Thailand Design for Social Change

Recently I travelled to Thailand to complete UNBOUND’s design for social change program. This was only made possible with the help and support of the University of Technology, Sydney’s BUILD department and program.

The BUILD Abroad experience was the best way to finish off my university degree. The UNBOUND design for social change trip grave me the chance to explore the culture of another country while being taught the human centred design process. The facilitators did an excellent job of ensuring the right balance of experiencing local culture, then applying that learning to develop more sophisticated and holistic solutions.

50937076_2317463245194639_7485654940640083968_o.jpgWhile on the trip as students we were given the chance to engage in a wide variety of cultural traditions. While experiencing local life our facilitators ensured that we understood how we could empathise a design solution to fulfil all of our stakeholders needs. As an experience this meant thinking differently about the challenge and moving away from the classroom into a less developed environment.

Interacting with the local people was a new experience as we were not able to speak a common language. This meant being patient and focusing on specifics to ensure our ideas and their suggestions were not being lost in translation.

The conclusion of the trip was focused on pitching our developed solutions to the UNESCO in Bangkok. This was a great way to formalise our design concepts ensuring we would still receive the high level feedback needed to understand the impact of our ideas.

As a student this was the first time I have had class located in a rural town within Thailand. This meant that I was not sure what would be involved or if it would be the right way to go about continuing my engineering learning. The risk that it wouldn’t be for me stemmed from the fear of putting myself into an unknown position with unknown people. I could not be happier with the results. I feel that I have gained lifelong friends and taken away one of the best learning experiences I could have hoped for.

My attitude towards the people who took care of us in the homestay has grown positively and I cannot wait to return one day to see them again. As an engineer I believe the project experience has made me a more empathetic and patient thinker when developing future solutions. As a student being thrown into an unknown group of people I believe I have become a more sincere all rounded friend.

Again I am extremely thankful for the opportunity and will highly recommend anyone who can to utilise the opportunity to take the chance to go on the same trip.

The trip:
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Day 3 introduced a different side of Bangkok. The group was up bright and early, ready to experience the Klong Toei community, generally accepted as the slums of the city.

The group was welcomed by a passionate group that was eager to bring forward change in the community. Following a presentation about Thailand’s startling wealth and social disparities, a guided tour was given on the different areas of Klong Toei. Here the group saw first hand some of the issues faced by the community.

After a local style lunch, the group tried its hand in some decorative flower designs. It quickly become apparent that our very own Derek may have missed his calling after he presented a beautiful flower design.

The second half of the day involved the initial stages of the action projects. Teams were formed and community issues chosen. It was now time for some team building activities. Team’s split up and analysed possible group dynamics. Looking at group strengths and weaknesses in hope of avoiding any future issues. It was then time to prepare for the initial contact with the community in day 4. Team’s analysed possible stakeholders and how they may be affected. Teams then drafted questions that may aid in defining the problem for teams action project.

Finally, after a tasty food court feast, the group boarded its first overnight train, next stop Pha Pang.51132350_10213869880483595_5177873913333415936_o.jpg

Day 4

Today was our first day in the village of Pho Pang, a small community with a rich and lively culture. As tired as we were from a bumpy sleep the previous night, the atmosphere and activities during the day were filled with so much energy and vibrancy that we were left too awestruck to recognise our fatigue.



We were first taken to the community centre, where we will stay for our fourth night in Pho Pang and they gave us a briefing of the community and their many values. After which, we left our belongings in our respective houses (being split into male and female accommodation) and we were taken to the first of two Buddhist temples and taught how to make flower cones. Once completed, we offered the flowers to our own zodiac signs, which were all cemented in great white structures outside the temple. Mel and Kaia directed several workshop activities through which we were able to develop ideas for our projects, before we were taken to the next Buddhist temple where the community prepared for a funeral held in the not-so-distant future.

