Myanmar, formerly Burma, is a country shrouded in mystery, its doors slowly cracking open to offer the world a glimpse inside. The Southeast Asian country is somewhat of a “final frontier” in terms of development and Westernization in Asia. The pristine state of its culture makes studying abroad in Myanmar an opportunity that is not only unique, but continuously evolving. Study abroad programs in Myanmar are still new and few, but the numbers are growing; so now is the time to strike while the iron is hot and study in a country that is both brand new and endlessly ancient.
Yangon was the capital of Myanmar until 2005, but still holds the buzz and energy of a capital city with a population of over 5 million. There are currently four established institutions of higher education in Yangon and the The University of Foreign Languages hosts several study abroad programs. It offers several Asian and European languages and specializes in local students that hope to pursue a career in tourism or study abroad, but also has an excellent Burmese language program for international students who want to study in Myanmar.
Bagan, in central Myanmar, is one of the nation’s most popular destinations. Its skyline is cut out by over 2,000 temples and ancient structures, an area that has been compared to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. However, Bagan is more of a secret, and also includes the famous sunrise/sunset hot air balloon rides. Students who find themselves studying abroad in this ancient city will typically be taking a specialized, educational tour that is part of another, larger program.
Inle Lake. This most likely won’t be the main site for your study abroad program in Myanmar, but is a vital stop on many educational excursions. It is about 270 miles north of Yangon in central Myanmar and is a very culturally significant site. It is famous for the Intha leg rowers, which are the local fisherman. They attach paddles to their legs for rowing so they are able to keep their hands free to maneuver their fishing nets. The lake if often a living classroom for several days for those who study abroad in Myanmar.
Subjects & Courses
If you have any interest in entrepreneurship, convoluted politics, grassroots movements, and many more intriguing areas, studying abroad in Myanmar is your ideal location. Since Myanmar is still opening up to the world, it is often part of multi-country or short term program taking students throughout Southeast Asia. Study abroad programs in Myanmar are typically taught in English and the short term programs are led by English speaking leaders.
Myanmar’s budding tourism industry has made it the perfect place to study Business and Development. There are many organizations considering investments, but waiting on the fence to see how the coming months or years play out. Many people are interested in visiting this mysterious country and many businesses are waiting to see if it is a viable location for expansion. There are programs that focus heavily on balancing potential development while at the same time preserving Myanmar’s culture.
Buddhism is by far the predominant religion of Myanmar and it is deeply embedded in Burmese culture; there are many opportunities to study Buddhism in Myanmar, as well as its history. You can even take part in Buddhist classes and speak with monks to learn more about the religion. The International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University is the most well known institution for this focus.
Service Learning & Development. This is a primary focus of short term study abroad excursions in Myanmar. The country was ran by a military junta for nearly 50 years which established intense isolation from the rest of the world and horrendous human rights violations. These study abroad programs will include meetings with leaders in the development fields to discuss and examine critical issues.
Conflict Resolution & Politics. Myanmar’s political terrain has been and still is a roller coaster of change. The back and forth added with new developments and constant transferring of power finally seems to be heading in a positive direction, but the trials and issues are very much alive for anyone interested in studying conflict resolution and developing governments.
Scholarships & Costs
Despite its developing status, Myanmar is not a particularly affordable country and study abroad programs that are offered are typically incredibly robust. There will be a wide range of experiences packed into short term programs, with logistics and excursions already planned and included. Some opportunities to study abroad in Myanmar will have everything from Buddhist retreats, trekking expeditions, an introductory language class, and a range of courses all planned for students. Programs range from around $6,000 for a short term experience to close to $18,000 for a semester long, multi-country trip.
Budget. The government and tourism industry have put a price structure in place to help create a balanced/fair trade cost system. Stays in upper end hotels will cost the same amount as they would in the United States. If you are interested in traveling on your own on a shoestring budget, plan on a budget of about $60 to $70 a day or around 60,500 Myanmar Kyat, commonly referred to as the K. This budget will get you low end rooms without air conditioning and meals at local eateries and markets.
The good news is that there is a lot of funding options for study abroad in Myanmar that can help you fund your trip. There are even funding opportunities that focus on the preservation of archeological sites or spreading positive practices in developing areas, both of which are in great need in Myanmar.
Accommodation & Visas
Accommodations while studying in Myanmar are often a mixture of options, since the majority of programs take students to multiple locations within the country or around Southeast Asia. Students will typically stay in locally owned hotels and lodges or have arranged homestays. Myanmar is made up of many ethnic minorities and some programs will focus directly on connecting students with these locals.
United States citizens need a tourist visa to study abroad in Myanmar, which will be valid for 28 days. The government has recently updated the procedures to include the eVisa program, so students can apply for their visa online rather than actually physically applying at an embassy of Myanmar. It is very important to keep your visa and passport with you at all times. Security checkpoints are common especially outside of touristy areas and you may be required to show the documents at airports, train stations, and even hotels.
Benefits & Challenges
- Plan In Advance. Because of Myanmar’s new political situation and the smaller number of programs, it is extra important to start your study abroad preparations well in advance. Some study abroad programs in Myanmar have deadlines nearly a year in advance and spots can fill up quickly.
- Time Difference. Myanmar is in a slightly unique time zone which is the UTC +6:30, that’s right there is a half hour in there so be aware when planning calls or meetings back home.
- USD. This can be both an advantage and a difficulty. USD is the most common currency for tourist activities. This is expanding slightly, but they are extremely strict with the quality of the bills. If you bring bills from home make sure they are in impeccable condition.