CIEE Community Public Health in Khon Kaen, Thailand

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Study abroad in Khon Kaen and gain an in-depth understanding of the role of public health in Thailand. The program combines classroom-based academics with extensive field work that offers hands-on experience, visits to private and public health agencies, and guidance from government officials and practitioners. The program begins with an intensive Thai language instruction course, geared toward helping you succeed in everyday situations. All courses are complemented with CIEE co-curricular activities and excursions beyond the city to enhance classroom learning and provide intercultural understanding.

  • Interact with doctors, nurses, public health professional, academics, and community-level public health volunteers
  • Collaborate with local public health leaders to determine research topics and activities that meet community needs
  • Visit Laos, Vietnam, or another Southeast Asian country to compare public health systems

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Questions & Answers


9.25 Rating
based on 4 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 75%
  • 7-8 rating 25%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Academics 6.5
  • Support 9
  • Fun 8.8
  • Housing 8.8
  • Safety 10
Showing 1 - 4 of 4
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Yes, I recommend this program

Hands on Learning!

This program was unlike anything I expected. Khon Kaen is a rural city in the North East Isaan region of Thailand. It is quieter than the big cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai and has significantly less tourism. You really get a feel for the real Thailand in Khon Kaen as you are almost always the only foreigner. This also forces you to use the Thai you learn in class--which is both fun for you and for the local people. My favorite part of this program was the fact that we got to plan and execute our own research project stemming from community visits. After staying in a rural village, my partner and I decided to go back and implement a project about breastfeeding habits. We interviewed community members, met with the village headmen and head of the health promoting hospital, presented findings at a community meeting, and prepared a successful and sustainable intervention. The program also provided us with a lot of free time, which was a cherished break from a normal semester in the US. Everyday after class I ran around a lake near the Faculty of Public Health. We also planned many trips and I was able to travel to 5 neighboring countries as well as throughout Thailand.

What would you improve about this program?
The lecture style classes are quite dull, but this is traditional Thai classroom setup. Also the roommate assignments are done fairly randomly so sometimes you do not get along with your roommate/they may not be super helpful but there are always other Thai people who are willing to help you!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Khon Kaen, Thailand

The experience in Khon Kaen is well worth the experience. My peers below left some comments covering topics of academics, food, culture, language, religion, etc, and I could not agree more. The program was academically challenging specifically when conducting research and writing our final paper. We spent time learning outside the class and were in the field attending meetings and interviewing professionals at clinics and hospitals. We also went to Laos to interview professionals about issues related to AIDS/HIV, hypertension, and diabetes.

In our free time, we traveled all around Thailand and Southeast Asia. I stayed in Khon Kaen for a month after the program ended and taught English at a local school for students with disabilities, then volunteered for six weeks in Malaysia through I traveled to 8 new countries during and after the program. If you're interested in hearing about more specific experiences, check out my study abroad blog by clicking the link below and feel to reach out via social media.

What would you improve about this program?
Offer more opportunities to build relationships with Thai University students such as promoting clubs and athletic programs on campus.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Thailand is amazing!

Thailand is a truly phenomenal place and you'll fall in love with the people and the food! Thai people are so friendly and the KKU campus is huge so there's plenty to do without leaving for downtown. There's also a lot of free time so with a little planning, you can do lots of weekend trips all over! The program has very little structure and the academics are average but with a open mind and some motivation, you can make it a great experience.

Food: Street food is eaten at least once a day and is always delicious (though very spicy!). Foods like grilled pork, noodles, sticky rice, and green papaya salad are staples in this region of Thailand known as Isaan, but American foods like grilled chicken and burgers aren't hard to find (there one right across the street from the dorms).

Travel: Taxi is the best was to get around Khon Kaen, though you'll need to know a little bit of Thai. The university bus system is fairly reliable, though walking in the morning and evening isn't too hot. Each student shares a room with a Thai roommate, and they are a great resources fro information and to help you get places on their scooters. There's a cheap shuttle to the mall downtown that runs every 15-30 mins. Bangkok is a 6 hour bus ride down and is easy to navigate to and around. Chiang Mai is also not difficult to get to, but it's recommended you make the trips with other people if your Thai isn't strong. Flights around the country aren't expensive, but bus or train is always cheaper.