We assisted the members to make roofing out of bamboo and banana leaves. This activity proved an optimal chance to ask about our projects and interview the members about the community’s needs. We spent close to half an hour talking and reflecting on the interviews, before we walked back to our accommodation. On the way, we met a sweet little primary school student who was very happy to get a photo with us all.IMG_2673.JPG

Dinner and a movie was shared, along with laughs and some heads already nodding off to sleep.

Day 5

We were lucky enough to start our day with breakfast prepared by our host families, which was the perfect meal that helped us power through our early morning brainstorming. Next up, we travelled to the Pha Pang school where, with the help of the students, everyone enjoyed learning a traditional Northern Thailand dance and song.


Following a delicious pad Thai lunch, one group visited the community’s kinder while the other went to the healthcare centre to gather vital information for their action projects. A short time later we found ourselves at a bamboo plantation where we got to see bamboo charcoal being turned into energy.


One of our last activities was following along with a health and fitness class run regularly at a temple. The upbeat songs and steps were enough to get everyone’s heart beats racing. Finally, the day ended with yet another delicious dinner followed by some fun group trivia.

Day 6 – Organic Farming and Rural Life in Thailand.


Today we headed to an organic farm. Here we met the owners and the local family who live a sufficient life. An important concept in Thailand that refers to how the farming Thai people choose to live self-sufficiently using their land equally to grow rice, fruit and cultivate cows, pigs, chickens and fish.

After learning about how the rural Thai farmers support themselves into a healthy life style we began to work on our prototypes.


We ended the day by experiencing a local dinner and learning about the full moon kratong festival.

Day 7

It was the group’s last time waking up in the homestay tonight. For our first activity, we painted bamboo cups with images and inspirations we found from the community, such as the flora and fauna and the activities we have partaken in so far. We talked and laughed with the elders, telling them what we have enjoyed about Pha Pang and how grateful we are for their hospitality. The elders then blessed us with good luck and each elder tied a white strand of wool around our wrists, so that the luckiest of our group eventually ended up with ten woollen bracelets.



We then bid farewell to our homestays and our hosts, who have made our time in Pha Pang homely and relaxing, and then moved our belongings to the community lodge. From here, we split into two groups, one of which stayed at the community lodge and worked on their project pitch for tomorrow and the other travelled back to the farm to complete the prototypes.


For dinner, we sat around small tables in the Community Centre and listened to some of the elderly members play Pha Pang’s traditional music. We then watched a dance performed by local primary school students and all danced and sang together as a united community.


Day 8

In the morning, we presented the prototypes of our designs to the community. It seems like they liked our solutions. Then we visited the bamboo innovation centre to see the various uses of bamboo.


In the afternoon, we said goodbye to the Pha Pang community.


We spent the afternoon working on our projects and prototypes. After arriving in Chiang Mai we experienced the night market sensation which stretched for kilometres over the old city.


Day 9

Today our group was lucky enough to experience a different side of Chang Mai. The group was up bright and early, ready to experience the different temples surrounding the inner city.


The group was welcomed by passionate community leaders that were eager to bring forward change.


Part of the temple adventure included a traditional silver temple. Unfortunately men could only enter the temple, a continuation of ancient ritual, and the women could watch on a virtual screen outside. This temple was unlike any other we have seen to date. It’s artwork was extremely modern and included depictions of aliens and even electric guitars. These unusual artworks contained hidden gems that could only be acknowledged through careful examination.

Just before enjoying a local style lunch, the group tried its hand at making some traditional style artwork from tin to represent the silver used within the traditional temples.


The second half of the day began with a visit to a successful social enterprise Aka Ama Coffee. During this visit we were lucky enough to hear a story of a local community creating its own free trade coffee brand to create more wealth for its struggling people.


Returning back to the hotel we separated back into action teams to continue working on our human centred design projects.

Finally, our group was treated to a romantic dinner at the flower gardens on the edge of Chang Mai. Dinner was amazing and the photos were beautiful.

Day 10 – Final day in Chiang Mai

After a pitch lesson from Kaia, Jeremy kick-started the day with an improvisation game.



