Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Best Summer I've Ever Had!!

            After flying 825.18 miles from Thailand and driving 125.90 miles from Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia), I finally reached IPOH, my home (Perak in Malaysia), with the population of 644,802, and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. I started to sweat with the hot June air blowing around me. Returning home again after 5 years of being in the US was not easy as I expected. In just one glimpse, all emotions were pulsing through me, faster than they had the entire time I had lived and studied in the USA.

            I had been many places in the States in the last 5 years and intend to travel to many more, but there always will be one place that I could never leave behind and will always stay with me - my home. There is no other place in the world that could compare to my homeland. No matter where I go or how long I stay, returning home is always the best part of the trip. Recently, I met my family and friends in Malaysia. It was heart warming and brought back many memories to hang out with them, while making a few new friends with the locals. My favorite part was camping with some friends near the beach, and hanging around the campfire. We were sharing stories with nothing but the fire and the roaring sound of our laugh keeping us warm from the hollow night. We had complete freedom to be as loud as we wanted and to do as we pleased.

            It was an exciting adventure for the month I was in Thailand. Having the great opportunity to study in a new environment is not an easy task - you must have a great deal of perseverance and encouragement. Through my Thailand study abroad experience, I had the chance to travel around and learn more about the Thai’s culture and language, especially their handcrafts and the spirit of their religion.  I saw architecture you can’t see in the States or even Malaysia. Through these trips, I have learned that I love traveling and learning about other cultures, histories and religions, and they have inspired me to travel more in my future.

Aside from this trip, the most significant thing to me was learning what friendship is all about. On this trip I was surrounded by my classmates, who’ve now become my closest friends. It helped me realize that friends are a varied group of people who help, comfort each other, and encourage each other (especially in a country where English was not commonly known or spoken).  The most fabulous experience was the trip to the Tiger Cave Temple (WatThamSua in Krabi). When I started on my journey climbing to the top of the Tiger Cave Temple, a sign stated 1,237 steps to get to the top of the mountain. I couldn’t believe how I could get through that!  Without my friends’ encouragement throughout the process of this entire experience, I wouldn’t be able to make it. 

            I also have learned a lot about myself while studying in Thailand. I have gained a newfound confidence in my own abilities. It is a great feeling to know that I am not completely alone in the world, and that I can succeed in this profession! Also, I have learned a lot about my own beliefs and perspectives of music therapy. While I was in Thailand and Malaysia, I was constantly surrounded by people with different opinions than me, and this forced me to examine my own beliefs. It helped me to have a firmer understanding of the way that I have chosen to view the world, and it also leads me to grow and expand my perspectives. No matter where we are in the world – amongst different cultures, religions and languages - I believe music will always bring us to be more understanding and respect others’ beliefs, helping to bridge the gap between our differences.

            Now, I’m back in the States. At first, staying at KU another year seemed to be a setback, but it has turned into something very beneficial for me. I am not only gaining knowledge that will take me further in my music therapy career, but have also gained a deeper respect and appreciation for countries and cultures different from my own. I have come to love traveling and learning about the different countries’ cultures, religions, histories, languages and the way of life. Now I am planning in the future to travel to as many different places in the world as I can, especially exploring music therapy in different countries. I would recommend to anyone searching for a new educational experience outside of the books or wishing to learn more about themselves, to travel to other countries and experience a different culture. It has turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I am already planning a trip back to Thailand, and I just cannot wait to explore more. Who wants to follow??? Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

