Thailand might not be the first country that comes to mind when considering where to study abroad but the Land of Smiles offers a lot for students wanting to experience something completely different. From unique courses and an affordable cost of living, to tropical surroundings and a culture that permeates all aspects of life, Thailand sets the scene for an incredible semester abroad that is truly mind opening.

If you choose to study abroad in Thailand, you can:

1. Go somewhere off the beaten path

Students taking the red truck public transport of Chiang Mai. Photo by TEAN Thailand alum, Zoe Shwidock

About 54% of U.S. study abroad students choose a European location. With only 11% of the study abroad population going to Asian destinations, you’re sure to have a unique experience studying abroad in Thailand. Non-traditional locations such as Thailand offer students myriad opportunities and experiences that you won’t get at home or in other Western countries. Step outside of your comfort zone for a culturally immersive study abroad experience.

2. Enjoy a Student-friendly cost of living

With most meals ranging from $1-4, you will have plenty of money in the bank to eat your way through Thailand and maybe even save a few baht! Coffee in Thailand also falls into that inexpensive range, depending on the type of drink and where you go. Cafe culture is huge in Chiang Mai where TEAN’s programs are located. You won’t run out of hip, affordable cafes with free WiFi to hang out and study in. Transportation is also inexpensive in Thailand, so you won’t have to worry about hefty cab fares or expensive bus/train tickets when getting around town.

3. Eat some of the best food on the planet

Vegetarian khao soi Thai dish
Vegetarian khao soi from Free Bird Cafe in Chiang Mai. Photo by Molly Hohle, San Diego State University

It’s no question that Thai cuisine is some of the best around. You may think you love phad thai in America, but just wait until you have fresh, hot-off-the-wok pad thai in Thailand. Nothing can compare! From spicy noodle stir-fries, to savory curries and sweet milky teas, you’ll definitely find a new favorite dish when you study abroad in Thailand. With TEAN’s semester in Thailand program, students also try their hand learning how to make classic Thai dishes during a day-long cooking class in Chiang Mai.

4. Practice language skills

One of the most challenging yet rewarding parts about studying in a foreign country is learning the language. You will have the opportunity to take Thai language classes, which will not only help you in your day-to-day life while living in Thailand, but help better connect with local Thais. Whether you’re ordering dinner at the food stall down the road from your housing or buying a bus ticket for a weekend getaway, you’ll be sure to put a smile on people’s faces when you make an effort to speak a little Thai.

5. Connect with the community

Village homestay in northern Thailand
Thai homestay in rural northern Thailand. Photo by program staff, Chalermpol (“Neung”) Tantawanich

Put those language skills to the test with real life practice! Thais are known for their politeness and, particularly in Chiang Mai, you’ll have plenty of times where you want to strike up a friendly conversation, especially if you start frequenting the same coffee shops or fruit shake stalls. TEAN students enjoy even more immersive opportunities throughout the program to connect, including with local students through the Thai buddy program where you get to meet and hang out with local peers through informal events. Additionally, at least 70% of the Thai population still live in rural villages, so what better way to immerse yourself in Thai culture than to participate in a homestay? Students on the TEAN semester program experience a 4-night homestay in a Northern Thai village during their orientation for an insider look at real Thai life.

6. Learn about Buddhism

With thousands of temples dotted across the country and a population that’s 95% Buddhist, Thailand is an excellent place to get a firsthand introduction to the ancient belief system. Here Buddhist practices permeate Thai culture and society even out of the temples. You can also take the Buddhism in Thailand course with TEAN’s semester or summer program, where you’ll explore the temples of Chiang Mai, meet with monks and spend the weekend staying at a forest temple in rural northern Thailand, to learn even more.

Explore study abroad programs in Thailand


7. Celebrate Thai holidays

Another great way to experience a new culture is through its holidays. The country’s two main holidays are Loi Krathong/Yi Peng, which is known for its floating lanterns and occurs during the fall semester, and Songkran, the Thai New Year, which falls during the spring semester. Songkran is essentially a 3-day nationwide water fight – what’s more fun than that? Both holidays are filled with rich traditions that bring people of all ages and demographics together to celebrate. In addition to the main holidays, while in Thailand you’ll also get to experience special Buddhist holidays throughout the year.

8. Spend time with elephants… ethically

Elephant Nature Park with Cal Poly student
Head to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai for an ethical elephant experience. Photo by TEAN Thailand alum, Zoe Shwidock

Elephants play a central role in Thai culture and history but, unfortunately today these revered animals are often mistreated, especially when it comes to tourism. There are many opportunities to spend time with elephants in Thailand, however it’s important to do your research and choose to support organizations that do not allow you to ride the elephants. Opt for a more animal-friendly and ethical organization like the Elephant Nature Park (which you’ll get to visit with TEAN!), where you can observe elephants in their natural habitat and learn about conservation efforts for elephants in Thailand.

9. Always find something to do

From temple hopping to 3D art museums, luxurious massages to rustic jungle trekking, there is always something to do in Thailand. Put your newfound knowledge of Buddhism into practice by going on a meditation retreat. Plan a weekend getaway to the tropical islands. Wander through sprawling street markets. Hike through the woods and find a forest temple. Listen to live music while getting to know your new study abroad friends…the options are endless and often easily accessible. (Want to save some baht? Check out these free things to do in Chiang Mai.)

10. Explore the country’s incredible nature

Pilei Lagoon at Koh Phi Phi
Pileh Lagoon in Krabi during the TEAN Southern Islands excursion. Photo by Molly Hohle, San Diego State University

Of course, images of turquoise waters framed by palm trees and pristine white beaches probably first come to mind when imagining Thailand, but the country is actually home to a wide range of climates and landscapes. In fact, some of its greatest geographical features can be found in northern Thailand where jungles, fields and forests cover rolling mountains and rivers meander through picturesque rice fields. When you study abroad in Thailand you  can hike through hilltribe villages, play in mountain waterfalls, snorkel through tropical seas, float down a river on a bamboo raft and more.

11. Travel throughout Southeast Asia

Thailand’s central location in Southeast Asia makes it a perfect hub for travel. The TEAN semester program includes a two week semester break perfect for exploring other Southeast Asian countries and on long weekends you can easily explore other parts of Thailand or jump over to a nearby country without spending a fortune. Many students also stay on after their program ends to continue exploring this incredible country and region.

Intrigued by the Land of Smiles? Learn more about our study abroad programs in Thailand here.