The social enterprise visit in the morning started with a quick zero waste shop where people stocked up on products of their choosing. Lisa Byrd, the owner of Free Bird Cafe and Thai Freedom Cafe, told us about her experiences and work with Burmese refugees, which was surprising and impressive.


We listened to the most impressive and in-depth story of how she began to understand the atrocities of human trafficking and how she designed a social enterprise to help and support and educate those who have no power. The success of the idea began by giving those who don’t have a choice the ability to learn the local language so that they may understand there situation. And then give them the opportunity to find real jobs which would give the ability to move out of the human trafficking construction camps.

This was followed by pitch work at the museum cafe, and Thai massages all round. After a small rush to the station, we were pleasantly surprised by a much nicer sleeper train and dinner.

Day 11

We woke up on the night train headed back into Bangkok. Bused to a kayaking social enterprise where we learned about rubbish being dumped into the rivers of Thailand. Enjoyed a kayaking experience where on our return journey we tried to collect as much rubbish as possible. The collected HDPE (high density polyethylene) found would be used to create more kayaks in the future.


The group then headed back to the original hotel to continue to work on our projects and prepare to present to UNSECO.

Day 12 – Bangkok Design Week

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Creative ways to influence Bangkok and Thailand’s design future. This featured a plastic exhibition that highlights the use and disregard of the waste of products. It also showed and highlighted how if used properly and recycled how the resource could be used for positive impact.


Wild aid social enterprise. Conservation to tackle illegal wildlife trade. Action projects designed to use the influence of celebrities to stall the demand of wildlife projects. Their motto being when the buying stops, the killing can too.

Day 13 – Final day


Today we took a journey to the Thailand branch of UNESCO. Here we first heard the story and work that is being done to help educate and define the most critical issues facing the education amongst people around the world.

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We were then given the opportunity to pitch our projects and ideas to the people of UNESCO formalising our entire project path. The educational study tour has been and amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone who has an available elective.


– Dylan Lamrock

January – February 2019

Study Thai Style

Mid exam period, stressed, procrastinating and staring into a barren fridge already rung dry of its precious sugary resources, I needed something bigger than a few Facebook notifications to get me through this study session. I stumbled upon the UTS Build opportunity to study abroad for two weeks under the new Colombo Plan. That was all I needed. Immediately I signed up, only to wonder what I had gotten myself into once Kingsford Smith was but a spec upon the horizon.
Nervous, plunging into an unfamiliar culture, currency with a different set of royals and humidity that could fill a swimming pool, I psyched myself up for the solo, 1am, 30km public transport route from the airport to my hostel. However all these butterflies were quickly subdued when I met the smiles of all the locals on the bus. What a welcome. I am glad to say that this warmth from the local Thai people was a common theme throughout the trip.
The first day I spent strolling through the massive and varied street markets found in Bangkok’s Chinatown filled with everything you heart desires. Rob and myself bought some used Tuk Tuk radiator caps and finished the day with some wonton soup.
Starting the two week climate engineering and science course at KMUTT we were introduced to our Thai peers who we would study with for the whole course. Known as our Thai buddies we all soon transitioned to becoming close friends. The course was made up of ten lectures focused on energy production technologies, future energy demands and transport. Between lectures we also went on some very interesting field trips that put the theory into a real world context. The trip to the All Green Learning Centre was one of the highlights, it is a camp centred around living at one with nature. The concept is to minimise our impact on the environment by harnessing natural processes to replace more unsustainable technologies. We got our hands dirty creating compressed earth bricks from the local soil and dying fabrics with natural dyes (betel nut, turmeric). I left feeling inspired by the positive work being done by people in Thailand to create awareness about energy conservation.
What made this such a unique trip was we weren’t tourists peering in on Thai culture, we got to live it for two weeks. Living on campus and studying at the university with local students I got a glimpse of what real Thai life was like. The students have profound respect for their position to study at university, upon entering the campus each morning they will bow to the statue of their king and everyday is formal dress. I also found the locals were very proud to show of their wonderful culture, a key part being their local cuisine. Street markets are a big part of their food culture, where many people share meals anytime of the day. There was always something new and delicious to try in the markets whether it was fluorescent blue dumplings, slow cooked pork hock soup, blood broth noodle soup, raw paw paw salad or some deep fried insects. My personal favourite was the Tom Yum Goong soup, a fresh and spicy soup with prawns that will zap your taste buds.
This trip went above and beyond anything I expected, I met amazing people, learn’t about very important topics and ate some fantastic food. However this is not something I will leave behind in Thailand. I have brought back new local and international friendships, a more global perspective on climate change and our responsibility in tackling these issues and a greater understanding of the cultural backgrounds in my wonderfully diverse country of Australia.
Lewis Miles
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Thailand KMUTT trip

