Dr. Powell’s May Term Trip to Thailand Part II

In Part I, we talked about the more academic side of the trip and some differences noticed between cultures. In Part II of the Thailand May Term, we will discuss the more inherently fun and less academic parts of the trip, because, even though this was a class, it was still an experience of a lifetime.

For Dr. Darcey Powell, in addition to the conversations the group had with locals, her two favorite experiences were the Muay Thai boxing class and their day as mahouts:

[…] In the Muay Thai boxing class, we learned about that style of boxing and practiced the techniques. As mahouts, we learned how to take care of elephants with respect to feeding and bathing, as well as how to ride elephants, and then put what we learned into practice with our own elephant for the day.

Dr. Darcey Powell

Students’ experiences as mahouts at the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai was definitely one of the most favorite and memorable experiences of the trip, as Peyton Holahan ’19 recounts:

We spent the entire day playing with and learning about elephants. It really does not get much better than that in my opinion. We were greeted in the morning by the director of Patara who explained their mission as an elephant sanctuary focused on educating individuals about the health and well-being of these beautiful animals. Each person got assigned an elephant (or two) to spend the day with and it was pure magic. I was one of the lucky ones to get assigned both a mom elephant and her two-year-old baby. They told us that they assigned the elephants based on our personalities but I am certainly not planning on having kids anytime soon. I learned how to groom, feed, and bathe my elephants. Bathing them was by far the most fun because this involved getting on their backs and scrubbing them with a brush in the river. This was also really refreshing because Thailand’s climate is HOT.

A group picture interrupted by cuteness at Patara Elephant Sanctuary, picture courtesy of Dr. Powell

Along with our elephants we were partnered with mahouts who are the elephants’ caretakers and trainers. Our mahouts assisted us throughout the day in helping us ride the elephants and showing us how to take care of them. Patara is such a unique elephant sanctuary in Thailand in that they do not cage the elephants but rather let them roam freely because their mission is focused on recovery, reproduction, and reintroduction of elephants into the wild. Patara is one of the most humane elephant farms in Thailand for that reason and I am so glad that Dr. Powell chose this once in lifetime opportunity for us all to experience.

Holahan ’19

Sarah Hughes agrees with Holahan, giving her own description of her experience at the elephant farm.

I had been looking forward to going to the elephant farm since I had signed up for the trip, so I was tremendously thrilled when I found out that we each would have our own elephant for the day. We had the opportunity to feed our elephant sugar cane and bananas, inspect them for good health, bathe them, and ride them for their daily walk. I quickly learned that elephants like to eat a lot and eat quickly. This was because every time I would feed my elephant she would get mad at me and start to yell because I was not feeding her enough at a time and not quick[ly] enough. We then had the chance to speak to them in Thai and make sure they had slept properly the night before and were happy and healthy.

The next part was my favorite part of the trip. […] We had the opportunity to scrub them and play in the water with each of our elephants. It was interesting to see that some of the elephants really liked the water and others did not. Afterwards we rode our elephants to lunch. This ride was not what I was expecting, as we rode for thirty minutes straight up a mountain and only had a rope to hold on to.

Dr. Powell and a baby elephant, courtesy of Dr. Powell

Molly Zydel ’19 seconded the opinions of her fellow students, adding that:

The trip as a whole was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience out of the country. As for favorite parts of the trip, I absolutely adored our time in Chaing Mai. The city was gorgeous, and not near[ly] as overwhelming as Bangkok was. It reminded me a lot of home, which is why I think I loved it so much. While we were in that city, we also had an excursion where we got to be elephant care takers for a day. We each had our own elephant and we got to feed them, bathe them, and ride them. That day was phenomenal. It feels so surreal, even though I have pictures to prove it happened.

Zydel ’19

Hughes also mentioned a number of other fun activities that students were able to experience.

Some other things we did during the trip were visiting many temples all over Thailand, including the Grand Palace. We went to an adventure park at our hotel in Phetchabun, which is in the mountains, visited a factory, and went to Koh Samui, which is a gorgeous island in Thailand. We also were able to take a Muay Thai Boxing class, go to a rooftop restaurant, explore local night markets, and speak with monks.

