I've Had the Time of My Life and I Owe it All to You, Chiang Mai Past Review

By (Salem College) - abroad from 08/09/2016 to 12/17/2016 with

The Education Abroad Network (TEAN): Thailand - Semester in Chiang Mai

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Where do I start? I learned about the costs of Western influence and the tourism industry, the effects of a long-term refugee crisis and the dynamics of a Buddhist state. I also learned a lot about my personal travel style and tested my socializing skills.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

We took classes through Chiang Mai University, but they were classes offered solely for international students. Classes were slightly easier than courses at my home school, but not by much: weekly readings, a few short papers and a few debate/presentations. The professors are really interesting people with great contacts in Thailand, so there’s easy access to other awesome guest speakers. We also went on a lot of academic field trips, especially related to border issues with Burma and Laos. Those provided us a rich comparison of political issues and cultures, as well as some of my best meals in Thailand.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I can’t complain about administration at all. Before arriving in Chiang Mai, I was in constant contact with TEAN’s Chicago staff, who patiently answered all of my one million questions. Upon arriving, I had a Thai Residential Advisor and an Australian ex-pat Program Coordinator who helped me get settled in. I stayed in contact with both of my advisors during my entire stay in Chiang Mai, and we’d have monthly meet-ups where they could give us more tips about the city or about Southeast Asian etiquette. On the academic side, the academic director was easily accessible and went overboard to provide us with information. Of all of the programs I saw in Chiang Mai, I felt like TEAN students got the best care.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We lived in student apartments really close to the school. Each of us had a Thai roommate, which provided a compelling view of Thai daily life and made me question my daily habits a lot. The apartments had single rooms and a bathroom you only shared with one other person, so it was pretty idyllic. 7-11 was a stones-throw away, so what else do you really need in life?

* Food:

We were responsible for finding our own food, but were given a monthly meal stipend. For Thai students, it’s cheaper to buy food at tiny restaurants than to cook at home, so I never prepared my own meals. A dollar goes a long way in Thailand, so I often ate full meals for the equivalent of 90 cents and still had money for deliciously creamy Thai tea. My big advice is to hit up lots of local markets, as you’ll see some crazy fresh fruits.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The program definitely made an effort to show us the local culture. We started with a village homestay, where we saw the agricultural lifestyle that most Thais are still accustomed to. Our Thai roommates gave us a taste of more urban, modern Thai living. Honestly, I got the best taste of the culture from volunteering at the local school. It was cool to see how students interact with adults and how student teachers my age interact with each other. Everyone I met at the school was excited to talk to me. There were definitely opportunities to meet local people; it was just a matter of making the most of those opportunities.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Whenever I got sick, I dashed over to the local pharmacist. They speak English and can prescribe medicines for basic illnesses. Anything more serious involves a trip to the hospital (no one in Thailand really goes to doctors’ offices, all medical examinations are really through hospitals). Medical care is really cheap compared to the US, and the TEAN Residential Advisor accompanies you to the hospital to help you with any language barriers.

* Safety:

Chiang Mai was safer than my city at home. I walked around by myself after dark all the time, and never once felt concerned for my safety. I had friends who lost passports and wallets along the way, but they always got all of their belongings back without anything removed. Thais stick to a really high honor code, where stealing and harassment are not at all acceptable. You have to worry more about bumping into non-vaccinated dogs and dodging motorbikes than about the people.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

TEAN staff provided so many people for me to contact so that I could get the most out of my time. From the moment I applied to the day I left Chiang Mai for the US, TEAN was there to answer my questions. They made sure to provide us with opportunities to interact with the local culture, as well as with other ex-pats.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Food is really cheap, as is most travel. I would feel bad if I spent $4 US dollars on a meal.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $10 USD
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Utilize the campus resources: a discount student Co-op, a free shuttle to the mall and a local market at the beginning of each month.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

We were taught the language in the classroom setting and encouraged to use it with the store-owners we met.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 0--I didn't speak a word of Thai
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Attend Monk chats and conversations with Thai students at neighboring universities, because they are excited to get to help you with their language.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The volunteer experience
  • The academic field trips
  • The personal travel opportunities at low prices
* What could be improved?
  • Everything I can think of has been modified since I left!
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? There are countries I now wish I had visited (Indonesia) that I barely knew anything about beforehand. I also now know that there are a lot of places where having a guide really helps make the experience more enjoyable and informative. Also, hostels are pretty safe and a great way to save money.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!