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.
|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 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.
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, 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.
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
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:
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|
The semester courses and syllabi are outlined below; all courses are taught by local faculty. Students will select one course option from each of the four headings below for a total of 16 credits. Your selections will be indicated on your Academic Information form found on your confirmation checklist. Through the coursework and the internship or research project, you will develop a comprehensive understanding of the complex and diverse nature of international development in Thailand.
All students will be enrolled in this interdisciplinary course, designed to provide context to your time in 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.
Updated syllabus forthcoming
This course begins with 20 hours of common discussion on international development. From there, the course will be divided into the below themes. This theme will focus your studies and prepare you for your internship or research project.
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.
Updated syllabus forthcoming
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.
Updated syllabus forthcoming
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.
Updated syllabus forthcoming
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.
Updated syllabus forthcoming
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.
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.
Updated syllabus forthcoming
After completing the three courses above, you will spend six weeks with a local organization completing an internship or research project. Your placement will correspond with the theme you chose in the International Development course.
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.
Updated syllabus forthcoming
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.
Updated syllabus forthcoming
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 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:
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 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.
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.
|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|
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|
The Program Fee for Spring 2021 will be published in the near future. Note that due to additional measures brought about as a result of COVID-19, the cost of participation will increase from previous semesters.
|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