About Me

Hi there and welcome! I’m looking forward to sharing my experience with you (Summer 2019)

Hello! My name is Margaret Totten – I’m a currently junior at Kalamazoo College (K) in Kalamazoo, Michigan studying Computer Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Studies. I’m from the beautiful little town of Hood River, Oregon. Growing up surrounded by mountains, forests, rivers and endless hiking trails, I’ve always had a deep appreciation for nature and loved getting outside. Whenever I wasn’t in school, playing sports, or working with my robotics team, I was hiking somewhere new with my dog, cross country skiing, or jumping into a swimming hole. After graduating high school I was eager for a new place to explore, so I decided to move to Kalamazoo for college where I’ve had my fair share of new adventures – studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand is my biggest adventure yet!

Since starting college, I’ve gotten to take diverse classes ranging from computer science and math to anthropology and Spanish. While I’m majoring in Computer Science, I’ve enjoyed taking classes outside my major and have become really interested in how I can apply Computer Science and Math to engage with environmental intersections. Apart from classes, I’ve participated in several student groups and worked a few different jobs. I’ve participated in clubs including the Harry Potter club, the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and others related to STEM. My sophomore year I was a leader of ECO, helping to bring more environmentally friendly practices to campus educate the student body about sustainability. LandSea, K’s 18 day backpacking pre-orientation program in the Adirondacks, illuminated my love for the outdoors during my first year, and again as a trip leader my sophomore year. Also during my time at K, I’ve worked in several positions including an overnight host for the Admissions office, a student computer consultant for Information Technology Services, and as a tutor and mentor at the after school program at a local elementary school.

Hiking at one of my favorite local trails, Tawanamas Falls! (Summer 2018)

I’m really excited to study abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the fall and winter quarters of my junior year. I chose the Chiang Mai program at K because it focuses on environmental sustainability and social justice – two subjects I love engaging with. I’m also excited for the opportunity to learn Thai and explore new places. Along with study abroad, I’m also a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship program, which encourages recipients to create a project that reflects their interests and their relationship to their respective study abroad programs. Because of my interest in Computer Science, I’ve decided to maintain this website as part of my project. As part of the scholarship program, I hope to share my experiences and promote study abroad to others. Throughout my time in Chiang Mai, I’ll be writing updates, sharing my pictures, and reflecting upon all that I will learn while overseas.

About this Website

Background: As mentioned above, I’m maintaining this website for my service project for the Gilman Scholarship – for more information about the Gilman program, check out “The Gilman Scholarship” page on the top menu. I chose to create this website because as a Computer Science student, I wanted to build experience with websites, and this seemed like a great opportunity to do so! Originally, I planned to make this website from scratch using HTML and JavaScript code. After working on the website for a while, I decided that my website was going to need more time than I had to spend working on it . In late July, I switched my website to use a template and platform from WordPress. I still get to utilize some Computer Science through maintaining the CSS file, however, using WordPress seems like a more practical approach for while I am abroad.

Purpose: I’ve created this website with specific purposes in mind. I’m glad to use it to share my experiences with friends, family, and others. However, I’ve intentionally created my project to promote study abroad in less traditional countries and to break down some assumptions and barriers that prevent students from studying abroad. Upon sharing where I was applying to study abroad, some people encouraged me to go somewhere “safe” or somewhere that uses a “useful” language. Comments like these reflect harmful assumptions that many Americans hold about non-Western countries. By documenting my study abroad experiences, I will challenge many of these assumptions and help people see value in studying in less traditional places. Also, by using myself as an example, I hope to show other students that study abroad can be obtainable even if they experience barriers. Along with this website, I will be giving presentations when I’m back on campus in spring 2020 to further my purpose.

What to Expect from this Website: You can expect to see several things from this website. For the six months I’m in Chiang Mai, I’ll upload photos and post a blog-like entry. My blog entries will have highlights from each week that will likely include some of the curriculum, outings I’ve gone on, and my general thoughts. Along with weekly updates, you can also find a lot of information on this website. On the top menu, you can find information about the Gilman program and what the Pre-Departure process was like for me. Lastly, the “Contact” page has contact information for me and also contains links to other contacts.

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