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King University News :: Sign Up to Study Abroad in Malaysia and Thailand

Are you interested in studying the ecology of tropical islands and their diversity of animals and plant life? Are you are interested in the philosophies of Asian religions? King University’s Biology and Philosophy Departments are offering a course for the spring semester that will combine both biology and philosophy of Asia. The course culminates with a two-week trip - one week in Penang, Malaysia and one in Phuket, Thailand. The course and trip are open to any King student; the trip will take place May 13-28. 

Leading the trip will be Dr. Han Ong, dean of the King’s College of Arts and Sciences, who is from Penang, along with Dr. Craig Streetman, assistant professor of Philosophy.

“It is not just a biology trip,” says Ong. “Students will be living, eating, and mingling with people in Asia. The four semester-hour course, Tropical Ecology and Philosophy of Malaysia and Thailand, will couple the biology of the two islands with the Asiatic religions and philosophies of the islands.”

Interested students will need to both register for the spring semester class and pay a deposit by Dec. 1, 2013. The trip, which costs $3500, may be paid for in monthly installments. The cost covers round-trip airfare to Malaysia and Thailand, all accommodations, most transportation, all admission fees, and some meals.

Both islands have a variation in micro-climate. “The islands, which are at sea-level, have ocean front areas where there are particular types of biodiversity,” says Ong. “The islands also have mountains and hills with a variety of vegetation. There will be a lot of hiking, some swimming, and other fun activities on this trip.”

As part of the biological lessons, students will spend time snorkeling to study ocean life, swimming with sharks, observing coral life, and kayaking into limestone caves. Students will also travel to a tropical herb and spice garden as well as a butterfly farm to see how people are ‘growing’ butterflies. 

“We will be taking quite a few inner city walking tours,” adds Ong. “These two cities were, at some point in history, significant trading points for all shipping traffic in Asia. This brought in a host of different cultures including Arabic from the Middle East, and East Asian cultures from Japan and China. Penang and Phuket are a true melting pots of culture. Part of the in-class experience will include learning Asian cultural etiquettes.” 

The well-preserved heritage buildings in Penang’s capital, Georgetown, has been accorded Penang a listing as a United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Cultural Heritage Site. Many of the buildings are pre-WWI buildings, which have been restored.

The trips will include information about restoration, historical preservation, and also, the intermingling of different faiths. “It isn’t uncommon to see a church with a mosque right across the street. A few doors down there may be a Buddhist temple and a Hindu temple. Because the islands were trading posts, everything was concentrated into a small area,” says Han. “This is a chance for students, who otherwise might never have a chance, to step into a mosque and see what it is like.”

On the islands, we will also participate in a service project. “We want to inject some social justice into the trip. It is a privilege to travel that far, see the world, and pay it forward to someone who might be less fortunate than we are.”

For Han, he hopes students will see this experience in part as travel rather than a vacation. “Travel is a learning process. There is nothing better than to learn by meeting people, going where they live, and eating their food. At King, we have had individual students travel to South Korea for a study abroad trip. However, to my knowledge, this is the first trip of hopefully many for a group of students to study abroad in Southeast Asia.”

During their time in Malaysia and Thailand, students will write travel blogs detailing what they see, how they feel in comparisons to their lives in the United States.

If you are interested in the study abroad course, Tropical Ecology and Philosophy of Malaysia and Thailand, contact Dr. Han Ong at 423.652.6007 or, or Dr. Craig Streetman at 423.652.4158 or


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