My daughter and our family planned on Mallory studying abroad in Thailand since her freshman year at Webster. We went to the meetings and information appointments from the start. We saw what a great opportunity it would be in such an exotic and beautiful country — the land of smiles. We thoroughly investigated this and came up with the conclusion that it would be a great learning experience and safe environment. We were just as excited for her to go as she was. The experience was just as important to us as her classes, learning something constantly.
On Christmas Eve, just two weeks before she was to depart, her dad had a massive stroke. He was in intensive care and in a coma — life support measures were taken. This was tragic, since there were more questions than answers. Mallory had to decide if she was going to go or stay by my side. Our extended family, friends and I urged her to go. There was nothing she could do and she could always fly back home. She was very reluctant and torn. She felt she should stay home and just go to the St. Louis Campus. We all had a huge selling job to do, for her to leave and go on her journey. In just 12 hours before she was to leave, her dad came out of the coma, life support removed and he was semi-able to speak. He insisted she go and continue on with her plans.
We are so happy she went to Thailand and had such a good time and experience. The photos she took are amazing and the other countries she visited were so interesting. It was hard having her half way around the world, but Facebook and Skype kept us in touch. It was as if we were there with her, we were so informed on everything. Also Webster’s program put our minds at ease. Her living quarters were in a newer hotel, with all of the amenities. She had a great roommate and the room was quite spacious. The school sponsored wonderful activities and they always traveled in groups. She explained Hua Hin as a very safe and touristy city, and said she felt safer there than at home. She and her friends traveled all around Thailand and neighboring countries; we did not worry at all. Their transportation system is better than what we have at home and they could go everywhere very cheaply. It was cheaper for her to go to school and live in Hua Hin than here in St. Louis. What a chance of a lifetime to learn and grow as a young adult.
I worried at first about her getting homesick, liking the culture and fitting in. What a waste of time and gray hair that was. She immediately loved everything about the country and fell in love with its people. She tried new foods, learned about their customs and religions, and saw so much. She rode elephants, pet tigers, fed and played with wild monkeys, went to several celebration festivals and saw Angkor Watt in Cambodia. She did things I have always dreamed of. They traveled from the south to the north of Vietnam, went to Cambodia and to many of the Thailand islands. There wasn’t enough time to see everything, but they tried their hardest. They went snorkeling to see exotic fish and kayaking in the sea. She also went mountain climbing, bike riding, dancing and, of course, shopping in Bangkok.
I highly recommend allowing your student to study in Thailand. It’s the best decision we have made in a long time. She came home with a newfound respect for the United States and everything she has. She has grown up so much during that one semester and we didn’t miss a thing she was doing. Technology keeps you in touch and the time passed quickly. Before we knew it, she was homeward bound, a happy traveler and student.
—Anne Hanneke, mother of Mallory Hanneke, senior public relations major