San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

JMS students embark on a culturally-enriched journey to Thailand

Students experienced culture shock, explored landscapes and created social media content
Photo By Monica Watson
Students pose for a photo while bathing the elephants at Elephants World elephant sanctuary on Jan. 10, 2024.

San Diego State University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) rang in the new year by taking 19 students to Thailand for a nine-day study abroad program created by Temple Northup, JMS director.

The purpose of the trip was to give students the opportunity to gain experience as international journalists and develop skills in content creation by exploring a culture outside of their norm. 

JMS students, Max Hanson (left) and Marissa Evangelista (right), kick off the Thailand study abroad trip with their Instagram takeover on Thursday, January 4, 2024. Their takeover featured the Golden Mount, Wat Pho, a boat tour and trying new foods. Photo By Isabella Canale

“What I liked about a place like Thailand versus a country like Italy is just that it is very different from the United States,” Northup said. “The food is different, how you get around is different, everything is different. So I feel even though it’s a short trip, you can really get a sense of things.”

The program was constructed to show a three-dimensional Thailand through cuisine, history and lifestyle. Students produced videos and written work to translate their findings to their audience back home. 

JMS students visited night markets, restaurants (only reachable by boat) and even went on a cruise overseeing Iconsiam, one of Bangkok’s luxurious malls. 

Multiple excursions were dedicated to visiting temples such as The Golden Mount and Wat Pho, which houses the famous reclining Buddha.

Making an appearance at Srinakharinwirot University (SWU) was also facilitated through the program. Students from both universities showcased the work they curated as undergraduates. SDSU students also gained insight into how social media fostered different international career opportunities.

The large sitting buddhas in Thailand serve as temples where Buddhists can pray and provide offerings like flowers to the buddhas. JMS students visited Big Buddha in Chonburi, Thailand on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. Photo By Isabella Canale

On the last day of the trip, students ventured to the outskirts of Bangkok, into the waters of Pattaya Beach, visited an elephant sanctuary and Erawan Park, which boasts ethereal waterfalls.

Students also experienced daily life as traveling journalists. Observations, such as the absence of free toilet paper, the expectation of silence on public transportation and the prevalence of households without kitchens, sparked interest.

As an Asian American media studies major, senior Marissa Evangelista found the visit to have a personal impact.

“I think it was cool for me to see a different Asian culture. It is important for not just me, but for anyone to see,” Evangelista said. “It was also my first time traveling internationally.”

Navigating Thailand were tour guides Somchai “Tommy” Wisawasompop and Peach H. Honghem. The pair presented the historical context of famous landmarks and shared stories about the day and nightlife in Bangkok.

JMS lecturer, Peggy Peattie, who accompanied Northup on the trip, mentioned that the daily interactions gave students a chance to appreciate other cultural perspectives as aspiring journalists.

“You need to be able to read body language — if you can’t understand the language, you need to be able to understand human dynamics,” Peattie said. “You need to be able to be patient and be respectful of other cultures. I think that is something that can translate into your immediate environment.”

Whether it is getting into media studies, public relations, newspaper or radio, Northup believes first-hand learning experiences will help students broaden their minds and prepare them for a better future in global industries.

“Our tagline is, ‘We make storytellers.’ And another reason for doing this (program) is to be really great storytellers. I think the more you travel (and) the more culturally adept you are, the better your stories will change stories on the market,” he said.

According to Northup, he hopes the program inspires faculty members to coordinate study abroad programs within their departments.

For those interested in studying abroad, Northup suggests that SDSU students reach out to JMS’s Instagram.

About the Contributors
Sumaia Wegner, '23-24 Managing Editor
Originally from Santa Clarita, California, Sumaia Wegner is a is a double major, studying Journalism and Communication.  She started as a staff writer for The Daily Aztec, then became Arts and Culture Editor, and is now the current Managing Editor. Aside from her leadership role, Sumaia is also a reporter for the men's basketball team. Last year she covered the Mountain West Championship as well as the NCAA Championship. Sumaia is the president of the Asian American Journalists Association (SDSU Chapter) as well as the vice president of Culture and Diversity for SDSU's College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts. She started her career as a journalist while she was traveling abroad in Bangladesh, where she was a writer for The Independent newspaper. She wrote for the “Youth and Independent” section focusing on narratives that evaluated eastern and western cultures. Sumaia has received the following awards for The Daily Aztec: "The Inspirer," "Quest for Excellence," and "Best Section." 
Hannah Ramirez
Hannah Ramirez, '24-25 Opinion Editor
Hannah Ramirez (she/they) is a Journalism major and transfer student from Southwestern college in Chula Vista, California. A love of comic books since a young age pointed her into the direction of storytelling. These days she focuses on telling stories of local artists and working on hot takes for the opinion page. She has previously interned for The San Diego Union Tribune and Voice of San Diego. When she’s not jotting down notes, you can find her testing out new recipes and watching every sitcom known to mankind. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in travel journalism and community reporting.