What is the right university for you?
A short typology of western students
The choice of the right university (i.e., the one that fits you best) depends very much on your motivation to study in Thailand. The range of available programs is wide, and not two programs are the same.
Over time, we observed different motivations why a student comes to study in Thailand. While some students were absolutely happy with a particular international program, others felt quite uncomfortable with the same program.
Below, you find the different motivation types that we observed, together with some tips for your university choice. Don't forget to ask the university of your choice about all the things that appear most important to you. While marketing of Thai universities slowly reaches professional levels, reality still might be a different thing. To give an example, if you want to study with western university professors (or, with Thai university professors alike), don't believe the many nice pictures on Web site and brochure - ask your university who will conduct the courses you want to study.
Certainly, the best source are the students of a particular university's international program. While these students usually know only their own program, you will have learned about many possible differences on the Web site already - and you will be able to ask the right questions. If you are already in Thailand, go to the university, ask to sit in class for a day, and take a look behind the curtains. If you cannot come to Thailand for this, at least try to find students from this program on our Web board and ask them there.
It is important to make the right decision - you're going to invest a lot of time, effort, and money.
"I want to speed up my studies. In Thailand, I can combine the courses better than I can do it at home. So, I save almost one year until graduation."
Ambitious goals need ambitious lecturers. Cultural differences are not limited to the shape of faces and a different language--lectures in Thailand are very much as lecturer were in western countries about 150 years ago. Lecturers have the highest social state in Thailand after Royalty and monks. That is why one becomes a lecturer. What you need are Western lecturers--real ones with state-of-the-art approach, no Pattaya pensioners. You will need a university in Bangkok, and you will need to nail them until you know the qualification and background of each lecturer you will have. If they have lecturers on international level, you will get the information. If you don't get it, look for another university. After all, you don't want to waste your time. You want to learn and understand more after the course, right?
The Thailand Fan
"Until present day, I know Thailand only from holidays. I want to have look behind the curtains and learn everyday life in Thailand. It might not be that easy as doing holiday, but it will be an interesting experience."
That doesn't need to be problem. Look for a university located at a beach resort, such as Bang Saen or Hua Hin. Most relaxed life, Thai fellow students showing you around where normal tourists never reach, and a great time. If you lecturers speak English only with an accent that makes them hard to understand, don't worry--you have the textbook in English, and nobody will let you fail. Only precondition is that you are able to smile friendly and are well tempered all day. No joke.
The Paper Tiger
"I need a semester abroad for my CV, wheresoever. Thai universities are globally recognized, tuition fee is low, Living Costs as well, food is fine, and the next McDonald's is never far away."
You will only be happy in Bangkok. Lectures alone will not give you enough, you want more input. Since quite a number of students from all over the world think as you do, you will want to meet them. Bangkok is an absolutely cosmopolitan metropolis, and you will feel fine. If you budget is too limited to come for a whole semester, look for a university with a modular system, where a course is done in one month. In such as system, you can study two courses per month with 4 class days a week. If that's too much, don't worry to take a single course. For one month, you don't need a student visa and can study with your tourist visa.
"For me, it's a long holiday with the courses making the visa. I want to see country and people and travel to the neighboring countries as well, such as Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam. Of course, the full-moon parties are calling me as well!"
You can literally study where ever you want in Thailand. Public transport with busses is perfectly organized and cheap. Full-moon parties you have only at the sea, leaving cheap copies aside. You will usually have one class (half a day) per week for the whole semester, and you better should attend, and if it's only for immigration law reasons. Studying in the high north is therefore not a good idea--the way to the beach is too long for just two or three days. If you like to have a joint on full moon, better be very careful. Many of the people selling the stuff are policemen, only to lock you up afterwards. They get a good press, and you spend years in a Thai prison. Thai prisons are better than one might think, but as a young, good-looking farang... Better, you forget that idea.
"The most interesting place to meet backpackers from all over the world is Khaosan Road in Bangkok. I'll take a room there and then go to my classes."
For you, serious studies may become a problem. For those who like it, Khaosan Road is addictive. Others watch at it as they watch at cockroaches. What ever you want - Khaosan Road is waiting for you. Make sure you find a university not more than 30 minutes with a taxi away in the morning and afternoon traffic jams, of course. That means, you need a university not more than 5 kilometers away. You even have the option to turn bourgeoisie while in Bangkok - reportedly, on Khaosan Road are some of the best Bangkok custom tailors.
So, what do you need to do?
Carry a paper with you where you instantly note any new aspect coming to your mind. From that, make a check list and ask the universities. Ask them clear questions, no such a nonsense like "Are your programs good?" or "Do you want to cheat me?". As better your question, as smaller the risk to waist your time and money on an unfortunate experience.
For example, don't ask a Thai university whether its degrees will be accepted in your country (sorry, but stupid questions do exist). Better, you go to the next university at home and ask them. If you can study for the next level in your own country after graduation at the Thai university, your degree will be accepted anywhere.
In general, universities will answer you what they have to say. Nobody can speak bad about the own program. Even if they try to tell you 'between the lines', you will hardly understand since such messages are culturally coined (if you think that British and French culture are different, prepare yourself for a surprise how much different cultures in fact can be). Turn to Facebook and find people who have been there already and can tell you about their impressions.