Peyton Griest on her study abroad in Thailand, intercultural communication, and service


I’m enrolled in a Hill Tribe Field Study. Here we were exploring around the Hmong Village in Chiang Mai.

Name: Peyton Griest
Major: Communication Studies

What was your drive behind studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand? How has it been?

Many factors influenced my decision and drive to study abroad. I have an undeniable love for travel and the thought of living in a culture that is so different from my own was an experience I knew I wanted for myself. With that being said, I hope to live abroad one day and studying abroad was a great way to see if a more permanent life abroad was the right choice for me. Studying abroad was also the perfect financial way to integrate a long period of travel into my current life status as a student. I am paying for my education myself, so it’s more challenging for me to afford both my education and travel separately. Combining them through studying abroad has been amazing because I’ve paid about the same amount as a typical semester at CSU, but I get all of these incredible international experiences. Studying abroad has easily been one of the most transformational experiences of my life. A few of my most treasured aspects to my semester so far have been the friends I’ve made here, spending my fall break travelling in Vietnam, and working as an English intern. I think that one of the most rewarding part of this experience and markers of personal growth is reaching the point of feeling at home in a place that is so different from United States.

What are some of the major differences between college students in Thailand vs. here at Colorado State?

One of the major surface differences is that we actually have to wear uniforms! I’ve never had to wear a uniform for school before, so wearing one for university was especially interesting. I actually love it because I don’t ever have to think about what to wear! Course structure and instruction style are also very different in Thailand. Due dates are much more ambiguous and flexible and the syllabus is much more of a guide to the class rather than a definitive schedule. The looser structure and instruction style has been one of the more challenging aspects to become accustomed to. I feel that in the U.S. we are used to such a rigid educational structure with a much more monochronic time orientation, so that abiding to a more polychronic time orientation makes us feel uncomfortable.

Marinee (supervisor), Myself, and another fellow English Teacher at Thasatoi Municipal School.

Are you doing an internship while you’re there? If so, what is it?

I am an English Intern at Thasatoi Municipal School. Thasatoi Municipal School is a K-9 school in Wat Ket District, Chiang Mai, Thailand. I applied and was placed at Thasatoi through USAC, my study abroad program here in Thailand. Roughly 12 hours a week I assist the secondary school students in learning English. My internship supervisor Marinee Mahakunwong has been an integral factor in my positive experience as an English Intern. When I saw my internship placement I was excited and also cautious about the experience as I know very little Thai. However, my passion for intercultural communication and kids kept my curiosity thriving and my excitement alive. In my time at Thasatoi, I have assisted Marinee in curriculum preparation, tutored English, and lead classroom activities. I love the beauty and intelligence of the children I teach/am surrounded by. I am amazed by how open-minded the children are in learning about me and my culture. I feel that the kids are teaching me just as much as I am teaching them. Having an internship while studying abroad has been such an honor and without fail, I leave the school feeling so grateful and happy every time.

Of the coursework you have taken in Communication Studies, what has been the most useful to you during your time in Thailand? Has the experience led you to want to know more about any particular aspect of communication?

One course sticks out the most was Dr. Julia’s Intercultural Communication course this past spring. Studying abroad definitely has intensified my curiosity for intercultural communication! I love how my internship has taught me to be patient. I consider myself a decently patient person, however certain things can frustrate me quickly. While I have not felt frustrated at Thasatoi, there have been times where I’ve felt impatient when communicating. I love intercultural communication and love studying it, but executing it as a skill is different than learning it. Theory is always much smoother than practice. There have been several times where I am communicating with Marinee, other teachers, or even the kids where there is a miscommunication due to either the language barrier itself or a cultural barrier. There have been moments within these moments I feel impatient or upset that communication is not going as smoothly as I would like. It is within these moments I remind myself to be more mindful and patient. Reminding myself that I am not the only one who is having to decode a language and work in understanding an accent has been important. Studying abroad and my internship have proven to me that even though intercultural communication was an elective at Colorado State, it’s a necessary skill in order to get the most out of your international experience and remain a respectful visitor in your host country.

USAC took us on a trip to Nan province in Northern Thailand. This was at one of the many beautiful temples.

If you’ve been a CMST major since your freshman year, what made you interested in this degree and well as your minor? If you changed your major or were undecided and then declared, what led you to select communication studies?

I began my university career as a microbiology major. I very quickly realized that I was not as into science and the thought of medical school as I was in high school… I clearly remember sitting in one of my hallmate’s rooms during registration week breaking down because I knew microbiology was far from what I wanted but didn’t know what I did want. One of my other hallmates then mentioned she was a communication studies major and noted how much she loved her courses and specifically how nice those in the communication studies advising office were. I had some elective credits to spare, so I just took a chance and signed up for a comm studies course. The end of that next semester I went to officially change my major to communication studies with a sociology minor and the rest is history. Every semester since then I’ve grown to love communication studies more and more.

