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Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question? You’re probably not the first person to ask it!

Look through our FAQ below and see if you find your answer.  If not, email us at [email protected]!

What is Chiang Mai like? Chiang Mai is a small modern metropolitan city, which, at first glance, is much like other urban areas around the globe. However, upon living and studying in the city students will learn that Chiang Mai is uniquely Thai, with a long history (700+ years!) and variety of cultures.

How much credit will I earn? The assignment of specific credit is determined by your college or university. We give 6 hours of credit for the semester long intensive Thai course, and 4 credits for the other three courses, for a total of 18 hours. Credit for summer and other short term programs vary.

What level are the courses? The Foundations course is an introductory level course for Thai language. The Expedition Field Courses are upper division (300 or 400 level), due to their integration of both social and natural science components. Specific credit levels, as well as meeting requirements for general education or your major are determined by your home college or university.

What transcript will I get/How do I get credit? The specific transcript you receive will be up to the policies of your home institution.  Most of the colleges and universities we work with will accept an ISDSI transcript directly from ISDSI. Some institutions require a transcript from a US institution.  If you require a US transcript, we offer a US transcript through our partner school, Guilford College, USA, for a $300 transcript fee.

Do I need to be in really great shape, or have a lot of outdoor experience to attend? No! While many of our courses are physically as well as academically demanding, they are designed so that anyone in reasonable shape can complete them. Certainly if you are in excellent shape it will be easier, but anyone who exercises regularly should do fine. To prepare for the program we recommend that students exercise for one hour at least three times a week. We have found that students who do this are better able to focus on the academic requirements of the program.

Where would I live during one of the semester or academic year programs? Students live with Thai host families at the start of the program. On semester programs students move into off-campus dorms after living with host families. While in villages, we usually stay with host families there as well. Some of our course locations (such as islands) may involve camping. Generally accommodations are simple but adequate, and obviously vary a great deal between an urban host family and a tribal villager. Refer to each course page for more specific information on housing for that course.

How much free time is there on the People, Ecology and Development semester program? The courses at ISDSI are intensive expeditions — but there is ample free time, especially during the Spring Semester.  During the first 5 weeks while you are in home stays, free time is more limited, but you will have time after class, etc., while spending time with the family on most weekends. After that, you move into student apartments, where you will be free every day after class, as well as on the weekends before and after the Expedition Field Course. The expedition portion of the course is about 20 days long in the field, but once you are back you will have a three day weekend before the start of the next course.  In the Spring Semester you also will have a full week off for the Thai Songkran holidays. Many students use this week to travel or just to enjoy Chiang Mai on their own.

How hard is Thai to learn? I’m not good at languages. Thai can be initially challenging, since it is tonal and it uses a different alphabet. However, since our language teachers have taught for the US Peace Corps, they have designed a language program to help students develop language skills very quickly. Many students are able to carry on simple conversations after the first week of class, and most test at intermediate or intermediate high at the end of a semester. We have had a number of students use Thai to meet their foreign language requirement for graduation. If you are interested in that option, please talk to the appropriate person at your college or university.

I’m getting counseling at home, will I be able to find regular counseling in Chiang Mai? Not at this time. If you only need to check in once in awhile, we recommend that you set up a way to Skype or video conference with your regular therapist before you leave.  If you need to be in touch with your counselor on a regular (weekly) basis, this program may not be a good choice for you, since we are often off the grid for 2-3 weeks at a time. We do have access to emergency mental health care, but if you have significant issues such as anxiety, depression or related issues, please talk with your counselor and/or a mental health professional about how you might be impacted by the inherent stress of living cross-culturally in a developing country, and if this program is a good choice for you or not.

I’m not in college or university, but I’d like to go on one of your courses. Can I audit a course? Not at this time. Currently all courses are limited to students enrolled in a college or university degree granting program. However, we do offer custom courses for groups of 6 to 12 people. If you are interested, please contact us.

I’ve read about your internship programs and work with NGOs. Can you place me with an internship or volunteer program at a Thai NGO? Unfortunately, at this time we are not able to place people with internships who have not already gone through one of our programs or are not attending an affiliated school.

Do I need health insurance? YES. Most likely you will have to pay up front for medical expenses in Thailand and then ask to be reimbursed from your health insurance company.

Why do your programs cost what they do? ISDSI charges a comprehensive fee, and all of your expenses are covered while on one of our program. Some study abroad programs hide costs by not charging for food, transportation or other costs that the students have to pay for themselves. We bundle everything into the comprehensive fee so that financial aid will apply to everything. We also put all of the costs towards creating a truly once in a lifetime experience.  We have very small language classes (usually 4-5 students per instructor) and teach in teams so that students can get the learning support and individualized instruction they need.  For example,  a class of 25-30 students will typically have a instructor team of 5 instructors (one lead and 4 field instructors).   In the field we then break into small groups of 12-15 students with 2 field instructors.  We are also traveling into remote, and sometimes expensive to reach places.  This pushes the costs up, but allows our students to go beyond what a tourist might see, and rather than a cheap program where you spend most of your time on a college campus, we are out in remote tribal villages, sea kayaking the islands, and skin diving coral reefs while learning from local communities.

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Deadlines

Fall Semester: March 15  |  Spring Semester: October 12

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