CIEE Development + Globalization in Khon Kaen, Thailand

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About Program

Immerse yourself in Thailand’s grassroots issues and gain insight into the complexities surrounding environmental, development, and globalization issues. Enroll in four courses, including an intensive three-week Thai language instruction course to help you get-by in everyday situations, and prepare for five 1-week community stays through lectures and discussion at CIEE Khon Kaen. The field becomes the classroom, and community leaders, government officials, and NGO practitioners are the teachers. All courses are complemented with CIEE co-curricular activities and excursions beyond the city to enhance classroom learning and provide intercultural understanding.

Program Highlights
  • Engage with grassroots social justice movements representatives from NGOs; journalists; and political and human rights activists.
  • Explore what social justice and global citizenship can mean in the context of a developing nation
  • Contribute to community-led effort addressing social justice, human rights, and environmental issues.

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Program Reviews

9.59 Rating
based on 17 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 88.24%
  • 7-8 rating 11.76%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Academics 8.9
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.6
  • Housing 9.4
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 8 of 17
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Yes, I recommend this program

Creative, explorative and immersive

My primary reason to study abroad was to push my creativity beyond the traditional scope of academia. Research papers, essays, and ‘ivory tower’ discussions had started to jade me. I strongly believe my experience with CIEE satisfied a longing to apply my creativity in the real world.

In October of the program I bought an old DSLR at a used camera store in Khon Kaen. With it I discovered the creative process within photography of translating emotion to picture and video. On our final community visit, I woke up at 3:00am to video a powerful 200+ person protest march led by NGO and community leaders. This video was eventually published in a regional newspaper as part of an article on the march, which our program collectively wrote. There is much opportunity through this program to not only explore your creativity, but to also passionately apply it. Community visits are a five-day investigation of our unit’s theme, in which you will interview NGO leaders, community members, local administrative bodies, human rights lawyers, academics etc. The interviews allowed my group and I to dissect challenges of development in Isaan from a broad and multifaceted narrative. At the end of each unit, the group would create a unit project, and individuals could take on journalism pieces, in attempt to cover an individual’s story or the broader issue. Each asset of the community visit, the interviews, unit projects and journalism projects, allowed me to push my academic and social creativity.

This program is also set up to be entirely immersive. You will be privileged with a, perhaps, once in a lifetime opportunity to build relations with people in rural Thailand. ‘Immersion’ is your choice, however. I encourage those who do this program, or honestly any study abroad program, to make strong effort to learn the host country’s language. Granted, Thai, and especially slang Isaan, is not an easy language to swallow. However, any effort to grapple Thai’s esoteric sounds and tones will highly reward you during community visits; I believe it will define the level to which the program is immersive for you, as connection begins with communication. I studied Thai at my home university the year prior to this program. I also spent the summer teaching English in rural southern Thailand. So, my Thai was at a basic conversational level when the program began. Thai is only offered at 8 Universities in the US, so you will likely not have the opportunity to study it academically beforehand. I highly encourage anyone considering this program to take on an individual effort to study Thai before arrival, and to continuously develop your Thai while there. When it comes down to it, you won’t want to miss the conversation and laughs that bounce around while sharing kao neow (sticky rice) with your host families.

The program will affect participants in many ways upon returning. For me, I added an Asian Studies major to my degree, and have since worked to become fluent in Thai. I graduated a month ago and now plan to return to Thailand, to begin work in the NGO field. Not everyone will add a new major and desire to work in Thailand after graduating. There were however a number of participants in my group who came into the program with interest in pursuing a career in international development. For all of us with prior interest in the field, this program helped answer many of our curiosities. I believe we all left with a very good sense of how community development work functions at a grassroots level. Overall, the DG program will introduce you to what I believe are the most important aspects of development work— 1) seeking creative, new and balanced solutions, 2) dialogue, and 3) listening.

1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience!

The academic template of CIEE’s courses built valuable skills for a professional resume, which set CIEE apart from other study abroad programs. The main development course was organized by five units where students were free to create and manage project ideas based on concerning issues.

CIEE organized exchanges with Government Officials, NGO’s, and villagers which was the best way for an International Development student to take any academic interests out of the classroom. The development units were greater than ourselves, we witnessed the resilience of local villagers by staying with families for a week and understanding the history behind their struggles. Host families treated us like their own and provided us with a plethora of traditional Isaan dishes.

When we were not on our unit visits, CIEE secured the group comfortably in dorm-style living that was air conditioned and a minute away from CIEE’s main facility. Khon Kaen University and its students were the surrounding environment. There were plenty of night markets and affordable eats (the meals being $1-$3). Our roommates were KKU students who were enrolled in English courses while we were enrolled in Thai language and culture classes to debrief on intercultural development.

Aside from living in Northeast Thailand, it was easy and cheap to visit the rest of the beautiful country. Chiang Mai, Pai, Krabi, and Koh Tao were my personal favorites. We got to experience all this amazing country had to offer (some moments felt like we were on vacation) while also working on development projects that we witnessed made a direct impact.

