MSID—International Development in Thailand
Study international development in Thailand, the only southeast Asian country not colonized by European powers and a hub of manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism. The program includes a six-week internship or research project with a grassroots organization focused on entrepreneurship, health, human rights, or sustainability.
MSID--International Development in Thailand
The Program Center
Small, modern museum exhibiting works by contemporary artists from Thailand & other parts of Asia.
Neighborhood of cafes and restaurants.
Bangkok and other destinations
North (Chiang Rai) and other destinations
Each Sunday afternoon until midnight this street becomes a gallery for local arts & crafts.
The home base for the MSID Thailand program.
The oldest temple in Chiang Mai, dating from the 13th century.
Chiang Mai International Airport acts as the northern hub for those flying to other parts of Thailand.
Learning from experience is the core of Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID). The program puts you in direct contact with the social and economic realities of actual communities and people working within them to address complex problems. Through classes, field trips, and an extended internship or research placement, MSID strives to establish a continual dialogue linking experience with theory and critical analysis. Learn more about the mission and educational philosophy at MSID Philosophy.
Thailand is the only southeast Asian country not colonized by European powers and a hub of manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism. The program includes a six-week internship or research project with a grassroots organization focused on entrepreneurship, health, human rights, or sustainability.
About the Program Center
The MSID Thailand Center is based at the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI), which has been in Chiang Mai, Thailand, since 1998. ISDSI is staffed by a mix of American, Thai, Karen, and Hmong instructors and support personnel, with a unique, team-based approach to teaching.
The new sustainably built center's amenities include WiFi, a library, a cafe, a gym, a yoga studio, and an outdoor cafeteria that serves fresh Thai lunches daily.
Housing & Meals
You will live with a homestay family during the classroom phase of the program. Students who choose an internship or research placement outside of Chiang Mai will have a second homestay placement. Students who choose an internship or research placement in Chiang Mai will have a second homestay or can decide to stay in local apartments
Homestay families provide breakfast and dinner daily; you will be responsible for providing your own lunches. Host families can typically accommodate a variety of dietary needs, but if you have severe food allergies and/or restrictions, contact the program team prior to applying. Students who decide to stay in the apartments will be responsible for all of their meals.
Homestays are an integral component of the learning experience and often a highlight for participants. Your family provides not only housing, breakfast, and dinner but also a vital connection to Thai culture. Nearly all families have hosted program participants before and have been chosen for their genuine interest in sharing Thai life with an MSID program participant.
Students who choose an internship or research placement outside of Chiang Mai will have a second homestay placement. Those who choose to stay in Chiang Mai can choose a second homestay or an apartment. Students in homestays will receive breakfast and dinner; students in apartments are responsible for their own meals.
Although excursions change from semester to semester, students can expect to visit a variety of sites that may include local markets, development agencies, and areas of interest around Chiang Mai.
The Learning Abroad Center works with Village Travel, a local travel agency, to arrange a coordinated flight for program participants. The flight is optional, and is arranged for those who want to fly with other program participants. Group flight information is typically available by the program application deadline, if not before.
Ground transportation from the Chiang Mai International Airport (airport code: CNX) into Chiang Mai is provided by our partner organization and the cost is included in the program fee. The transportation schedule aligns with the group flight arrival time. Our partner organization comes to the airport once to collect everyone.
Therefore, you can either book a ticket on the coordinated group flight, or book a flight independently that arrives prior to the group flight's arrival. If you arrive late and miss the group, you may be responsible for arranging and paying for your own transportation into the city.
For immigration purposes, you should purchase a round-trip ticket, since you must be able to show your entry and exit dates from Thailand. You should also not enter the country more than 7 days prior to the start of the program.
- Foster an understanding of the global context through classroom and experiential learning
- Cultivate awareness and appreciation for development issues through engagement with diverse communities
- Translate insights gained into thoughtful and respectful long-term perspectives on concepts of social justice and sustainable development
- Strengthen communication skills through acquisition of local languages and cultural awareness
- Gain cross-cultural competencies through extended engagement at a local grassroots organization
Faculty & Staff
A team of dedicated local staff based in Chiang Mai work to ensure that your MSID experience is safe, academically enriching, and rewarding. All MSID courses are taught by Thai faculty who are experts in their fields.
