UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — From its gorgeous beaches to energetic cities, Thailand is known for its iconic tourist attractions. But Penn State students who recently toured the Southeast Asian nation as part of a Maymester study course had a different experience.
They took the road less traveled, learning about natural hazards facing the developing nation, with pit stops visiting elephant sanctuaries, animal hospitals, hydroelectric plants and mangrove-lined coastlines. They even met with a top geoscientist and two divers who aided in the 2018 cave rescue of a dozen Thai soccer players and their assistant coach.
Lessons focused on the intersection between natural hazards and societal well-being. Thailand, which has the second largest economy in Southeast Asia, faces threats from tsunamis along the Andaman Sea coast, earthquakes near its capital of Bangkok, seawater degradation of groundwater, flooding and climate change. Students looked at how a rapidly growing nation in a mixed industrial-agricultural economy will grapple with these threats.
Kevin Furlong, a geosciences professor in Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, who led the course, said ties with faculty and students at Kasetsart University (KU) in Bangkok made for the unique educational experience. Local faculty members helped arrange tours and travel while local students tagged along, offering insights and chances to converse with peers.