Before arriving in Thailand, I had no idea what to expect since this is the first time in Thailand and also first time travelling alone. I was worried whether or not I would be able to find my way around Bangkok, or if I would get into the wrong taxi and end up in a bath tub full of ice with scar wounds where my kidneys should be. Thankfully, I was able to find a few UTS students at the airport and one of the student’s uncle offered me a ride to KMUTT housing.

On my way out of the airport, I was immediately caught off-guard by how hot and humid it was outside (and coming from 10-degree temperature in Sydney, I had layers of clothes on!)

Once I got to the university housing, I quickly changed into clothes that were more appropriate for a 40-degree climate and travelled out to one of Bangkok’s main market place where I had my first authentic Thai meal.

During this trip, we had various lectures which taught us nanotechnology, electrical currents and how to cook “Khao Mahk”. The university also set up activities like Muay Thai classes, where we were able to show off some of our punching and kicking skills.

They also set up a field trip to the country side, where I was able sight see the forests of Thailand. The forest was very calming and I had never felt more Zen in my life. During our time in the country side we visited an elephant sanctuary where we were able to learn the biology of the elephants and we got to see one up close.

With the free time they gave us, I was able to go visit the marketplace, different restaurants and the red light district of Bangkok.

Now that I’m back in Sydney, I am still reminiscing my time in Bangkok and can’t wait to come back and experience everything else Thailand has to offer.

Kylie Lin 11995913



It was a challenging decision to join the program, wasn’t sure how it will turn out. There were so many questions in my head, I was worried till the moment I have arrived to the airport.










For the first day, we went to explore the night markets around the KMUTT. I loved the fruit, freshly served and affordable. The food was great too, but I preferred the fruit and ice Thai milk Tea, most of us would drink two or three cups a day.

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We learned about Nano technology, which was very interesting topic as it can be used in different fields of science even in food science. Khao Mak is a Thai dessert that uses fermentation process, and we had so much fun making it.


The grand palace was huge and beautiful, the building’s architectural design was linking the past to the present it was fascinating, even the smallest details was beautifully designed. The whole place was surrounded with walls full of paintings, these paintings was a story consisting of 300 episodes, a tale of war and love, a tale of good and bad, these tales are taught in the schools. The museum was great too, containing all these beautiful statuses of Buddha and the history of the royal family, most of the royal family belongings were made of pure gold.

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We also visited the ‘All Green learning Center’ (AGLC), which was one of the most interesting places I visited. The place was built from natural and organic ingredients, some form the local practice and some using science, it’s a beautiful creation from Science and nature, the place has its own harmony, peacefulness and relaxing vibe. The founder is an Engineer, who put so much effort and done so much research to make this center, he showed us the harmony that a human can live with nature. He made what is thought as difficult, possible, using his research and understanding of nature and science.

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During this trip I had the chance to meet an elephant for the first time and the experience  was amazing, to be so close and be able to feed and touch him was wonderful. The elephants we saw were part of an organisation, the founder of the organisation was explaining how the people use to live with elephants and what it meant to Thai people in the past and how now some have become so greedy to end the life of an animal only for its Ivory, which creates a big threat and risk for the future of the elephants.

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This short trip was so wonderful for me, it allowed me to meet new people and make new friends, to discover new things, understand my surroundings and people better, experience a different culture, be close to nature and to be able to appreciate it. Be around animals such as elephants, kind hearted and lovable creatures.