Music and Relationships

Little girl, what attracts you to music? 
Hello friends! Vivian Hsu here. Thanks for following our music therapy blog after our study abroad trip to Thailand. In this last blog, I am going to tell you what happened after this trip.
When I got back to Taiwan for the rest of my summer break, my heart was filled with complicated feelings. I was sad to leave this beautiful country and beautiful people, but excited to tell my friends about all my adventures and clinical experiences in Thailand. I could not wait to see my family and my friends in Taiwan. One of my college classmates in Taiwan, who read my previous blog post, asked me if I would like to see a little boy with autism. She had been teaching this student piano lessons for three months, and she found this clever child seemed to have trouble sitting for a 30-minute class.
I said, “Yes. Let’s make an appointment to interview this boy and his parents.”
In Thailand, I worked in the oncology unit in Siriraj hospital. Some patients really needed music while they were waiting for their chemotherapy treatment. Music healed them. As a music therapist, I had no hesitation in responding to all the requests from patients because everyone has the needs of improving their quality of life and everyone can relate to music in some way. 
Doing Music Therapy with lovely preschoolers in Taiwan
Without my experience in Thailand, I might have thought “am I eligible to do an individual session without a supervisor?” However, I have gained confidence in my facilitation and therapy skills, and knew I could do this. I talked to this boy’s Mom on the phone; she was very interested in having her son take some music therapy classes. 
Yes. It was a music therapy “class”, not a “treatment.” It is not common for Taiwanese to admit their needs of therapy, but they love to take all sorts of lessons in order to develop both mental and physical health.
Through the phone interview, the Mom was worried about her son’s limited attention span because he was going to preschool after this summer.
“I felt embarrassed when I took him out in public”, his Mom said. At that time, I did not realize how serious this situation was for his Mom.
In our first assessment session, I observed that Antony (nickname) is a very clever, energetic and curious 5 year-old boy, who is diagnosed with autism. We went through more than 10 music therapy interventions in our 40-minute session. He responded to music naturally by memorizing new songs immediately, singing, and playing the melody along with me. He often sat close to me and wanted to touch and play all the instruments. However, his Mom interrupted during almost every application.
“Antony, STOP!”
“Antony, DON’T TOUCH IT!”
“Antony, SIT STILL.”
When Antony received the warning, he just looked at his Mom and waited for the punishment. He lost interest in continuing the intervention because he thought his Mom was unhappy. He did not even know why his Mom stopped him, but he was able to recognize her anger by her tone, so he stopped participating. 
I knew the first thing I should address was not Antony’s short attention span, but his Mom’s anxiety. I talked to her after the session. She told me what I did was totally unexpected. She just wanted her son to sit and listen to music so that he could improve his attention span. Stopping and warning her son was her job in both his piano lessons and occupational therapy treatment in order to make classes flow smoothly.
“You are too young. You don’t know how to make my son follow your directions. But I know how to control my son’s impulse,” she said.  
I explained to her that music could be used to treat and improve physical and mental health, as well as aid in social, spiritual, and intellectual development. Through interesting interventions, Antony could not only expand his attention span, but also improve impulse control by improving his self-regulation skills. Music context could even provide Antony ideas about what to do in different settings, such as restaurants, school and home. I also told her what my job as a music therapist was, to provide very specific kinds of help to clients. I could incorporate music to occupational practices to make it more interesting.
She only needs to trust the powerful effects of music as therapy.
“Trust music and your son.” I told her.
Hey friends! There are so many ways to say hello! 
She told me she would think about if they still needed music therapy before she left.
After few days, she contacted me and said they would like to continue music therapy sessions. She agreed to wait and see how music affects her son. I also promised her I would set boundaries with Antony at the beginning of the session, so she did not need to worry that I would affect her behavior management routine in the other classes.
There were some significant changes that occurred in our second session. Antony started to make eye contact with me, so he got to choose some instruments he wanted to play. He was very focused on listening to the directions through music, so he was able to make music with me. He stopped throwing instruments back into the box while I was playing a soft and slow clean up song. He had a chance to show that he understood the concept of division through music. That completely surprised his Mom.
I immediately reinforced him right after he performed appropriate behaviors.
“Mom, Miss Hsu told me that I am a good student,” Antony said.
This was a huge encouragement for him. He did not need a lot of reminders or warnings anymore to act appropriately. That was also a primary goal for this client. Furthermore, the relationship between him and his Mom improved through their interactions in the music applications. 
This special song is just for you. 
Every client is special for me. The trip to Thailand totally changed my perspectives on music therapy. As you can see, my definition of music therapy has been revealed by my clinical facilitation. In this case, I used music experiences and the relationships that developed through them, therapeutically. My definition not only reflects my personal philosophies and professional identity, but is created to answer every individual client what music therapy is.
Music can empower and strengthen individuals in ways unimagined. I found how both of my knowledge and experiences fit together when cultural and social considerations are added to the mix. I will keep working on my definition of music therapy consistently. The trip to Thailand was unforgettable and wonderful. Dr. Register opened my mind to new horizons of music therapy. I am still working on defining music therapy, but my philosophy of music therapy has already come out--- MUSIC and RELATIONSHIPS. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The World Next Door

