January 15, 2013
Eli Mulhausen studied abroad in Thailand for six months in 2012. He learned to speak Thai and studied Thailand’s natural resources in and outside of the classroom through a program with the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute off-campus program. A senior from Tacoma, Washington, he is majoring in environmental studies.
What inspired you to pursue study abroad in general, and why did you decide to pursue this particular program or country for your study abroad experience?
Going into college, I just assumed that I would study abroad. I also love travel. However, when I first started looking at programs, I expected that I would go to Europe.
The more I researched, the more I realized I wanted to partake in a program that would be something new, that would put me out of my comfort zone, and provide a cultural experience. I also thought it would be really neat to partake in a program that taught the local language there.
I talked to Sunshine Regiacorte in the Center for Global Studies, and she suggested the program. After talking to a student who had done the program, Annika Paulsen '12, I decided to give it a shot and apply. (Photo above: Eli Mulhausen and his host brother, Mohawk, sing a song during the talent show at the host family farewell dinner. Below right: Eli Mulhausen visits a beach in Ban Jao Mai Village, a Muslim fisherman village, where he studied the ecology of mangroves and the ocean.)
Was this your first experience with international travel? If not, where else have you lived or traveled?
I have traveled to Spain, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, and Canada, but I had not gone to a country that was not a part of Western culture before.
Describe your day-to-day experiences.
My day-to-day experiences varied quite a bit. The program puts a heavy emphasis upon experiential learning, so one day I would spend time with my host family, and others I would be backpacking through the forests or zip lining over a 50-meter drop in a cave. Then on others, I would spend hours at the institute in a classroom setting, learning to speak Thai and learning about sustainable development.
What was the best part about studying abroad?
The best part was the experiential learning component of the program.
You not only learn about cool things in a classroom from a teacher, but you get to experience it yourself. Through this experiential learning, it enables the student to make independent connections and deductions about how issues and the relationships between stakeholders of natural resources.
Can you cite an example of how your in-classroom and out-of-the-classroom experiences at Knox have benefitted you as you studied abroad and traveled internationally?
Through Knox College’s focus on individual learning and atmosphere of student empowerment, I was able to thrive in Thailand, where I was frequently in positions of decision-making and independent work and learning.
How do you think this study abroad experience will benefit you in terms of your education, future career plans, and personal development?
While I cannot say that I have completely changed from studying abroad, I can say that I feel like that I have grown into myself because of it. In terms of education and future plans, it opens my eyes on how many opportunities there are in the world to see and do amazing things.
You have completed your study abroad experience. What did you learn?
Academically, I gained language skills and learned a lot about resource management, ecology, and political ecology in the context of the world and in Thailand.
Also, I learned what it is like to be immersed into a culture so very different from your own. Learning the language and being in a homestay helped me make this transition. This cultural integration made me fully appreciate and admire the cultural diversity of our planet and how important it is to recognize its diversity as technology makes our world smaller. (Photo below: A photo captured by Eli Mulhausen while visiting the beach at Ban Jao Mai Village in Thailand.)