This trip gave me some of the best experiences and memories, that I will cherish forever and remember it was a journey of a life time.

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Mariam Behsoodi.

An exciting & insightful new perspective of Asia – KMUTT Thailand Winter 2016

From the moment we stepped beyond the threshold of the boeing’s cabin doors , we were greeted with relentless, incessant humidity that clung like a second skin. Over the successive 2 weeks, I grew to ardently love the dampness so unfamiliar from the dry oven-like climate that I had only ever known in Australia’s summers. I assume the change in weather was without a doubt the very first characteristic of this foreign land everyone noticed upon arrival.

Unfamiliarity was rampant for the majority of the former half of our Thailand experience. Unknowns strewn and embedded down to the smallest of notions around us. Unfamiliar faces, Unfamiliar sounds, when even the people we had flown over with were still somewhat of an enigma to us. And with the unknown, fear inevitably threatens to come hand in hand. It was all very new, shiny and by 8pm, clustered into the back of a taxi with all of our bulk and luggage, we were already immersed knee-deep in so much culture. How do I even begin to describe such an experience?

I am no stranger to Asia and it’s diversity in cultures, having flown back and forth since I was a child, visiting relatives and going on exchanges. Buddhism is always a welcome constant across the majority of Asia, and visiting the temples and paying my respects always evokes a familiarity like I’m closer to home, closer to my culture no matter where I am.

That isn’t to say I wasn’t absolutely enthralled by the Thai design. Temples were lined in gold and coloured stones and truly reminded you that you were standing in highly revered, royal, sacred ground.

KMUTT was a truly enjoyable experience. I loved how welcome and warm everyone was, how lovely the accommodation was, how accessible culture was, just outside the main entrance; we were in a perfect location surrounded by what only could have been the inspiration for “the land of smiles”.

Making friends has never been so easy. The bonding experience began immediately and the days that followed were spent in bliss as everyone got used to each other with cooperative planning with every night we went out, navigating around the city, playing group games on buses between excursion sites and looking out for each other in a foreign country with foreign laws and customs.

I will never forget the endless mass of land that surrounded us sitting in the steamy heat on a country train up north of Bangkok to see the Buddha ruins, how many hawkers and street vendors lined nearly every path, the majesty of elephants, the utter ecstatic excitement that came with talking a mere stroll down Koh San Road or even just how beautiful the city of Bangkok looked from my balcony at night.

A truly valuable opportunity, which landed me with some very good friends, a widened perspective on Asia, immersion into Thai culture, real world experience, gorgeous polaroids and wonderful memories.

Jasmin Russell

Thailand is home

From the moment that I stepped out of Suvarnabhumi Airport and the wave of humidity hit me,  I knew I was home. I haven’t been to Thailand in at least 5 years and when the email came through to study abroad for two weeks with BUILD, I jumped on the opportunity!

The entire experience was incredibly different from every other time I had been to Thailand because I relied on my relatives to translate for me, however, this time others were relying on me. My knowledge of the Thai language was definitely tested on a daily basis. On the first night a group of us went out for dinner and when it came to ordering that’s when I realised I didn’t actually know the word for vegetarian, so I just resorted to saying no beef, chicken, pork, fish and prawns, but yes to salad. I managed to get the message through, but it was a struggle to say the least!

Personally I felt like classes on nano materials weren’t very relevant to me and would’ve been more beneficial to the engineering students, however, it was interesting to learn something new. These classes started early in the morning, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the wonders of Bangkok.

Over the two weeks I’m pretty sure I went shopping 12 out of the 14 days; the only 2 days I didn’t go shopping were because we went on a field trip. Luckily after all that shopping I just managed to stay under my 30kg baggage limit on the way back to Sydney!

Attending a Thai cooking class with 9 other UTS students was honestly one of the highlights of my trip. The chef was so engaging that we were just hanging off her every word as she explained the different ingredients and methods involved in Thai cuisine. A few of us may have misjudged our spice tolerance, or lack of really.

