Before leaving for Thailand, I looked at pictures online of students studying abroad at the TEAN program hosted at Chiang Mai University (CMU) to learn as much as I could about the area. I knew I wanted to spend plenty of time exploring the city of Chiang Mai and all of Thailand, but the CMU campus turned out to hold lots of gems too. Here are five life hacks for making the most of your time on-campus.

1. Wear your uniform

I instantly won more respect from everyone—the staff, the students, the faculty—when I showed up in a white button-down shirt and black skirt. Accessories like the belt and belt buckle, are more negotiable, but I learned from the examples of my classmates that I really could not skimp on the outfit. That goes for any institution in Thailand, from government buildings to museums. My biggest mistake of the entire semester was leaving my uniform at home when I went to Bangkok—I felt naked wandering around in normal clothes.

Wearing uniforms to study abroad in Thailand

2.Catch the purple shuttle

If you’re running late to class, the purple electric shuttles are a life saver. There’s a station at the side gate on Suthep Road (where UniLoft is), and you can transfer at the main station to a shuttle for the law building or a second shuttle for the Student Market on the other side of campus. The only trick is telling the driver you’d like to get off. I sometimes blurted out “thank you” if I couldn’t remember the words for “stop please” that a Thai student taught me.

Taking the CMU shuttle around campus

3. Shop at the CMU Co-op

I was bummed I didn’t find the cheapest place to buy snack foods or laundry detergent until halfway through my semester. The CMU Cooperative is right across from the library and has even better prices than 7-11. There’s also a smaller co-op on Suthep Road.

Chiang Mai University campus co-op

4. Eat on a budget

The cafeteria across from the law building was the best place to buy lunch when my meal budget was a little tight. Each station featured something different and I could easily find something that filled me up for 25 baht (less than a dollar). The best stop for me was always the rice and Japanese curry stall. Nothing beat curry after class!

Chiang Mai University main canteen

5. Spend time at the library

I thought I would use the library for printing (turns out it was simpler just to use a print shop), but I ended up in there for so much more. There was no place on campus where I felt more ingrained in student culture than in the corner table of the second floor. There, I could be just another student working on homework. It was fun seeing how Thai students studied…or goofed off on social media. A lot of the signs were in English too, so it felt like studying in my American school’s library. And when I missed reading novels in English, I found that the library had a pretty strong American Section.

Chiang Mai University library

My time studying on the CMU campus provided a contrast to my American university experience, but it’s also amazing how easily it felt like a school away from school.

Alanna Natanson is a TEAN Alum and student at Salem College. She studied abroad with TEAN in Chiang Mai, Thailand.