image (7)

A distinguishing factor of the TEAN Thailand program is that they match you up with local Thai roommates, something that has made a big impact upon my time abroad. I did an unreal amount of research– reading guidebook after guidebook before I left for Thailand. However, it turns out that my number one guide was waiting to meet me when I arrived in Chiang Mai.

Experiencing Local Food

My roommate has been my go-to when it comes to navigating what to eat here, especially the never ending stream of street food only a short walk away from Uniloft.  She pointed out the one smoothie stall out of the 30 others on our street where you can get the absolute best fruity drinks as well as where I could get my mango sticky rice fix.  Roommates are also a God send when it comes to avoiding foods laced with chilies so hot satan might as well be square dancing on your tongue (which you actually start to enjoy after a while believe it or not).  She also took me on the spiritual journey that is finding your omelet lady—if you come to Thailand without finding your omelet stall I don’t even understand what you came here for.  And even when I think I’ve finally got Thai cuisine down pat—she’s there to tell me that no, those are in fact not chicken nuggets that I am in line for; those are fish balls.  It happens.

Thai Food

Extra Language Practice

While you won’t have much trouble getting around with English and some hand gestures, learning a little Thai is worth the effort.  Even though I do have a Thai language class twice a week, having a roommate as a sort of live in tutor/translator has definitely improved my speaking and understanding significantly. While I’m pretty sure my Thai phrase book has become fused to my hand, it’s almost useless unless I hear a local pronounce something first.  This is because Thai is a tonal language—meaning that if you’re trying to say “beautiful” and you get a funny look, you probably used the wrong inflection and actually said something akin to “black magic on you” So yea, run some phrases by your roommate before you go offending the general public.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 11.52.11 am

Meeting Local Friends

When it’s painfully obvious that you’re not from the area, it can be quite the task trying to assimilate into the community – especially here in Thailand where the people tend to be very nice, yes, but also very reserved.  However, my roommate has been so kind as to cart her pet farang (foreigner) around our campus and city introducing me to her friends.  Connecting with locals makes all the difference when it comes to getting the most out of your time here.  I don’t think I could tell you the number of times my roommate has stopped me on my way out of the room to tell me about a much better, cheaper, and closer place to get what I need.

Lizzy and Her Roomie

From lessons in Thai cursing to memorizing all of Die Hard 4, my roommate has become my most valuable travel resource as well as an amazing friend. So save a little space and leave that massive edition of Lonely Planet at home—you probably won’t be needing it.

Lizzy Southard is a student at The University of Kentucky and a TEAN Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Chiang Mai, Thailand.