One of my favourite activities organised for us was the Muay Thai class, I mean it’s very therapeutic to punch and kick until you’re completely exhausted. Also I truly believe that elephants are my spirit animal and being able to interact with them at Khao Yai National Park was truly amazing.

I was lucky to make some amazing friends on this trip and because of all of our adventures together, I will cherish the memories made in Thailand forever.

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Tongue Thai-ed

I’m walking onto the UTS campus for the start of a new spring semester still riding my holiday high. One look at the UTS library and my dream finally comes to an ends. Thailand was a good dream, not the kind where it’s all fluffy clouds and candy flowers, but more like a fast paced dream with late night racing and strange noises. A kind of dream with aged women in pointed striped hats selling riddles in the shape of bracelets. Skinny men that speak in pops to lure you towards plush red drapes hiding a magical act. Somber people selling tarantulas and scorpions on a stick, do you dare to eat? I’m saying yes you should.IMG_5372.jpg

Studying in Thailand was such a great experience for me. The start of the trip was the only hard part. It was stressful having to worry about studying for my final exams and scrambling to get things in order to fly overseas.

Once we landed in the thick humidity of Bangkok I forgot all of my worries. It was mesmerizing at every turn, starting with the taxis, they have no rules on the road and it seems like everyone has somewhere to be and NOW. I traveled from Sydney with a group and no one I was with had ever been to Thailand or spoke the language so we bumbled our way through the city, but thankfully ended up on the doorstep of a nice hotel.

The next day we made way to the Heliconia House on KMUTT campus. It was way better than the dorm rooms I was expecting. We had everything we needed like linens and toiletries at our disposal, and a nice view of the city.

The actual class experience was ok, much better than sitting in a lecture here. Physics and Nanotechnology are not my thing, but who cares I’m in Thailand. The lecturers that instructed us during our study were all so nice and the kind of people who are enthralled with what they teach and their projects. It wasn’t just us studying either, we had many Thai students in our group who helped us figure things out. I loved meeting the Thai students, they were genuinely nice people and I’m pretty sure they got a kick out of us saying Thai phrases totally wrong. I felt that because we had local people to help guide us around and tell us about thing to do we really got to experience Bangkok. I felt like a local by the end of the trip and was proud of my new KMUTT student ID.

My favorite part was the field trips we took to the All Green Learning Centre and the Elephant Conservation Centre. I was able to learn about green architecture and how some people are really fighting the fight for nature to be revered like it should be. Seeing the elephants up close and personal was something I will cherish forever. If you’ve never seen an elephant up close, let me tell you, they are much bigger than you think. Their main focus was the corn we were feeding them, but they happily had us pet their noses and sit on their backs to pose for pictures.

The best thing about this trip is the food and the friends you make. I ate like a king while in Bangkok, having a main meal and an entrée, all for the cost of 4$ Australian. If you get a chance dine on the wacky delicacies too. The peppered crickets are pretty good if you can get past them staring at you, and scorpion claws taste like BBQ potato chips. The people on this trip were fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to experience Thailand with.

My advice for you is to extend your plane ticket and stay to do some more traveling after the studying period. At this point you honestly feel like you have a good grasp of Thai culture and it is really amazing to get outside of the big city of Bangkok to see rural life.

Mia Jackson



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Two Weeks in Bangkok; Memories for a Lifetime. KMUTT Thailand Winter 2016

31st July 2016. This marks the end of probably the most adventurous month that I have experienced to date. I wasn’t in Thailand for too long, in fact, it has only been two weeks. It still doesn’t seem like it though, because it felt like I was there for an entire semester. Within the short two weeks that I was there, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions, none of which related to being homesick though. In fact, I was enjoying myself so much that it felt like I just belonged there (well, apart from the language barrier).