Khon Kaen: What great about Khon Kaen is it's not touristy, you'll find you're immersing in true Thai culture in the northeast region of the country. If you're looking to experience what South Asia Nice small city but KKU campus is basically its own town so you'll rarely leave unless going to U-bar (nightclub), the mall, or the grocery store. Bar street is less than a 1/4 mile from the dorm so you don't have to go far for casual drinks.

Academics: Thai class is taught separately (at the study center), but is definitely the best class! The class is interactive and engaging, the teachers are great, and you'll be surprised how well your Thai is in just a four months! There are even a few field trips. Public health classes are taught at the university (a 10 min walk to the bus stop and another 10 min bus ride). Coursework is quite easy, but not interesting or engaging. A few papers and some minor homework, but readings were practically optional so you get lots of free time ! The professors are great people and teachers, however, despite the small class sizes, classes were lecture style and quite long (one or two classes a day with a total of 3-5 hours of class). Many students studying public health in the US explained this program was not a good example of the subject. However, the CIEE and university faculty are very receptive to constructive feedback and are always there to meet and discuss the classes.

Studying abroad is an experience that requires you to learn how to adapt to a new culture, and Thailand is a perfect place for that! The smaller program size allows you to meet a diverse yet amazing group of American students while making new Thai friends who will show you the best the region. While the academics aren't strong, the CPH program has long weekends and many afternoons free for exploring and traveling around.

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Read my full story
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Yes, I recommend this program

Why Thailand is called the "Land of Smiles"

When you first think of studying abroad in Thailand, you probably think of studying abroad in Bangkok. The city Khon Kaen is a 6 hour drive away from Bangkok located in Isaan aka the Northeast region of Thailand, also known as the poorest region of Thailand. As a student majoring in Public Health, this region is where I needed to be. Through the Community Public Health (CPH) program, you'll have the opportunity to go into local villages, learn about their public health concerns, and come up with ways to address these concerns.

Students going in won't necessarily produce solutions that will "save the village," but it will make an impact both for the community and you as an individual learning about a different culture and real public health. One of my biggest take aways from CPH is that public health isn't as simple as i.e. providing water filters to an entire community to "save them" from drinking dirty water, or getting all the village dogs spayed/neutered to rid the village of rabies. Sometimes, the problems aren't as "severe" as one would think, and sometimes - most times - the solutions aren't as simple as one would think either. I learned that when it comes to public health, all of this is normal and ok.

In addition to the CPH (and Beginner's/Intermediate/Advanced Thai) class, you will be joined by Thai roommates, who will be your direct insight into all that is Thai and Isaan culture. These roommates will teach you how to laugh and how to incorporate the "no worries" mentality into your life -- which is very refreshing in comparison to the American mindset (if you're not sure what that is, you'll find out when you stay in Khon Kaen long enough).

Isaan food can get SPICY. Even those who currently "can't handle spicy food" will end up WANTING to build up some spice tolerance once they taste the food. No matter what your spice tolerance is at now, you will build it through Isaan food -- and you'll be happy that you did! (On a personal note: To this day, I have not found any spice in America that makes me want to fight back the tears while eating the way Isaan food did.)

You would think that being in a foreign country would make you stressed about safety. Well, Khon Kaen is the exception. Students had no trouble walking the Khon Kaen streets/roads during both the day and night. You'll get to know the faces of locals as they get to know yours -- you might even want to stop by and say hello to them!

TL; DR: You will probably leave the program not wanting to leave and in tears. Study abroad in Khon Kaen, Thailand!

What would you improve about this program?
The field trips and outings that students took with professors were where the most learning and the most memories were made. Having less lecture-style courses and more community engagement would make the classes even more worthwhile.
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