My general feelings towards the Immersion Experience Program (IEP) have been very up and down. Over the past year I have fluctuated from being extremely excited to rather nervous and hesitant. However, both of these preconceptions towards the IEP have stemmed from a lack of understanding of what the trip will specifically involve. As the date for departure draws closer I grow more and more anxious. I worry about the petty things like if I'll remember to pack enough clothes or the right ones. But overall I am currently quite excited for a different style of travel where I will be away from my family and forced into independence.
I have never been in a developing country where I will live like a local so I think that will be the most challenging experience where I will have to alter my day-to-day behaviour. I don't think I can get my head around simple things which I'll have to keep aware of such as not drinking tap water or being able to use tap water to cook with. It's hard to say what I think I'll be learning most but from general pre-departure sessions at uni I can assume that it will be how local people live, political; economic and social issues within Thailand and its populations, as well as the work which the employees and volunteers of the Marist Mission Ranong conduct.
In a strange way what excites me a lot is how it will be as though we are living in the country rather than being regular tourists staying in hotels. I relish in the idea of being able to bike ride to and from work each day (something I would not ever do in Sydney) and be able to buy local ingredients to cook dinner each night. It sounds quite random that I'm excited to cook (something I do at home regularly) but I'm eager to undertake those basic local every day activities which will be different to home. I'm also intrigued to meet and engage with Burmese migrants and to better understand refugees, and the international perception of them. What will be interesting will be how people converse about refugees in Australia and how this will contrast in Thailand.
As of right now I can't say too deeply what I hope to get out of the IEP. So far what I've been expecting is that we'll learn a lot more about development issues and how development poses as a problem. However I'm also hoping to better understand how to ethically travel, and by that I mean not just travelling from one place to another, staying in fancy hotels and seeing a glimpse of a country and not the heart of one, but to become a local.