Kalamazoo College Thailand

Social Justice and the Environment

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 environmental studies and social justice.

Core 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.

Social justice and the environment

  1. Sustainability and the Environment in Thailand and 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. Particular focus is on small holder agriculture, sustainable food systems, and human/ecology interactions.
  2. Social Justice Issues in Thailand and Southeast Asia: This course examines issues around social justice issues in Thailand and Southeast Asia, with a special focus on gender issues, including the cultural and socio-historical context as well as contemporary issues and problems. Both cultural and legal issues around human trafficking will be examined, and the broader context of social justice issues from both individual and national perspectives. Special emphasis will be on contemporary efforts at achieving social justice in Thailand and Southeast Asia, both with NGOs and organizations.


Following the semester of study at Payap University, students will participate in an 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. Students may choose to continue their focus on Environmental Studies or Social Justice during the internship.

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. These will include discussions, hiking in the forests, exploring the city, 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 16 weeks, followed by a 2 week holiday break.  The internship 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 – Wrap Up

Weeks 17-18 – Break

Weeks 19-24 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 semester and the winter break, 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.