Student exchange tips for a semester abroad or summer session in Thailand

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There are some organizational characteristics you might want to know. Finding the right program and asking the right questions becomes easier that way. Please be prepared that the bureaucratic processes might be even more bureaucratic than you know it from your own university, especially at public universities.

The general attitude is ‘student registers, gets processed, and graduates’, both student-centered education and customer orientation are found only few and far between. Together with heavily job-description based workforce, where no one seems to understand the whole process anymore, it quickly turns out difficult to get answers to, as you might see it, simple questions.

The academic year. Most Thai universities follow the academic schedule of the Ministry of Education. Generally, the academic year in Thailand comprises two 16-week semesters with a summer session:

First semester June to October (5 months)
Second semester November to March (5 months)
Summer session April and May (2 months)

Other universities follow the British academic year as follows.

First semester August to December
Second semester January to May
Summer session May to August

Some programs (not the universities) are offered in trimesters without a summer break. The breaks between the three terms per year are usually one or two weeks. That applies mostly to graduate one-year programs.

Famous’ or ‘no-name’ university? If you ask a Thai, you will learn about the ranking of Thai universities in public view. The universities seen as the best by many Thais are Chulalongkorn University, Kasetsart University, Mahidol University, and Thammasat University; seen as the worst is Ramkhamhaeng University where everybody can get a degree (no wonder since it’s an Open University, but that doesn’t seem to mean much to the Thais). The rest is somewhere between them. From our experience, this shouldn’t bother you at all.

It is very unlikely anyway that you can study exactly the course and content that brings you the next step in your studies at home. This is also not what employers look at. They are more interested in the experiences you gain, such as those different cultures do things differently and that permanently asking ‘Why don’t they do it as we do it?’ is not helpful at all. These are the experiences, by the way, that are most long lasting, and for these experiences the university where you make them is not that important. What might be important for you is that you can transfer credits earned at a Thai university to your own university back home. This certainly needs to speak with your professor or International Relations Office first.

To find the right field of studies, you can use our Google Special, a search engine focusing solely on universities and 4-year colleges in Thailand. Graduate or undergraduate courses?  Until recently, there were only undergraduate courses available for semester abroad students. This causes problems for those in the higher semesters when the university back home is not willing to accept credits earned from an undergraduate program. The reason is that one needs a Bachelor degree before being permitted to study courses on graduate level.

The solution might be ‘non-degree studies’. If you don’t study for a degree, you don’t need to meet the same entrance requirements. If there is an interesting course you would like to study but they won’t let you since you don’t have a Bachelor degree, ask for non-degree. In many cases, you will be surprised how easy it goes then. Almost generally, graduate courses are weekend courses, conducted on Saturday and Sunday from about 9am to 4pm, by the way, while undergraduate courses are usually from Monday to Thursday.

Exchange programs and exchange students .Many universities have an exchange program with a Thai university. In this case, there will be somebody responsible at your home university for this relationship where you can go and ask. If there’s no exchange program available, don’t worry when you read about ‘exchange students’ on Thai university Web site.The term ‘exchange student’ is usually applied to all semester abroad students and does in most cases not need a formal exchange agreement.

Any world-class education available? Sure, there is world-class education in Thailand in more than one respect. Asian Institute of Technology is one in the field of information technology and engineering, Sasin Graduate School at Chulalongkorn University is the leading business school in close cooperation with Kellogg and Wharton.  Another option is the opportunity to study with regular university professors from the United States or Europe, who regularly come as ‘flying faculty’ to Ramkhamhaeng University to conduct the courses in the international program. You can assume that they teach the same courses as they do back home since, simply, developing a new course only for Thai students is too much effort. You meet there semester abroad students in numbers, by the way.

For more information please visit : http://studyinthailand.org

 

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