Thailand: Chiang Mai - Culture, Politics, Business

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USAC has teamed up with Chiang Mai University to offer students the chance to study abroad in Thailand! Students interested in Asian-Pacific Rim Economics, Politics, and Culture Studies will have the chance to pursue studies in those topics along with much more, including Thai language courses.

Studying in Chiang Mai places students right in the center of Thai trade and tourism. The opportunity to explore the "Land of Smiles" is right around the corner as well, with multiple planned excursions throughout the trip. Sign up today with USAC to start planning for an unforgettable experience in Chiang Mai, Thailand!

  • Experience the charm of exotic and ancient culture while you live and study in a center of Thai trade, tourism, and academic activity
  • Enjoy a wide range of field trips, including a field study with the Karen Hill Tribe people, as well as elephant riding and bamboo rafting
  • Explore the "land of smiles" and real Buddhism in a country that is 95% Buddhist
  • Visit lovely mountain regions featuring rivers, rain forests, national parks, nature preserves, and tea and coffee plantations

Questions & Answers

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based on 13 reviews
  • Academics 7.2
  • Support 8.7
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 8.7
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 13 of 13
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Great Experience

Participating in the USAC Chiang Mai program was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Despite departing from Thailand four months ago I still think about my semester on a daily basis.

Thailand is known as the land of the smiles, and for good reason. Every person I met abroad, both Thai and 'farang', came equipped with an infectious smile and a welcoming heart. I always felt welcome as a foreigner, and I have never grown to love a location more than Chiang Mai.

The city has an ancient feel with old stone walls and magnificent temples on every corner. Scooters and motorbikes zip through the roads in orchestrated chaos. Delicious aromas from hundreds of food stalls waft through alleyways and fill the streets. Monks in orange robes inhabit local temples in search of enlightenment. Wild dogs saunter around picking up food scraps and lounging in the sun. CMU students walk leisurely to class in black skirts and pink ties. Happiness is thick in the air and permeates the heart and soul of all within Chiang Mai.

As far as the USAC program goes, I could not have asked for a more helpful staff and well put together program. On site staff members are available almost around the clock to answer any questions you may have, give useful advice, and welcome you to their country. They will pick you up at the airport, show you around the city, inform you of local customs, even remind you of important deadlines regarding your visa and academic paperwork. USAC also plans multiple excursions to amazing locations throughout the semester and promotes camaraderie between Thai & US students. One of my favorite aspects of the program was making friends with local Thai students. Without the support and direction of the USAC program, these friendships would have been difficult to create.

If you even the slightest bit interested in going to Thailand as part of this USAC program. DO IT. I promise you it will change your life and you will thank yourself for the leap of faith down the road.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Living in Thailand can be hard on those who struggle to get out of their comfort zone, push themselves to new heights, or can't handle spicy food. However, for those who are able to challenge their beliefs of the west and put themselves out there to experience new cultures and grow as an individual Thailand is an amazing place full of beautiful landscapes, amazing people, and lovely food. Chiang Mai is located in the North of Thailand, it is beautiful and surrounded by mountains in the valley. You can go into the jungle or go to the night markets which are teaming with food and people. The city itself feels alive with how much is going on and how much can be done. I would recommend getting a scooter or some sort of transport because it really allows you to experience the city and immerse yourself. Do things with Thai students, get to know Thai people, eat Thai food, embrace the local culture, and Thailand will only show you beauty.

How can this program be improved?
The dorms could be handled in a better way. Being a college student who has lived in dorms and lived in a house; I would say the dorms in Chiang Mai were somewhat constricting. They were very nice and clean but the security policies which did not allow other people to come in at all even if they were a student somewhat hinders the ability to hang out with people and you are forced to go out.
Yes, I recommend this program

We were meant to wander in wonder.

