Know Before You Go: Interning in Thailand

by Esther Mwema

Bangkok, called Krung Thepin Thai, is a zenith for adventure in the Southeast Asian region and the metropolitan capital of Thailand, a country that hosts over 20 million visitors a year. The eccentric Thai culture is just one factor driving tourism throughout the nation, but there is an even deeper way to connect with Thai culture. There is no better way to dive into “Thainess” than by internship placements.

Presentation in Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok Internship Group Event

Internships in Thailand offer a crossfit of opportunities, balancing tourism with career advancement effortlessly.

Internships in Thailand are a sure way to broaden your mindset and perspective on the world, develop interpersonal skills in a novel culture, and gain first hand insight on the emerging Southeast Asian market. However, in order to have a seamless experience as an intern in Thailand, you will need to prepare properly, know how to take on your internship duties effectively, and plan ahead for how you will use your new skills once your internship is complete.

The following is a step-by-step guide of everything you need to know before you begin an internship in Thailand. 

Step 1: Prepare

The first and foremost requirement for interning in Thailand is obtaining a passport and the appropriate visa. There are specific visa requirements that must be fulfilled by every individual who wants to intern in Thailand, which vary depending on nationality and length of placement. Be sure you know which visa you are required to obtain early on. The good news is, your host company will likely provide you with all the visa assistance you’ll need to intern abroad in Thailand legally, and easily.

In addition to a passport, you’ll likely also need the following (or proof of) to apply for a visa in Thailand:

  • Credit card in your name
  • Clean bill of health after a full body check up with a doctor
  • Travel insurance.
  • Funds to cover your lifestyle for the duration of your internship

Professionals in Bangkok, Thailand

Professional Networking in Bangkok

Once you’ve crossed off everything on the checklist above, you will need to create a plan of action, which should include how to navigate your way to Thailand, manage your money for the duration of your trip (including setting aside money for special activities and trips), and most importantly, make the most of your time abroad.

Before committing to a specific internship in Thailand it is important to check if you will be paid a stipend or not, and what benefits you will receive, if any. Even if you do obtain a paid internship in Thailand, you will want to inquire what your payment scheduled will be like, as most salaries are distributed at the end of the month, so you can make a plan of how much you can spend throughout the month and secure a contingency plan for your personal finances.

Step 2: Arrive & Adjust

It is likely that the first thing you will notice when you walk out of Suvarnabhumi International Airport is the humidity. Locals claim that the weather in Thailand is hot and hotter, so be prepared for this by bringing some sunscreen and appropriate clothing. In the Thai business world, formal wear is required, so even if it is hot or hotter, refrain from showing up at your internship placement in flip flops.

Once you arrive, you should take the following key steps to ensure your internship experience gets off to a great start:

  • Communicate with your internship provider or contact person in-country
  • Purchase a cell phone, local SIM card, and buy phone credit
  • Convert at least $200 to Thai Baht, the local currency, preferably right at the airport
  • Find the appropriate transportation to your pre-arranged accommodation
  • Get acquainted with your new home, go out and explore, and find out how to get to and from your workplace
  • Register your stay with the embassy of home country in Thailand to receive important safety notifications and updates
  • Avoid trying too many different foods all at once; you’ll need to take on the change in diet gradually
  • Learn how to say basic Thai words (but have have no fear, most of your communication will be in English)
  • Research Thai business etiquette in preparation for your first day of work
  • Begin your internship! 
Participants of a training workshop at Assumption University

Training workshop at Assumption University

Step 3: Live & Enjoy

Take each day as it comes, be confident, and most importantly, take lots of pictures and have fun.

Should you carry your passport with you wherever you go in Thailand?

One concern most foreigners in Thailand have is whether or not to carry their passport with them at all times. The simple answer is, it depends on your tendency to forget or lose things or not. If you are a careful person and will be traveling a lot during your internship in Thailand, it is best to carry it with you. If you have a tendency to leave things in café’s or forget your bag in taxis, it is best to carry a photocopy of your passport, regardless of where you are going.

In any case, your original passport should always be in a safe place that you can remember. If ever you do lose your passport for any reason, your home country’s embassy or a Thai immigration office will be able to help you sort out obtaining a new one. 

What is the “Thai Way”?

The predominantly Buddhist Thai culture is a great contrast to the Western way of doing things.  For instance, the Thai people are very reserved and not too vocal about their opinion, a behavior that you may encounter in your day to day internship work. Also, there is a reason Thailand is called “the land of smiles”.

Whilst you are interning in Thailand, it can be very tempting to delve into political matters and criticize some aspects of the Thai societal system; however, do your best to refrain from this. The Thai political system is very sensitive to criticism, and as a foreigner you will not fully understand what is going on due to the language barrier in many situations. That being said, interns are also advised not to join any politically motivated movements during their internship in Thailand. Instead, interns should focus on their internship placement, and traveling and learning about the beautiful Thai culture. 

Temple in Thailand

Cultural Excursion to a Temple

Is Thailand a safe place to live?

Primarily, Thailand is a safe place to live abroad. There is easy access to transportation, especially in Bangkok, great values for basic goods, and while the spicy food may upset your stomach if you are not used to it, Thai food can prove to be very healthy and affordable.

Interning abroad may, in general, cause you to get stressed out, because everything will different from what you are used to, so make it a priority to maintain your mental and physical health throughout your internship in Thailand.

To ensure your own safety when you are out and about, avoid carrying valuables, walking alone at night, showing strangers where you live, or not telling anyone where you are going and when you’ll be back. Also, stay up to date with local news and be wary of weather warnings, such as flooding, or protests. If you are ever unsure of the safety of going out during any event, contact your home country’s embassy.

Women are highly respected in Thailand and there is a large LGBT community, so you will likely not have to worry too much about a great deal of prejudice due to your gender or sexual orientation during your internship in Thailand. Yet, unlike Western countries, public displays of affection are strongly frowned upon in Thailand, so be aware of such actions in public.

Finally, be sure to stay away from using drugs as there are strict laws in relation to drug use in Thailand and being caught with drugs can lead to imprisonment very easily.

Volunteers in Bangkok, Thailand

Volunteering in Bangkok

Step 4: Reflect & Return

Before you leave the country, talk to your internship coordinator or employer about writing you a letter of recommendation, even if it may not be immediately needed. It will be much quicker to request one in person, than through email or Skype. If you complete your internship in Thailand for academic credit, make sure you have everything sorted out before you leave, including the relevant documentation you need to prove what you accomplished.

If you do choose to shift your internship into a full time job in Thailand, congratulations! You’ve just earned a whole new adventure in life as an expat in Thailand!

If you are returning home when your internship in Thailand concludes, start preparing for your next adventure and your future career, the possibilities are endless with international experience under your belt!