Molly Zydel described her experience in Thailand as

[…] phenomenal. […] I could say so many things, but they all lead back to the statement of if you get the chance to travel abroad like this, do it. You won’t regret it. Even if it scares you half to death, do it. You find out somewhere in the middle of all of it that the experience is more exhilarating and eye-opening than it is scary. You change so much as a result of spending 3 weeks in another country that has such a different culture. Thailand was amazing. I just want to go back.

Ultimately, as Kiah Coflin ’19 concludes,

There are only so many aspects of a culture you can learn through a classroom […] [as seeing things] first hand teaches lessons better than any textbook ever can.


To see more pictures, go here to the official Facebook for the Thailand May Term. If you haven’t read the first part of the Thailand blog post, click here.

Thank you to everyone who helped with this post and were willing to write and submit pictures.


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Dr. Powell’s May Term to Thailand Part I

Twelve students from multiple disciplines, including psychology, went to Thailand this past summer with psychology professor, Dr. Darcey Powell to study emerging adulthood as part of a May Term program at Roanoke College.

Over the course of three weeks, students were able to compare the empirical articles they had read before departure with their own experiences as they traveled across Thailand to cities including Bangkok, Phetchabun, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui. While there, they discussed cultural similarities and differences with local emerging adults in Thailand. By traveling from city to city, students were able to see how socioeconomic settings and geography affect the lives of different emerging Thai adults.

As Peyton Holahan ’19 recalls,

The readings for our May Term were really interesting and relevant to the cultures and places we encountered. The topics in our readings varied from the collectivist[…] ideals in Thai society, to the importance of education, to the role of the transgender community in Thailand. Almost every day, we would have group discussions about our assigned readings and consider how the readings related to what we experienced or could possibly experience in our daily ventures.

Holahan ’19

When asked to talk about one of the most interesting parts of their trip, multiple students talked about their visit to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok where they were able to interact with Thai students. Through talking one-on-one with each other and asking questions about their social and academic lives, they came to realize that perhaps they were not so different after all.

Holahan describes how her group quickly learned that social media plays a huge role in Thai student’s everyday lives, just as media does in the United States. In fact, because of the interactions with the Chulalongkorn students, Ms. Holahan came to realize that:

[…]the Thai students in Bangkok had very similar lives to our own in that most of them were working towards getting a degree and were still financially dependent on their parents. Spending the day at Chula and getting to know Thai students on a personal level completely contradicted my initial belief that our cultures were so far apart.

Sarah Hughes ’19 also mentioned her experiences talking with the psychology graduate students at Chulalongkorn University.

[…] It was funny[;] the first question they asked was about our current president and our political systems. They did not understand that our political system creates conflicts because in Thailand everyone worships the Royal Family. […] One conversation that stood out to me was when a student asked if our traffic jams in the U.S. only lasted approximately thirty minutes. I thought this was a strange question, but I shortly learned that it is easier to walk somewhere than drive because traffic jams can last for three hours.

Sarah Hughes ’19

Molly Zydel ’19 noted that for all the similarities, Thai and USA cultures are fundamentally different.

Thai culture is very different from US culture, in so many ways. First off, it is a collectivist[…] culture, meaning they emphasize the collective whole rather than the individual. This was observed in many ways, but especially in the way they treated each other. I never once saw a Thai person yelling. Thai people are also much more conservative. They don’t really like talking about themselves. 

Molly Zydel ’19

This was most noticeable during the talk with graduate students from Chulalongkorn University, as Zydel continued on to say.

[…] As Americans, we were much more open to answering questions about ourselves, but when we asked them questions, the Thai students often struggled in speaking up to answer them, especially when we asked questions that were uncomfortable in the first place (e.g. we asked about sex outside of marriage and if it happened, and that question clearly made them uncomfortable).

Through their traveling, students were further exposed to various ways of thinking about life and their own culture. For Sarah Hughes ’19, the first few moments in Thailand were a startling contrast with her home in Maryland.

