Kalamazoo College Thailand

Social Justice and the Environment

Welcome to the Kalamazoo College Thailand program!

The Kalamazoo College 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 environmental studies and social justice.

Core courses

  1. Thai Language (LANG): 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. Society and Cultures of Southeast Asia (ANSO): This course explores the history and politics of Thailand, from its place among the ancient kingdoms in Southeast Asia to contemporary social and political issues. Special emphasis will be on understanding how contemporary Thai society and politics have deep cultural and historical roots. The goal of this course is to give students studying in Thailand a good foundation to understanding Thai society and culture in its own right, and also help them to better contextualize their other courses.
  3. Social Justice Issues in Thailand and Southeast Asia (ANSO): This course will look at the five main principles of social justice, which include access to resources, equity, participation, diversity, and human rights. This will include a look at gender inequality, citizenship accessibility, health care availability, and other human rights issues affecting the people of Thailand. This course will include an in-depth overview of various forms of labor exploitation and land rights issues taking place in Thailand. Throughout the course, students will be given an opportunity to compare Thailand’s social justice policy with their implementation of these laws. The goal of this course is to give students an overview of social justice issues affecting people living in Thailand, the laws that Thailand has adopted to address these issues, and the implementation and practice of these laws in everyday life.
  4. Sustainable Development and Ecology (ENVS): This course examines key issues in sustainable development and ecology, with a special emphasis on field based studies of development, sustainability, and sustainable food production, including cash crops. The course will start with an overview of international development, and then examine sustainable food production. Perhaps one of the most challenging topics in environmental and sustainability studies, sustainable food systems are critical to creating a sustainable future. This course will look at agroecology, regenerative agriculture, study both lowland and upland agriculture as practiced in Thailand, and learning in the fields and gardens of farmers and villagers. Students will be learning about both the biology of sustainable agriculture as well as the social and political issues surrounding sustainable agriculture and current commercial food systems. We will also look at the sustainability of commodity cash crops like coffee and cacao (chocolate), including production, processing, and consumption. A critical part of this course is understanding how sustainable practices can work in a globalized context, including internationally traded commodities like coffee and chocolate.


Following the semester, students will participate in a six week internship.  This internship will bring together their classroom based studies with intercultural understanding to further focus on a specific area of interest to the student.

Program details

Experiential learning

Experiential learning is integrated into the semester. This will include half day and one-day field studies to NGOs, villages, schools and other organizations. These will include discussions, hiking in the forests, exploring the city, meeting with activists and other activities. Every semester also includes three one week extended studies where students will travel as a group for a week:

  • Lowland Thai village study: This study will take place in a rural Thai village. We will look at  ecological process behind integrative organic farming as well as 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 week long study will take place in a remote hill tribe village. The emphasis will be on understanding forest ecology, the ecology of rotational farming systems, and local ecological knowledge. We will also examine citizenship issues, struggles over land rights, and community organizing.  Activities will include hiking, field surveys and village meetings.
  • Coastal study: This study will take place in a coastal community in Southern Thailand for a full week. The focus will be on understand mangrove ecology and the social movements of local communities to gain access to and conserve their coastal environments, including reefs, sea grasses, and mangroves. We will look at issues of marginalization, the impact of tourism on local communities and ethnic/regional identity as well. Activities will include snorkeling, skin diving, sea kayaking and other activities.

Semester Schedule

The semester is divided into blocks, with each course during the assigned block.  Thai language classes take place throughout the semester anytime the program is in Chiang Mai.

  • Weeks 1-5
    • BLOCK 1: Society and Cultures of Southeast Asia.
    • Extended Field Study to Lowland Thai village
  • Weeks 6-10
    • BLOCK 2: Social Justice Issues in Thailand and Southeast Asia
    • Extended Field Study to Upland Hilltribe Village
  • Weeks 11-15
    • BLOCK 3: Sustainable Development and Ecology
    • Extended Field Study to Coastal Village
  • Week 16
    • Semester wrap-up / Internship preparation
  • Holiday break (2 weeks)
  • 6 Week Internship

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 16 weeks long, with four 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 classroom section, students will participate in a six week internship.  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.

  • × Thanks for getting in touch!

Your privacy is important to us. Read our privacy policy.