International Sustainable Development Studies Institute
96% Rating
(11 Reviews)

International Sustainable Development Studies Institute

Study abroad at International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI), and immerse yourself in the vibrant cultures of Thailand and the surrounding region. Our programs are designed to get you out of the traditional classroom and into the field on expeditions, while learning about sustainability and the relationship between different people groups and the environment they live in. With a strong focus on hands-on learning, studying at ISDSI is a cultural experience that is the adventure of a life-time. You may sea-kayak the Andaman, visit a UNESCO World Heritage site, backpack between villages or research the sustainability of urban communities. Courses are developed in collaboration with local leaders, and upon arrival to ISDSI you will journey into the excitement of engaging with the local community, living in home-stays and experiential learning.

Most Recent Program Reviews

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Freda
Female
24 years old
San Francisco
Colorado College

Super great. Some things to think about

9/10

This was an amazing experience that I will never forget and encourage everyone considering to apply for. The language and culture immersion was amazing, the host families and field instructors were awesome, and the locations and courses were better than I could have hoped for. Overall this was an amazing program and I am really happy I didn't choose any other program. I think every college student should have an immersive learning experience like the one that ISDSI offers. Initially I was concerned that my Thai language skills would feel useless. But that is what allowed me to learn the most from local instructors and from my host families, and even though I don't use it now I think it's what contributed most to my education with ISDSI. Be aware that a lot of the villages and home stays will be with Christian Thais, not Buddhist or animist ones like you may expect. Many of the organizations ISDSI works with and the majority of the staff are Christian as well. This is not mentioned on the website but it's good to know before you go. The internship experience was not great but the program was excellent.

How can this program be improved?

Better support and communication from executive director. Better communication and faster action on internships.

Response from International Sustainable Development Studies Institute

It's great to know you had an amazing experience during your time studying abroad at ISDSI!

Some students are surprised to find out that Thailand is culturally and religiously diverse, and not just Buddhist. During one course we do stay in villages for a few nights where many of the families are Christian, and some students do find that surprising. But that is part of the history and identity of that ethnic minority group, so we feel it is appropriate to learn from those communities. In the same way, we have extended stays in many Buddhist communities and a Muslim community so students learn from and experience villages and ways of life that reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of Thailand.

A couple of the projects we work with were started by development workers who are Christians, but again, the focus is on the quality of the project and not the religion, except when the focus is on religion. For that we focus on Buddhism, animism and Islam - talking with a Buddhist monk, meeting a Muslim Imam, studying animism and forests, etc.

Similarly, ISDSI employs individuals based on their knowledge of local culture, ecology and expedition skills, and does not discriminate based on personal belief systems. While some staff are Christian, the majority are Buddhist or non-religious.

In terms of doing an internship with ISDSI, we have now changed our policy since there was a lot of confusion this semester. Students will need to write up a formal proposal before they come to Thailand, rather than trying to figure out what they want to do once they arrive, and they will have a chance to set up their own internships and independent studies.

Thank you again for your feedback, and we hope you always remember all the great things you experienced in the Land of Smiles.

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Jasmine
Female
24 years old
Kalamazoo, MI
Kalamazoo College

The people mean everything to me

10/10

Studying abroad in Thailand with ISDSI was "life changing" for me. As much as I dislike the stereotypical narrative of going abroad and coming back a changed person, I do think that the personal connections I developed while studying in Thailand will affect me for the rest of my life. My favorite parts about this program were the homestay experience where I developed close relationships with my host families -- enough so that I returned the next year to complete my senior thesis work in Thailand, and am considering moving there post-undergrad to work, mainly to stay in touch with those communities and individuals I became close with. The other facet of the program that I enjoyed the most was the intensive language learning. Learning Thai from scratch in an extremely fluid and intuitive way really helped me towards a greater respect and understanding of Thai culture and people in a way that would be impossible without the language skills.

How can this program be improved?

At times the logistical side of the program felt simultaneously scattered and high school-esque. I understand that the staff are operating under flexible and constantly changing circumstances, and that many college students are unreliable and working on developing responsibility, however, I think that restructuring the student leadership portion of the program could simultaneously reduce student frustration and encourage them to grow into real leadership roles.

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Marie
Female
24 years old
Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo College

Fall Semester

10/10

Sustainability is extremely applicable to the current state of affairs in the US. ISDSI provides students with insight into the development of a country and its sustainable capacity.
The program can be challenging at times in terms of being in situations that may not be familiar for many students that have grown up in the US. However, ISDSI is a truly unique program, and I am extremely grateful for the people that I have met and the education I have gained.

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Grace
Female
24 years old
Maryland
Calvin College

ISDSI was the best semester of my college career!

10/10

I think the ISDSI program is unique among study abroad programs in that you get the opportunity to explore all over the country. At the beginning of the semester, you are based in Chiang Mai, which is a really cool city with lots to do. You get to be truly immersed in Thai culture by staying with a host family and spending a significant portion of every school day learning Thai. But for the other courses in the semester you get to travel to northern Thailand to hike in the mountains and southern Thailand to stay on the coast and kayak to islands. During my semester we also got to go to Laos as part of the rivers course.
I would highly recommend this semester to anyone that is interested in how people interact with their environment. We got to learn hands on by speaking to local people about the different ways they relied on the forests, rivers, or coasts. This semester does not really focus on sciences like biology (although you will learn identification of some plants and animals from the host families you stay with) but rather on cultural anthropology.
I definitely made lasting friends that I still keep in touch with, years later and I hope to be able to go back and visit Thailand and my host family! I would recommend this program to anyone that loves outdoor activities and has the itch to travel. Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries I have been to.

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Samantha
Female
24 years old
Kalamazoo, MI
Kalamazoo College

Amazing Place, Amazing People

9/10

ISDSI's program offered an abundance of opportunities to immerse oneself in the language, culture, and environment. The people we worked with left a lasting impact on the ways I perceived my surroundings, and strengthened and shaped my overall worldview. Perhaps my favorite part was getting to learn Thai as a way of asking to be let into a different world in which we did not "belong".

I hope to go back to visit some of the people I met in this program, and hope to have lasting relationship with them for life.

How can this program be improved?

There were occasions that I felt like I was being treated like a child. Obviously we required more information and guidelines being in a new place, but the way in which this information was delivered did not always feel respectful.

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