Program Overview

Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question? You’re probably not the first person to ask it!

Look through our FAQ below and see if you find your answer.  If not, email us at [email protected]!

What is Chiang Mai like? Chiang Mai is a small modern metropolitan city, which, at first glance, is much like other urban areas around the globe. However, upon living and studying in the city students will learn that Chiang Mai is uniquely Thai, with a long history (700+ years!) and variety of cultures.

How much credit will I earn? The assignment of specific credit is determined by your college or university. The Thai language course is worth 6 credits and the other courses on our semester program are worth 4 credit hours, but please check with your university to be sure you get full credit for the semester.

What level are the courses? The Foundations course is an introductory level course for Thai language at the 200 level. The Expedition Field Courses are upper division (300 level), due to their integration of both social and natural science components. Specific credit levels, as well as meeting requirements for general education, your major or electives are determined by your home college or university. Please talk this over with your study abroad advisor.

What transcript will I get/How do I get credit? The specific transcript you receive will be up to the policies of your home institution.  Most of the colleges and universities we work with will accept an ISDSI transcript directly from ISDSI. Some institutions require a transcript from a US institution.  If you require a US transcript, we offer a US transcript through our partner school, Guilford College, USA, for a $300 transcript fee.

Do I need to be in really great shape, or have a lot of outdoor experience to attend? No! While many of our courses are physically as well as academically demanding, courses are designed so that anyone in reasonable shape can complete them. Certainly if you are in good shape it will be easier, but anyone who exercises regularly should do fine. To prepare for the program we recommend that students exercise for one hour at least three times a week. We have found that students who do this are better able to focus on the academic requirements of the program. If you have any medical conditions that limit your ability to carry out physical tasks, it is important that you list them in your medical form.

Where would I live during the semester? The program has both independent living as well as host families. Students live in off-campus apartments near the ISDSI campus, a market, and lots of great street food options. While in villages, we usually stay with host families there as well. One of our course locations (the Adang Archipelago) features  camping.

How much free time is there on the program? The courses at ISDSI are intensive expeditions and free time might be more limited than you are used to. For the first block while you stay in Chiang Mai, you will have free time in the evenings and most weekends. For blocks 2-4 you spend a week in seminar and then 20 days in the field. Once you are back you will have a weekend before the start of the next course. In the Spring Semester you also will have a full week off for the Thai Songkran holidays in April. Many students use this week to travel or just to enjoy Chiang Mai on their own.

Is there time to do a lot of independent travel during the program? The ISDSI program is on the block plan, and travel is built into the program. The first month is based mostly in and around Chiang Mai city. The Sustainable Food Systems course travels around the rural areas of Chiang Mai province, spending extended time in rural villages. The Forests course travels to Mae Hong Son province (on the Thai/Myanmar border), and backpacks between remote Karen indigenous mountain communities. The Oceans course travels to Southern Thailand, and travels to Krabi, Trang, and Satun provinces, spending time in fishing villages and sea kayaking the islands of the Adang Archipelago.

Outside of the travel during the block courses, free time for travel is limited to three day weekends between each month-long block course, and in the Spring semester there is a one week break during the Songkran festival.

How hard is Thai to learn? Thai can be initially challenging, since it is tonal and it uses a different alphabet. However, since our language teachers have taught for the US Peace Corps, they have designed a language program to help students develop language skills very quickly. Many students are able to carry on simple conversations after the first week or two of class, and most test at intermediate or intermediate high at the end of a semester. We have had a number of students use Thai to meet their foreign language requirement for graduation. If you are interested in that option, please talk to the appropriate person at your college or university.

I’m getting counseling at home, will I be able to find regular counseling in Chiang Mai? Not at this time. If you only need to check in once in awhile, we recommend that you set up a way to Zoom or video conference with your regular therapist before you leave.  If you need to be in touch with your counselor on a regular (weekly) basis, this program may not be a good choice for you, since we are often off the grid for three weeks at a time. We do have access to emergency mental health care and student support social workers on-site. However, if you have significant anxiety, depression or related issues, please talk with your counselor and/or a mental health professional about how you might be impacted by the inherent stress of living cross-culturally in a developing country, and if this program is a good choice for you or not.

I’m not in college or university, but I’d like to go on one of your courses. Can I audit a course? Not at this time. Currently all courses are limited to students enrolled in a college or university degree granting program.

I’ve read about your internship programs and work with NGOs. Can you place me with an internship or volunteer program at a Thai NGO? NGOs and businesses in Thailand do not offer internships like they do in the US. However, we do sometimes place students in internships arranged individually on a case by case basis. Please let Admissions know if you would like to discuss this possibility further.

Do I need health insurance? YES. If you do not already have this through your school or family, please take out a travel/health insurance policy. In the past our students have used Inext insurance or World Nomads. We require you to submit evidence of insurance before you travel to Thailand. Most health insurance companies will require you to pay up front for medical expenses in Thailand and then ask to be reimbursed afterwards.

Do I need a visa for Thailand? YES. You will need to apply for an education visa in the Thai Consulate closest to you. We recommend that students submit paperwork for visas 6-8 weeks before departure. Our admissions coordinator will help you with this process and take you through all the paperwork required. However, it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure your documents are in on time.

Application Deadlines

Semester Application Deadlines: Fall – March 15 / Spring – October 15

Summer Application Deadline: April 1

After the deadline we will accept students on a space available basis, so contact us at [email protected]

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