Chiang Mai Thailand holds the perfect combination of the lively bustle of a small city plus the serenity of nature right in your backyard. This second largest city in Thailand is nestled up to a mountain that holds an ancient temple on its peak. Chiang Mai University makes up a large part of the city so it has the feel of a university town with students from all over the world making it their temporary home. It’s inexpensive to live there and it’s easy to get a cheap flight down to Bangkok to travel to the islands or anywhere else in Southeast Asia. Weekend trips up to Pai, Chiang Rai, Doi Inthanon National Park, and Mae Hong Son are a quick bus ride away.
Chiang Mai is a hidden jewel of a city and quickly became home to me. I was able to arrange my classes on M-Wed, and have the rest of the week to explore this beautiful country and surrounding areas. I'm so thankful I chose to study abroad here during my senior year. This was truly a unique time in my life, before I had to face the responsibilities of starting a career and taking on adult life. I found tranquility and peace in this beautiful place and I crave this feeling once again. If lively street markets, hipster coffee shops, vintage clothing stores, used bookstores, ancient temples, fantastically cheap food, hiking, muay thai, and scooter adventuring is an interest of yours, Chiang Mai is the place for you.

Yes, I recommend this program

Missin' U Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a super special place. Its a rather large city, but the support system USAC provides allows you to find your way around in a safe, and convenient way. It was a surreal experience wearing school uniforms at Chiang Mai University. We lived in dorms, which was different for me, but it was a challenge I really appreciated. The university was not too far away from the dorms, downtown was a red truck ride away.

The field trips were my favorite, we went on a Buddhism retreat, which was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, but one of the most rewarding ones. You can get the best kind of lost in Chiang Mai, to find an abundance of cafe's, tourists/locals, temples (right in the downtown area), and soooo much more.

If you are open to a biggish city, dorm-life, crazy adventures, perseverance, then Chiang Mai is the place for you.

Yes, I recommend this program
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The Land Of Smiles

For anyone considering studying abroad in Thailand, let me just start off by saying that it was the best experience of my life. I know that everyone says that about their study abroad experience, but I can honestly say that it left a lasting impact on me. I studied abroad in the summer of 2017 and honestly wouldn't have left if I didn't have to come home for school.

The people, food, and endless adventures make Thailand like no other place. I rode an elephant and was blessed by a monk in a temple on top of a hill. I slept on bamboo floors with hill tribe people and got to pet a tiger. If you are looking for some place that is adventurous, then you have come to the right spot.

I would recommend trying to take a weekend trip to the islands or Bangkok, I had a lot of fun there too. Its also very easy to get to other places in Asia too. Everyone always say Thai people are super nice and I can tell you they are! Mostly everyone spoke english or enough to where you could communicate. If you love Thai food, like me, then you will be in heaven. Everything is CHEAP and make sure to bargain for anything you buy in markets.

10/10 would recommend, you won't regret it.

Yes, I recommend this program
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The adventure of a lifetime: lifelong friends and career development, self development

My Background: Before my study abroad trip I had no experience traveling out of the country. To note, I had very little experience traveling to other states within the United States. However, with it being my last semester in school, I wanted to push myself and try something new. Although many of my peers had warned me about Thailand being an underdeveloped country and that it would put a strain on me being able to graduate, or get a job, I decided that studying abroad in Thailand would be the best place for me to grow as a person and as an explorer.

The Program: Now that I have completed the program, I can genuinely say studying abroad through USAC was better and more than I could have ever asked for. The people from the faculty genuinely care about helping their students. My cohort was extremely diverse, filled with both introverts and extroverts. When I first saw this, I thought that there would be a lot of people feeling left out or that the program would become fairly "clicky". To my surprise, we all got along very well and although there were social groups, everyone was very inviting. In addition, the classes also assisted in bringing us together since a fair portion of them was more conversation or debate oriented.

Classes: Every course was approximately 3 hours long and held once a week - unless they were Thai language classes, held twice a week for an hour and a half. The course I found to be the most difficult was political science. However, for the most part, classes were fair and challenging. I would recommend that classes were to be split into segments since many were lecture based and/or discussion based. My two favorite courses were Supply Chain Management and Buddhism in Thailand. In Supply Chain Management, not only was the instructor very knowledgeable in his field but took us on four different field trips to see how businesses operated in Thailand. This definitely immersed me into the Thailand culture, and gave me great insight to the culture. In Buddhism in Thailand I learned about the history and methodology of Buddhism. Through this course, we were taken for two meditation sessions - teaching us to meditate in three different ways by a current monk (our instructors were retired monks). All in all, all of USAC’s instructors were very knowledgeable in their field and you can tell they taught because they enjoyed teaching.

