Superior Edge plans trip to Thailand

Trent Podskalan

Elephants, beautiful beach shorelines, markets and small villages: these are just some of the things you will see if you attend this winter’s International Service Trip to Thailand. Associate Director of the Center for Student Enrichment, Jon Barch, will be leading the trip.

“It’s going to be about 50 percent service and 50 percent tourism,” Barch said. “[The trip] is built to be a really fun adventure that you would want to go on even if you were only half in it for the service.”

In the past, the student service trip took NMU students to locations in countries such as India. This year’s trip will be taking students to the Maewang Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai. (Photo:                                Courtesy of Jon Barch )
In the past, the student service trip took NMU students to locations in countries such as India. This year’s trip will be taking students to the Maewang Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai. (Photo: Courtesy of Jon Barch
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Barch said those who attend will fly from Chicago to Bangkok where they will tour the city, visit temples, floating markets and take a boat tour. Barch said the group will spend four days helping the Hill Tribe Development Association build a new community center in the city of Chiang Rai.

Attendees will also spend an extreme adventures day, Barch said, where money built into the program will allow participants to choose from ziplining through the jungle tops or bungee jumping.

Barch said the second service experience will take place at the Maewang Elephant Camp located in Chiang Mai.

“We’ll learn to care for and assist elephants on a nature preserve,” Barch said. “We spend a couple days doing that and that gets followed by the jungle trek.”

Barch said the jungle trek consists of hiking, riding elephants through the forest, visiting a waterfall and swimming and will end with a ride on a bamboo raft down the river back to Chiang Mai.

“After that, we fly down to Phuket which is kind of like Bangkok; it’s about as tourism as you can get in Thailand,” Barch said. “This is paradise. It’s where everybody goes to spend a vacation.”

Barch said possible things to do within the three-day span at the beach are snorkeling, riding jet skis, just laying on the beach, going to a show or just whatever people want to do. Barch said despite spending Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s in Thailand, it’s going to be a good time regardless.

“We’re gonna have fun on Christmas,” Barch said. “Celebrating it with our group. And we’re gonna have fun at the New Year. It’s probably the best place you could go for New Year’s, give me a break. Go to Thailand, where else are you gonna be? It’s pretty cool here in Marquette, it’s pretty cool going to Chicago for New Year but it’s not Chiang Mai, Thailand. Give me a break, it’s gonna be awesome.”

Director of the Center for Student Enrichment Rachel Harris is co-leading the trip and said it’s an experience unlike any other.

“It’s just life-changing,” Harris said. “It’s such an experience that you get that you can’t get in the classroom or through reading a book. Getting to experience it first hand is completely different and it’s a whole different type of education.”

Harris also said students should step out of their comfort zone.

“It’s really invigorating,” Harris said. “Some people might think it’s too big to think they could go to Thailand but it’s not. It’s really not as difficult as you think and really it’s a lot easier.”

Junior communications studies major Kara Jacoboni, who is considering attending the Thailand trip, said she has a passion for traveling and it’s a convenience as well.

“Going on a trip like this where you get to see the touristy side of things but also a side of things you don’t get to see usually if you go by yourself, that’s really appealing,” Jacoboni said. “Especially because you get to actually go and help people over there and volunteer.

Jacoboni said there’s really no reason not to go.

“It’s an experience you will never be able to have at any other point in your life,” Jacoboni said. “Going through a program and having the safety and security that we get to have, I’m sure it will be an eye-opening experience just like India was for me. Everyone should go. Get out of your comfort zone a little bit.”

The trip does cost $3,900 but that price, Barch said, could change depending on the number of people that go. While Barch does recognize that it is expensive, he said it’s very reasonable.

“Try to spend 21 days away from your home anywhere in the United States for $4,000,” Barch said. “You’ve got a plane ticket to the other side of the planet which is [half of the] $4,000, then you have another $1,000 of the $4,000 which is flying around Thailand so when it comes down to it, it’s extremely reasonable what we’re spending to do this.

Harris said experiences like these are priceless.

“The cost is definitely a factor, I mean, it’s actually really quite a good deal,” Harris said. “But it really is priceless. I really think no one would regret the money they spent later on, ever.”

Barch said those wishing to attend would need to fill out an application and turn it in to the International Programs office, obtain a passport and gather their money. The other requirement for the trip, Barch said, is that you must be a member of Superior Edge.

All $4,000 is due by Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. which can be turned in at the Student Service Center. The trip runs Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 through Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.

For more information, email Barch at [email protected]