Mark A. Ritchie, Ph.D., Resident Director
Ajaan Mark has lived in Thailand for over 20 years, working with local communities, international development work, as well as international education. Originally from the United States, Mark studied the transition of agrarian rural communities in Northern Thailand, and has been involved in project evaluation and assessment, participatory development research, and training of local communities in Asia. He is the Executive Director of the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI). He founded ISDSI with his wife, Dana E.C. Ritchie, over 15 years ago, and is currently working on empowering local communities through international education.
Supawadee "A" Chimmanee, Associate Director
Ajaan A works with ISDSI as an Associate Director, assisting in planning, coordinating, and evaluating the MSID Thailand program. She also trains American students about Thai culture, including social and development issues in Thailand. Ms. Chimmanee has a BA in English from Srinakarinwirot University and is working toward an MA in Human and Environmental Management from Chiang Mai University, with a master’s thesis on the network model of natural resources management rights claim. In the past, she worked as a trainer and instructor for the Peace Corps Volunteers and as a project coordinator and in-country consultant for a number of nongovernment NGOs.
Wanlee Kongnim, MSID Coordinator
Pi Wanlee works with ISDSI as the MSID Coordinator, serving as a main point person for students on the program. Prior to working with ISDSI, she worked on expanding access to counseling and testing for HIV/ADIS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis.
You are required to take 16 credits for fall or spring semester
Spend 7 weeks engaged in coursework in Chiang Mai, followed by 6 weeks working as an intern or conducting a research project with a local grassroots organization. MSID students enroll in 4 required courses, including an internship or research project:
Historical & Political Context of Thailand
All students will be enrolled in this interdisciplinary course, designed to provide context to your time in Thailand.
Choose a theme to focus your studies and prepare you for your internship or research project. See theme descriptions for more information.
- Human Rights
Beginning and advanced beginning courses are available. Students with intermediate or advanced knowledge of Thai should contact LAC staff to discuss potential options. Select the one that corresponds to your language level.
Internship or Research
You will choose to complete either an internship or a research project. The corresponding course will begin during the classroom phase and continue throughout the six weeks of your internship or research project. Your placement will correspond with the theme you chose in the International Development course.
Internships and Research Projects
The internship or research experience is the cornerstone of the MSID program. Your placement will be with an organization engaged in grassroots work related to your chosen international development theme.
During the classroom phase, the on-site staff will review your interests and attempt to place you with an organization whose goals match your objectives. Most requests within a general field can be accommodated, but adjustments may be made based on availability. You will work at least 25 hours each week. Details about the internship and research process are in the Program Handbook.
|Theme||Internship Example||Research Example|
|Entrepreneurship||Meet with micro loan applicants and review loan application materials||Analyze the loan repayment rate at a microfinance organization|
|Health||Provide support to health care professionals in a small regional hospital or clinic||Survey the hospital’s education and outreach plan to address local health disparities|
|Human Rights||Provide support to an organization that provides job skill training for women||
Analyze the wage gap between men and women in various sectors of the local economy
|Sustainability||Participate in an agroforestry project in collaboration with an organization that focuses on sustainability||Compare and contrast local and national research on the environmental impact of agroforestry programs|
Full Course List
Choose one course from each Course Type for a total of four courses and 16 credits. Refer to the main Academics tab for more detailed information about available courses.
Beginning Thai I
Thai language course provides skills and knowledge about Thai language and culture. This courseuses a competency- based approach and is designed for beginners for whom Thai is a foreign language. This course emphasizes speaking, listening and reading skills. Writing is integrated in the lesson in order to enhance reading and practicing writing specific phrases guided by homework assignments.
Thai language course provides fundamental skills for students to practice and build vocabulary focusing on everyday phrases as well as vocabulary that may be useful at their internship sites. The topics and skills of each week can be flexible depending on students’ progress. As speaking and listening skills are emphasized, assessment will include comprehensive oral examination at the end of classroom phase.
International Development: Human Rights & Marginalized Communities
This course will focus on human rights and marginalized communities within Thailand, with an emphasis on communities in the northern portion of the country. Subject matter in this course will focus on how to best work with and serve vulnerable populations, in particular working on citizenship and orphan/vulnerable children, as well as human trafficking, disabilities, migrant workers, and LGBT issues in the Thai context, as well as minority issues, especially with the hill tribes of northern Thailand.
