The Asia Experience

PROVO, Utah – Jun 19, 2019 – During the 2019 spring term, BYU Marriott experience design and management student Lindsey Sampson river rafted in Thailand, visited the great mountains of Nepal, and climbed the Great Wall of China—all for school credit. For Sampson, the ExDM program’s first-ever study abroad was the trip of a lifetime.

When former BYU Marriott associate professor Stacy Taniguchi first announced the debut of the ExDM program’s study abroad trip to Asia, Sampson couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend. She dreamed of travelling the world ever since she was young. “I absolutely have to go,” Sampson remembers deciding in that moment.

Sampson, along with twelve of her peers, began preparations for the monthlong excursion. But the students didn’t just pack their bags—they also played a role in planning the trip’s activities. Each student was assigned two cities to research. “We were in charge of double-checking the itinerary, finding out where the nearest food places and hospitals were, and figuring out transportation,” Sampson recalls. “We compiled a book of all that information along with historic and government information too.”

The group gathered at the Salt Lake City airport and flew to Bangkok where the adventures began. “We rode elephants, visited the Grand Palace, and rafted down the River Kwai, which was incredible,” Sampson says. “And what surprised me was how easy it was to connect with the people. They treated us so kindly.” Despite language barriers, the group felt at ease in a foreign country due to their warm interactions with the locals. The trip was off to a promising start.

The ExDM group then flew to Kathmandu, Nepal, where they toured the famous Swayambhunath (Monkey) Temple and went on a sightseeing flight over Mount Everest and the Himalayas. Over the course of one month, the students would travel to five Asian countries—Thailand, Nepal, China, South Korea, and Japan—and visit over ten different cities. Taniguchi, the director of the study abroad, stood back and let the students take lead.

They visited museums, toured imperial palaces, found a floating shrine, and enjoyed top Asian cuisine. The students also spent time on business visits to better understand the hospitality, tourism, events, cultural sites, sports, and economies of different countries. The trip concluded in Hawaii, where they surfed, toured the Polynesian Cultural Center, and decompressed beach-side.

Through experiencing and witnessing different cultures across the world, the group learned valuable lessons about life. "The trip made me realize that my happiness has almost nothing to do with my circumstances,” Sampson says, “and everything to do with who I am and what I choose to focus on.”

Out of all of the sights and adventures, Sampson says that visiting the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum in Japan changed her life more than anything. The museum depicted the effects of the bomb through images, text, video, and interactive experiences. “Being at that museum made me feel upset and scared, which motivated me to try to understand what the Japanese people went through immediately after and in the years following the incident,” Sampson reflects. “I realized that putting aside any differences we might have had in past wars or conflicts, along with recognizing the value of each country and its people, is extremely important.”

As an ExDM student, Sampson knew what made the museum so memorable: it evoked emotion. Sampson explains that the ExDM program teaches students that transformative experiences require emotion. "As we went through the museum, we had a lot of discussions between group members about what we thought and how we were feeling,” Sampson recalls. “Reflecting with my peers in that setting was a transformational experience for me.”

Moving forward, Sampson dreams of organizing travel experiences for others. “I would like to get involved with VIP travel—taking small groups to different countries, similar to what we did on the ExDM study abroad,” she says. “I want to continue to create transformational experiences.”

Sampson believes that this year’s study abroad has laid the foundation for a legacy of life-changing trips for ExDM students in the years to come. “I hope that BYU Marriott continues to provide opportunities to interact with the people of Asia, as there is so much to learn from them,” she says. “The students who go on the trip next year have a lot to look forward to."

BYU Marriott students in Nepal
BYU Marriott students in Nepal. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Sampson.
BYU Marriott students in Hong Kong.
BYU Marriott students in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Sampson.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Erika Magaoay