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.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to COVID-19 we have restructured the program to be completed in a 16 week semester, including both courses and an internship.

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. Country Analysis: Thailand: Historical background, political development, economy, and cultures in Thailand, as well as concepts in the study and analysis of political, economic, and social situations in this region.
  3. Social Justice and the Environment: Thailand and Southeast Asia: This course examines issues around the intersection of ecology and social justice issues in Thailand and Southeast Asia,  including the cultural and socio-historical context as well as contemporary issues and problems. Both cultural and legal issues around land rights, ecological marginalization 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 seven week classroom section, 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 extended studies from 3 to 7 days where students will travel as a group:

  • Lowland Thai village study: This study will take place in a rural Thai village over an extended weekend. 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 study will take place in a remote hill tribe village over an extended weekend. 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 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 15 weeks, divided into two parts, the classroom section and the internship section.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the anticipated two week quarantine for COVID-19 required by the Thai government, the first two weeks will be virtual while students are in quarantine.

Weeks 1: Orientation and Thai language

Weeks 2-7: Classroom section (Lowland Thai village study at the end of week 3, Mountain village study at the end of week 5)

Week 8: Coastal village extended expedition to Southern Thailand

Weeks 9-14: Internship

Week 15: Wrap up

Weekly schedule

Monday: Thai / Country Analysis

Tuesday: Thai / Social Justice and the Environment

Wednesday: Thai / Country Analysis

Thursday: Thai / Social Justice and the Environment

Friday: Field study or study day

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 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.

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