International Development: Entrepreneurship & Sustainable Food Systems
This course will pay particular attention to how farmers, businesses, entrepreneurs engage in the process of agricultural and entrepreneurial development and how this development impacts food systems. Given the importance of agricultural-related production to northern Thailand, this course will focus on community support agriculture; the growing, processing, and production of coffee, tea, and chocolate (cacao) in northern Thailand; growth of fair trade/fair work cafes; sustainable agricultural practices and community supported agriculture; and community-based agrotourism.
International Development: OneHealth: Humans, Animals, & Environment
This course will focus on the concept of “One Health”—integrating the health sciences so that health is understood as a broader concept rather than a narrow disciplinary focus. Topics discussed in this course will include public health; health education within local communities; veterinary and animal care; the relationship between human health and animal health; rural clinics and local urban hospitals; and traditional medicine.
International Development: Sustainable Architecture & Design
This course will examine sustainable architecture and design practices in Thailand. Topics that will be discussed in this course include vernacular architecture, sustainable product design, urban planning, alternative/green power sources , sustainable engineering, and sustainable and alternative architecture. Students will learn how design can be used in development to support sustainability, especially in the built and manufactured environment, drawing on culturally and ecologically appropriate design principles.
Historical & Political Context of Thailand
This course explores the history of modernization, conditions of social transition, and current issues that characterize Thailand and influence relationships among various social groups. Students will enhance their understanding of the process of modernization and multi-level adjustment of Thai society in different historical contexts. Cultural diversity, political transition, and economic development are integral in analyzing and understanding these topics.
Research in Thailand
This course will introduce the MSID student to: various research concepts and practices; experience decisions involved in research regarding selection of topic and title for their study, developing statements of problems and choice of research questions, appropriate research design; issues related to research ethics and; develop their skills in choosing data collection instruments and analysis of the data they collect for their research. It does this by introducing various topics in the research cycle and providing a forum in which students can share with one another their research experience at each stage of the process.
Internship in Thailand
This course provides a cross-cultural experience of working on various development issues with a regional nonprofit organization. The course focuses on guiding students to understand their own identity as they integrate theory with reality by participation in local development sites. Students are prepared for entering into their community work through discussions on stakeholder and agency analysis, culture specific gender and diversity context, and power and privilege. The students are urged to play an active role in their internships by providing suggestions, solutions, discussing alternatives and investigating all areas of their internship placement to garner a holistic experience on the realities of development work. Through practical internship experiences as well as readings, discussions, and written assignments, students will deepen their understanding of the host-country cultural context, development work from an international perspective, and critically examine their own worldview.
As an MSID student, you will complete a research project or participate in an internship for six weeks. In either option, you will be placed with a local organization related to the theme you chose for the International Development course (Entrepreneurship, Health, Human Rights, Sustainability).
Internships involve participation in and observation of the daily activities of a local agency. You will put into practice the theories you learned in the classroom.
Below are examples of past students’ internships:
- Assist with organizations that are training people to start and develop a small business
- Work in rural co-ops helping market locally produced goods and crafts
- Help with marketing the products of rural communities
- Work with organizations who are working to fund and develop small businesses for people in rural areas
- Get involved in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group and help promote farmer-to-consumer links
- Work in a local seed bank conserving heirloom seeds and indigenous crops
- Practice and learn organic agriculture in upland and lowland communities
- Assist in the preparations of medical supplies for relief organizations that serve refugees
- Provide support at a home that serves children of families with HIV
- Collect information regarding traditional medical plant remedies that are used among indigenous people
- Help train community health workers by supporting staff of a relief organization that strives to provide health infrastructure for struggling communities
- Work with a relief organization with a focus on an HIV prevention project with migrants in Thailand
- Assisting in building mobile health clinics that will be used to improve the health of populations of internally displaced people
- Work with pre-school programs for ethnic minority children who live in rural hill tribes
- Assist and tutor students who are writing about environmental issues
- Work with organizations that are helping young girls who have been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked
- Help human rights advocates on minority and refugee rights, statelessness and citizenship
- Work in a center focused on assisting young men and boys working in the red light district
- Be involved in rural education programs aimed at reducing child trafficking
- Work with upland tribal communities promoting Community Based Tourism to educate international visitors about local culture
- Help develop culturally appropriate curriculum for rural an minority communities
- Work with migrant students and children from around Southeast Asia
- Teach English in a local school or NGO project
- Learn how sustainable elements of vernacular architecture and how to use non-traditional materials in sustainable design at an architecture firm
- Assist with research on renewable energy that is suitable for Thailand
- Learn and live about self-sufficiency and sustainability but living with local Karen communities
- Intern with a university/NGO partnership forest nursery and reforestation project
- Research plant species that are suitable for reforestation
- Work with communities that are ready to reforest by sharing knowledge and follow up with reforestation
- Help build and set up solar system to communities or organizations that request
- Work with communities on setting up and documenting successful community forest activities
As an MSID student, you will complete a research project or participate in an internship for six weeks. In either option, you will be placed with a local organization related to the theme you chose for the International Development course (Entrepreneurship, Health, Human Services, Sustainability).