I arrived on the Saturday night. More precisely, on the 2nd July. That was the first night that I, along with a few others, experienced the feeling of being ‘stranded’. Reason being that our accommodation site was a 30 minute taxi ride from the city, and there were no train stations nearby. So pretty much, most of the taxi drivers wouldn’t drive us back unless we paid twice the amount of the usual price. Sounds a lot doesn’t it? But it only adds up to a total amount of $8-10 and that’s considered DOUBLE the price of the original!



Most of the fun started on the Sunday though. We went on a little journey to the Floating Markets, and as its name says, consisted of many boats on the side of the dock where people would cook their food on. As soon as we entered the vicinity, we were greeted by the sight of many stalls and lots of people, but the smell of the food immediately attracted our attention and so we tried a great range of Thai food.

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Monday was the official orientation where we were welcomed by really friendly Tutors and Thai students. At first, I wasn’t sure how everything would turn out because people were in their own groups due to the cultural barrier, however, it wasn’t long until everyone began mingling with each other and the vibe was just great!


From the next day onwards, the real work began. The surprising thing is that, also most of us were studying either Environmental Science, Biomedical Sciences, and Marine Biology, we were given a syllabus which consisted only of physics! At first I was pretty shocked, as I thought this would have been based of environmental science subjects, however, the physics subjects ended up being quite practical, enabling us to understand concepts more easily.


In between some days, we would have the Thai cultural classes. The first one consisted of a Muay Thai class. I remember that day being extremely humid! And to top it off, it was pouring once our class ended! The lesson was actually pretty fun, some people seemed to have a talent in this field as we watch each other spar against the instructors towards the end of the class, even though it was their first time doing this form of art! I met a really nice Thai girl that day. Apparently, people said that we kind of looked like each other, and throughout the trip, there were even some who even said we looked like sisters. Guess I was already starting to fit right in!


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We also had two Thai language classes. The first one consisted of a few greeting phrases. It was a bit concerning when they didn’t teach us about the Hongnam. I thought that was one of the first things that people learn when in a foreign country. In that same lesson, we also had a competition and separated into three teams. We had to create a basket of Thai sticky rice pudding. The main part of this activity was the wrapping of the rice using banana leaves. Unfortunately, we did not win. The second day of the language class, we learnt to count numbers! I think I nailed that one, but only because I had a Thai friend who taught me how to count numbers on the bus just the day before because we had nothing better to do. We were also given the opportunity to make Thai dessert !

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The field trips that we went on were more than amazing, and I really could not have asked for more. It was everything and beyond my expectations! It consisted of visiting the Grand Palace to eating local food around the area, visiting a winery as well as canning factory for fish. It was unfortunate that we were unable to take pictures on site because it was pretty fascinating seeing everything being done in front of you. But if there’s one thing to know about the canning factory, cats get a bigger portion than humans.


During our study period, two days consisted of going to an urban part of the country, approximately 3 hours away from the university. On those days, we studied at the All Green Learning Centre (AGLC), a place where they conduct research on using natural and biodegradable products as an alternative to using exhaustible material and non-biodegradable products. On that day, we were provided statistics and the estimation of how many ‘worlds’ it would take to sustain a country. We also learnt a little about construction engineering. This was because both the Engineering students and Science students were together for these two days. The instructor told us that all the accommodation buildings were made in a slightly different way, for experimental purposes. This including using Magnesium oxide as a material in one of the buildings and comparing it to using Calcium carbonate in the other building. Can you guess which building had a lower temperature? Buildings were also faced in different directions for some, also to compare temperature purposes. One of the other things which I had learnt which would probably be very beneficial in their climate is the lining of aluminium foil on the roofs of the buildings as a form of reflective insulation. According to the instructor, this would decrease the temperature of the building by a significant amount during hot days (which is pretty much almost everyday).


On our journey back to the university, we stopped by the Elephants Research and Conservation site, a place where they conduct research on elephant population as well as ways to stop elephants from becoming a victim to poaching. They also hold education centres for youth in hopes for them to take on the role of helping endangered elephants and repopulation.


I probably missed out on quite a few chunks of information, but that was mainly what happened during the two weeks.

