Ka Yang - CFANS Study Abroad Program

Term: 
Winter 2016

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When I applied to this program, I didn’t realize what an amazing opportunity it would be. I thought it would be a fun trip to Thailand to learn about tigers and birds, but this was more than that. This trip taught me how much work and dedication goes into researching these fascinating animals and has taught me a greater appreciation for wildlife conservation. The 4 am wake up calls for bird banding and the long hikes through bamboo forests for camera traps was always worth every rare animal sighting, every scenic overlook and every bond that had been created.  Eating lunch in different parts of the jungle and riding in a truck over rough and steep terrain is one experience that I will always miss.  Bird banding was a new, challenging and amazing experience since the only experience I have ever had with birds were chickens. These small birds were intimidating to handle, but incredibly beautiful to look at up close.

Not only did I learn about animals and research methods, but this trip has taught me more about the history of my people, the Hmong. The Hmong do not have a country, but the largest population of Hmong people are in Thailand other than the US. I felt like Thailand is the closest place for the Hmong to have a country, therefore I wanted to come to Thailand to experience what my family and people have gone through. I learned so much about the development of the Hmong language and countries that have influenced it. It was interesting to learn that the Hmong people used more Thai words when referencing modern day technology such as hospital and doctors. When I was talking to one of the field researchers who was from northern Thailand, I found that there are many similarities between Thai and Hmong culture.  Little things like table manners, sleeping positions in a room, table setting, shop setups, and interaction between others. The outdoor markets that we visited reminded me of the Hmong vendors at the farmer’s market and various Hmong establishments like Hmong Town and Hmong Village since the set up was similar. Fruits overflowed the table and items were neatly displayed behind vibrant red cloths. I did not expect to learn so much about my own culture and was surprised by how much it has been influenced by Thailand. I am grateful for being able to go on this trip since I have learned so much about research, conservation and my own culture.

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Ka Yang working on the field

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Sunset in Thailand