Thailand Student Reflection: Mindy Ussrey
Global Field Program student Mindy Ussrey shares experiences and memories of her 2022 Earth Expeditions: Thailand course.
“Even now, 4 months after returning from Thailand, I am still reflecting and sharing my experience with my loved ones and friends. I have created a formal presentation that I have now given to family groups, to my entire workplace, and in a few weeks, I will be sharing with my hometown church group. It is an experience that meant so much to me, but I get to spread the love to others.
One of the things that stood out to me that I overcame on this trip is traveling across the world alone. This is by far the longest trip I have ever taken, let alone by myself! Accomplishing that task makes me proud, since I had to traverse other languages, cultures, and governments while getting from Buffalo to Bangkok. If he were here, my husband would be super proud of me, and my son IS proud of me! I think making this trip is a great example to my son on how to make things happen for yourself if you really really want them to happen. I am a stronger mother, and can share my strength with my son.
The activities that we did while in Thailand all stand out, however I think the hands-on activities, planting organic rice and replanting trees in the forest, were honestly some of the most powerful moments. In our culture, everything is so mass produced, and we lose that connection to how our food originates. And replanting the burned forest with the monks looking on, and using our hands to replenish the earth feels like nothing else. Being a part of the solution made me feel more powerful. Not only did we use our hands in those activities, those were some moments during the trip where the group of students were able to talk, learn more about each other, laugh, and just be real.
Of course, probably the biggest highlight of my whole life is seeing the elephant in Khao Yai National Park. Having dedicated a lot of my life so far to elephant management and conservation, this was seriously a bucket list moment! Seeing a wild elephant that closely, watching him do his natural behaviors, and seeing him almost unphased by the passing cars and spectators was incredible. I almost gave up hope that we would see an elephant while at Khao Yai, even though we were seeing all sorts of signs of elephants-poop, tracks, footprints. So that bull made me so happy!
I think ultimately, just slowing down, taking the time to appreciate nature again, to look inside myself and find who I am again, was a precious gift that I brought back with me. The whole Dragonfly Program experience so far has really brought out my true self, and made me a stronger and more experienced person. It has solidified what direction I want to go in my life, and is giving me a much richer tool box for my future.
Finally, the lifelong friendships that I made on this amazing journey is something special. I knew I would make connections, but the deep, meaningful friendships that I came away with are just amazing. I thank all of my fellow classmates for being so awesome and willing to share your lives with me too!”
Learn more about our Earth Expeditions course: Thailand: Buddhism & Conservation