14 kilometers up a mountain. 7 hours. 10,000 other freshman students.

I was able to take part in a long held tradition that many students look forward to for years: the Freshman trek up Doi Suthep, also deemed, ‘the long walk.’ Over the course of 7 hours, 10,000 of us walked, ran, danced, and sprinted our way up a mountain all the way to the most important temple in Chiang Mai. I have never experienced anything like it. Streams and streams of freshman students walked together, often hand in hand, and all in matching dress with their faculty, all ecstatic to be taking part in this amazing tradition. And the best part may have been the cheering for each and every senior that passed by, waking down the mountain as their right of passage.

One of my fellow exchange students pointed out, ‘Can you imagine any college in America doing something like this? Either no one would show up or they’d all show up drunk,’ and I regrettably had to agree with her. It was sad to think about how our culture doesn’t seem to value traditions like this one. I was trying to think of anything that we do at UA that everyone genuinely wants to take part in, and nearly everything involved many students being intoxicated. Not to say an Alabama football game isn’t a valuable and irreplaceable experience, it’s just done differently.

But realizing that difference just made me appreciate the trek that much more, because I knew I’d never be able to take part in anything like it ever again. And with every crazy and traditional costumed faculty gathering at the summit, my smile grew wider, and I knew this was the experience I had come to Thailand for.