swimming pool, world-class fitness center and sushi bar.
“My trip to Thailand re-inspired me to pursue a career in natural landscape design or floral arrangements. The creative and abundant use of plants in hotels, malls and restaurants was truly inspiring,” Gamertsfelder said. “It was just gorgeous!”
Kristen King, of LaGrange, Ohio, a senior studying hospitality management, said, “It wasn’t just an educational experience but also a cultural one.” In addition to learning to speak a few words of Thai, King stepped outside of her comfort zone. “I tried so many different foods that I would have never thought I was brave enough to try,” she said.
The time abroad didn’t have an impact on just King’s palate. She says, “Thailand opened my eyes to a lot of new textures, design concepts and color combinations that I would have never been able to put together myself.” King plans to become a wedding planner. By incorporating the design aspects she saw in Asia, she will give her clients a fresh and unique experience.