Take an immersive journey through urban and rural landscapes of Thailand on this high school summer abroad program. Experience the cultural sights, markets, and ancient temples of major Thai cities; live with host families in rural villages; participate in community service projects organized by local organizations; and explore northern Thailand by foot and raft. Learn introductory Thai through formal and informal language instruction and through time with host family members and others.
The program begins in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, home to hundreds of ancient temples and surrounded by mountains. Visit the city’s famous sites and museums and explore bustling street markets and Buddhist temples as you get to know the other members of your group. As your Thai journey continues, you will live with a Kon Muang host family in a lowland northern Thai village in Chiang Mai province and then with a Lisu host family in a hill tribe village in Chiang Rai province. Join host family members and others in working on a service project, such as helping to build a natural water dam or assisting with reforestation work, depending on the needs of the village community. Other service opportunities could include teaching English to young children.
Experience the northern region’s tropical valleys and highlands as you participate in outdoor activities such as trekking, zip lining, rafting, and visiting an elephant park. Conclude your Thailand exploration in Bangkok—visiting sites of cultural and historical importance, such as the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha—and the seaside town of Hua Hin.
Community Service Certificate: At the conclusion of this program, participants will earn a community service certificate noting how many hours of community service they completed.
Orientation: Chiang Mai, 5–7 days
Homestays: Ban Mae Bon or Baan Sri Khun, Chiang Mai province,* 9–11 days; Ban Doi Lam (Lisu hill tribe community), Chiang Rai province,* 3 days
Other Accommodations: Guest houses
* Homestay locations can vary.
Orientation in Chiang Mai
During the orientation period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located guesthouse.
During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample communities include Baan Mae Bon and Baan Ton Chok Sri Khum.
Travel and a Day in Chiang Mai
Homestay in Baan Doi Lan Village
During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample communities include Baan Doi Lan and Chiang Rai.
Thematic Focus in and near Chiang Mai
During this period, you and your group will stay in guest houses and hotels.
Thematic Focus and Program Reflection and Wrap-up in Bangkok
During this period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.
Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.
These are leader bios from summer 2014.
Hailing from sunny San Diego, Ina Chu decided in high school that she needed a change of scenery and moved 3,000 miles across the country to attend Boston University (BU) in Massachusetts. During her time at BU, Ina studied abroad in Germany, served as a resident assistant, and landed a journalism internship that took her to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After graduating with a dual degree in German and journalism, she joined the Peace Corps in rural Thailand, where she worked side by side with locals to create community projects. In fall 2014, Ina returned to beautiful Boston to attend graduate school at Harvard University. In her free time, Ina enjoys good food, music, reading, traveling, and playing outdoors.
Born and raised in rural Southern Illinois, Lauren Williams had her first taste of international travel at the age of sixteen, when she had the opportunity to backpack throughout Western Europe as an international Girl Scout representative. She then attended Elmhurst College where she pursued degree in biology with minors in chemistry and art. The summer after freshman year, Lauren went to Europe to study the healthcare systems of Austria, Germany, England, France, and Italy. During her sophomore year, she studied with SIT Study Abroad in Australia, where she conducted field study projects on the rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef as well as independently researching wildlife rehabilitation at the Australian Wildlife Hospital. Upon graduation, Lauren received a Fulbright grant to teach English in Northern Thailand for a year. She taught at a small school in Chiang Rai and interned at a hospital in Chiang Mai during summer recess. Lauren is a veteran leader of The Experiment’s Thailand program, having led Experimenters in Thailand in both 2013 and 2014. Lauren is currently a second-year medical student at Rush University in Chicago.
Six months later, and my experience in Thailand still affects me. While my friends spent their summers doing all types of interesting things, no one had an experience like mine. The friends I made, the people I met, and the culture I experienced remain with me in my daily life. My love of traveling has taken me all around the world but until my Thailand trip, I had never had such an authentic abroad experience.
Let’s start with the people! Everyone I met in Thailand was incredibly kind and warm. Our homestay families welcomed us into their homes and during my two-and-a-half-week stay, I received several gifts and was made to feel at home.
Communicating with my family was not easy. My Thai was better than their English, which is saying a lot considering that the only Thai I knew was from our two lessons we had in Chiang Mai before going to our homestays. Bonding with someone who speaks a completely foreign language is not easy, but simply experiencing their way of life was fulfilling.
I made some amazing friends on my trip as well. Now, several months later, I still communicate with all of them and find myself laughing about our inside jokes or daydreaming about our time together. In fact, back at home in my daily life, Thailand memories are my salvation through the stress of a difficult course load, extracurriculars, and college applications.
I could talk for hours about all my memorable experiences from the trip, but I would like to recount one of my favorite memories, which was with my host family.
One night as I was eating dinner on the floor of my homestay house, as is customary in Thailand, my family, as usual, tried to keep on feeding me after I was too full for anything more. As usual, they told me to “gin” or eat. I responded by saying “Im lao” meaning I’m full but still they tried to feed me.
Finally, I responded with “Im lao, katong” and placed my hands on my stomach. Now katong in Thai means fat or, as I and my friends from EIL translated it, “food baby.” At the mention of katong, my family all burst out laughing, and I joined in.
This may seem like a small moment, but for me it was the time when I felt more connected with my family and as I sit here writing about my experience now, I have a wide smile on my face and am flooded with all the other little memories of my homestay that made the experience so worthwhile.
Julia Murphy, Berkeley High School