MSID—International Development in Thailand

MSID—International Development in Thailand

  1. Program Details

    Study international development in Thailand, the only southeast Asian country not colonized by European powers and a hub for manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism. You’ll also contribute through an internship or research project with a nonprofit organization while you are there. Explore the complexities created by issues such as the environment, globalization, sustainability, and social justice.

    Location Chiang Mai, Thailand
    Term Fall Semester, Spring Semester
    Housing Homestay
    Credit Type Resident Credit
    Sponsor Learning Abroad Center

    Program Eligibility

    GPA 2.5
    Student Type UofM Students, Non UofM Students
    Student Year Juniors, Seniors
    Language No Language Prerequisite
  3. About MSID—International Development in 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 of 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.

    About the 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.

    The Center's New Home

    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 and most meals 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.


    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. 

    Learning Outcomes

    • 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.

    MSID Thailand staff

    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. 

    Angkarin "Tik" Pimpaeng, Associate Director

    Ajaan Tik works with ISDSI as an Associate Director assisting in planning, coordinating, and evaluating the MSID Thailand program. She holds a MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Wheaton College. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has been working with international education since 2010 and uses her background in mental health counseling to provide support for students onsite.  

    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. 

    About the Learning Abroad Center

    Learning Abroad Center programs are:

    • Affordable: our programs are cost effective.
    • Academically strong: many programs have strong University of Minnesota departmental support and offer pre-approved courses for many majors.
    • Culturally rich: regardless of the program you choose, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.
    • Expertly managed: our staff in Minnesota and abroad are trained professionals and are always available to answer your questions from extensive pre-departure advising and online orientations to reentry programming. Your safety and well-being are paramount, and we work hard to ensure you have a rewarding and safe experience abroad.
  4. Program Structure

    Program Type Field Study, Study Abroad Center
    Program Level 3000–4000 level courses

    You are required to take 16 credits for fall or spring semester

    The MSID curriculum explores the theoretical and practical implications of international development and intercultural issues. Field experience is an integral part of all courses. All of the curriculum except the language course can be taken for graduate-level credit.


    MSID Timeline Chart

    Semester Program

    Spend 7 weeks engaged in coursework in Chang Mai, followed by 6 weeks working as an intern or conducting a research project with a local grassroots organization. 

    Required Courses

    MSID students enroll in 4 required courses in addition to an internship or research project:

    1. International Development: Critical Perspectives on Theory and Practice
      Choose a track to focus your studies and prepare you for your internship or research project. See track descriptions for more information.

      • Arts and Cultural Studies
      • Education and Literacy
      • Entrepreneurship and Alternative Economies
      • Public Health
      • Social Service
      • Sustainability and the Environment
    2. Thailand Country Analysis

    3. Thai language

    4. Community Engagement in the Global South

    Internships & Research Projects

    The  internship and research experience is the cornerstone of the MSID program, and may be where you will learn the most. Your placement will be with an agency engaged in grassroots work related your selected track, and will immerse you in the social realities of the poorer strata of the population.

    During the classroom phase, the on-site staff will review your interests and attempt to place you with an agency whose goals match your objectives. Most requests within a general field can be accommodated, but adjustments may be made based on availability. Details about the internship and research process are in the Program Handbook.

    The internship or research objectives will be agreed to by MSID, the agency supervisor and you, and will involve at least 25 hours per week of work. 12 contact hours are incorporated into the classroom phase and provide specific training on research methodology to prepare students for their research or internship project. 

    See a description of past internship and research placements for this MSID country.

  5. Fall or Spring Semester Curriculum

    The semester courses are outlined below. Sample syllabi are available. All classes are with program participants and are taught by local faculty. Through the coursework and the internship or research project, you have the opportunity to discuss and reflect on the complex and diverse nature of development in Thailand. 

