Thailand – the Country:
Thailand is mostly known around the world for its millions of tourists all year round, its tropical weather, gorgeous beaches, their culture, mouth-watering culinary scene and top-class shopping. There are people who have been visiting Thailand year on year and with every visit, they experience something unique. It is difficult to pack in Thailand in a 3-week visit. It is that multi-faceted. Many tourists would love to spend at least a couple of years in order to truly get to know the heart beat of Thailand. As an international student, who will be able to spend considerable time in the country, so you can accomplish this goal to getting to know Thailand that a holidaymaker never can.
The people of Thailand:
The Thai people themselves are one of the biggest reasons why people love to visit and spend time in Thailand. With their constant smile and the incredible kindness with which they treat each other is something to look forward to when you will be living in Thailand as a student.
This behavioural trait can trace its routes back to Buddhism. The majority of the population in Thailand follow Buddhism. However, the monarchy is tolerant towards all religions that are practiced in Thailand as there are significant sections of Hindus, Muslims and Christians who are permanent residents in the country. In spite of rapid development, people of Thailand remember their Buddhist values of moderation and tolerance.
The Thai people have an honest and true love for their identity and country. Known for their world-famous hospitality, as a student, if you are invited into a home of Thai, you will be offered a drink or a meal always.
The Culinary Scene in Thailand:
If you have already decided to study in Thailand
, then the food scene is probably what you are looking forward to the most. A usual meal at the University Canteen should not cost more than THB 30 – 40. If you double that, you get a choice of several street restaurants that can get you’re a full-blown meal along with a soft drink. Thailand street food is hygienic and affordable that most international students can indulge in occasionally.
Thai cuisine is extremely popular globally. It has influences of Indian, Chinese and Malaysian flavours that is absolutely mouth-watering. Recently, Michelin star has recognized two street food stalls in Bangkok as outstanding and have awarded stars to them.
Transportation in Thailand:
With 77 provinces, it covers Thailand’s mountains to near desert regions, all its beaches and islands, its jungles and the vibrant capital, Bangkok with a population of 14 million. While Bangkok practices the official Thai culture, as you travel across the country, you will come across several forms of Thai culture.
It is not too difficult to get around Thailand. There are multiple types of public transport available in most cities, towns and even villages. Thailand has unique forms of public transport starting from its hi-tech sky train system to, tuk tuks, motorbike taxis along with more traditional forms like local and cross-country buses, mini vans, taxis, ferries, etc. Bangkok alone is famous for its water bus routes that crisscrosses through several canals that flows through this exciting city. No wonder, it is known as the ‘Venice of the East’.
As an international student, it may be confusing at first to get a grip over this world-class transport system when you first arrive in the country. However, seek assistance from your fellow Thai students at the university who will be eager to show you the ropes on how to effectively manage your travel depending on where your university is located.
Universities in Thailand:
Thailand has two types of university systems – public and private. It is mostly the private universities that attract international students from India and from across the globe. They have several programs that are taught in English with a diverse student body and a faculty with significant industry experience and global teaching exposure. Students from as many as 100 countries choose to study in Thailand every year.
Many of the top domestic universities in Thailand like Mahidol University and Chulalongkorn University are also popular amongst international students. They too have programs in English. However, the student community and the faculty are Thai heavy.
Part of a Multi-cultural Community:
Not all learning comes from the classroom alone. A valuable medium of learning comes from your fellow students who have come from Thailand and also from different parts of the world. As an international student in Thailand, you will find yourself to a part of a diverse and multi-cultural environment and diverse student community. You will get to experience other cultures. This will complete your education as an international student and also help you start your networking with so many students from around the globe. That’s definitely a long-term benefit that will help you to jumpstart your professional career once you have completed your program in Thailand.
Bang for your Buck in Thailand:
As an Indian student you can end up paying almost USD 80,000 or even more for a 4 year Bachelor degree program in the US. The cost of studying in Thailand is certainly much lower. In fact, Thailand has some of the cheapest universities in South-East Asia, which does not in any way mean that the quality of your education is compromised. For many Indian students who are looking for quality education close to home or are probably on a budget, then Thailand is the answer!
In addition to the value for money that you get from pursuing your program in Thailand, you also get to experience what its like to live as a foreigner in a country that is warm and hospital like Thailand with its state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities for its residents.
Once you experience the quality of education in Thailand, you will surely find the tuition fees on the other side of the Atlantic or Pacific to be crazy. In Thailand, education is not a luxury, but a basic human right and every citizen and all international students have the right to experience it.