Trips Visa: Because student visas only last about 90 days, students have one of two options; 1) going through their respective embassy or, 2) visiting a different country to renew their visa. I was told by my peers and instructors that the cost ends up being similar, hence traveling to a different country would be ideal. It was because of this that I had the opportunity to visit three additional countries while in Thailand – although there are a lot of opportunities to go explore many more. I had the opportunity to visit Malaysia, Indonesia, and Myanmar - all of which were beautiful in their own way and filled with culture. I can whole-heartedly say that traveling and exploring both, inside and outside, of Thailand has taught me to adapt to new situations and trust my gut intuition. Most importantly, I have learned to be culturally competent within Southeast Asian culture; something that I truly value.

Transportation: Although Uber isn't used in Chiang Mai anymore, everyone uses one of two type of transportation GRAB, an app similar to Uber, or a red truck (you can order them through grab or flag them down). They typically cost between 20-30 baht within town, however, if you're trying to go far or out of town it will be within 100-200 baht. Also, it is always cheaper to go in a group, hence carpooling is recommended.

Food: My favorite places to eat were on Suthep Road - the food is good all around. If you have a sensitive stomach, I would recommend noodles, or omelets, all of which cost about 30 Baht (30 baht = 1 US$). If saving money is a big factor for an individual, the most financial food is street food, which is about 30-80 Baht. Restaurant can vary but for the most part can range between 120 and 250 Baht. If you end up missing home, I recommend Dukes (in Maya Mall). They have good salads, burgers, and pizza!

Gym: I HIGHLY recommend Moobastrongman Gym if you are into lifting weights. The staff is amazing and very helpful. If you are into cardio or into machine training, there is a gym at Unilift (dorm) that is free.

Grand Canyon: This is one of the most amazing waterparks you will ever go to – I have a picture below. There is a lot of freedom to run around. it is very fun to go, especially in large groups. If you take your student card, you also get a discount! There is also zip lining and other fun things to do there as well.

Trekking tour: My favorite tour within USAC was the trekking tour – it was amazing! You go on a weekend hike down a jungle, where you end up walking with elephants and bathing them. In addition, you also have the opportunity to go bamboo water rafting and stay in cabins with beautiful views. I highly recommend this tour!

My piece of advice is that if you go on this study abroad trip with a positive attitude and an open mind, you can expect to have a great time exploring, meeting amazing people and places. There is no doubt that you will have a new home away from home, Chiang Mai!

Have fun!

How can this program be improved?
It is already managed at a very good caliber our advisors and director do an AMAZING job and genuinely care about the students.
Yes, I recommend this program
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It Was All A Dream!

Thailand was everything I had hoped it would be, and trust me, I did a lot of research to figure out what I was getting myself into. I loved the group of people I studied abroad with, the locals were friendly and helpful (and English was widely spoken, so it wasn't hard to get past a language barrier), the natural beauty couldn't be beat, the food was to die for, the prices of everyday life was way less than what I would have been spending back in the states, and overall I learned so much about myself.

The field trips USAC organized were second to none, I really enjoyed everything they arranged for us and it made it really simple to get acquainted with local culture. The on-site staff felt like a second family, and they always tried their best to help us do things we wanted around the city. We had friends from other study abroad programs in Chiang Mai that didn't have nearly as much flexibility as we had with our USAC program, and that hindered them in various ways. I really felt like I was taken care of, but not treated like a child that needed constant watching over.

I am so glad I took the leap to go somewhere new and exciting instead of a program in an English speaking country. You mature so quickly in such a short amount of time, make lifelong friends who are also growing and learning, and you make together memories that will last you a lifetime. Was it all a dream? No, but I'm forever daydreaming about Thailand.

How can this program be improved?
At the time I was abroad, dorms were strict and no opposite sex could even enter the building of the other. It was hard for all of the group to hang out, because we had nowhere to lounge around, so we had to go to bars or the like. Since then, I heard the buildings are co-ed and it is more of a college dorm experience. This would have improved our time abroad, but obviously wasn't that big of an issue.
Yes, I recommend this program
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My First Trip Out of the Country - Chiang Mai

I will start this review off with the stereotypical: This trip was the greatest decision of my life and it changed my life. When I went on this trip, it was the summer after my freshman year, I had never done anything as spectacular as studying abroad and I was scared to death to leave the country. I can tell you though, if you agree with any of those things: Thailand is perfect for you.

