Larissa Gaias '11

  • Major: Environmental Studies and Psychology
  • Study Abroad Program: CIEE Khon Kaen, Thailand

Larissa Gaias

Why did you decide to study abroad and why did you decide to spend your semester in Thailand specifically?

I always knew I wanted to study abroad. I had gone overseas for a month each year of high school, through school- sponsored trips to Thailand, Costa Rica, Argentina, and South Africa, and I had always wanted to enhance those experiences with a longer, more intense program. Although I didn't necessarily want to return to a country that I had already visited, I settled on Thailand for the program itself. I was looking for an environmental program, but one that was focused on people in their environments, as opposed to environmental science. 

Can you briefly describe your academic program while abroad and how your Bowdoin education prepared you for your time abroad?

The CIEE Development and Globalization program uses an alternative education model that is primarily student facilitated. There is minimal top- down learning on the program and you learn through student- led workshops and briefings, and exchanges with NGOs, villagers, and government officials regarding four issues relating to development and globalization: agriculture, urban migration, dams, and mining. Although my courses in environmental studies did assist in my preparation, I was extremely challenged due to the distinct methodology of the program. The point of the program is for you to challenge your current views on education, and to understand a variety of perspectives on different issues. For more detailed information about my experience, visit my blog:

What do you believe was the value of study abroad for you personally?

Where can I start? The Thailand program benefitted me in ways that I could not have experienced in any other program. The way I think and interact with the world and my surroundings has changed completely. I have a deep understanding of how interconnected this world is, how my actions in the United States impact people in Northeastern Thailand and all over the world. Every time I pick up a piece of food, take a shower, or drive my car, I can think of what went into those actions, where it came from, and who had to sacrifice for my benefit. I am so grateful that I have the means with which to analyze the complexities of this world. I am confident in my ability to facilitate groups of people and am successful at conducting interviews with people from a variety of backgrounds. 

How is the learning that you gained abroad impacting your academic work and engagement here at Bowdoin?

First, I have been working on an honors thesis examining dam- related issues in Maine, inspired by my final project with the dam- affected community in Thailand. Secondly, I am actually returning to the program next year to be a Program Facilitator, one of four recent graduates who assist the students to facilitate themselves through the academic program. I am so excited to return to Thailand to see the Learning Center that I planned for my final project built and operating. After returning from Thailand in 2012, I am planning to attend graduate school for Human Development, to study the interactions between children and their educational settings.