CIEE did a fine job of creating a flexible environment for students to discuss improvements, whether it was for academic purposes or even something as simple as making the student lounge more comfortable, our teachers always wanted us to be happy. My time in Thailand helped shape my career path based off the work I did with an amazing student group and teachers. I will be back!

1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

CIEE Khon Kaen DG Program

The program strives to give students tools so that they may learn in their own time the many valuable lessons that come with studying abroad. The staff and communities we studied under provided the dots, but it was up to us to connect them. This sort of empowerment in education is important for young people to experience. Our most valuable lessons are learned outside of the comfort zone, often with tears, interpersonal communication, and striving towards a common goal. I believe CIEE gave us all the opportunity to take as much as we needed/wanted from the experience.
My experience with the CIEE Khon Kaen program was shaped by many factors, least of which was the peers with whom I worked and learned along side. Our student group was made up of some very passionate people, but there was an undercurrent of tension and stubbornness that resulted in our group being unable to achieve harmony by the end of the program. I vividly remember the optional “wrap-up” retreat to mark the end of the program, and only a fraction of the student group chose to attend and reflect on our experience. At the time, I thought that was a problem but in reality, it was a reflection of the priorities of the group. They were prioritizing having fun and exploring Thailand which was indicative of the natural curiosity and eagerness we all had entering and leaving the program. Often that youthful energy created some magical moments; our group danced and played with village children in the pouring rain, went on trips together, and laughed. I believe that the student group grew a lot together and loved our experience in the villages and in creating projects together.
Some valuable lessons I gleaned from the program revolved around human relations. I saw my patience and ability to connect with others grow through village stays, roommate relations, and interviews. By stretching my boundaries and comfort zone, I was able to be a more mindful and present person. Being in a different culture engaged my mind at a deeper level and forced me to observe more and speak less. This changing of my ego allowed me to learn more from others without bias. I learned how to be an ally and a part of the group, as opposed to an individual with self-serving goals. At the end of the program, I had an epiphany: that our inability to come together, inevitably was our downfall. I realized then that I had not contributed to the group as much as I should have. I saw the senselessness in the very “American” pattern of behavior that compels the individual to only act on their own behalf and prioritizes the individual over the group. There must be a balance, of course, but this epiphany shifted my focus so that I viewed myself more as a global citizen than as an American citizen. We are all united, and I saw that more in Thailand than I had before.

What would you improve about this program?
More recruitment of students. I think there is strength in diversity of members and so, having a larger class would increase awareness and learning opportunities.
1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A Richer Education

I can honestly say this semester was the best semester of my life and I think I learned far more his semester than I have ever learned at my home university. Through week long community visits, I became closer to understanding the issues that many communities gave in Thailand, and that are relevant in the states too. What made this program even better was that we got to use what we learned to work with villagers on projects that they wanted help with. The experiential learning was amazing and I learned so much. I also loved that there was such a huge emphasis on the group process. Students were in charge of what they learned and how they learned and it made our learning and our group that much stronger. Also the staff are incredible and truly felt like family!

1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Deep Learning

This program gets the immersive, expansive potential of study abroad right. And it helps students combine classroom learning to the even more powerful learning that can happen on the ground and with communities. Using frameworks of anti-oppression, human rights, and organizing, this program connects students to issues in globalization and development to the communities that are impacted by changes. And more importantly, the program connects students to the ways in which local entities and communities are organizing in response to development schemes. Students participate in home stays in communities with which the program has long-standing, mutual relationships. For students in my year, this program was a major launching pad into helping students take ownership over their education and inform career pathways. And for me, it fostered some of my deepest friendships.

1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Life changing !!

Learning from local NGOs and communities immersed me in the culture of Thailand and brought globalization to a very real, human level. The class collaborates on group projects, making for an intimate and team oriented learning environment. The independent project period provided a chance to collaborate with non-profits and give back to the communities you stay with. A journalism unit gave me tools to create a documentary for my independent project, and which launched my documentary film career.

1 person found this review helpful.
Yes, I recommend this program

Immersive and important

The CIEE Thailand Development and Globalization program is unique because you learn through complete immersion into the topics you are studying. This is done primarily through homestays and exchanges in villages and communities that are affected by the globalization issue that is the focus of a particular unit (e.g., agriculture, mining, urban migration). There is minimal reliance on lectures, textbooks, and readings, although there is some to enhance your time in the communities. The program leaders have spent 20+ years building relationships with the communities and NGOs you will visit, and each student group builds off the relationships and projects previous students have built so you are involved in an experience that is larger than your four months in the program.

1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Learning from people for people: an experiential education

The program takes experiential learning for what it should be. In our age of increasing globalization and development, learning from local communities in a bottom-up, people-first approach was invaluable experience for me. Speaking with villagers, NGOs, human rights advocates, and many others in a region of Thailand that many people often forget, disregard, and look down upon brought a new perspective on what it means to be a Global Citizen. This program is challenging, but it's definitely worth it. For those looking to challenge their perspectives of traditional education, of themselves, and of the world, I'd highly recommend considering CIEE's Globalization & Development program in Khon Kaen.

1 person found this review helpful.

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