Hi everyone, this is Laura Cribb, currently back in Tallahassee, FL getting ready for school to start. Culture fascinates me. I think it is incredible how on this earth we are all a part of the human species; yet, our cultures are all so different. Thoroughly learning about another person’s culture and who they are as a result of that culture can take a lifetime. One of my favorite things in life is meeting someone from a culture that is different from my own. I want to hear their story. I want to learn about their way of life. I want to understand the music of their culture. As a music therapy student and lover of cultures, the study abroad trip to Thailand combined two of my passions and I could not refuse to go.
            I loved every aspect of the trip to Thailand. I loved seeing the natural beauty throughout the country.
Thai sunrise.
I loved learning about using music therapy with a culture other than my own. Above all, I loved meeting the Thai people. One of my favorite parts of the trip was meeting a lady who sells jewelry at a market and hearing about how her family makes the jewelry in the north of Thailand while she sells it in Bangkok.
Thai jewelry vendor, Rebecca, Amanda, and I.
I also enjoyed meeting the Thai music therapy graduate students at Mahidol University and learning about their lives as students.
Graduate students from Mahidol University and I.
In Thailand I was able to experience both the seen and unseen aspects of culture, which is an opportunity unique to traveling abroad. However, you don’t have to travel to learn about the unseen aspects of other cultures.
Living in the United States gives us an opportunity to meet people from other cultures and learn about their lives. My desire to learn about international customs has fueled me to interact with people around the world while in the States. Soon after arriving home from Thailand I traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to volunteer at the International Folk Art Market (IFAM). This year, the IFAM featured 190 folk artisans from over 60 countries. I volunteered with training before the market as well as an Artist Assistant for musicians from Madagascar.
Madagascar musicians at the IFAM.
Throughout the market I met so many people from around the world, such as Pakistani embroiderers and musicians from the Republic of Tuva. The IFAM was an experience like no other where I could meet artists from many countries, learn about their culture and the story behind their art, and then purchase their art to support their own community.
Pakistani embroiderer.

Volunteering at the IFAM is just one way that I have been able to experience other cultures while in my home country.
            Nashville, Tennessee is just one of a multitude of cities that international refugees resettle in with the help of the United Nations. Last summer I spent two months in Nashville working with Burmese and Nepali refugees through World Relief, a resettlement agency. I learned a lot about the Burmese and Nepali cultures by providing transportation and English lessons to families that had recently arrived in the United States; however, hearing their individual stories is what challenged me the most.
Fingernail painting with refugee children in Nashville.
Many displaced people have witnessed relatives being murdered in front of their eyes or have had to flee from their homes due to political situations. These stories have impacted the way I view my own life and have instilled a passion within me to help displaced people as a future music therapist. The refugee community brings nations from around the world into our own neighborhoods. I see this as an opportunity to show them love and broaden my own worldview by learning about their cultures without even leaving my home.
            Traveling to another country is an amazing experience. Seeing the landmarks, eating the food, and experiencing life as a foreigner are all events that form who we are as a person. When you visit another country, that culture not only pervades everything around you but it is also present in each person you meet. The way a person thinks, interprets, processes, learns, and tells his or her story is inherent as a result of culture. So, through my personal experience, I have discovered that I enjoy building relationships with people from cultures different than my own. Understanding who someone is as a person provides more insight into culture than just the outward appearance. While leaving Thailand and transferring back to life in the United States seemed mundane compared to the adventures I experienced in Thailand, I knew that I could find rich culture through the people I met at the IFAM and in Nashville.
Akeem, a 9th generation musician from Nigeria at the IFAM.
If you have a desire to travel or experience other customs, I encourage you to reach out to people from other countries in your community. Learn about their ways of life and how their culture has shaped them. Sometimes it just takes stepping out of your comfort zone and going off the beaten path to find the world in your own backyard!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to Reality

Hey readers it’s Shelby Riley here for one last post.
Upon returning home I have been asked many times about my experience in Thailand.  After thinking about this I have so many different words that come to mind; amazing, eye opening, beautiful, emotional, stressful, sleep-less. While these words are all very relevant, I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way to describe this trip, life changing.

I have now been back in my hometown of Boulder Colorado for a month. After the group had departed I was lucky enough to have my mom come meet me in Bangkok and travel to Phuket and Khoa Lak. This was a much more laid back part of the trip and allowed me time to reflect on everything that had happened in the past month.

When I got home everyone I came across was curious about my trip. People I had not seen since high school as well as relatives would ask the question that I know we have all received. “What was your favorite part?” Whenever I am asked this questions hundreds of things come flooding back to me. I have a very hard time picking just one answer, and the response of “the whole trip” isn’t specific enough for most people. But the truth is, there are no words that can sum up how much my experience has impacted me. So I will share two of my absolute FAVORITE parts of the trip.

