Our Spring Semester 2021 is running in-person, and we are planning for Fall 2021 in-person
The program is open to both American and non-American students. If you are interested in applying or have been accepted and want to come, contact [email protected] as soon as possible for more information.
For students inside or outside the US the process is the same, and will require a special application, a COVID-19 test, and quarantine in Thailand. Please contact us ASAP if you are considering coming on the program so that we can work with you to ensure you can secure a visa and come to Thailand.
Update on COVID-19 in Thailand
April 2021 Update: Starting in April Thailand has experienced a “third wave” of COVID-19, initially starting in two districts in Bangkok, but then spreading throughout the country.
Thailand implemented policies to help contain the spread, including closing nightclubs and bars (where people gather in unventilated spaces unmasked), as well as other policies — avoiding unnecessary travel between provinces, as well as continuing to track-trace-isolate, and in particular isolating everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 in hospitals for symptomatic patients, and in field hospitals for asymptotic people.
Responding to this, ISDSI has continued to communicate with local government and public health authorities, and modify courses as necessary, while still maintaining the academic integrity of our programs.
During our final course of the semester, we have worked with local leaders in provinces in Southern Thailand, including testing all students and staff for COVID before travel, daily check-ins with local health volunteers, and modifying our schedule to focus on socially distanced guest speakers (in outdoor settings) as well as the regular outdoor experiential learning in the mangroves, sea grasses, and reefs of the course.
January 2021 Update: In December, 2020, Thailand had a second wave of COVID-19, with an outbreak in and around a market and seafood processing facility in Samut Sakhon, primarily among migrant workers. The Thai authorities implemented a rapid response, including extensive track – trace – test, as well as selective COVID control measures province by province (see https://www.tatnews.org for details). Ongoing COVID control measures are helping to slow the spread of COVID, with ongoing monitoring of hot spots and tracking of contacts. Updates are available online at the Thai Department of Disease Control.
At this point we are still running our programs in-person, with minimal disruption to our in-person study abroad programs.
INITIAL RESPONSE TO COVID-19
In response to COVID-19, ISDSI quickly adjusted our programs with the guidance of local public health and epidemiology experts, our medical advisor, government requirements, and the latest scientific research. We hosted two meetings for our wider community in Thai and English with the lead epidemiologist for Chiang Mai province, and continued to consult with him and the provincial authorities as things developed.
As COVID progressed, and evacuation became necessary, we worked closely with our university partners and when our students were recalled by their home institutions, and helped facilitate their safe return (with a care package of N-95 masks and hand sanitizer for the journey).
Initially Thailand suspended all incoming flights and sealed its borders. Later, it allowed a limited number of repatriation flights, and eventually certain categories of visa holders, including Educational (EDU) visas. We talked with the Thai Consulates in the US as well as repatriation airlines and quarantine hotels, did a lot of research and consultations with international and local health and epidemiology professionals, and decided to run a small cohort of students for the Fall 2020 semester.
SEMESTER CHANGES DUE TO COVID-19
COVID-19 required us to modify our programs, and the changes are based on conversations with public health professionals and epidemiologists in Thailand, as well as conversations internally and with community partners. Our goal is to ensure that we can manage the inherent risks in study abroad, keep our students, staff, and partner communities healthy, all while managing the added complexity and unknowns surrounding the current pandemic.
Some of the changes include:
- Visa Process: Though the application process is more complex than in previous semesters, Thailand is allowing Education visa holders to enter the country. An ISDSI staff member will guide students through the visa application process, as well as accompany them through the pre-departure requirements in Los Angeles and accompany them to the airport. (This is a summary. More information is available in our COVID FAQ.)
- COVID Testing: Students will be tested for COVID-19 at several points throughout the semester. The Thai government requires all travelers to be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their repatriation flight. Because the availability and turnaround times for testing vary, we are coordinating testing in Los Angeles prior to the group departing together from LAX. We recommend that students get tested on their own prior to traveling to Los Angeles to lower the likelihood of testing positive in Los Angeles. While in quarantine in Bangkok, students will be tested twice. We will continue to test as recommended by the Thai Ministry of Public Health or as required by our partner communities.
- Quarantine: Students will be quarantined for the length of time required by the Thai government, which is currently two weeks. During this time, students will begin a regular schedule of coursework remotely, including Thai language. These courses will resume in person in Chiang Mai after the quarantine has ended.
- Suspension of Home Stays: Though we would normally provide accommodations through urban and rural home stays, but because of COVID-19 we will shift to guest house accommodations, each student with his/her own room. This allows for physical distancing and puts our community partners at ease.
- Program Adjustments: We are working with community leaders to design program activities that reduce the risk of transmission. Because of the experiential nature of our program, most of our activities are outside and field-based already, which requires little modification.
- COVID Safety Protocols: In line with Thai Ministry of Public Health recommendations, all students will be expected to wear masks when in public and (generally) when on campus. We have strategically adjusted classrooms to allow for physical distancing. Hand sanitizer is provided in all open spaces, and regular hand washing is strongly encouraged. Outside of class, students are discouraged from spending time in crowded spaces or extended time in indoor businesses or restaurants. Our practices are based on Thai government policy as well as emerging best practices and will be adjusted throughout the semester as needed.
Though Thailand does not have the capacity for massive testing like South Korea, the government is doing an excellent job of test-track-isolate. Two of our staff are now working with rapid COVID-19 testing. Thailand is being very careful about loosening restrictions now that we have a sustained low to zero transmission. People are still encouraged to stay at home and work from home if possible, comprehensive temperature screening is practiced in markets and stores, contact tracing apps and websites are being rolled out, and there is close to 100% mask wearing.
Jump to our COVID FAQ for more.
Though domestic transmission of COVID-19 has remained very low for months in Thailand, a second wave is possible. If COVID-19 cases increase and the government reverts to stay-at-home orders, closing businesses, etc., our contingency plan is to pivot to online coursework or a “bubble” model. In the “bubble” model, we would adjust housing for students to allow them to remain in contact with each other while continuing their coursework.
We have had a long working relationship with the United States Consulate in Chiang Mai, and will follow their guidance should evacuation become necessary again.
Please feel free to contact us with additional questions at [email protected].