    Beginning or Intermediate Thai
    THAI 1xxx/3xxx
    4 Credits

    THAI 1001 Beginning Thai I Syllabus for Beginning Thai I (PDF)

    THAI 1002 Beginning Thai II Syllabus for Beginning Thai II (PDF)

    THAI 3001 Intermediate Thai I

    THAI 3002 Intermediate Thai II

    Focus on practical skills while emphasizing conversation and vocabulary building.

    International Development: Critical Perspectives on Theory & Practice
    MSID 4001
    4 Credits

    Explore a wide variety of perspectives on international development, with the host country as a case study. This course begins with 20 hours of common discussion on international development. The remaining course is divided into sections, and you select from the following sections in order to prepare for your internship or research project: (see track descriptions for more information):

    General course syllabus: Syllabus for International Development (PDF)

    Liberal education requirement fulfilled: Social Science core and Civic Life and Ethics theme

    MSID Country Analysis
    MSID 4002
    4 Credits

    This multi-disciplinary study of Thailand emphasizes the social sciences and history, especially as they relate to development issues.

    Liberal education requirement fulfilled: Social Science core and Global Perspective theme

     Syllabus for MSID Country Analysis (PDF)

    Community Engagement in the Global South
    MSID 4003
    4 Credits

    An internship or research project with a host-country development agency or project provides an unparalleled opportunity to study community characteristics, development strategies and problems, organizational structure and culture, and cross-cultural communication issues. The length of the internship or research project is 6 weeks during the first semester. You typically spend approximately 25 to 30 hours each week at your internship or research site, although this may vary depending on the specific site and project. See a list of sample internships and research projects.

    Written assignments help link experiences to theories and issues raised in the classroom. A program faculty member or the on-site director visits you at least once at your internship or research site during the internship/research period. At the end of each semester, you gather in the host city or a retreat site for a seminar, which helps integrate your experiences and newly acquired knowledge. Twelve contact hours of this course are incorporated into the classroom phase and provide specific training on research methodology to prepare students for their research or internship project.  

    Liberal education requirement fulfilled: Social Science core and Civic Life and Ethics theme

    Syllabus for Community Engagement in the Global South (PDF)

    Optional Online Course

    Global Identity
    OLPD 3330
    1 credit
    Global Identity: Connecting Your International Experience with Your Future is an optional 1-credit online course that helps you process your international experience and apply what you've learned upon your return.  Global Identity gives you the opportunity to work individually with a trained cultural mentor, helping you articulate your newly acquired skills and differentiating you from your peers.

    This course is offered at no additional cost on programs six weeks or longer. The Learning Abroad Center will email out registration instructions, or you may contact a program team member.

    Syllabus for Global Identity (PDF)

  6. Sample Internship Opportunities

    Arts & Cultural Studies

    • 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

    Education & Literacy

    • Work with migrant students and children from around Southeast Asia
    • Teach English in a local school or NGO project

    Entrepreneurship & Alternative Economies

    • 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

    Public Health

    • 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

    Social Service

    • Work with pre-school programs for ethnic minority children who live in local slums
    • 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

    Sustainability and the Environment

    • Work in a local seed bank conserving heirloom seeds and indigenous crops
    • Practice and learn organic agriculture in upland and lowland communities
    • Get involved in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group and help promote farmer-to-consumer links
    • 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
    • Assist with research on renewable energy that is suitable for Thailand
    • 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
  7. As an MSID student, you have the choice to do either a research project or an internship for six weeks as part of the Community Engagement course. In either option, you will be placed with a local NGO related to the track you have chosen for the International Development course (Arts & Cultural Studies, Education & Literacy, Entrepreneurship & Alternative Economies, Public Health, Sustainability & the Environment, or Social Service). All academic year students engage in a research project during spring semester.

    A research project involves a systematic investigation of a specific topic, question, hypothesis, or theory. Research is conducted under the guidance of a project supervisor at the MSID program and at a local NGO. The project culminates in a final paper or project that demonstrates the knowledge gained through the investigation.