It took about a week until I was completely comfortable navigating the city and walking around by myself.

"BUT WAIT STRANGER! My professors and parents say use the buddy system all the time" - You right now.

Yes, I agree. Don't walk around the city on your own at night or on your first day in the country, but Chiang Mai is overwhelmingly safe. I never once was afraid of pick pockets or getting mugged. I brought a lot of security items to hide money, I only ever used them when I went to the currency exchange bank when I had a lot of cash on me. Besides that, I would spend days off or time between classes walking around downtown, exploring the old city, or planning weekend get-aways around the country.

There was little to no language barrier while I was in Chiang Mai. Most Thai people apologized to me that their English wasn't better, which made me feel guilty because I barely spoke any Thai. The only time we had trouble with the language was far outside of the city and in the more rural areas we visited. We could communicate through hand motions and other things though.

Food was never an issue. Thai food is VERY spicy and not everyone was a fan of it, however, there were Italian places, burger places, and many more. So no fear for those with weak stomachs.

Some random pieces of advice I would give to someone going to Thailand:

Don't pack too many clothes and DO NOT buy your school uniform in the states. Everything is really cheap in Thailand and we got the chance to go to the university store and buy dress shirts.

Barter the price for everything at places you can barter. If you don't like the price WALK AWAY. Most people will chase you down the street and lower the price to what you want.

TRAVEL! A group of friends and I went to Pai which is about 4 hours north of Chiang Mai. We got to go around rural Thailand and see natural waterfalls, hot springs, and canyons, which were all absolutely incredible. Others went to Phuket in the south which is white beach sands and clear water, which is also beautiful. Spending a day in Bangkok is also worth the trip. The bottom line is don't spend the WHOLE time in Chiang Mai, go out and see the country!

How can this program be improved?
Only two things I would change: Some classes and one of the 'group trips'.

Overall, classes were solid. However, I had an Intro to Thai course that got cancelled more times than not. While it was nice to have time off and having an easy A class, I would have liked to be more fluent in the language.

We went on a group dinner to a 'traditional Thai' place where they had dancing and tea and other things. While I thought it was interesting, something didn't FEEL right. It didn't really feel like it was actually traditional, especially after walking around the city for the last few days. I would have rather used the time to explore the country more. It wasn't BAD by any means, I just would have rather done something else.
Yes, I recommend this program
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I am not the typical college student. I am in my mid 30's. There were not many older Students at the school as there are in the states. In fact, I didn't meet one. I chose this program because of it's affordability which I assume is important to most college students. Chiang Mai reminded me of New York or Toronto's Chinatown district, but larger. It was very modern and "Western." I could get any good or service I get at home. Mexican food, electronics, etc. There only thing I had to hunt for was shaving cream, but I found it eventually. I was impressed by the University hospital, despite being very busy, they did a good job. I can't think of any other compliments at this time. I have complaints, but I was there just before Thailand's recent coup and political turmoil, rumors of the impending changes where probably circulating. That being said, I didn't feel very welcome. The Thai's reputation for hospitality and the land of smiles was not lived up to. English wasn't as understood as my research had led me to believe. Nor was there as much demand to learn or improve students english skills as I expected. Finally, as the semester was nearing the halfway point, accounting contacted me from the states to inform me they had not yet received my financial aid. The finances were supposed to have already been taken care of before I even left the US. It all got taken care of rather easily, but it really aggravated me that that happened.

No, I don't recommend this program
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If I could legally marry a country, Thailand would be my husband.

I was deciding between USAC's India program, Costa Rica (Puntarenas) program, and Thailand, and every single day in Chiang Mai I was psyched that I chose Thailand. This place is chaotic and bright, tranquil and deeply moving, perfect because of its imperfections. My group had this weird instant-love thing going on, where the second we all met everyone just had big fat friend-crushes on each other. That persisted the entirety of the trip, and continues via facebook/phone today. The housing was nicer than I expected, with roommates having their own small bedrooms within the apartment. It's also close to the university, and just a quick songthaew ride from the heart of the city. BEST OF ALL it's right at the base of a fairly significant mountain, Dio Suthep, so you can literally start a hike from your apartment. Just walk out the door, up the road a bit, and there are some pretty fly trails going all over that mountain (my friend's and I stumbled upon the most beautiful Wat (temple) I have ever seen, with waterfalls lacing through it and monks studying beneath the trees). So many hidden gems!

