Three weeks on the Mekong

A new course explores the relationship between families and environment

This summer 20 students, including several Hmong heritage students, in a variety of majors learned first hand about northern Thailand. The three-week, three-credit course—Global Change in Thailand—allowed them to explore, research, reflect, and write about topics related to families and social justice, from the environment to human trafficking.

The students hiked, boated on the Mekong River, and interacted with community leaders, elders, peers, and children every day. They produced digital stories posted at cehdthailand2015.blogspot.com.

“Each day spent in Thailand has been a roller coaster of emotions, observations, impressions, and outcomes,” wrote one student. “I have felt excitement and fun as well as discomfort and confusion.… My thoughts throughout our stay changed drastically as we explored more and got to know some of the locals.”

The course was one of the first CEHD Global Education Opportunity programs, created especially for CEHD students by teaming up with the University’s Learning Abroad Center. It was led by faculty members Catherine Solheim in family social science and Linda Buturian in postsecondary teaching and learning, whose collaboration was featured in Connect in fall 2014.

“This springs out of our mutual interest in the power of stories to reveal culture and family and the intricate relationship between people and the land,” says Buturian, “the Mississippi, the Mekong, and all the other natural places.”

The course will be offered again next spring and is already filling.

“It’s important for our students to pay attention to how global changes are impacting families and communities,” says Solheim. “They could see the resilience, resourcefulness, and vitality of the Thai and Hill Tribe people as they navigate those changes.”

Read more about the May 2015 course in “Learning Abroad in Thailand: Studying and experiencing big ideas in community.”

Learn more the 2016 course at Global Change, Families, and the Environment in Thailand.

Story by Gayla Marty | Photos by Linda Buturian | Winter 2016