To start off, I was given the opportunity to work in multiple settings with children with Cerebral Palsy, a population I had never known much about and never thought of the effects music therapy can have. This has now been something I have thought about every single day since returning. For me one of the most life changing points of our trip was our visit to Baan Fuengfa children’ s orphanage. (For more information see Voonyin’s amazing blog post “Bring the Sunshine in Your Heart”). We had the opportunity to work with 55 clients under the age of seven with Cerebral Palsy. Going into the session we had no idea how the session was going to go. Each of us had two to three clients while the session was lead by one of the wonderful Thai students, Karn. I have never felt so many emotions in my life. The look on the children’s faces as they heard, saw and felt the music that THEY were creating is something that will forever be in my heart. The smiles and laughter filled the room and as I looked around I saw how deeply it impacted each one of us.

To top off this fabulous experience, the thing that has made me most grateful for being on the trip was the amazing group of classmates, teachers, interns and tour guides that I was fortune enough to be with. I know it may sound cliché, but I really do believe life long friendships were created during our time in Thailand. I was nervous going into the trip, only being close friends with one other classmate, but quickly learned that these were people who were meant to be in my life. 

We experienced things together that only made us grow closer such as climbing to the top of the Tiger Temple, countless trips to the store across from our apartment, spending 12 hours on a bus on the way to Krabi, singing karaoke in a random restaurant and zip-lining through the Chaing Mai Mountains to name a few. I look forward to continued friendships and am truly blessed to have met each and every one of them.

I am thankful for the things I learned about music therapy, Thailand and myself throughout this experience. I will be forever grateful for opening my eyes to possibility, the push to step out of my comfort zone and the life long friendships that were created.

This is not goodbye Thailand!

A New Normal

            Hello, readers!  Morgan Skillett here, blogging from the sunny state of California.  The transition back from Thailand has been a tough yet quick turn around.  It almost seems unreal that just over a month ago I was in the most beautiful country in the world, surrounded by some of the most incredible people I've ever met.

            Since I left Thailand, I have had to get used to the American way of doing things all over again.  Instead of walking down the street to Cold Brew to get a coffee and chicken fried rice, I would have to drive in my car and go to two separate places to get that kind of service.  Not having fresh fruit, cheap frozen coffee drinks, pad thai and my favorite Thai beer at my convenience has been quite the adjustment for me.  Aside from all of the food, it is the people and beauty of the country that I miss. 

      When I'm not exploring California or hard at work at my internship, I reflect on my life altering experience on my summer abroad.  Coming back home has made me realize how truly different our worlds are.  After a quick recovery from a cold and serious jet lag, I jetted off to Cajun country to celebrate my brothers birthday.  Voodoo dolls on Bourbon Street are pretty much the complete opposite from seeing big beautiful Buddha statues sitting peacefully in the hills of Thailand.  Only a few short days after returning, I left home once again.  Packing up and moving to California has been one of scariest and nerve-wracking things I've ever done.  Driving away from my house the morning I left for Thailand was also one of the scariest thing I've done.  Through all of these experiences, I've learned that only the best things happen when you're out of your comfort zone. 
            Sure, it would be easy for me to have just stayed in Kansas during the summer around my job, family and friends.  I could have gotten an internship in Kansas and done just fine.  But here's the thing.  Fine isn't good enough for me.  I want more.  Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  This is a new motto for me, and it has changed the way I not only view myself, but how I see the world and people around me.  I am so thankful and grateful for these experiences I've had this summer because it is helping me to grow in ways I never thought possible.  Thailand taught me to let go and trust in myself.  I went onto this trip a nervous wreck, only knowing one student that was I was going with.  Coming back to Kansas, I came back with new, incredible friendships and experiences I will cherish for a lifetime.  If I can pass one piece of advice to all of the readers, it would be to just do it.  Leave all your inhibitions and the 'what if's' behind and just do it.  For now, I will go through my diary and pictures of this amazing journey until my feet touch the Thai soil again.                        

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Going Home

Have you ever traveled over 24 hours? It's pretty awful.  Have you ever traveled over 24 hours after pulling an all nighter with your friends because y'all are dumb?  No?  Well, let me tell you, it's absolutely miserable.  We all made it safely to Minneapolis feeling a little worn from the 10.5 hour flight from Japan.  It was from Minneapolis most of us began to split off and fly different directions around the country. I was feeling pretty good sitting with everyone waiting for our flights.  Then I sat down on the tiny final plane taking me to Austin. I almost lost it once I sat down on this plane.  I was exhausted, the seats were uncomfortable, and I was sitting next to a talkative stranger.  I needed sleep, I wanted a hug,  and at that moment neither of those were an option.  It was then that I decided to pull out my journal. at first i was just going to write abut how unhappy I was, then I decided to read the little notes my classmates had written on our last day at school.  I am completely certain that these notes are the only thing at helped m regain my composure and stop muttering to myself like an angry, inane person.  