This wasn't the best education I have ever received. The class topics were certainly interesting... I took Buddhist Philosophy, Hill Tribe Peoples and Culture Studies (with the most glorious homestay field trips ever), Thai Language, Global Health, and Sustainable Development. The classes are broken up into three hour increments, twice a week. Which is a lot to take in.... particularly when the professors aren't always the most engaging. However, I still learned so much and I really did like my professors as people. There isn't too much homework either, which is appreciated, because they want you to have time for experiential learning (a.k.a. traveling and hanging out in Thailand). Also there are a ton of field trips, which is incredible.

The people are so unbelievably nice. I am a bit of a worrier, and it took me awhile to get used to the fact that people don't have ulterior motives when they say they will walk me home/ show me how to get to this restaurant/ help me find my friend. They are literally just being friendly, because that's how people are supposed to be. I walked several hours home from the bars with friends at 3 a.m. and not once did I EVER feel unsafe.

I thought that upon returning home, I would miss everything/everyone so much but would appreciate some of the "American comforts" here (regular toilets, being able to cook my own food, temperatures not in the hundreds, etc.) but honestly... I miss my rock hard Thai bed (my back has hurt since I came back to my squishy mattress), the constant sweating, and never being able to find toilet paper. That's the life, no doubt about it. See you again soon Thailand, I couldn't stay away even if I tried.

How can this program be improved?
As mentioned before, education aspect could be fine tuned. That actually may be my only complaint...
Yes, I recommend this program
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Charming Chaing Mai

Thailand is a beautiful country and Chiang Mai is filled with warm and helpful people, great food, and everything is very affordable. Being able to see so many temples and spirit houses as well as seeing monks doing their alms round early in the morning make Chiang Mai seem magical and full of a deep spiritual dimension.

How can this program be improved?
The group flight leaves the day after finals, it would be nice for students on the group flight to have a day or two after to relax before heading home.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Chiang Mai 2013

This was an amazing study abroad experience balancing scholarly education with a cultural education of Thailand exploring the food, arts, Hill tribe cultures, and history of this rich landscape. Chiang Mai was the perfect setting for an exploration of Thai culture providing a safe atmosphere to venture into an unknown culture.

Yes, I recommend this program
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My THAIme in Thailand

Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I've yet to make. If you are thinking about studying abroad, you must do it! I wanted to experience a completely new culture and living and studying in Chiang Mai, Thailand through USAC made that possible. I was originally signed up to study abroad for the fall semester and after a few short weeks I realized I wouldn't be ready to leave the beautiful country of Thailand so soon, and I extended my stay for the academic year! I was able to experience and become familiar with a new language, new cultural customs, new foods and so much more.

The people of Thailand were some of the friendliest people I have ever met; they were always smiling and truly appreciative when I "attempted" to speak to them in Thai. I would sit in a song taew (red truck taxi) and make friends by the end of my ride. I had countless laughs and amazing conversations with all sorts of people, from a friend I made on campus to the many market vendors I would talk to. Strolling through the markets and eating delicious street food became one of my favorite things to do.

The classroom experience was awesome because I was able to take advantage of the small class sizes and really develop relationships with my professors. Since I have returned home I have continued to keep in contact with some my professors! The connections I made even bettered my experience. The professors planned a lot of field trips where I was able to get out of the classroom and have more hands on experiences. I went on a Hill Tribe Tour and Field Study trip where I was surrounded by the beauty of nature as I trekked breathtaking mountains and visited remote Hill Tribe villages. I rode an elephant around a village, assisted in making a raft out of bamboo to float down the river, and even bathed an elephant in the river!

Studying abroad was truly life changing for me. The opportunity made me grow as a person as I stepped out of my comfort zone and left the place I called home to meet new people and explore something completely new. I am thankful for the adventures I’ve had, the people I’ve met, the cultures I was exposed to, and the lifelong memories I’ve made. My study abroad experience will forever hold a special place in my heart. I went to South East Asia with an open mind and left with a full heart and so much more.

Yes, I recommend this program


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USAC is a non-profit consortium of U.S. universities that collaborates to offer affordable, academic and authentic study abroad programs. There are abundant opportunities to immerse in the culture, history, and academics of other countries providing...