Many Asian cultures collide in the geographic center of Southeast Asia: Thailand. This cultural merging results in a beautifully unique country. Thailand has it all, from mountains to beaches, temples to towering shopping malls. Through it all, the Thai way of kind acceptance of foreign travelers, workers, and students makes studying abroad in Thailand an exceptional experience.
Save Your Baht.
A dollar goes a long way here — and this is a major reason so many students choose to study abroad in Thailand. Living expenses are multitudes cheaper than people are used to in the U.S.A. and Europe. As a study abroad student in Thailand, one can live comfortably on about 10 dollars a day.
Traveling in Thailand is easy, as there are many different forms of transit that are all very affordable. For long distances, buses and trains are good options; trains offer sleeper cars for a more comfortable ride. There are also public train lines on which Thai people ride free and foreigners ride for a small fee. (These should be taken only for the experience, not for comfort).
Every city or town has a variety of short-distance modes of transportation, ranging from motorcycle taxis and three-wheeled rickshaws (tuk-tuks) to pick-up trucks whose beds have bench seats for passengers to sit on. It is not uncommon for these makeshift buses (called songtaew) to be overcrowded to the point where people are hanging from the back, holding onto the bar above them.
Thailand is a relatively compact country to traverse, with the exception of the southern part that snakes down from the western region, near the Myanmar border. However, any region, even the South, can be reached by some form of overland travel (overnight is always an option for longer distances). Signs and maps generally have English names complementing those written in Thai, but it helps to study the maps beforehand. The ease and affordability of travel is another reason so many international students choose Thailand for study abroad.
Thailand is blessed with beautiful terrain from the mountainous north to the tropical south. Rapid development has occurred over the last century, transforming the landscape in many areas. This may feel like a blessing in modern air-conditioned shopping malls, but a curse on the hectic, crowded streets of Bangkok. Even with all of the development of certain cities, an escape to tranquil rural lands is never more than a short, cheap bus ride away.
You won’t have to speak Thai if you’re studying abroad in Thailand, but a familiarity with a few key words and phrases goes a long way. While Thai people will exhibit delight at any foreigner’s attempt to speak their language, many people know English to some extent. Schools all over the country teach English starting at a young age. Often, Thai people understand more English than they let on, although some are shy when it comes to practicing their English. Many are delighted to have the opportunity to speak in English with a native speaker, to develop their skills in the second language that in Thailand is considered a prerequisite to success.
Thai Beliefs and Values.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, with the King Buhimbol Adulyadej acting as head of state within the guidelines of the official Thai constitution. The King and royal family are highly revered. Decorations paying homage to the King and the royal family can be seen in any town or city in Thailand. Two flags — one in honor of the King and one in honor of the Queen — are generally flown alongside the Thai flag. Parliament is the actual form of democratic administration, but the parliament must ultimately cede power to the King, should he decide to step in. The reverence of the royal family presents many taboos in Thai culture. Anyone studying in Thailand should refrain from saying anything insulting about the King.
The reverence for the royal family is matched only by a deep respect for all things Buddhist. Thailand is a country in which about 98 percent of the population is Buddhist. Early in the morning, monks walk about the town accepting donations of food from the townspeople in exchange for a blessing. Most Thai homes and even cars are decorated with Buddhist regalia. Foreigners are not excluded from Buddhist happenings — after all, a core precept of the religion is acceptance.
Perhaps Thailand's most famous landmarks are the ubiquitous Buddhist temples, one more glorious than the next. Most of these temples are adorned with jewels and gold and are quite spectacular to witness. Unlike in Christian churches, there is no set worship time here — adherents come and go as they please. Visitors must remember that even though these are massive tourist attractions, they are a place of worship, to please dress conservatively and proceed respectfully.
Thailand boasts big international cities and tiny tucked-away villages, lush mountains, and tropical beaches — all joined together by a light-hearted and gracious culture. As one of the top locations on earth for student travel and study abroad, Thailand has something to offer for everyone.