    The examples below illustrate the differences between the internship and research options:

    Track Internship example Research example

    Arts & Cultural Studies

    Work with a cultural preservation organization with a youth indigenous dance troupe

    Examine the cultural and historical significance of a specific type of indigenous dance

    Education & Literacy

    Assist in teaching English to primary and secondary students at rural schools

    Investigate effective methods of teaching English as a second language and examine curricular practices at the local and national level

    Entrepreneurship & Alternative Economies

    Meet with micro loan applicants and review loan application materials

    Analyze the loan repayment rate at a microfinance organization  

    Public Health

    Provide support to faculty in a pediatrics department of a hospital that works with children who suffer from malnutrition

    Survey the hospital’s education and outreach plan to address pediatric malnutrition in the region

    Sustainability & the Environment

    Participate in an agroforestry project at a sustainability-focused NGO

    Compare and contrast local and national research on the environmental impact of agroforestry programs

    Social Services

    Provide support to an NGO that does job skill training for low income women

    Analyze the wage gap between men and women in various sectors of the local economy


    Research Project Examples

    • 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.

  8. Academic Tracks

    Students are required to select a track as part of the International Development course, which will focus your studies and help prepare you for your internship or research project.

    Arts and Cultural Studies 

    Develop a critical understanding of culture through an analysis of the literature, art, film and music. Discussion focuses on the perspectives, values and lives of people and their relationship to development as revealed through different cultural and literary venues. 

    Education and Literacy

    Analyze the educational system, government policy and impact on local educational structures, the disparities in access to education, and the relationship between education and development. Discussions may include gender education, financial challenges, and current reforms.

    Entrepreneurship and Alternative Economies

    Examine the history, nature and challenges of microbusiness and its role in the economic and social development of the local community. Includes an analysis of informal sector enterprises, the role of social entrepreneurship, and an overview of key aspects of microfinance. 

    Public Health

    Examine health care systems, the management and prevention of disease, and the philosophical approaches to health care, including the role of traditional medicine. Specific topics for discussion include women’s health, children’s health, HIV education, and rural vs. urban health care facilities.

    Social Service

    Understand how government policies and local grassroots efforts serve the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, including the homeless, women, children, indigenous groups, the disabled and the elderly. Topics include the configuration of social services, resource allocation, community development, and welfare reform. 

    Sustainability and the Environment

    Investigate the relationship between environmental and natural resource challenges and the local community. Critical issues being faced may include sustainable food and water sources, natural resource utilization and management, climate change, wildlife management and sustainable development.

  9. Dates & Deadlines

    Submit the online application and complete the assigned application checklist according to the appropriate deadline:
    Program Term App Open Date Deadline*
    Spring 2020 May 1 Nov. 1
    Spring students depart the US Jan 15
    Spring students arrival date in Chiang Mai Jan 16
    Classroom phase ends Mar 13
    Spring break period Mar 14 – 20
    Internship phase Mar 23
    Internship phase ends May 1
    Last day of program May 8
    Departure date May 9 – 10
    Fall 2020 Dec 1 Jun 1
    Fall students depart from the US Aug 26
    Fall students arrival in Chiang Mai Aug 27
    Classroom phase ends Oct 23
    Fall break period Oct 24 – 30
    Internship phase begins Nov 2
    Internship phase ends Dec 11
    Final seminar begins Dec 14
    Last day of program Dec 18
    Depart from Chiang Mai Dec 19 – 20
    Spring 2021 May 1 Oct 15
    Spring students depart the US Jan 13
    Spring students arrival date in Chiang Mai Jan 14
    Classroom phase ends Mar 12
    Spring break begins Mar 13
    Spring break ends Mar 19
    Internship phase begins Mar 22
    Internship phase ends Apr 30
    Final seminar begins May 3
    Last day of program May 7
    Departure day May 8 – 9

    *Program dates are subject to change. Contact the LAC for verification of dates before purchasing your airfare.
    **If the deadline falls on a weekend, submit your materials on the following business day.

    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.

