Maira Salim and classmates return with hands-on public health education from Thailand trip led by Professor Robson.

July 20, 2023

As a public health scientist and professor at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Mark Robson prefers taking his students out in the field, which happens to involve a two-week trip to Thailand.

After a three-year pandemic pause during which the program was conducted remotely, Robson has resumed his annual service-learning visit to the southeastern Asian nation known for its universal health care system.

Maira Salim, an incoming senior pursuing a major in public health and a minor in biological sciences, said the trip to Thailand was an incredible experience.

“It provided me with a unique opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture, gain valuable insights, and broaden my perspectives,” said Salim, an Edison resident attending the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences as well as the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. “I was struck by the remarkable nature of the country’s health care system and the dedication of its government in ensuring the well-being of its populace.”

Salim added: “The class itself was engaging and thought-provoking, allowing me to explore various aspects of Thai society, history and traditions. I had the chance to interact with local communities, visit historical sites and learn from distinguished public health workers. Overall, it was a truly enriching educational journey.” 

Robson said there are a few crucial notions he hopes his students take back from their trip to Thailand.

“The first one is I want them to understand it’s a just a very different culture,” the professor said. “I want them to understand this whole Eastern thought process. The second thing is I want them to experience a society that is so skewed more toward rural people and the agricultural component. The third thing is I want them to see what universal health care looks like.” 

Salim said that “one of the most remarkable aspects of studying abroad is the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to real-world situations.”

She encouraged other students to experience a different culture than their own and gain a global perspective.

“By stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing unfamiliar environments, you’ll develop resilience, independence and a greater sense of self,” Salim said. “You’ll learn to navigate different cultural norms, overcome challenges and build connections with people from all walks of life. The friendships you form and the cultural exchange you engage in will shape your character and broaden your perspective on the world.” 

Read the full article on Rutgers Today, July 18, 2023

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