Gray spends semester traveling Southeast Asia

Hannah Gray of Monticello spent her fall semester in Thailand. She immersed herself in the local culture, even hugging an elephant at an elephant sanctuary. (Photos courtesy of Hannah Gray)

Gray visited the Vietnam War Museum in Hanoi.

While in Southeast Asia, Gray visited several other countries, including Cambodia. Here she tours one of the most famous temples, Angkor Wat Temple, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Chloe Gray
Express Intern

Over the fall semester, Hannah Gray of Monticello, took a flight to the other side of the world to study abroad in Thailand from Aug. 2 to Dec. 19. 

Gray has always had a sense of adventure. She saw that the study abroad program at the University of Oregon would be an opportunity to follow her dreams of traveling while continuing her education. Gray said that her decision on which school to attend was easy. 

“I wanted to enrich myself into a completely different culture,” she said. 

Along with her passion for photography and with the beautiful sites of Southeast Asia, she knew it was the place for her. This led her to Chulalongkorn University, located in Bangkok. She was the first student from the University of Oregon to participate in an exchange at Chulalongkorn. 

Gray’s program allowed her to experience college like an average Thailand student. She could choose her classes, living situation, and outside-of-school schedule. 

Many students in her classes were from Thailand. She noticed an unusual trend in all her classes. 

“Thai students are always late to class. I don’t think it’s a norm to be to class on time!” 

Gray was surprised by how similar her classes at the University of Oregon were to the classes she took at Chulalongkorn. They had a similar structure and the professors made American references often. 

In Bangkok, Gray lived in an apartment building that was full of exchange students. 

“The people were the best part of the exchange,” she said. “We were all there for the same reasons.” 

She was able to learn about other cultures and customs and teach the other exchange students her own. For example, she helped many of her friends celebrate their first Thanksgiving! 

“I could have never had this experience doing something else,” Gray admitted. 

She said that now, some of her best friends are from around the world. 

Gray not only made new friends but made new checks on her bucket list. While in Southeast Asia, she took solo trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. 

In Cambodia, she traveled by a tuk-tuk, a carriage pulled by a motorbike, to visit one of the most famous temples in the world, Angkor Wat. She sat in the mountains of Vietnam and admired the valleys and rice fields. She also went to the Vietnam War museum. Gray also visited Batu Caves in Malaysia. 

In Singapore, she visited the Singapore Art Museum and Gardens by the Bay. She also saw the Marina Sands Bay Hotel. She went to the island of Bali in Indonesia where she saw beautiful ocean views, waterfalls, and rice terraces. There, she also experienced a ritual water cleansing. 

Gray’s final stop was to the Philippines where she swam with whale sharks and drove to the Osmena Peak in the rain on a motorbike. 

Gray said that she did as much as she had time for in Thailand. Some of her favorite things were bathing elephants, taking a longboat tour around Phi Phi Island, and visiting the temples. 

She noted how much easier and cheaper it was to travel. Common forms of transportation were motorbike, ferry, plane, and taxis that were almost always available, and easy to rent or buy. She usually spent the night in hostels but stayed anywhere from a villa to a sandy beach chair. 

At the end of Gray’s journey, she still says that she is happy with her decision to go to Thailand. Many choose to go to Europe, but she wanted to go somewhere rare and beautiful. 

“I had this rare opportunity that has always been a dream of mine. I just had to take it, and I’m thankful that I did,” Gray said. 

When asked how it felt to be home from her journey, Gray said four months was not enough time, but she was ready to rest after traveling for so long and excited to see her family and friends. 

Welcome home, Hannah! 


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