As for the time we had outside of lectures which was about 4pm+, I would generally spend my days going to various night markets with the help of a few locals. In fact, one of them was kind enough to take us to a nearby shopping centre! How lucky were we! That day was one of my highlights because I had the best pad thai. Literally. The best. That day I met a few other people, and I must say, was the start of many more adventures throughout the two weeks because they took us out on quite a few nights.20160706_173131


From going to the Floating markets for food, to the Chatuchak markets for shopping it was definitely a great market experience, especially with all the haggling. I loved going to Asiatique, definitely worth going to ! The tuktuks were really fun as a means to get from suburb to suburb. It’s like fast and furious for some of those crazy drivers. Imagine being on the back of a mini truck with tied plastic ropes for you to support yourself on and going faster than a car on a highway ! That’s how we managed to get to a sky bar from one of the markets !



Without the help of BUiLD and UTS and their partnership with KMUTT, I would not have had the amazing experience like I did this month. I have learnt much not only academically but also gained lifelong personal experiences, which will stick to me for as long as I can remember. Having met the many people who were once strangers to me, and knowing for a fact that I have made some lifelong friends, I am forever grateful of this opportunity. Throughout this entire journey, I was able to discover things that I did and did not know about myself, and for that, I thank you, and to everyone else who has created such a memorable experience for me.

Thank you.





Sylvana Lee






I can’t believe I did this at KMUTT in Thailand!

Arriving all alone in the city of Bangkok late at night was a little frightening. I was tired and only had a few notes to get me from the Airport to the hostel where I would stay one night before starting the BUILD program at KMUTT. This dark lonely place of scammers and people trying to sell me junk was unsettling, at least initially.

After seeing some friendly faces on the metro lines, I relaxed the grip on my pockets and realised that I felt safe in this big city. The locals were friendly and always smiling — this was an observation that remained constant for the rest of the trip. Everyone in Bangkok was so happy and pleased to meet foreigners and the local students we studied with were no different.

During the program at KMUTT, we did some cool things like play with rescued elephants, learn about environmentally friendly technologies, visit a sugar cane plantation and experience Thai culture and beliefs with our new friends from KMUTT.

The local students were terrific value and taught us some useful phrases such as “hongnam” (bathroom) and “sawadeekrap” (hello). They also took us to their favourite restaurants to try some of the traditional cuisine. One of the noodle soups included a delicious blood broth with vegetables and poultry. Another meal was “ju” which was a rice porridge with vegetables and meat.

The classes we took with the Thai students varied and we did things like build a prototype wind turbine, conduct a debate on different types of energy sources and we also studied the future of electric vehicles in Thailand. The time spent in the classroom was a fun experience, and we were able to notice the differences in teaching strategies between UTS and KMUTT. KMUTT is very hands on, walking around campus we were able to see people learning by doing. There were lots of facilities for welding, metal fabrication and testing of different materials such as concrete.

The highlight of the program was the field trip which saw us go to the All Green Learning Centre ( and also an elephant conservation ( which was close to a national park outside of Bangkok. At the learning centre, we met an engineer who started the place and had the vision to teach people about different ways of living to conserve energy and protect the environment. He showed us how to make high strength bricks which had a low embodied energy and taught us about some practical sustainable building technologies.

The two-week course was finalised with a presentation on Thailands energy use in the year 2050. Presenting to our peers was another fun experience and a good way to close out the program. We also produced a short video which highlighted the similarities and differences in energy use between Australia and Thailand. The program ended with a speech from an original Colombo Plan Scholar who studied in Australia many years ago. He talked about the importance of overseas student programs and how valuable they are in shaping one’s future.

I left Bangkok feeling like I’d seen so much more than the average tourist. I felt sorry for the tourists trapped in the backpacking hotspots because of all the awesome things they missed out on in Bangkok. Upon my departure I felt more like a local than I did a tourist, It’s remarkable the opportunities that university students have to engage in cultures overseas. BUILD and other exchange programs are a must do for any student looking to explore the world.

Robert Gibson