Summer High School Programs in Thailand with Rustic Pathways

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Join Rustic Pathways in Thailand, where we’ve been running cultural immersion and service adventures for over 15 years. Thailand boasts a wide variety of programs ranging from one to three weeks long. Students can choose one program or easily connect programs across the country and Southeast Asia. Whether you are looking to immerse yourself in rural village life, learn about elephant conservation, or have an island hopping adventure, you’re bound to find an ideal experience in Thailand.

“When you go and you stay in a small village and learn how people live, it stays with you. You don’t take anything for granted anymore and you’ll never see things the same.”
--Brian Haggerty, Thailand Country Director


Questions & Answers

This trip is very safe! Base houses are owned by RP, so it's is completely RP-Staffed. Trips that are not in base houses are still very safe and there will always be RP staff with you. I have never felt unsafe on any of my Rustic Trips.


based on 64 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 9.5
  • Program Selection 10
  • Pre-departure Help 10
  • In-program Support 10
  • Impact on Student 8
  • Value 10
Showing 61 - 64 of 64
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Intro to Community Service Thailand

My trip to Thailand impacted my life forever, and made this summer the most memorable experience of my life yet! The Rustic Pathways staff, along with the students I met throughout my trip had the greatest impact on me. I've never laughed harder, or met so many great people in one place. In the program we did a whole variety of different things to greater the community, as well as meet many of the locals! We helped plant rice, (they don't call it the rice fields base for nothing!), helped deliver food to local Thai people, went to the local schools on many occasions to help teach english some "head, shoulders, knee's and toes!" is always a good one! We also helped teach swimming and also helped the school by doing some much needed painting! One of my favorite projects with the village health, we gave diabetes test to locals. I felt that our group made a big impact! Not only that but it had a great impact on me. I learned a lot about myself as well as others and a lot about Thailand, the land of smiles, and in my opinion one of the best countries to visit, and go make a difference! Awesome program I'd recommend it to anyone who's open to try a lot of new things!

Yes, I recommend
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Amazing Trip

I went with Rustic Pathways almost four years ago and I still value my experiences with them. This was actually the second year I had travelled with Rustic, but the first year was equally amazing. My first year I stayed in Thailand, partaking in the "Amazing Thailand" and "Elephant Conservation" programs. I made amazing friends and had amazing experiences on both programs. The second year was by far the best summer I've ever had. The friends I made on that trip are lifelong friends. Going from various villages everyday was so eye-opening, seeing how non-western countries live and how oppressive governments can effect them. Visiting Angkor Wat was definitely the highlight of this trip. The ruins are incredible. There are so many wonderful things about Rustic that I have to say I just don't have the time to write all of them. Rustic has impacted the way I view the world so much. It is an amazing experience!

Yes, I recommend
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Rustic Pathways- The Thai Elephant Conservation Centre

Who doesn't want the bragging rights of being a "Certified Elephant Trainer"?

Day to day life included waking up at 6am and trekking out into the jungle to grab your designated elephant and give him or her a morning bath in the nearby lake. As you scrub the caked on mud off of them, they squirt water all over you with their trunks and you can almost hear them giggling along with you. You and your mahout (elephant trainer) spend the rest of the day gathering food, cleaning, practicing thai commands, getting on and off the giant creatures, and building trust between you and your new best friend- your elephant. The mahouts are very very friendly and love to practice their english with you as well as help you with your thai! Each and every time we interacted, we were all sent into a fit of laughter, I miss each and everyone of them. They teach you how to make bamboo coffee mugs, harnesses for you elephant, and even how to make some traditional foods!

The atmosphere of the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre is unlike any other place in the world. I loved it so much, I went back twice! And now because of my weeks in the jungles of thailand I have realized my passion for elephants and plan on working with them for the rest of my life. A piece of me was left here- go leave a piece of yourself alongside mine.

Yes, I recommend
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Sawat Dee, and Welcome to Thailand!

I am a very outgoing, personable and charismatic individual who loves being immersed in new and exciting cultures, and so embarking on a month-long trip to Lampang, Thailand to work directly with elephants was right up my alley! Landing in Bangkok after about 20+ hours in the air, and ready to board another plane for another unnecessary amount of hours up North to Lampang, I was immediately greeted with "Sawat dee, and welcome to Thailand" by the Thai staff leading my community service trip (The Thai Elephant Conservation Project). I was relieved at the sound of those words, and started to immerse myself in my new surroundings: the intoxicating smell of pad Thai and cashew chicken, the alluring sights of the natives and buildings, the familiar sounds of old Michael Jackson songs and plethora of 90’s music, and the overall sense that I was in an unquestionably beautiful and foreign country fully engrossed me. In every direction there was the perfect postcard and a smiling Thai: it was full of arrays of songbirds, stray cats and the occasional elephant, monks of various ages in their fluorescent orange robes roaming the streets, nestles of intertwining rivers and endless streets of temples. I wished that I could live there! The “Sensual City” and “Land of Smiles” far surpassed its reputations.

