WLU business students study in Thailand

WEST LIBERTY — Students and faculty with West Liberty University’s Gary E. West College of Business returned recently from a first-time study abroad trip to Thailand.

Escorted by Rickard Briggs, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, the trip offered education and travel in a 14-day format. Students also earned three credit hours for the Thailand study abroad.

“As an initial study abroad trip to this region, it was a tremendous success,” said Briggs. “Students interacted with local culture, came to an understanding of the political, social and cultural circumstances present in both Thailand and Cambodia.”

Traveling with Briggs was WLU Professor Vishakha Maskey, Ronald and Melissa Bane of Weirton, Colleen Dorsey of Wheeling, Loren Hall of Kenova, W.Va., Jennifer Lundy of Pittsburgh, Miah Runkle and Kevin Stryker, both of Wheeling.

“Our WLU study abroad to South East Asia tour included stops in Thailand and Cambodia. In Thailand, we visited multiple ancient temples, museums, palaces and ventured out to see a tiger reserve and then spent a day with the elephants. We took a creative Thai cooking class, riverboat tours and dined in multiple different locations. We took an overnight train to Chaing Mai where we spent a day with native hilltop villagers and elephants.

“In Cambodia, we visited the city of Siam Reap the home of Angkor Wat, the famous temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. We spent time interacting with the local people and enjoyed learning about how both of these countries are different than western culture. We met some wonderful people and even learned a little of the local language,” he explained.

Briggs himself has a firsthand understanding of this area of the world and formerly had an office in Bangkok when he worked in the health care industry.

The trip was open to all students in any major and therefore drew a “dynamic mix of students from different disciplines,” he noted.

Miah Runkle, 20, is majoring in tourism and event planning and she found the trip valuable for several reasons and said that travel makes her appreciate what she has.

“Being a tourism major, going to different countries is important because you see different cultures and learn about global cultural norms,” Runkle said.

“We take small things for granted here in the U.S., things that not everyone has over there, like cars, and other things. Another thing I noticed is that religion is huge in Thailand plus they have a more laid back, relaxing culture — a calmer culture.”

Though this was her first time in Asia, Runkle traveled to Europe three different times in high school, visiting France, England and Spain. Runkle also works part-time jobs at both Oglebay Park and Cabela’s.

The Banes said they enjoyed their first time out of the country as they traveled to Thailand with WLU.

Melissa is a 2010 alumna and current Hancock County middle school teacher. Ron is a full-time student majoring in entrepreneurship and will graduate in spring 2019.

“I loved the trip to Thailand, it was amazing. We talked to lots of local people and learned so much. The Thai temples were educational, but what I found really valuable was talking to the many small business owners,” he said.

Students who completed the Thailand study abroad still have one assignment to complete, according to Briggs. They will have to complete a graded final summary paper describing cultural differentials between the United States and Asia in the fall.

Next summer, Briggs is planning another study abroad trip and will take students to the Middle East, including Turkey, Morocco and Egypt.