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Why You Should Study Abroad In Southeast Asia

I’ve always been big on traveling. Although I’m still currently trying to finish up my Bachelor’s degree, I am never in one country for more than a month. Nowadays, the ability to travel doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a millionaire. I’ve traveled around Europe, North America and my favorite place of all – Southeast Asia.

One famous video by Nas Daily, “How Cheap is Thailand?” garnered millions of views. And yes, it’s true. It is totally cheap if you’re coming from Europe or the US. And it’s true, not just for Thailand, but for almost every country in the Southeast Asian region! As a Filipino, Southeast Asia is definitely my home. The region is rapidly developing and the best part is, traveling around the area doesn’t have to cost you an organ.

This subregion of the world is composed of countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. It’s inhabited by diverse cultures and unique environments.

Traveling around Europe and East Asia is great, but Southeast Asia is by far one of my favorite regions of the world because of its’ wide selection of affordable choices when it comes to airfare, shopping and best of all – food! And as a college student, this affordability reflects well in my finances. In fact, I could take a weekend trip to a neighboring country and it would cost me less than US$250 including airfare. With Singapore and Brunei being the most expensive countries in the region, it’s no problem if countries like Thailand and Malaysia are just in close proximity. Even Singaporeans and Bruneians can consistently travel to neighboring countries just to go shopping because it’s that affordable!

Still not convinced Southeast Asia is for you? Here are some reasons why you should definitely consider completing your study abroad in Southeast Asia:

  1. Because the region is full of so many diverse cultures.

The beautiful temples in Thailand and Cambodia or the historical churches in the Philippines are just some of the amazing cultural sights to see in this region. And while you’re over there, you might even get a chance to go to one of Southeast Asia’s world-famous festivals. Some of which include the Thai New Years’ Songkran Water Festival or the annual lantern festival in Vietnam.

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo lantern
Hoi An Lantern Festival, Southeast Asia.
study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo white temple
White temple, Thailand.
  1. Because of all the amazing food.

If you’re a huge fan of Asian food like me then this is the place to try it all. There are tons of dishes you can sample. Plus, there’s so much affordable street food that you have yet to taste and floating markets that you have yet to explore. You might be thinking, “If it’s so cheap, then is it even good?” And I can tell that it most definitely is!

But a local friend would also be beneficial if you need someone to help you pick out what to order or choose what be best suited to your taste buds. Don’t just limit your knowledge of Southeast Asian food to dishes like Phad Thai. Believe me, there’s a lot of options when you’re over there that I always end up searching nonstop in Google for those other not-so-famous dishes when I’m craving for it outside of Asia.

On a side note, if you’re not a huge fan of Asian food, a lot of Western food choices are also available. But it never hurts to give the real authentic Asian food a try if you’re going all the way to Asia.

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo food
Bangkok street food.
  1. Because of all the unique wildlife.

From swimming with the whale sharks in the Philippines to seeing the strange Proboscis monkey in Borneo, Southeast Asia’s got it all.

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo whale
Whale shark in the Philippines.
  1. Because no matter where you study in this region, the rest of Southeast Asia is so accessible.

 Once again, it is so easy and cheap to travel around the region. Thanks to low cost airlines like AirAsia, you’ll find roundtrip plane tickets for less than US$100 if you book early or watch out for airline promotions.

A weekend trip with your other exchange student friends is inevitable when you’re studying in this region because of all the cheap options to go from country to country. There are tons of great budget rail trips as well. I remember getting a train ticket from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station to the Cambodian border for only 40 Baht. That’s about US$1.20! There was no air-conditioning in the low-cost train we took but we did get to enjoy fantastic scenery along the way.

  1. Because the weather is nice and warm all year round.

  2. Because there are so many hostels and out of the ordinary Airbnbs that are cooler AND cheaper than the ones in Europe.

 At the end of my semester abroad in Thailand, I decided to go up to Northern Thailand to stay in a huge tree house Airbnb with a friend. We woke up to the Chiang Dao Mountains and the total price even included all the meals (which were all delicious Northern Thai food) and a guided trek to a nearby waterfall.

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo Treehouse
Treehouse Airbnb, Thailand.

 

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo Bali
Airbnb Villa, Bali, Indonesia.
  1. Because you’ll be able to see out-of-this-world hiking trails:

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo hiking
There are some stunning hiking trails in Indonesia.
  1. Because the shopping is beyond compare.

If you’re on a budget, then you’ll be glad to hear that street markets are almost everywhere. And you’ll probably be able to master your bargaining skills while you’re over there.

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo market
Street Market.

But if your spending habits are on the more luxurious end, there are so many incredible shopping malls to choose from.

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo Siam Paragon
Siam Paragon, Bangkok.
  1. Because you get to go to parties like this…

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo Philippines
Celebrations in Philippines, Southeast Asia.
  1. … And wake up at a picturesque beach the next day

study abroad Southeast Asia Rakbo Palawan
Palawan, Philippines. 
  1. Because you’ll meet the friendliest people and make some long-lasting friendships along the way.

The language barrier was one of my concerns when I first lived in Thailand. It was a completely foreign language to me, with no similarities at all to my language, Filipino.

But with the growing tourism industry in the country, a lot of locals know a lot of basic English phrases and honestly, that’s all you need to get by.

The university I studied at was also taught in English so I got to meet a lot of international students like myself who wanted to travel. The same goes for all the other Southeast Asian countries I studied at.

Despite the fact I’ve said my goodbyes to all my friends from my study abroad experiences, we’ve still managed to keep in touch and even reunite in different parts of the globe.Whether it’s fellow travelers like you or the locals who you meet along the way, you are bound to make some great friends in this region of the world. After all my Southeast Asian travels, I was surprised to learn that kindness is everywhere despite language and cultural differences.

The thing about studying abroad is that you not only get to travel but you get to travel with purpose. By living in a different country for even just a few months, you get to see things and experience life there like a local rather than a tourist.

You see beyond the usual tourist spots and in the end, your study abroad destination might even feel like a second home.

As cliché as it may sound, studying abroad, wherever it may be, gives you a chance for personal growth and self-discovery. And it’ll be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make in your life.

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Stephanie Say

Stephanie is a Business Administration major from the Philippines. She has studied abroad in five different countries, in Europe, Asia and the US. She continuously travels not just to see the sights but to immerse in diverse cultures and volunteer in different communities She enjoys hiking, photography and sci-fi tv shows. Follow her adventures on instagram @stepha5nie


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