Studying in Thailand - a student from the USA
Studying in a university in Asia is something I never expected to end up doing in my life, but here I am in Bangkok studying for a bachelor of arts in English at a well-known Thai university in their international program. I had never even thought I would go back to study at all, anywhere for that matter, but after some careful thought about my future living in Asia, I realised that it would be difficult to find decent employment without a degree.
I looked at all my options. The obvious choice was to study at home in the US. Then I started thinking about Thailand; mainly because I have had experience living there. Questions came up in my mind: Is the degree going to be recognised abroad? Are the instructors qualified? Are they going to be Thai or foreign? How much money will I save?
The main motivation for me to study here was the cost. In the United States the cost of a four year university varies. It can be as low as $US 5,500 per year and as high as $US 20,000 per year. These figures do not include the cost of books or any other administration fees. The cost of tuition where I am enrolled right now is Baht 70,000 per year which is roughly $US 1,800 per year. This is substantially less and this figure also includes the cost of all books and administration fees. I have focused on the cost of tuition only because living expenses can vary widely in the US and in Thailand as well. Expenses really are dependent on an individual's lifestyle. All I can say is that living here in Thailand is far cheaper than the US.
My rent is equivalent to $US 130. There is nowhere in the US that I could find rent that cheap. It is also easy to find part-time work teaching here just as a US student might find part-time work in a restaurant. So, overall the financial position is very favourable to study here compared to the West. The high costs of studying in one's home country can be reduced through student loan or grant programs, but still the overall costs are going to be lower here. I personally would like to graduate without a huge debt around my neck like so many graduates in the West do.
The next question is: If the tuition is so low, how can they keep up their academic standards? The first research I started on when first looking around Thailand's universities was the quality of the instructors. The university where I am studying employs a long list of western instructors who hold PhD or master's degrees. They teach the subjects they have expertise in, and so far I have been very happy with the quality of teaching. Relevant subjects like IT, Thai politics and foreign language are taught by either Thai or other Asian instructors. Officially the university is recognised by the Ministry of Education in Thailand and by governing bodies in North America, Australia and Europe. Each university abroad who is taking a transfer student from this university may have varying degrees of acceptance. It all depends on the university abroad and its standards.
A recent PhD graduate here recently was taken on as an associate professor in the faculty of business at a university in South Dakota in the US. This is encouraging to me. I imagine they are able to keep the costs down because of low cost of labour for administration staffing and low overhead for rent. The buildings are modern, but the campus is conservative and run cost effectively. Most of the money goes into employing good instructors. Another university here has a grand campus with all the latest and greatest technology, but they employ a large number of Asian instructors from neighbouring countries. This place is focusing on teacher quality rather than visuals and image.
There are down sides of course. When I first started I had doubts about their organisation and administration procedures. Much of the administration concerning my student visa and the verification of my high school diploma and transcripts had to be done by me. I, like the other foreign students had to hoof it to the Ministry of Education and Immigration to get things settled; not a very welcoming situation. Many other schools handle all of this before the student arrives. A lot of important information that is announced, is announced in Thai, so the foreign students are left scratching their heads wondering what is going on. They have to sort of ask the Thai students and follow along. Now that my first semester is complete and I have done all the paperwork, I feel good about my decision and am enjoying the experience immensely.
One last thing. The numbers of great looking female students is astounding. I certainly hope this wouldn't be the only reason one would enrol in university here, but what a bonus it would be for the single person. It's also a great way to network for future contacts for work and friendships as there are students from all over the world; China, Korea, US, Australia, Africa, Canada, Thailand, Japan, Ireland, England, Germany and many others. You're never too old to go back to school.
[Studyinthailand.org knows the author. He wants to remain anonymous. This article was first published in 2007 on OrientExpat.com. Many thanks for the friendly permission!]