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Transformation of Group Dynamics, Hannah C. Ratliff

A huge part of CIEE Development and Globalization program in Thailand is centered on teamwork. Throughout our first four units all 14 of us students had the opportunity to facilitate the learning process within our student group.  We’ve gradually been learning how to work as a fluid unit by utilizing one another’s strengths and acknowledging one another’s weaknesses. However, throughout the semester I’ve noticed our student body assumes different dynamics between being in a village or being in a city. 

Throughout units 1-4 and for a short period in unit 5, we stayed within villages that were being affected by the specific environmental issue we were studying at the time.  We stayed in villagers’ homes either by ourselves or with a partner. We all became part of the village family. Although there are many times in the village that you’re with solely your family, there are also a number of times you’re with the entire community, for instance: 

Tractor-ing up mountains in U’moong


Touring caves in Huay Ra Hong


Visiting temples in Na Sami


Singing and dancing in U’Moong


Partaking in ceremonies in U’Moong


Or merely eating communal meals in Huay Ra Hong


It is very easy to feel like your part of a larger family while staying in the villages; almost every person knows one another; children run in and out of houses, and entire families live on the same road. In my opinion, the community’s stays bring out the best in not only individuals but also our group as a whole. The villagers taught us what family meant to them and in that process aided us in creating a student family. 

The student-villager family is something I look forward to for every unit, thus when I learned while in Chiang Mai on unit 5 we would be staying in a hotel majority of the visit I was a little bummed. 

Staying in the hotel ended up being the perfect given the location of our unit, however the student dynamic was altered. We functioned just as we would have in Khon Kaen: we got our work done during “classroom” time and did our own thing for most of the other time. In the villages we always ate meals with our families or with the entire village, in Chiang Mai, like KKU, we went out and bought most of our own meals individually or with a small group of friends. At nighttime in the village we’re usually sleeping or on rare occasions having a community celebration, but when nighttime came about in Chiang Mai half the student group was out at the bars while the other half was in watching movies or the news. Although it was very different from most units it worked well because we were in such a touristy spot. We were able to be a strong group but still see attractions around the city individually.

The change that came with moving from units in the village to a unit in the city was the dynamics of our unit. As I see it, we function as a family within each village and purely as a student group in Chiang Mai and most other places.

*** CIEE DG Fall 2013, Unit 5: Comparative Study ***


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