A research project involves a systematic investigation of a specific topic, question, hypothesis, or theory. You will conduct research under the guidance of a project supervisor from the MSID program and a local organization.
Below are examples of past students’ research projects:
- The Thai Approach to Maternal and Child Healthcare: Through the Lens of a Sub-District Hospital
- International Limits: LGBTQ Stigma and Discrimination in Thailand
- Policy Implementation of Land Use: Kor Tor Chor (KCT) in Mae Jam, Thailand
- Reducing Disability Related to Physical Independence in Frail Adults over 65: Mae Sa Clinic
- NGOs Effectiveness in Fostering the Needs of Statelessness in Thailand
- The Prevalence and Impact of Cosmetic Medical Tourism in Northern Thailand
Human Subjects Reasearch
The governments of the United States and MSID countries have laws protecting human subjects of research. Due to the timeline for gaining the necessary permissions for doing research with human subjects, such research cannot be conducted while abroad on LAC program. However, there are still a wide variety of projects, that include interaction with people, that are available. See more information on options for Undergraduate Research Abroad.
Research Funding (for UofM students)
The Learning Abroad Center offers a number of programs (including all MSID programs) that include research opportunities and are eligible for the Learning Abroad Center’s International UROP scholarship of $2,500 (available to UofM students only). Learn more about IUROP funding.
International Development Themes
Select one of the four themes for your International Development course. This theme will focus your studies and prepare you for your internship or research project.
Entrepreneurship looks different in each cultural context. Examine the history, development, challenges, opportunities, and role of business and microfinance in the economic and social development of the local community. The theme includes an analysis of informal sector enterprises, the role of social entrepreneurship, and an overview of key aspects of microfinance.
Examine health care systems, the management and prevention of disease, and the philosophical approaches to health care, including the role of traditional medicine, through this theme. Specific topics for discussion may include holistic health, women’s and children’s health, public health, animal health, and rural vs. urban health care facilities.
Understand how human rights are legislated and regulated at the policy level, as well as how they are implemented at the grass roots level. In particular, this theme will consider the impact on the most vulnerable members of society, including women, children, indigenous groups, people with disabilities, and homeless, migrant, and elderly populations.
Investigate the relationship between environmental and natural resources challenges and the local community. This theme may cover critical issues, biodiversity, sustainable food and water sources, responsible agricultural practices, design practices, natural resource utilization and management, climate change, wildlife management, and sustainable development.
Orientation Dates & Locations
Orientation will be conducted in 2 parts: an online orientation, which is mandatory for all students, and an in-person, program-specific session. You will receive more information about the online orientation via email. Failure to complete the online orientation will impact your ability to go abroad.
See below for tentative dates and times for your in-person session. You will be notified of the official date and time via email. Participants will receive applicable orientation materials via email approximately 1 week prior to the in-person session.
Application Open Date: Dec 18, 2020
Application Deadline: April 15, 2021
|Fall students depart from the US||Aug 26|
|Fall students arrival in Chiang Mai||Aug 27|
|Classroom phase ends||Oct 22|
|Fall break period||Oct 23 – 29|
|Internship phase begins||Nov 1|
|Internship phase ends||Dec 10|
|Final seminar begins||Dec 13|
|Last day of program||December 17|
|Depart from Chiang Mai||Dec 18 – 19|
Application Open Date: May 1, 2021
Application Deadline: October 15, 2021
|Spring students depart the US||Mid-January|
|Spring students arrival date in Chiang Mai||Mid-January|
|Classroom phase ends||Mar 11|
|Spring break begins||Mar 12|
|Spring break ends||Mar 18|
|Internship phase begins||Mar 21|
|Internship phase ends||Apr 29|
|Final seminar begins||May 2|
|Last day of program||May 6|
|Departure day||May 7 – 8|
University of Minnesota participants pay the program fee instead of on-campus tuition and fees for the term they are abroad.
