Picture this: you get the chance to study abroad in Australia, spending the semester exploring the beautiful coasts, learn to surf, hike and maybe even do a bit of shopping along the way. What could possibly make the experience any better?

A week-long trip to Thailand.

For students spending a semester abroad in Australia, the spring break trip to Thailand is just one more way TEAN goes above and beyond to help students gain as much as possible while abroad. The trip was culturally amazing, as I, along with other study abroad students, were able to fully immerse ourselves in our surroundings. The places we visited were thoughtfully chosen by the TEAN and gave us all experiences we would not have been able to do, or even thought to do, if we had just traveled to Thailand on our own.

Every day was jam-packed with activities but we also had plenty of free time.

We had two TEAN staffers, one girl and one guy, who took care of making sure the buses were on time, arranging hotel reservations,, and overall acting as knowledgeable guides and safety nets on our trip.

It was nothing like an 8th grade weekend trip where parents and teachers are down your necks every moment of the day! No, the staffers loved hanging out with us, calmly answered our incessant questions, and were two of the most interesting people I had the opportunity to speak with while studying abroad.

But I bet you’re wondering…what did we do and where did we go??

Chiang Mai

We first flew into the city of Chiang Mai and went to the Elephant Nature Park, aka the main reason that persuaded me to go on the trip. Elephants are my FAVORITE animals and it was incredible to be able to feed and just hang out with the gentle giants. Hearing about the abusive pasts of many of the rescued elephants was heartbreaking, but looking at the way they are treated now and the rejuvenated joy in their eyes spurred an indescribable feeling of happiness.

Elephant Nature Park Chiang Kai
“How was your spring break? Bet you didn’t get to hang out with elephants all day at their Nature Park in Thailand!” Ashley Hitchcock, Stonehill College

There was also a baby elephant playing with a stone ball that seriously made me consider permanently moving to the elephant refugee park.

That night we stayed in a local village where they graciously served us dinner and the children performed a dance recital. The families there had very little but opened their homes to us and we were able to participate in a ritual led by elders of the village, as well.

Homestay Chiang Mai
Dinner during homestay in Chiang Mai | Photo by TEAN staff. Zoe Shwidock

We slowly made our way back to the city of Chiang Mai the next morning, going on a hike to the waterfall first. The beautiful scenery of Thailand was stunning, and the hike to the waterfall was not only the perfect way to start our day, but it was refreshing to go for a little swim, too.

We had one full free day to explore the city on our own, and then we treated ourselves to a couple of cocktails and a nice outdoor dinner before heading to the night markets. People crowded the streets for the night markets and bartering with the sellers was definitely harder than I expected.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Chiang Mai Thailand
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (Temple) in Chiang Mai | Photo by Christy Flom, University of Michigan

For our last day in the city, we took a cooking class, where we made phad thai and then went to the acclaimed temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, where we took in a stunning view of the city from atop the Suthep Mountain and learned more about the temple’s origins. This was also one of my favorite days, as the cooking class was not only fun but also challenging! And the temple was breathtaking to visit.

Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai
Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai | Photo by TEAN staff, Zoe Shwidock

Krabi & Phuket

Then, the vacation aspect of the trip really began, as we flew to Krabi to explore the beautiful beaches, do a bit snorkeling and relax. We visited the islands of Phi Phi, enjoyed the water, beaches, food and scenery before heading to Phuket for our last night.

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, they will better describe what life on the beach was during this week.

Phi Phi Island Krabi Thailand
“Crystal clear water, schools of tropical fish, majestic limestone cliffs, white sand beaches, it’s hard to think of anything that could make the Phi Phi Islands more perfect. ” Ronit Dastidar, University of Florida

Krabi Thailand

Krabi Thailand
Island hopping in Krabi | Photos by TEAN staff, Zoe Shwidock

I am so grateful I was able to participate in this trip and urge anyone considering going on it to definitely do it! The cultural experiences will reshape the way you view the world, while the people you meet, things you see will forge unforgettable friendships and memories!

Christy Flom (University of Michigan) studied abroad in Australia at the University of New South Wales.