Catharina Rudschies (21), a German second-year student of European Studies who has seen 9 per cent of the world.
After graduating from high school, Catharina Rudschies chose to go on a big trip. “I spent three months in Thailand, six in Australia and a few weeks in Singapore and London. I actually wanted to go to Japan, but the Fukushima nuclear disaster had just happened. I thought about doing voluntary work there, but it was too dangerous.”
She became interested in Thailand after meeting some people on a plane. “My sister lives in Australia. I had visited her before and on that trip I flew with Thai Airways. The Thai people I met were so friendly and helpful. When I got home I started reading about the country and the culture. I wanted something different, to go to a non-Western country.” She could only stay for three months because of her visa. “With a work visa you can stay longer, but it’s very hard to get one. So I went to Perth, where my sister lives, and worked as a waitress. When I had saved some money, I travelled the east coast. Melbourne is my favourite city. It has many small lanes with street art and small shops; there’s so much to discover.”
Although Rudschies had a great time in Australia, Thailand is the country that really impressed her. “I travelled through the country, but I also lived with Thai people during a language course. They showed me places I never would have found on my own and included me in their everyday life; their rituals, the places they eat. There’s a massive food culture – everywhere you go, you eat.”
She also stayed in a Buddhist temple for a few days. “I read about someone doing that in a book and I thought: ‘let’s try it’. So I just went to the temple and asked. They were very surprised but said okay.” According to Rudschies, life in a temple is not as relaxing as it may sound: “Your day starts at 3.30 am. Through the day you meditate, chant [praying and singing –Ed.] and do community work. You only get one meal a day: breakfast. It’s very exhausting; you’re sitting in the same position for hours. I’d meditated before, but only for twenty minutes or so at a time.” She learned a lot in Thailand. “Especially to be patient. I was very impatient before, but in Thailand it’s considered weak to show strong emotions.”