Note that due to additional measures brought about as a result of COVID-19, the cost of participation has increased from previous semesters.
If you do not see a budget estimate for the term you intend to go abroad, the fee has not yet been finalized. We strive to post fees for this program at least 30 days prior to the application deadline. The Learning Abroad Center will delay the posting of some fees until enrollments, inflation and exchange rates are determined. Note the average increase in fees will be 3–10%. Program fees are based on estimates and may change depending on international economic factors.
Fees or tuition from home institutions may be added to or differ from the University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center fees listed on this page.
Billing & Payments
Visit Billing for information about the billing process for application fees, deposits, and program fees.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Visit Financial Information for information on using financial aid and scholarships for study abroad.
Bridging Loan, a no-interest/no-fees loan that funds the upfront deposit and flights costs, is available for this program for eligible students.
Before you apply to or confirm your participation on this program, review the Learning Abroad Center's Cancellation Policy to inform yourself of the timeline and financial obligations for canceling.
MSID Thailand: Standard
Fall Semester 2021
|Tuition and educational costs||$14,157|
|International health insurance||$200|
|Housing and/or mealsHousing in apartments and a weekly meal stipend are included, as well as quarantine hotel and meals.||$5,398|
|Transportation (if required and included in program fee)Flight from LA to Bangkok and Bangkok to Chiang Mai are included.||$1,200|
|Total Program Fee||$21,355|
|Program discount for University of Minnesota and Big Ten students, if applicable||$-1,000|
|Total Program Fee with discount, if applicable||$20,355|
Estimated Additional Expenses
|Costs Typically Incurred Prior to Departure These costs may need to be paid before your financial aid is disbursed for your term abroad.|
|Transportation to and from program siteStudents need to purchase a flight to LA and a return flight from Chiang Mai back to the US.||$1,500|
|Travel clinic/immunizationsVisit your travel clinic and consult with your insurance provider. Costs vary. See note below*||$1,000|
|Total Estimated Cost Incurred Prior to Departure||$2,815|
|Costs Typically Incurred After Arrival in Host Country|
|Housing and/or meals not included in program fee||$500|
|Essential daily living expensesincludes cost of required cell phone||$700|
|Total Estimated Cost Incurred After Arrival in Host Country||$1,300|
Total Estimated Cost of Participation
|Total Estimated Cost of Participation||$24,470|
|Spending money and personal travel Not included in financial aid calculation||$750|
|Additional Notes & Information|
|* Immunizations Note: This estimate is based on approximate cost of travel-related vaccinations and medications required for entry or recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Your costs may be higher or lower depending on your travel clinic, the specific immunizations and medication prescribed, and your insurance coverage.|
You will be charged a $50 application fee for each application you submit.
Complete Checklist Items
After you submit your application, you will receive an email notification confirming that your application was received. Submitted applications are assigned an application checklist, which will include the following items:
- Statement of Purpose
- Academic Recommendation
Additional Items Required for non-UofM Students:
- Home Institution Nomination
If you do not meet the GPA requirement for this program you will be required to submit two additional application items- the Low GPA Essay and Special Circumstances Recommendation. Both items will be added to your checklist after you start your application, and you will be notified when they have been added.
Detailed descriptions and instructions for submitting each checklist item are included on the application checklist assigned to you.
Application Review Process
After your application checklist is complete, your application is reviewed by our program team. You will be notified of an acceptance decision by email. If accepted, you will be assigned an acceptance checklist, which you will complete to confirm your participation in the program. If you decide not to continue with the application process, log into the online application system and submit a Cancel Request.
You will need a passport to enter and exit Thailand. Your passport must be valid for the entire duration of your program. If you have not already obtained your passport, apply for one immediately. Information about applying for a passport can be found on the US Department of State's website.
Visa Application Instructions
Students will receive detailed information on the visa process from MSID Thailand staff directly.
Visa and Flights
It is important to note that your student visa will only allow you to stay only an additional 7 days after the official program end date.
You should begin the application process when instructed to do so by the MSID Thailand staff. Students who don't apply for their visa in a timely manner are not eligible for financial assistance with travel change fees.
For further information or questions about this program, send an email to
Contact Program Alumn
Below is a list of additional students who participated in past program sessions. They are ready and willing to answer your questions about this program. Feel free to contact them during your decision-making process or anytime during your pre-departure preparation to get a student perspective.