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SUBMITTED: Witnessing the Effects of Globalization as a Study Abroad Student

Sydney Windhorst

Proudly blasting “God Bless Texas,” the rhythmic stomping of cowboy boots reverberated through the heart of Chiang Mai, Thailand in celebration of the inaugural sister city partnership.

In the preparation for my study abroad to Thailand, I considered many scenarios but never one which featured cowboy hats, a sea of Texas and Thai flags and the sweet aroma of homemade apple pie.

On February 7th, Chiang Mai and Austin, Texas officially linked to one another in promotion of trade, investment and mutual benefit. The celebration hosted several notable speakers including Robert F. Godec, the US Ambassador to Thailand, and Nirat Phongsittithaworn, the governor of Chiang Mai. Both Thai and Texan musicians and dancers performed at the event and some attendees indulged in their first taste of pulled pork BBQ sandwiches.

The mission of Sister Cities International is simple: “to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time.”

President Dwight D Eisenhower founded the Sister Cities program in 1956 with the goal that cities from every corner of the earth share ideas, innovation, friendship and cultural understanding. Now, there are over 500 US cities fostering relationships with over 145 countries.

The Sister City partnership between Chiang Mai and Austin reflects the long friendship between Thailand and the United States. Thailand is the US’s oldest Asian ally. Their relationship is nearly two centuries old and has seen great developments in security, economy as well as Thailand’s transition into democracy.

Earlier the same day, Ambassador Godec visited Chiang Mai University for the official opening of its “American Corner.” This designated space serves as a celebration of culture and diversity and an avenue for American students to assimilate into the Thai collegiate student body.

Pongruk Sribanditmongkol, the President of Chiang Mai University, invited the other University Study Abroad Consortium (USAC) students and I to join the grand opening of

the American Corner. Here, Ambassador Godec spoke on the importance of cultural interconnection, the United State’s view on China on the global stage and the beauty of US Thai partnerships.

Challenged by the opinion of some that the US imposes its international will and denigrates the culture of others, Ambassador Godec likened American foreign policy to a tapestry. He explained that interweaving the threads of different customs, ideas, ideologies, and goods is necessary to create a strong, beautiful tapestry. Globalization does not dominate or destroy but compliment and fortify.

“Thai culture is strong. American culture is strong. We are better together by sharing our uniqueness” Ambassador Gorec said.

Following the ceremonial ribbon cutting, Ambassador Gorec and students painted traditional Thai fans and umbrellas, a historical symbol of Thailand and royalty.

Ambassador Gorec implored all students to approach new cultures with a perspective that prioritizes learning, listening and building bridges. He stressed how vital it is that the new generations investigate and protect the diversity of people around them.

While I believe there is no better way to follow the Ambassador’s instructions than studying abroad, you do not have to leave Bowling Green to receive international exposure. In fact, Bowling Green is sister cities with Kawanishi, Japan. Bowling Green also receives the largest amount of refugees per capita in the nation. Our city has a rich and vibrant international community that students ought to plug into. It is only by assuming this global mindset and growing one’s own intercultural competency that they can productively understand and participate in the world.

Students interested in finding a study abroad experience that fits their needs should contact the WKU Study Abroad and Global Learning Office at Students interested in learning about or serving Bowling Green’s refugee community should contact the International Center at or Refuge BG at

Sydney Windhorst is a third generation Hilltopper from Crestwood, Kentucky studying International Affairs, Journalism Writing and Political Science. She has spent two semesters studying abroad in Florence, Italy and Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is committed to national and international civil service and is a 2023-2024 intern for both US Central Command under the Department Of Defense and The Office of East Asian and Pacific Affairs under the Department of State. Sydney can be contacted at [email protected]

If you would like to submit a reaction to a piece, Letter to the Editor or other submission, please send it to commentary editor Price Wilborn at [email protected] or [email protected].

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