Thursday, June 20, 2013


Hi! My name is Vivian Shih-Yun, Hsu and I’m from Taiwan. I just finished my first year as a graduate Music Therapy student at the University of Kansas. I enjoy music, reading, photography, and traveling to new places. I also love to help other people. I never thought I would study abroad in other countries before I came to the United States, but I guess I should never say never because now I’m studying abroad…abroad.  A few months ago Dr. Register shared her clinical and traveling experiences of Thailand in our Principles of Music Therapy class at KU. I knew facilitating a session using only the music and no language would be very challenging yet rewarding, so I decided this would be an excellent opportunity for me to develop my skills as a music therapist.
KU Music Therapy Students @ Grand Palace
As an Asian student, I have less difficulty than my U.S. peers adapting to the lifestyle and culture in Thailand. Thailand is very warm and humid, with temperatures averaging 31°C (85°F) all year round, which is more similar to Taiwan than the U.S. My skin gets dark quickly in the tropical sun, and often I am mistaken as a native Thai. Sometimes there are implications that I can speak Thai faster and better than all my American peers because of my facial resemblance to the Thai people. Most Thai people are very friendly and willing to interact with my classmates and me. In their desire to talk to my classmates they turn to me as a translator. Unfortunately, I am no help in this situation. In fact, the first day I got here, I only knew “sawasdee ka”, which means hello. 
Special Cab- Tuk Tuk 
One day, we took a cab back to our apartment from Bangkok; I guess the driver wanted to explain why he chose a different route. He began to speak to me in Thai as if I understood every word that was coming out of his mouth. After five minutes, he was still talking, but we all sat in the backseat silent and confused. No one responded to him. "Phuud Thai dai mai?" (You can’t speak Thai) he asked me. I gave a smile, shaking my head and said, “Sorry, No Thai”. “Hah? Mai Thai? You look like Thai…how come you don’t speak Thai?” (I guessed that’s what he was saying.) We all burst in laughter, including the driver and he couldn’t stop for several minutes.
Learning Traditional Thai Instruments

When people come to a new country, the first thing they try to learn is how to communicate. In Thailand, I’ve learned a lesson from the Thai people: if there is a language barrier, we should still try to communicate without feeling embarrassed or unsure. Effort will always be appreciated and in the event of a misunderstanding, we will at least have a good laugh together.

There are a lot of benefits when being mistaken for a Thai girl.  I often receive better price at night markets, free tickets for tourist attractions, and people are more willing to engage with me. The bargains at night markets are the best incentive for acting like a Thai girl. Last week, I met a young woman who was selling elephant bags at a night market, “Tao rai ka? (How much?)” I asked. The woman answered me, “Neung roi bpairt sip baht” (One hundred eighty baht). I struggled to translate the words in my head. It took a while to figure out the correct English number because my Thai consists of simple numbers, food, a couple of adjectives and “toilet”. I then asked her if she had more colors or other sizes in English. She bowed to me and felt very sorry that she could not speak English.
Shopping @ Krabi Night Market
At that moment, I understood what she was feeling. When I studied in the United States, I often felt shame or embarrassment when I said something incorrectly or when I was unable to understand others’ questions. I felt bad that I could not speak her language and I may have hurt her feelings. So, I pointed to another color and tried to make her understand I wanted that color. In the end, I got a really nice price from her just for trying to speak her language. We both ended up happy and said thank you and goodbye with our smiles. I showed this woman that I respected her language and she appreciated my effort. “Trying is the best effort to foster understanding and communication.” 


  1. Thank you to post my photo with you, you like my sister :}

    1. You are not just my sister! You are the BEST tour guide in the world!!!Love you<3 I am so happy to meet you here! I'll come back soon!