Vientiane, the largest and capital city of Laos, is undergoing rigid change as the economy is rapidly growing in combination with a growing influx of tourists. The country is home to UNESCO world heritage sites, rugged landscapes, tropical forests, rare wildlife, and one of the most ethnically diverse cultures in Southeast Asia, all of which continue to attract tourists and students alike. Study abroad programs in Vientiane are becoming increasingly popular among international students fascinated by history and culture, as the city is overflowing with the nation's thriving century-old royal history and past of French occupation.
Studying in Vientiane
There are a handful of study abroad programs in Vientiane, ranging from language programs to programs that combine volunteer work with academic courses to single subject focused programs. Regardless of the program each student selects, those who study abroad in Vientiane will gain a deeper knowledge of Laotian culture and Buddhism.
Service Learning focusedstudy abroad programs in Vientiane will enable international students to create meaningful connections with local people as well as develop leadership skills. Programs typically combine sustainability education, adventure, cultural immersion, and community service projects.
Political & Cultural Studies. Due toLaos' turbulent political history, studying politics in Vientiane is especially ideal. International students who study in Vientiane will have the opportunity to learn more about the country’s social, cultural, and political affairs, exploring the diverse effects of race, ethnicity, and cultural heritage. Programs aim to deepen students’ comprehension of the nation as a whole, as well as its relations with neighbouring countries, through comparing the vast cultural similarities and differences between different Southeast Asian communities.
Full Immersion programs in Vientiane give students a chance to live closely with the Laotian people. Students will develop a better understanding of country’s history and people while also increasing language competency. Most immersion study abroad programs in Vientiane even provide students with language partners whom they can practice language skills with, and learn more about the local culture.
Volunteer Opportunities.Some institutions offer volunteer programs in addition to study abroad opportunities in Vientiane. These type of programs typically connect students with international NGOs, in order to provide students with a more sustainable educational experience.
Schedule. The most popular time to study abroad in Vientiane is during the summer term, which begins in June. However, there are study abroad programs in Vientiane year round.
Life in Vientiane
Tucked away in the middle of Indochina, the capital city of Laos lacks the ambience of most Western cities, in a good way. Vientiane is somewhat considered to be a big town, in terms of population, but it is at the same time a small city, in terms of land area and number of businesses. The unique combination of slow city life and a developing economy, with a twist of French and Laotian architecture, makes study abroad in Vientiane possess an overall authentic feel.
With mostly low-rise buildings and a slower city life, Vientiane is more like a sleepy city than a capital. However, locals and tourist alike can easily find ways to occupy their time, whether eating, biking, or taking an occasional trip to neighbouring towns. The city's nightlife is non-existent, when compared to other capital cities in the region, but nevertheless, there are a handful of polished cafés and restaurants present in Vientiane. Students who want to enjoy life in a slow paced city will certainly love studying abroad in Vientiane.
While most places of interest, as well as hotels and guest houses, are found within the city center, moving around Vientiane is quite easy. Bicycles and motorbikes are popular means of transportation though driving motorbikes can be more difficult for students to do legally. Alternatively, students can opt for a tuk-tuk for shorter distances and buses for longer routes, which can cost as little as $5, depending on how far away the destination is.
Costs & Affordability
The cost of studying abroad in Vientiane varies based on the length of the program, or term, and the number of inclusions. For example, a five-week study abroad program in Vientiane may cost $2,500 to $5,000 and a full semester program might cost $5,000 to $10,000. The more inclusions a program has, the more expensive it is in most cases.
Living in Vientiane is rather cheap, like other Southeast Asian countries. A meal costs between $2 and $4 at a small scale restaurant and can be up to $15 in upscale restaurants. A litre and a half of water might cost less than $1, and the famous Laotian beer costs between $2 and $3, while imported beer is closer to $5.
Study abroad programs in Vientiane typically include tuition fees, accommodation, local airport transfers, and select excursions, workshops, and cultural programs or events. Although, some programs include medical insurance, visa fees, meals, and uniforms, or a combination of the latter inclusions. It is best to refer to your respective institution about program inclusions.
Accommodation & Visas
Those who study abroad in Vientiane often stay in basic single or double occupancy rooms in homestays, student housing, or hotels or guest houses situated in or near the center of the town. The business district of Vientiane is relatively small, so restaurants, cafes, and markets are almost always within walking distance.
Typically, a visa is needed to study abroad in Vientiane, and must be obtained prior to arrival in Laos. Most institutions in Vientiane will assist students with the visa process, although most visas cost less than $50. Also, if students want to extend their stay while in Laos applying for a visa extension is quite easy; visa extensions can be done at the immigration office in Vientiane for $2 per additional day, in most cases. Take note however, visa requirements are different for different nationalities. It is best to contact your local embassy for up to date information of visas for study abroad in Vientiane.
Benefits & Challenges
Adjustment. While it is beneficial for students to experience a different culture, students will encounter lots of ups and downs while living outside of their home country, let alone studying at a foreign institution.
The Local People. Meeting locals and conversing in day to day life might be tough, but the majority of city dwellers are used to meeting foreigners and international students. As Buddhist culture is prominent in Laos, students will find it hard to meet a local that is not friendly, helpful, and outgoing toward them.
Cultural & Language Immersion. Study Abroad programs in Vientiane often include cultural trips for students to make the experience even more beneficial. At the same time, students will be able to interact with local students, to further develop a cultural understanding and new perspective. Language partners, for example, help create a simultaneous learning experience from classroom to day to day conversations. In this way, they could also help the language partner practice their English skills. Students will not only get a chance to practice and increase conversational language skills, they will also gain local friends.
Societal Understanding. Most institutions will promote dialogue and collaboration between participants and Lao scholars, artists, teachers, students, and others in an effort to raise public awareness on a broad range of issues related to Laos.
Climate. Laos has only two seasons: dry and wet season. Rainy season runs from June all the way to September. The dry, cool season occurs from October to February, and temperature begin to rise in March and April.