Self Assessment 2017
This was my second time doing a Magellan Project during my college life. Last time, I did a Magellan in Hawaii after my freshman year to explore the Polynesian culture in Hawaii and to study how Hawaii, as a popular traveling place, became the cross road of Eastern and Western culture. That experience was an amazing and surprising journey which gave me a chance to discover myself and my potentials. Therefore, I decided to do another Magellan project this year. Inspired by the cultural exploration from my first Magellan, I intended to study more about the different cultures regard to their religion and aesthetic. I focused more on Asia this time, I traveled to Thailand and Taiwan for three weeks in total.
Thailand, named as the Kingdom of Thailand, has been ruled by the king for centuries. Hence, a large part of Thai culture heritage came from the royalty. Also, as a Buddhist country, religion has a huge impact on the culture of Thailand. Nowadays, as the traveling industry expended quickly in Thailand, tourism also influenced Thailand by a large amount. Through my 10-day traveling to Thailand, I went to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui, and deeply explored its culture associated with royalty, religion, and modern tourism.
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand with royal palaces well preserved. In the meantime, it is also a popular vacation spot. As a representation of the entire country, Bangkok is a combination of ancient culture and modern culture. For example, the Grant Palace in Bangkok is both the official residence of the King and a visiting spot. Visitors from all over the world could have a feeling of the royalty while they are walking between the temples. Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, the fact that the Grand Palace is made up of temples indicates the importance of religion in Thailand. I noticed that the Grand Palace located in the center of Bangkok and the decorations in the palace was fantastic. This well showed that in ancient times, the King collected money and labor force for building a luxuriant palace for his own and thus the country was totally controlled by the king. Some other details also enhanced my understanding of how important the king is to people in Thailand. Once I watched a movie in the theatre and the theatre played a video of the life path of the current king before the actual movie started. I saw everyone standing up and watching the video politely. A lot of times, when I walked in a restaurant, I saw the pictures of the previous king and queen hanging on the wall. Obviously, respecting the king has become a habit for Thai people. Chiang Mai was a place that was famous for its old town. During my entire visiting in Chiang Mai, I lived inside the old town. The old town is round by the river which was the city moat in ancient times. The relaxing life style in Chiang Mai was different from the busy one in Bangkok: the street pedlars and night markets are very popular and people likes doing small business with visitors. Besides, spas are all over the old town of Chiang Mai and exquisite cafés attracts more and more young people. Riding a motor cycle is still a popular way of traveling in the city of Chiang Mai. We can see that the ways of doing business and traveling remains mostly unchanged for people lived in Chiang Mai, but, modern influences is slowly impact Chiang Mai. By visiting Thailand, I had a deeper understanding of this country, through it mixed culture of religion, royalty, tradition and modernization. As an international student, I was pleased to experience this kind of complexity of culture.
The other place that I visited was Taiwan, including Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Kenting. Before I went to Taiwan, I read a book about aesthetics in Taiwan written by a Taiwan writer and got interested in that area of study. The author indicated that the best way of educate people about aesthetics was through communal facilities such as parks and museums. During my visit, I noticed cities had different focus on the style. In Taipei, the streets and buildings were more modern than any other cities I visited in Taiwan. Tainan was a city that kept lots of old architectures and gave visitors a taste of history, like Chiang Mai. Kenting focused more on showing the beauty of nature as well as its island culture, and its old streets were famous due to the movies. In a word, I observed different interpretations of aesthetics in Taiwan, but the most impressive ones were those combined with local cultures. Although most of the cities were on their way to modernization, the old cultures and traditions made them different and recognizable from each other.
Beside getting a deeper understanding of different cultures, one other thing I developed during my Magellan experience was the ability of making plans before head. Compare to my first Magellan experience, I spent more time planning the entire trip. Planning well allowed me to gain more control over my journey and therefore I had more energy to observe and experience during my trip. Other than that, I became better at sharing my traveling experience in my second Magellan than in the first one. Being able to share the experience was a very important communicative skill that assigned more meanings to the trip because people can then know about other places through my journey. As an international student, more importantly, a global citizen, it’s necessary for me to be a good representation of my own country as well as to be able to understand others from different places. Magellan encouraged me to step out of my comfortable zone and to experience differences in the world. After doing two Magellan Projects, I got more confident at taking challenges and trying new things. More importantly, those two experiences would be two of the most unforgettable ones in my life.