    Term Abroad Date/Time Location
    Spring 2020 Monday, November 18, 2:00-4:30pm Heller Hall 630
  10. Fees for MSID—International Development in Thailand

    University of Minnesota participants pay the program fee instead of on-campus tuition and fees for the term they are abroad.

    Fall 2019 Program Fees

    Standard, Pre-session

    Spring 2020 Program Fees


    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

    Bridging Loan, a no-interest/no-fees loan that funds the upfront deposit and flights costs, is available for this program for eligible students.

    Cancellation Policy

    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.
  11. Center Name TC Learning Abroad Ctr
    Education Abroad Term See Program Dates for track options
    Program Name MSID Thailand
    Track Name See Program Dates for track options
    Country Thailand


    University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Use your University of Minnesota internet ID and password to log into the Education Abroad application system. Your student account will be charged a $50 application fee.

    Non-University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Once you submit your application, Learning Abroad Center staff will create a University of Minnesota student internet account for you. You will use this account to access the Education Abroad Application System, and other University of Minnesota services. You will be charged a $50 application fee for this program.

    Our staff will contact you within 2–3 business days with your internet account information, and additional application instructions.


    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:

    • Resume
    • Statement of Purpose
    • Academic Recommendation

    Additional Items Required for non-UofM Students:

    • Transcript
    • 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.

  12. Passport

    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

    MSID Thailand participants should apply for a single-entry, non-immigrant educational visa through the Royal Thai Honorary Consulate General in Portland. The Learning Abroad Center will send an invitation letter directly to the honorary consulate. You can download the application from the Consulate's Visa Application page or use this partially completed visa application. See detailed directions and a checklist. Follow each of the detailed steps one by one, paying special attention to what must be included in the package you send to the Thai Consulate. Use the checklist on the instruction sheet to ensure you aren't missing anything. If you have questions, contact the Learning Abroad Center MSID program team.

    Visa and Flights

    It is important to note that your student visa will only allow you to enter on the official program start date and stay only an additional 7 days after the official program end date. 


    You should begin the application process 60 days prior to the official program arrival date and your application should be submitted no later than 45 days in advance of the official program arrival date. Students who apply for their visa after this date are not eligible for financial assistance with travel change fees. You must enter Thailand within 90 days from the date of issue of the Visa.  Do not send your application to the consulate more than 90 days before you intend to enter Thailand.

  13. Program Contact

    For further information or questions about this program, send an email to

    Ryan McCarthy or call at 612.626.9373.

  14. Contact Program Alum

    Catlyn Christie is a Program Assistant for the MSID Thailand program. She is a senior majoring Public/Nonprofit Management and Human Resources & Industrial Relations and minoring in Sustainability Studies. She studied abroad on the MSID Thailand in Spring 2017 and was in the Susutainability & the Environment track. While abroad, she interned at a rural agriculture village where she learned about organic farming. She loved always being surrounded by such beautiful, lush landscapes and finding vibrant flowers and fruit trees at every turn. Her advice to future students: "Take full advantage of opportunities that help you build relationships with local Thai students. You'll make new friends and learn about the culture from a unique perspective while doing so." 

    Lauren Kraft is a Program Assistant for the MSID Thailand program. She is majoring in Family Social Science with minors in Sociology and Sustainability Studies. She studied abroad on the MSID Thailand in Spring 2017 and was in the Social Services track. While abroad, she interned at a children's shelter in rural Northern Thailand learning about human trafficking and what is being done to combat it through the shelter. Lauren loved the relaxed pace of life, how deeply important relationship building is to Thai people, and how every day was an adventure. Her advice to future students is: "Grasp every opportunity that comes your way, no matter your preconceived notion or how far you may be pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Some of my best memories involve saying 'yes' and pushing myself to trying all sorts of new things."

    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.


    Noah B— Architecture major, Spring 2017, Sustainability & the Environment track

Program Handbook Program Orientation Visa Information

University of Minnesota students participating in a research project on this program may be eligible for the International Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (I-UROP) Scholarship