A Journey to Remember 

A Journey to Remember 

It All Depends on the Glass With Which You Look

By Maria Araujo

The Hill Tribe Support and Refugee Camp Experience x The Amazing Thailand Adventure, 2015

Maria is a recent graduate in Industrial Engineering and Business Administration who is starting a career in Consulting.| Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

When I was 17 years old, I decided I wanted to live an experience outside my hometown. I specifically joined the Children’s Home and Refugee Camp program in Thailand. A three-week experience in which I had to teach English and construct a kitchen for a school with my team from very different parts of the world.

Thailand is called “The land of the Smiles” for a reason, and it is that their citizens always  have a smile on their faces. Kids would always give a 100% in the classes and show the  sparkle in their eyes, paying attention to every single minute of what strangers like us could teach them. Even though there was a clear language barrier, body language would be enough to create a strong connection and enjoy the time in the class. Thai kids are very energetic.

Construction weekends were intense. I remember spending hours mixing cement and  water and making long bucket lines to move the mixture back and forth to finalize the  school’s kitchen floor. No one in the line let the team down, even with the pouring rain or aching muscles. After those days, we had to sleep on the school floor. It was during those times when you didn’t go back to the comforts of your house that you would realize what the word gratitude really means.

The toughest part of the program was when we visited the Burmanese Refugee Camp.  You may have heard of recent news and all the trouble that this country is experiencing. In the past, many groups have had to exile to the surrounding countries, one of them  being the Karen people going to refugee camps in Thailand.

We spoke to the kids there, exchanged stories and talked about their aspirations for the  future. They didn’t have a passport to travel outside of the camp, but still they were very motivated to learn English and expect to become professional in the United states one day. English would open up many doors for them. I was a kid just like them, and our lives had been  completely different. Many of them had grown up without their parents but had created  a community that meant everything for them. It was amazing to see how they lived with joy and hope for a better future despite the winding road that had taken them there.

The experience helped me realize that besides the cultural, language and race  differences, we all had a lot in common. These were the expectations in life–enjoying  the journey and trying to live in a world where there are opportunities for everybody, no  matter where they come from or the country in which they lived. Love and be loved.

I also understood that many of what we believe are our problems in life, are nothing  when you put them in perspective. It has already been seven years since I lived that experience, and I still remember every detail and carry these lessons learnt with me.

One final thought is about the many times in history where people have to move from  their homes due to the hate among different ethnicities and religions, excess of power  or hate in the streets. I ask myself if we will ever get a time where the people can respect each other and find peace.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in Thailand, or view more Alumni Stories here