Patrick Dowd

October 9, 2017

Where were you – and what did you do – during your PiA experience?

I was an Ajahn (teacher) of English language and literature at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Looking back, what was one of the most memorable or interesting experiences you had on PiA?

My most memorable experiences must be weekend motorbike trips with friends through the mountains in Northern Thailand. We would wake up early, drive fast all day long, pounding Thai energy drinks and noodles along the way, and then camp in the forest before waking up to do the same thing the next day. I still miss the feeling of freedom and expansiveness when you enter a long, flat paddy field after miles winding roads in the forest.

What are you up to now?

Since PIA, I have never really left Asia, though I moved from the Southeast to the Himalayas. After receiving a Fulbright, I lived with Tibetan communities in the Indian and Nepalese Himalayas for the next three years, studying Tibetan language, culture and education systems. In fall 2015, I began a master’s degree in international educational development from the University of Pennsylvania, which I completed just this August (my only stint in the US, punctuated by 6 months in Tibet and the Indian Himalayas). My coursework focused on indigenous education and language revitalization in Tibet and the Himalayas. I am currently writing from an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet, in the culturally Tibetan region of Ladakh, where I founded and am directing a project to produce a Tibetan/Ladakhi language ethical education children’s book for Ladakhi youth. You can read more about the project here.

How did your PiA experience influence your subsequent career and/or life path?

Immensely. Prior to PiA, I knew next to nothing about Southeast Asia. While this is ultimately not the region of Asia where I continue to work, I developed a deep love for the region that will continue to endure. My time with PiA was also the first living as an expat, a lifestyle that I have not managed to break for six years and counting.

In a word or phrase, what was one of the most important things you gained as a result of your PiA experience?

The importance of being gentle and understated, taught to me by my Thai friends and colleagues.

What advice would you give current PiA Fellows in the field?

Do a 10 day Vipassana retreat. See what it is like to be alone with just your thoughts and sensations for a week and a half. If you’re anything like me, you will learn you are a lot crazier than you thought. This stands to make you a more compassionate, understanding person.

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