As soon as we landed in Bangkok I noticed many differences. For starters[,] the airport was half-inside and half-outside. We had been traveling for 23 hours in nice cold air conditioning and the second you stepped into the airport it felt like 100 degrees or more because of the humidity. Before our trip, everyone had told us to prepare for the heat but none of us expected it to be as hot and as humid as it was. I am from Maryland near Washington D.C. and I thought I knew what humidity was, but oh[,] I was wrong. The humidity in Thailand was something I have never experienced before.

Sarah Hughes ’19

Later, Ms. Hughes began to notice something else about the differences between the United States of America and Thailand.

In the United States we tend to separate poor areas from the rich areas, but in Thailand you will have a gorgeous temple that the Rama (king) built next to shacks that people live in. It stood out to me because you would have thousands of tourist[s] admiring these stunning buildings and next door are [the homeless] or people that live in a small shack without running water.

These observations fall in line with the readings, as Peyton Holahan noted…

I remember leading a group discussion on two readings about the importance of social class in society. These readings directly related to our experiences because it was clear that social class in Thai society affected the paths of Thai emerging adults as to whether they got an education or started working at a young age to support themselves. Social class was a key factor in many of the places we visited because we witnessed higher social classes in urban areas like Bangkok.

In cities like Bangkok, education was emphasized for emerging adults because they were in an urban setting with plenty of accessible resources that stressed academic goals for better jobs and opportunities. On the other hand, we also witnessed the extent of lower social classes in more rural areas like Phetchabun. In such areas, emerging adults usually resorted to working at young ages to support their families instead of pursuing higher education because it was rarely an option within their socioeconomic sphere.

In addition to these observations and experiences, students were also able to have some fun as well. Continue to part II to learn about some of the student’s and professor’s favorite parts of the trip, including getting to spend the day with elephants.


To see more pictures of the trip, click here to go to the official RC May Term Facebook Page.

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Congratulations to Dr. Powell and Dr. FVN on their Manuscript Acceptances!

The Psychology Department would like to congratulate Dr. Powell and Dr. Findley-Van Nostrand on getting their manuscripts accepted for publishing this semester!

Dr. Powell has published two articles this semester. The first was in conjunction with Elizabeth Babskie and Aaron Metzger, titled “Variability in Parenting Self-Efficacy Across
Prudential Adolescent Behaviors” and can be found here.

The second article, titled “Prospective Parents’ Knowledge About Parenting and Their Anticipated Child-Rearing Decisions,” has received special promotion by the National Council of Family Relations as one of the five “early view” articles from their journals for October, and was co-written with Dr. Katherine Karraker of West Virginia University.

Dr. Findley-Van Nostrand has also had a manuscript acceptance for her article on  “Affective-interpersonal and impulsive-antisocial psychopathy: Links to social goals and forms of aggression in youth and adults”,  which is co-authored with Tiina Ojanen, a professor at the University of South Florida, and will be published in the journal Psychology of Violence.

For Dr. FVN’s description of her article and findings, please follow this link.

Again, congratulations to both professors on their recent article acceptances!

Congratulations to the New Members of Phi Beta Kappa!

We are incredibly proud and excited to announce that four psychology students were recently accepted as new members to Phi Beta Kappa, the United State’s most prestigious honor society for the liberal arts and sciences.

When asked how they felt about their acceptance, students replied:

“I’m so honored to be accepted into Phi Beta Kappa and be recognized for my accomplishments at Roanoke!” – Megan Miller ’18

“When I found out I got Phi Beta Kappa I was very excited and proud of myself. I have worked very hard over these past years and it’s an honor to be recognized for it.” – Taylor Kracht ’18

“I am honored to learn my Roanoke Professors nominated me for Phi Beta Kappa. Acceptance into this honor society is especially meaningful because it recognizes the broad array of pursuits that I have had the good fortune to enjoy at RC.” – Laura Sullivan ’18.

Congratulations to Megan Miller ’18, Laura Sullivan ’18, Taylor Kracht ’18, and Sabrina McAllister ’18! We are incredibly proud of you and look forward to seeing what you will accomplish in the future!


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Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention

On Saturday, October 7th, 2017, Roanoke College hosted an Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk. Students, professors, locals, and students from other universities all participated in the walk.

Thank you to everyone who came on Saturday!