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5 Things to Know Before Studying in Thailand

5 Things to Know Before Studying in Thailand main image

Let me guess, you’re reading this blog because you have already decided to study in Thailand, or you’re still researching the best place for you to explore. Thailand is a place like no other in the world. One of the main reasons I chose Thailand for my study abroad experience was because it was called “the land of smiles”, and I like to smile all the time. So I figured, what better country to come and study if everyone smiles like I do? “I could fit right in”, I thought to myself. 

Here are five things I’ve learned from studying in Thailand that I think you will find beneficial.

1. Don’t over-pack!

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

For my time studying abroad I made the mistake on packing WAY too much stuff from my home country. People tell you this all the time when they travel, but in Thailand it’s really the truth. The less you pack, the more things you can explore.  The markets are filled with some of the strangest and most unique items you will ever see in your life. One of my friends told me, “If you ever see something you’ve never seen before and you want it, you better get it because you don’t know if you’ll ever see it again.”  This is true of some items, but not all of them. You can also find some of the funniest t-shirts that you won’t see anywhere else. Some of these t-shirt slogans will make you laugh until you’re red in the face – before you realize you have to get one. Each shirt costs around US$5 and I can guarantee that you’ll want more than one!

2. Learn to work to ‘Thai time’

In some countries, time is a strict part of life. If you show up two minutes late, you will not hear the end of it from your boss or might not even be allowed in the classroom by your professor. In Thailand there’s a thing called ‘Thai time’. From my time here I’ve learned that Thai time means you have a good 15-minute buffer in which to show up for a meeting or class. At first I thought this was out of disrespect and a lack of caring for responsibilities. But I’ve learned that this 10-15 minutes is an opportunity for friends and co-workers to catch up and ask personal questions, like how their family is doing or what you did over the long weekend holiday.

I remember my first day in Thailand as a student. I was the only one in my chair at 9am, sat there alone and wondering if I was in the right room. I waited for about 10 minutes until students started to show up, with no sense of urgency. I thought to myself, “Why are people late and just casually walking in?” Then the teacher strolled in and started class like it was 9am and the bell just rang. Thailand is a culture that doesn’t put so much emphasis on time, and this gives people a chance to communicate with each other instead of rushing straight in. 

3. Be smart about how you travel

Be smart about how you travel

Some places in Thailand can take an extremely long time to reach by bus or minivan.  Be smart about how you use your time while traveling in Thailand – especially if you have limited time and want to spend it on an exotic island or ancient city, surrounded by mountains or gazing at waterfall that will take your breath away.  Thailand’s domestic airline companies are surprisingly low in cost with flights throughout the country. The best feeling is when you travel from Bangkok to Phuket in under an hour and a half, and get there refreshed and ready to start the weekend.  A US$50 round trip ticket is something that I would suggest to take advantage of! 

4. Hang out with the locals

When traveling overseas, it’s very easy to stay in your bubble of foreign friends and not interact with the local students in the university. This is the reason why you wanted to study overseas, isn’t it? Find out what students are doing with their free time after school and on the weekends. While studying in the international program, local Thai students were very interested in communicating and practicing their English with me. This was a great opportunity for me to practice my Thai and experience life as they do.

One of the most awkward and unforgettable experiences I ever had was when I walked into a bar during my first couple of weeks in Thailand. I was with my Thai friends from the university and being the only foreigner in the place, I felt like everyone had stopped what they were doing just to look at me. “All eyes on me” was the song I had playing in my head as I entered the room. The music that had been playing in the bar actually stopped and it felt like a million eyes were staring at me.  But when the music continued to play and conversation picked up again, I came to realize that no one really cared if I was a foreigner or not. I ended up making tons of new friends and having great conversations. My Thai picked up in no time.

5. Communicate with your professors

Having an open line of communication with your professor is extremely important when you’re studying overseas. The professors know that you’re here for a short period of time and they want you to make the most out of your experience while studying in another country. If you can work remotely and turn in assignments over emails, as you’re your sitting on a beach somewhere miles away from the classroom, isn’t that worth that little extra effort to make that connection with your professor?

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The last and most important piece of advice I can leave you with would be to always smile and enjoy yourself to the fullest while studying in Thailand. This is one of the most unique experiences you will ever take part in. You have to embrace every opportunity as it comes your way. You will never know when you will have time to ever travel and embrace the world like this again. Anyone can tell you how to study and travel abroad; at the end it’s up to you to adapt to the new (and sometimes bizarre) experiences you are dealing with. Just remember to have fun, and peace be the journey.  

Santiago B, Lihlumelo B & 7 others saved this
Written by Lucas Zimmerman
Lucas is from Seattle, Washington, USA. Currently he's working as an international relations consultant at Rangsit University International Program in Thailand. He works closely with students as they decide on what universities would be a right fit for them as they graduate from high school or if they just want to study overseas for a new experience. His interests include sports, traveling, food, movies, and just laying on the couch after a long day at work.  

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