Throughout the extent of the trip, the weather fluctuated between beautiful and bright, sunny days to muggy and miserable days, and finally to days that were sweltering and difficult to bear. In Thailand, I would sweat my body weight on a daily basis. As the evenings progressed, the temperature became cooler, but the air was constantly fogged with mosquitoes. Spraying OFF! insect repellent and lighting citronella candles proved futile: I came home with countless bug bites from my legs down. (Note to self and to future travelers to Thailand: Bring bug spray.)

Though I began most days waking up to nice and sunny, yet humid, ninety-five degree weather, the most memorable was only a few days into our journey. It was the first day completely full of exploring and the first day I felt completely independent from everything. After our lavish brunch, costing about seventy baht per person (a mere two dollars), and with my adrenaline rush still in effect, we encountered a radiant, natural waterfall in the heart of the northern Thai jungle. The sun brightly shined through the clumps of trees, illuminating the water, which looked incandescent, as if it was untouched and preserved for hundreds of years. Meeting atop the waterfall with the rest of my friends, we stood by the edge and enjoyed unbelievable views of the entire base, as well as miles upon miles of tree branches encircling the area. The pulsating sounds of the water against the rocks along the base of the falls mixed with frog calls, cricket chirps, and sporadic song bird tweets were serene and the only sounds in the distance. I had no intention of leaving.

Later that night, the staff arranged “interesting” transportation for us to a night bazaar, the epitome of Thai nightlife—elephants. Standing eleven feet tall and weighing over four tons of solid muscle, See dor Satit (“Demonstration”), as my elephant was called, reigned supreme. Embarking on this trek from the middle of the jungle and on elephant, highly respected and sacred in Thai culture, was absolutely exhilarating. Traveling with a group of mahouts (elephant caretakers), I observed firsthand the intense and almost spiritual relationship exhibited between them. To me, it felt as if they were one person: they knew each other’s thoughts almost. It was entrancing. And they were extremely friendly and more than willing to teach us their very respected craft. After one month of living and working with my mahout, Sak, I am happy to call him my friend.

What made that particular night memorable was that it started to torrentially rain while I was on my elephant: no surprise to me as it was the rainy season. (I learned before this trip that Thailand experiences only two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. I travelled during July, which is part of the rainy season so I was relieved to have packed a sturdy umbrella). Like at the top of the waterfall, I felt as if I was the king of the world while I was riding my elephant. I experienced this exact feeling every time I rode See dor Satit at the elephant conservatory I volunteered at for one month.

At the conservatory, I began each day waking up a 6AM, cutting down an entire branch of sugar cane along with a small batch of bananas and walking with Sak (also my mentor) about a mile from my hut, which I shared with one other person, to where my elephant was relaxing in the forest. I took care of this elephant with two other people, and the first task to complete each day with See dor Satit was to ride him down to the local lake,and to bathe him. We practiced the Thai commands our mahout had taught us, and it resulted in See dor Satit standing on his two back legs and knocking us all off his back into the warm water where we later encountered some “gifts” he and the other elephants had left us. We did our best to wash the parts of his back and head that he didn’t submerge into the water, and by the time we had finished, it was almost impossible to hoist ourselves back onto his back to exit the lake and return to our campsite.

Our next order of business was to feed them again, and clean up the feces they produced shortly after, which required that we use a large shovel and a wheelbarrow to carry it off! Then we trained with our elephant, which entailed each of us mounting our elephant in a kind of leapfrog approach, and then going to an obstacle course. After each of us completed the course, we took a 3-hour break to visit the infirmary and nursery on the premises. There we helped clean the buildings, we played with the younger elephants (under 1 years old) and then we met with the veterinarians on duty who elaborated on the injuries which some of their patients had experienced recently. We learned about an older, wild elephant, which was brought to the conservatory after receiving numerous bullet wounds to its legs. She was recovering by the time we met her. After this, we made a quick stop to another section of the conservatory where we helped produce elephant dung paper products! My friends and parents were not surprised when I brought sample products and souvenirs back home with me. After this outing, which we perform most days, we returned to the campsite to ride our elephants back to their respected places in the jungle and made the return trek back to our huts on foot. Performing this routine daily for 1 month seemed like it could be hard to maintain, but I loved every minute of it! It was even enjoyable when the weather was torrential downpours. In fact, riding our elephants in that weather was exhilarating!

Thailand is absolutely breathtaking—everywhere I looked there was such vivacity: the hustle and bustle of the armada of swerving motorcycles that took place in the streets, the liveliness of the street vendors and passersby, and the warped symphonies of music and conversation. The "Land of Smiles" seemed like a completely different world; I found every building, ancient ruin, and person there to be uniquely alluring.

I feel that this experience has made me a more worldly, erudite, and responsible person. I crossed many borders and survived without things at home that I took for granted, from toilet access to a bed not made of rock and television to those I left behind: my parents, my brother, and my three cats. I lived an extremely rustic lifestyle for thirty days, living in remote villages just as some of the natives do: waking up each day with a purpose and working in order to provide myself with both necessities and luxuries. This was the greatest, most rewarding, and most memorable experience of my life and, despite the awful jetlag, I am forever grateful for Rustic Pathways offering this trip.

Yes, I recommend

About Rustic Pathways

Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways to one of many exotic locations.

We take students on unique, rewarding, and safe programs to some of the world's friendliest and fascinating countries. Immerse yourself in a new culture, work on...