“Anything Was Possible”

When Rachel Hanebutt ’15 decided to study in Thailand during Winter Term 2013, she chose the country because of the opportunity DePauw offered there, rather than because of the country itself.

“The idea of visiting international universities and gaining a critical view of American education appealed to me,” Rachel says. “Although I wasn’t a declared education studies and political science major yet, I knew the influence that education—as well as the politics involved—can have on a country, especially one like Thailand.” Looking back, she says, she would’ve chosen this “most beautiful place” just for the Thai culture and rich history of Buddhism.

Rachel applied for funds through the college and her sorority, and she considers herself “super lucky” that her trip was entirely paid for. The special memory that made the biggest impression on her was when she stood on top of a Buddhist temple outside Bangkok: “We traveled in a longboat for about an hour through the city in order to arrive at this place. Once at the top of the temple, which was covered in glittery glass and stones, we were able to see the entire area. The one photo I took from that spot has been my screensaver since I arrived back to campus. There’s just something about that moment that made me feel so comfortable and accepted. I felt like anything was possible and was able to soul search on the trip to find my true calling—something that was clouded by all the stress of the normal school day during regular semesters.”

When she left DePauw for Thailand, Rachel was a chemistry major; when she returned, she declared a double major in education studies and political science. “Even though it was only a short period of time,” Rachel says, “I was able to embrace the possibilities presented to me at DePauw, and to create my own future using my liberal arts education. Thailand taught me to follow my heart and also showed me the satisfaction that a future in education and teaching would give me. Working with students there—something I would not have been able to do on campus—inspired me to become an international student ambassador, global partner and TA for DePauw’s English immersion program. More important, my study abroad in Thailand inspired me to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant to go back and teach in a Thai classroom. If that’s not life-changing, I’m not sure what is!”

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