IUP Exchange Students Feel Right at Home at Kasetsart

At 23, Oliver Busch is already a citizen of the world.  Actually, he’s a citizen of Germany, but he’s spending a semester at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, and that’s just the beginning of his global plans. 

After he gets his bachelor’s degree back at Koblenz University of Applied Sciences, Oliver plans to find an internship in another country.  After the internship, his plan calls for master’s degree study, in yet another country.  

After that, he’ll look for an engineering job, and he doesn’t much care where he finds one, as long as it’s somewhere new to him and interesting.  “When I am young, it is no problem to live in many countries,” he says. “When I am old—maybe 30—I will stay in one country to raise a family.”  Not necessarily Germany or Thailand, though. More likely somewhere he hasn’t even imagined yet.

Oliver comes from Lahnstein, a small town in the western part of Germany.  In Koblenz, a bigger city nearby where he attends university, Oliver’s friend, Lukasz raved about an unforgettable semester he spent in Bangkok, at Kasetsart.  “It sounded very nice,” says Oliver with wry German understatement, and so last July, he arrived in Bangkok. 

He found the Thai students very welcoming. “We became friends very fast. They invited me to play football with them.  I go with them to pubs or clubs.”

The 23 year-old credits Kasetsart’s International Undergraduate Program (IUP)with strengthening his knowledge of English.  IUP’s engineering programs are all taught in English. “I wasn’t a good English speaker before I came to Thailand,” Oliver says.  “Now, after five months, when I talk to German guys, I still think in German, but when I talk to English-speaking people, I think in English. “It’s a very good side effect.”

Oliver is studying mechanical engineering and international business at Kasetsart, but being the footloose guy he is, he is also exploring every corner of Thailand.  He’s traveled through the southern regions of the country; he celebrated Loy Krathong—the lunar festival of lights and flowers—in Chiang Mai; and he’s gone scuba diving at Koh Bon.  Scuba diving is a newly acquired passion. Oliver had never dived in Germany.  Now he’s earned two diving licenses and is eager to go back to work on his third. 

Renato Panic can’t find the time to do that much traveling.  An electrical engineering student from the Technical University of Vienna in Austria, he is taking seven courses during his exchange semester at Kasetsart.  Besides three electrical engineering courses, he is taking mechanical engineering, software engineering, economics and humanities—a required Thai conversation course.

But Renato is perfectly happy staying in Bangkok.  “I’m more a big city guy,” he says. “Why go to a jungle, where all you see is vegetables and snakes?”

Renato, 24, always wanted to study outside Austria.  His university has collaborations with other European universities, but Asia and the United States beckoned.  “I didn’t want to study in Europe,” he says. “I am already European.”

He looked into universities in China, but he couldn’t find any with excellent engineering programs. Then, at a Study Abroad Day at his university in Vienna, he heard about Kasetsart and its Faculty of Engineering’s IUP program.  He did some homework and learned that Kasetsart’s engineering programs have a good reputation in Asia, and the university isn’t as expensive as some of the others he was considering.  

When he got to Bangkok, Renato says he found that people who are good in English were very friendly.  But his first impression made him nervous. “When I first got to campus, I asked 20 people in a row where is the Faculty of Engineering, and not one of them understood what I was saying,” he recalls.

Once he met the English-speaking students in IUP, Renato says he felt welcome. “There are not many big differences between us,” he says.  “Our sense of humor is the same.”

At first, Renato says, he liked Thai food.  But after five months, he finds himself thinking, “rice and noodles again?  I miss cheese and schnitzel,” he confesses.  “I see a nice piece of schnitzel (a breaded meat cutlet), and I say, ‘I want that.’  Then they are cutting it into rice, and I am saying ‘No, NO!’”

So now Renato has experienced his semester in Asia, and he has enjoyed it thoroughly. The US is still on his agenda.  “Maybe for my master’s degree,” he says.

Interviewed by Ms Jennifer Donovan, a Fulbright Specialist.
November 27,2013