It's funny, when we were writing these notes to each other I wasn't really into it.  I had just witnessed the spurs lose the championship to the heat and I was hungry which hindered my productivity and focus.  Plus, I figured people pretty much knew what I thought. I like to tell people I appreciate them,I'm a generally friendly person, that's enough isn't it?

Reading these notes I realized how wrong my assumptions were.  These notes were filled with some of the kindest words I have ever read.  All filled with encouragement for the future and noting my "bright" personality, which after traveling for so many hours felt anything but bright.  I discovered that small gestures, such as saying hello to a classmate on the first day of class, left an impression.  I began to see myself the way others see me.  What a beautiful gift! It can be so hard sometimes to see what you are doing right, to see how you are making a difference in the world.

While reading these notes I couldn't help but think about how different the world would be if we did this all the time.  Building up the people around us, reminding each other what makes us special.  Instead of tearing each other down to make ourselves feel better.Maybe I just have my rose colored glasses on right now, but I think this could solve so many personal and relational issues people deal with today.  It is so easy to let the world tell you how you don't measure up, we need to recognize that it is our responsibility to rebuild each other so they can see all the beautiful potential we see in them.

I hope my classmates in Thailand know that they have changed my world.  In clinical settings that were foreign in every sense of the word they encouraged me, pushed me, made me think.  I was so scared to mess up, but they were always right there to help me readjust, pick me up, and move on.  They showed me what it means to not only be a great music therapist (in training) but to also be a gracious and loving human being.  I know everyone who I spent these last five weeks with will go far in their lives both personally and professionally.  Their desire to provide the best care to their patients and clients is inspiring.  The time they put into practicing and planning for their sessions proved their passion for the profession.  I can't wait to see where you all end up.  I know you all will do incredible things in the future.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reflection on Thailand

Reflection on Thailand
            The journey coming home was a long one to say the least, but it is nice to be back in the U.S.A.  When I arrived in the airport in Kansas City, I almost felt weird seeing my family and boyfriend there, like it was sort of surreal.  Because our flight arrived so late I was not able to get my first wish of being home (which was going to a Mexican restaurant), so I settled for what was available at 10:30, which was Taco Bell.  

            One aspect of my trip to Thailand I will never forget is the food.  I was quite an adventurous eater and tried many different foods including new Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.  I became a huge fan of Vietnamese spring rolls and I am still in search of the best Vietnamese restaurant in the Kansas City area.  Something I was very excited to share with my family was my love of massaman curry, a dish made with several spices, coconut milk, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, and onions.  This was one of my favorite, if not my favorite, dishes while in Thailand and I found some premade spice packets at the grocery store to bring back home with me.   Before I bought the spices I checked to make sure the directions were in English, and there were as well as Thai, Chinese, and Japanese.  Clearly I am not the only person who is a fan of massaman.  

             However, just because the directions were in English does not mean they were very clear.   I repeatedly asked my dad as I was making it, “What do you think that means?”, so we guessed and fumbled our way through making the meal.  To my great surprise (and relief), it turned out great.  My parents saw why I raved about the dish and we have plans to make it again.   I am also excited to go to Thai restaurants now because I think I will have a pretty good knowledge of what the dishes are.  

            Something I find exciting is when I find someone who has also been to Thailand to talk with.  I was able to give my cousin advice when she goes on vacation to the South in a month and I wanted to write her an entire book of where to go.  One day I was in a Chipotle eating dinner with my family when I saw a girl who had the same exact wallet as I did from a hill tribe market in Thailand.  I though that it was way too unique to be coincidental, so I asked her where she got it from.  She proceeded to tell me that her wallet had come all the way from Thailand and that it was a gift from her roommate who spent the last six months doing her internship there.  I said I went on a study abroad trip with KU, and she then asked me, “Do you know Melissa Hill? She is my roommate.”  We both were surprised at what a small world it is, but in a way it showed me how little things like a wallet can connect us.  

            Although I sat with my family and showed them a slideshow of all of my pictures (all 2,000) and the slideshow of Pat’s (our tour guide who also took around 2,000 pictures), it is difficult to describe exactly how certain moments felt, but I am thankful for the visual aid of the pictures.  The most difficult thing I get asked is, “How was Thailand?”. I would like to respond with, “Do you have about five hours, I might be able to cover most of the main points in that amount of time”, but I normally just say, “It was an incredible and eye-opening experience, I hope I can go back some day”.