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|
|Credit Type||Resident Credit|
|Sponsor||Learning Abroad Center|
|Student Type||UofM Students, Non UofM Students|
|Student Year||Juniors, Seniors|
|Language||No Language Prerequisite|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learning Abroad Center programs are:
|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.
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.
MSID students enroll in 4 required courses in addition to an internship or research project:
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.
Thailand Country Analysis
Community Engagement in the Global South
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Program Term||App Open Date||Deadline*|
|Fall 2019||Jul 5||Apr. 1|
|Pre-session+Fall students depart from the US||Aug 2 – 3|
|Pre-session+Fall students arrive in Chiang Mai||Aug 4|
|Pre-session last day||Aug 28|
|Fall students depart from the US||Aug 27 – 28|
|Fall students arrival in Chiang Mai||Aug 29|
|Classroom phase ends||Oct 25|
|Fall break period||Oct 26 – Nov 1|
|Internship phase begins||Nov 4|
|Internship phase ends||Dec 13|
|Final seminar begins||Dec 16|
|Last day of program||Dec 20|
|Depart from Chiang Mai||Dec 21 – 22|
|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|
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.
|Spring 2020||Monday, November 18, 2:00-4:30pm||Heller Hall 630|
|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|
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:
Additional Items Required for non-UofM Students:
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.
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.
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.
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.
For further information or questions about this program, send an email toRyan McCarthy or call at 612.626.9373.
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."
Noah B— Architecture major, Spring 2017, Sustainability & the Environment track