Dive deep into Thai language, culture and society

Kalamazoo Thailand Information and Courses

Welcome to the Kalamazoo College Thailand program!

The Kalamazoo College Thailand program is an experiential program run by ISDSI in partnership with Payap University. The K Thailand program is a deep dive into Thai culture and language, as well as an opportunity to take unique classes about contemporary issues in Thailand and Southeast Asia.

Students on the program focus on understanding language, culture and society, and then can select from courses to meet their own personal interests. Issues covered in the electives include environmental studies, social justice, human trafficking and exploitation, comparative religion and other topics.

Required courses

  1. Thai Language: A study of the Thai language with an emphasis on spoken language competency as related to daily life. The course is designed for students with no prior knowledge of the Thai language. Upon completion of this course, students will be able to communicate effectively, utilizing everyday spoken Thai and should be able to read and write consonants, vowels and simple words.
  2. Societies and Cultures of Southeast Asia: Historical background, political development, economy, and cultures in Southeast Asia, as well as concepts in the study and analysis of political, economic, and social situations in this region.

Elective courses

The Kalamazoo Thailand program also offers four courses that students may choose from for an elective. Students will be able to enroll in two elective courses, focusing on environmental studies or social justice.

  1. Environmental Geography of Southeast Asia: This course examines in detail the ecosystems of Thailand and Southeast Asia, looking at terrestrial (forest), water (river), and marine (ocean) ecologies, including the role of both community and state management of environmental resources.
  2. Sustainable Agriculture and Ecology: This course focuses on sustainable agriculture, the particular challenges of small holder farms, as well as permaculture, organic farming, agroecology, and other systems.
  3. Gender, Human Trafficking and Social Justice in Southeast Asia: This course examines issues and labor exploitation in contemporary Southeast Asia with a special focus on gender issues, including the cultural and socio-historical context as well as contemporary issues and problems.
  4. Peace and Justice in the Context of Interfaith Dialog: Buddhism is the dominant practice in Thailand but other traditions such as Islam, Christianity and other religions are also practiced in the region. These religions shape how people see culture. This course will use comparison and contrast to help students understand the commonalities and conflicts among and between regional religious perspectives, with a special focus on peace and justice issues.

Integrative Cultural Research Project (ICRP)

Following the semester of study at Payap University, students will participate in a 6 week Integrative Cultural Research Project.  This independent study will bring together their classroom based studies with intercultural understanding to further focus on a specific area of interest to the student. Students may choose to continue their focus on Environmental Studies or Social Justice during the ICRP.

Program details

Experiential learning

Experiential learning is integrated into the semester. Weekly there will be one-day studies to NGOs, villages, schools and other organizations to focus on the topics of each track. These will include discussions, hiking in the forests, meeting with activists and other activities. Every semester also includes three extended studies (one week) where students will travel as a group but focus on each track individually:

  • Lowland Thai village study: This study will take place in a rural Thai village. Environmental studies concentration students will focus on the ecological process behind integrative organic farming. Social justice concentration students will focus on the social movement to localize food and grassroots organizing in rural villages. Activities will include hiking, working in the fields, and meetings with local community leaders.
  • Mountain Hill Tribe village study: This study will take place in a remote hill tribe village. Environmental studies concentration students will focus on forest ecology, the ecology of rotational farming systems, and local ecological knowledge. Social justice concentration students will focus on citizenship issues, struggles over land rights, and community organizing.  Activities will include backpacking, hiking, field surveys and village meetings.
  • Island/Coastal study: This study will take place on an island/coastal community. Environmental studies students will focus on marine ecology, reef ecosystems, and coastal tropical ecological systems. Social justice concentration students will focus on issues of marginalization, the impact of tourism on local communities and ethnic/regional identity. Activities may include snorkeling, skin diving, sea kayaking and other activities.

Housing & Food

Housing on the program is at Payap University’s International House. This dorm is on campus, with a quick shuttle or bike ride to the center of Payap’s main campus and their International College.  For food, there are LOTS of restaurants and canteens right near campus you can bike or walk to, and even more a short taxi or tuk tuk ride away in Chiang Mai city.

Independent travel

Options for independent travel are possible on the weekends as well as the break between the end of the semester at the start of the ICRP portion of the program.

Program Schedule

The semester is 15 weeks, followed by a 2 week holiday break.  The ICRP follows the break.

Weeks 1-4 Campus

Week 5 – Village study

Weeks 6-9 Campus

Week 10- Mountain village study

Weeks 11-14 Campus

Week 15 – Ocean/Islands study

Weeks 16-17 – Break

Weeks 18-23 ICRP

Who should come?

This program is a great fit for students interested in:

  • Environmental Studies
  • Social Justice and Human Rights
  • Southeast Asia / Thailand
  • Economic development and globalization


The semester is 15 weeks long, with 2 required courses and 2 elective courses. Excursions into the 700 year old city of Chiang Mai as well as temples, historical sites and rural villages, mountains and the islands are a highlight of the program.


Following the semester and the winter break, students will participate in a 6 week Integrative Cultural Research Project (ICRP).  This will be an opportunity to pursue research or further study in a topic that you are interested in, and allow you to dive deeper into Thai culture and society. Some students set up internships, some work with local communities, and some pursue independent research.

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