What do you like most about your major and how do you see it playing a role in your future – whether as a student or in a job/career?

I love that one of the cornerstones of communication is about making meaningful connections with people. I am very much a people person. I love interacting and making purposeful connections with those around me. My goal right now is to attend graduate school for marriage and family therapy to become a therapist. For more obvious reasons, communication is important for my desired profession as a therapist, but I feel that my major has allowed me to enhance my communication skills the personal realm of my life as well. I feel that communication studies has allowed me to consume media more critically and become a more engaged communicator. The department has such amazing professors that are not only skilled educators but admirable role models. I’d like to give a special thank you to Dr. Abby Veliquette and Dr. Katie Gibson for being encouraging and brilliant educators.

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What goals have you set for yourself once you graduate from Colorado State University? Will you be looking for a job? Going to graduate school? Other?

I have several passions and am currently configuring a way in which I can satisfy both. I have an undeniable affinity for travelling but also have a desire to become a therapist. My current plan is to take a year off, and either work in Fort Collins or as an Au Pair in the Netherlands, and then attend graduate school.

My favorite smoothie stand on my street. They’re made with only fruit and ice, are huge, and only 1 USD!

What do you consider your greatest achievement during your time as a CSU Ram?

In a more self-focused sense, I would say that studying abroad has been my greatest achievement as a CSU Ram. I feel so proud that I was able to give myself this life-changing experience. However, my heart is happiest when in the pursuit of serving others. Therefore, I believe my truest and greatest achievement at CSU was being a Resident Assistant. I was an RA for two years at CSU and looking back on the experience, I realize how much the job has shaped not only who I am as a person, but the immense impact that the position has on the CSU community. The job is not glamorous 24/7. I wasn’t the perfect RA, and at times it’s far from easy, but I really enjoyed getting involved and giving back to the CSU community in such a hands-on way. Seeing my past residents grow into their adult selves is such a sweet and fulfilling sight. My residents will always have a special place in my heart.

Are you the first in your family to attend college? If so, what advice would you give to incoming first generation undergraduate students who are undecided in their major?

I was the first person in my immediate family to attend university. While this has presented many challenges, it has encouraged personal growth and pushed me to be even more independent. I feel that being first-generation made me appreciate the experience so much more. For anyone who is an incoming first-generation who is undecided in their major, please do not be discouraged or feel bad for not loving your major/not having one. It may feel stressful, but we are so young and to have decide our life path at such a young age is so silly. Please don’t put so much pressure on yourself! Talk to your friends about their majors. Your advisors are a great resource. And, your RA will be there to help you as well. One of the things that’s so amazing about CSU is there are so many people that want to help you succeed.

Why did you choose CSU?

I chose CSU because of how down-to-earth and friendly it felt. Campus is also an hour and a half away from my hometown, which was far enough to feel independent but near enough to home that I was able to stay close with my family. Not to mention how beautiful campus is and how much I loved the city of Fort Collins. Now as a soon-to-be graduate, I have never been more sure that CSU was the right university for me. The friends I’ve made here I now consider family and the personal growth I’ve experienced has been extraordinary.

I loved taking headstand photos each place I go as they show both my love for yoga and travelling! This was taken in Tam Coc, an area within Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam.

What are some of your passions outside of school?

As you might be able to gather by now, travelling is important to me. I believe that travelling teaches you so much about yourself and/or affirms what you already know of yourself. In addition to travelling, I love to practice yoga, family is very important to me, and always can enjoy a nice trip to the mountains. I’m a Colorado native, so despite my love for travelling to destinations around the world, Colorado will always be home. Anyone that knows me can attest to my love for dogs (and just animals in general). I love joking around (memes are a personal favorite) and hanging out with my friends and co-workers around Fort Collins. I’m passionate, independent, and driven. I love giving back to the CSU community and I can’t wait to take my passion, sense of independence and drive, and apply them to the world post-grad.

If you could have any career/job in the world, what would it be and why?

I am choosing the path of a marriage and family therapist simply because I feel that I can sincerely make a difference in the lives of many individuals and families. I believe that I was given an empathetic and compassionate heart for a reason and I should not waste such a greatly needed resource. I am so fascinated by the varying dynamics of families and their complexities. My family is extremely important to me and as cliché as it sounds, I would not be where I am today without them. I hope to guide families through the healing and/or reparation that will allow them to build strong support systems and networks. I am so passionate about family communication and development that I feel coupled with my drive, I can genuinely succeed and make a difference with this career.