Cost of living in Thailand:
There are countries like Germany and Sweden, where the cost of education is either very low or free. However, the student will have to able to bear the living expenses that will certainly be way higher than the cost of living in Thailand for an international student. The rent of a standard room in Thailand is anywhere around THB 15,000 – 20,000 per month depending on your location. That also includes electricity and water charges. If you choose to live in university housing or dormitories, the cost can come down further.
For similar amenities, you will probably have to estimate around EUR 7000 – 10,000 per year for countries like Germany, France, Switzerland and Spain. In the United Kingdom, the living costs will be around GBP 10,000 – 14,000 per year. USA will also have similar estimates in terms of living expenses. Thus, being an international student in Thailand, you get top notch education with a cost of living that is affordable yet world-class.
Finding Accommodation in Thailand:
Once you arrive in Thailand as an international student you have to find suitable accommodation. If you have chosen to stay in your university provided residences or dormitories, then you have to pay a deposit in advance to book your place. University accommodation also can be of varying types and depending on your preference and budget, you have the option for single or shared living. Most of the residences are apartment styles, that also includes kitchenettes and high-speed internet services.
However, if you are looking to stay in a non-university residence, it is best not to book anything over the internet in advance. Book a few nights at a hotel close to your university and check out the type of accommodation that you are looking for in person. Always seek advice from your fellow international and Thai students and seniors at the university so that they can give your accommodation search a productive direction.
Most students from India prefer university residences as parents tend to think that the environment will be safe for their children especially for those who may be going abroad for the first time in their life.
You may be accustomed to a completely different classroom atmosphere in India. As you start your classes with your chosen education provider in Thailand, you may find yourself in a completely new situation. The international style of education requires imbibing a lot of independent learning skills. You may have been a top student in your previous institution but amongst peers in Thailand, who probably belong to 15-20 different countries from around the world, you are no longer different. Your skills and intelligence are at par with your co-students as they have worked equally hard to get where you are today.
These feelings will soon pass as you get acquainted with the Thai education system. The lectures styles in classroom are way different than what you have experienced in your school or college days in India. Classroom sizes are small, and you will get personalized attention from your assigned tutors. Most interactions with the faculty are relatively informal.
A Culture Shock in Thailand:
As an international student in Thailand, especially if it is your first time in the country, you may find it difficult to get familiar with the Thai culture right away. You may feel that your surroundings are no longer under your control.
Speak to your peers and university guidance counsellors who will be able to help you get accustomed to the Thai style of living. If you still feel that you are unable to cope and are constantly feeling homesick, try and adapt as best as you can. Once you get a more balanced perspective, things will be a lot easier to deal with.
Everyday Social Graces in Thailand:
There are certain social etiquettes that all international students in Thailand are expected to respect and follow. The king, his family and by extension the monarchy is highly respected in Thailand. As visitors, you should avoid making any derogatory comments on the royal family. Always keep in mind that Thailand has strict laws and will prosecute or punish anyone who they feel have insulted the royal family in any way.
As an outsider you can be critical of the government in Thailand or even pass judgment on the Thai culture. However, it is considered to be disrespectful, if you do not stand when the national anthem of Thailand is played or sung.
Thailand has a number of Buddhist temples and shrines. During your time as an international student, if you choose to visit any religious place, you are expected to dress neatly and take off your shoes before entering any building that contains a Buddha idol. You should not take pictures, or selfies at any of these religious places of worship as that is considered to be inappropriate behaviour.
There is similarity between an Indian ‘Namaste’ and the Thai ‘Sawadee Kha’. In both cases, you join the palms of hands and bow down in respect to greet the person. So, for Indian students in Thailand, this will not be too hard to incorporate in their daily social life. However, Bangkok and other cities are more urban, and handshakes are also accepted forms of greetings.
If you have been invited to visit the home a fellow Thai student, and you see a pile of shoes outside the door, it basically means, you should remove yours too before entering the house. Thailand is famous for their hospitality and you will be offered drinks and meal when you visit a typical Thai home. If you refuse to eat the meal or drink that is offered to you, it is considered to be impolite and rude.
At the university, you should not wear shorts, sleeveless shorts, tank tops or singles or any other beach style dresses.
As an international student, it will take some time get accustomed to these everyday social graces in Thailand. You will find a lot of similarities between Indian etiquettes and many of the Thai customs. Hence, adapting them should not be too hard.
Student's Travel Guide to Thailand
Once you arrive as a student in Thailand, travelling the country should be one of your top priorities. If you are on a budget, Thailand offers all sorts of domestic travel and accommodation options that will be able to cater to your requirement. With an abundance of it natural beauty with mountains in the north, beautiful beaches down south, jungles to trek and world-class cities to explore, you will get the best of both worlds – education and travel during your days as an international student in Thailand.