We are on our first of three planes today, and could not be more excited to start this journey!! We have already had a pharmacy impact moment of the day when Erin asked for ibuprofen and the flight attendant brought her two packets labeled “extra strength non-aspirin” that each contained 1,000 mg of acetaminophen. Megan quickly goes, “That’s half your daily allotment!” We briefly explained the difference in the two medications and that while it was fine for us, they should ask future flyers if it is okay to substitute their request. It’s like only having Coke or Pepsi…it matters!
We left Atlanta at 9:00 EST on December 27th, 2014 and are en route to Detroit. From Detroit, we head to Tokyo and then finally arrive in Bangkok at 11:35 PM Thailand Time on December 28th, 2014. This is our only flight with WiFi, so we will check back in once we’re safely in Thailand!! For now though, we want to briefly detail how we got here.
PASSPORTS: Luckily, we each already had a passport, but this is definitely step one since it takes a few months to process. If you currently have a passport, ensure it will not expire within six months of your journey.
CONNECTIONS: The Thai people are incredibly welcoming, and it is very important to reach out to your preceptors as soon as possible. We sent an email introducing ourselves immediately after our rotation schedule was set through Auburn. This made planning much easier, for they helped us confirm dates and recommended good domestic travel options. They were also able to send us our itinerary for the rotation so we knew what we would be doing each day, as well as the academic expectations of the experience.
BOOKING FLIGHTS: We decided to book through Delta due to the reliable international travel service and availability of SkyMiles credit cards. We booked our tickets in October because flight plans are necessary for visa application and to register with Auburn Abroad. This was a super easy process, we simply searched the Delta website and found the times we liked the best! We used AirAsia to book our domestic flight from Bangkok to Khon Kaen, the airport close to Mahasarakham University. Note: the international airport in Thailand is BKK-Suvarnabhumi. The airport for domestic flights is DMK-Don Mueang.
AUBURN ABROAD: You will have to register with Auburn Aboard in order to have the International Pharmacy Practice Experience count for fourth year rotation credit hours. Additionally, they have lots of good insight to help you prepare for the trip! The application portal is through this website.
Once you log-in and select the course, you follow the steps until all the checkboxes are complete. There is a form that the Harrison School of Pharmacy Office of Experiential Learning will have to sign and send to the Auburn Abroad Office on your behalf. It will also state that there is an extra tuition fee, but you don’t have to pay this since we are in professional school (yayyy!).
TRAVEL INSURANCE: Auburn has an excellent medical coverage abroad through FrontierMEDEX that is included when you register for the program. You will need to print the insurance card from the website and ensure to keep it with you at all times. Note: If you decide to go to your destination early or stay after your pharmacy practice experience is complete, the Auburn coverage is not active. Be sure to look into coverage options or see if your current health insurance has international travel allowance.
U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: Auburn Abroad highly recommends (and we do too!) that you register with the U.S. State Department in case of emergency. You create an account and follow the steps to upload your travel plans. You will need your passport number and flight information for this as well. The website to register can be found here.
VISAS: Applying for a visa is a relatively quick process, but we still recommend completing this early! We applied for ours in mid-October and had them by the end of the month. You will need two official letters, one from Auburn and from Thailand, explaining your travel purposes. You will also need passport photos (can get these made at your local pharmacy J), an $80 money order, an official mailing envelope for them to return the visa to you (this costs $20), your flight information, and your passport. You mail all of these materials to the Embassy, and they return your passport with the visa stamp included in the prepaid official mailing envelope. We decided to only purchase a single-entry visa because we have so much we want to see in Thailand. However, you can purchase a multi-entry visa at a greater cost that will allow you to travel to surrounding countries as well.
MAKING PLANS: Once the administrative steps are complete, the fun can begin! We poured over the blogs of the Auburn students who have participated in this rotation in previous years in order to make our plans. This helped us figure out what hotels to stay at, what sites to see, what to pack, etc. We will post updates on our hotels and travel plans as we go. We hope this is helpful to all future students, and if you’re reading this in the future planning your trip feel free to contact us. We would love to be a part of your journey of a lifetime!
FINALLY…WHAT WE PACKED: We received a lot of awesome advice and Megan found some stellar blogs that helped us with packing. Checking Pintrest is also really helpful and gets those creative juices flowing. This was our favorite blog for packing. Ultimately, be sure to pack for warm weather but dress conservatively. We brought a lot of sundresses and cardigans, dress pants and tops, sandals, TOMS and/or Keds, and definitely a pair of tennis shoes. You do not need to bring towels and sheets as these are super cheap to buy there. We highly recommend bringing a neck pillow for the plane ride! We also brought a blanket because we like to be cozy and 13 hours across the ocean is a really long time. Thailand is a very hospitable country that is big on gifting, so be sure to bring thank you/welcoming presents for the preceptors and students. We brought Auburn-themed items to show our appreciation and to spread our family spirit. We also packed an Auburn flag to take pictures and guarantee some War Eagle moments. Finally, make sure to wash and bring your white coat!
Our plane is about to land in Detroit, so time to close the laptop. Stay tuned for more updates on our journey!!