Frequently asked Questions
We answer questions from our visitors that come in by email or over Facebook. Below, you find copies of their questions and our answers. If you have question that is not answered by this Web site, please contact us.
How can I apply to a Thai university?
The answer depends: Are you an exchange student, a free mover, or do you want to study for a degree?
As an exchange student (i.e., your university has an exchange agreement with the Thai university), your first way goes to the International Office at your university. They will help you to arrange the details and complete your application. Please note that you usually will need to make a Learning Agreement with your university before going abroad, if you want to get the credits earned in Thailand transferred back home into your own degree program.
As a free mover (i.e., a semester abroad student wanting to study at a university that has no exchange agreement with your home university), you will either need to deal directly with the university of your choice, or chose a student placement agency that does the formalities for you. Such agencies are usually free of charge for the student; they get a commission from the university (e.g., College-Contact in German speaking Europe). Don't forget to make a Learning Agreement with your home university before going abroad, if you want to transfer credits earned abroad back home to your degree program.
As a degree student, the best way is to deal yourself directly with the university. First, it is part of your study abroad experience to get that managed yourself. Second, application processes and policies (and certainly requirements) vary between universities. So don't rely on some information you googled on the experience of others at a different university or program. If you have a good student placement agency in your country, you may use their advice and support. Good agencies have contract with universities and get paid by the university - a good agency would not charge you any money. So be careful to pick a good one.
Nobody answers my emails.
What should I do?
Well, the answer is simple: Choose another university. Although the average quality of international programs developed well in recent years, there are still some programs that are not eager to take foreign students in. There are many reasons for that. The important message to you is: This is not the right university for you. If you insist and end up at a university that actually does not want you, your Culture Shock may spoil for a while a lot of the positive experiences that come along with a time abroad. Don't be stubborn.
What means 'international' to a Thai university?
Good question, as there are many dimensions of 'international'. In the simplest programs it means to use textbooks, handouts and exams in English. At some universities it may happen that most lecturers are Thai, and certainly almost all students are Thai. Thus, lecturers may speak Thai in class to make sure their students understand the stuff.
That's not what we call a good international program. The two most important dimensions for a good program are students and lecturers.
International students come from all over the world. There are some programs at Thai universities that have foreign students from over 50 countries (e.g., Bangkok University, Stamford University). Thailand is a melting pot of cultures, and it enriches your experience dramatically if you join classes and teams with students from Africa, South America, across Asia, and even European students in the same room, in addition to the Thai students, of course. Another side effect of having many foreign students in class is that English becomes the standard language between students. In such classes nobody will graduate without being really fluent in the English language.
The lecturers are another important element. There is no reason to say that Thai lecturers are not as good as their foreign colleagues, but that is only if they studied themselves abroad. International programs are usually more expensive than national Thai programs, and much of the price difference comes from the western lecturers (i.e., for programs taught in English). For a foreigner, it needs many years to become halfway fluent in the Thai language, so there is literally no risk that they teach in Thai.
Finally, there are international programs taught in other foreign languages than English: There is a program conducted in Arabic in the South of Thailand, a Master in German language in Bangkok, and Bachelor and Master courses conducted in Chinese. On this Web site, we focus on programs taught in English, however.
A 2017 online survey on experiences of participants in international programs at Thai universities by the author of this Web site resulted in another dimension of ‘international’ that is not documented in academic research yet.
Students complained about the program administration, or office, to be not international. In almost all universities, office staff is Thai, of course, and so students are subject to the rules of communication and behavior in Thai culture to the fullest extent. In addition, even Thai office staff who seem to speak English quite well, often have big problems when it comes to listening and understanding what the student wants.
Together with the fact that every student is considered to be a dek (i.e., a kid), that can lead to situations where the free-thinking student inquiry meets the command and obedience mentality of Thai office staff. Well, just smile and keep calm. Finally, there will be a solution to your problem. Office staff is neither un-willing nor un-capable. They just follow the rules they were taught to follow.
In other countries and cultures, people do differently. That’s part of the experience.
Which program should I chose?
Always go there where most international students go. It will not only increase your multi-cultural experience, it will also help to get over your Culture Shock, which will come sooner or later in any culture that is very different from your own settings back home.
The more different nationalities, cultures, and mentalities you meet in each class, the more you will benefit from the time you spend on your studies. There is no country on earth where you get a higher value for your money than Thailand.
And don't forget your own motivation - what is it that you want? Maybe, you want to take a look at different student types (and our advice to them).
Why are fees for foreigners often higher than for Thai students?
Some universities offer equal fees for both Thais and non-Thais, and they show that it is possible.
Other universities offer slightly higher fees (up to 20 percent higher) to cover for the higher effort. Foreign students need visa, and the visa renewal process is an interesting procedure every international student goes through. Once you experience the bureaucratic effort needed for that, you will understand why foreigners pay a bit more.
Well, and then there is a third group. That are programs that are often twice that expensive for foreigners than for Thai programs. That cannot be for covering the additional cost (others priced it in already or cover it with a little higher fees). So, there is basically only one reason: They are not very interested in getting foreign students into their programs.
When you come across a university of the third group, just move on. You are not wanted. Choose another university where you are welcome. You won't regret it.
What is 'Thai time'?
'Thai time' is a social concept, not just disrespect or lazyness. Let us explain.
In Switzerland, the national railways apologize over loudspeakers if a train arrives more than one minute too late. That's the Swiss way to deal with time.
Different cultures do things differntly. When class starts at 9 a.m., you may well see students slowly dropping in between 8.50 and 9.30 a.m. (exceptions occur, they may arrive much later). The professor is either in the classroom and patiently waits until a majority ot the students has arrived, or comes 20 minutes late himself (for one exception, see below).
Thais have a very strong 'ego' (see Psychology of the Thai People), and such strong egos can easily cause conflict and harm if improperly addressed. That is valid for one's own ego, but also for that of all family and close friends. To avoid permanent clashes, the Thais developed techniques and rules to take the stress out of almost any situation. Thus, in Thailand you can learn that taking time not that serious can have very positive social effects.
The delay time is everywhere used for social contacts, time to chat to your neighbour, to ask about her wellbeing (the most prominent question is 'did you eat already?'), to learn where to eat cheap and good, and many more such things.
The same is valid for meetings, not only for class rooms, by the way.
This social benefit has more postive effects than insisting on punctuality would have in Thai culture.
Well, there is one exception: If you have a German professor, better be on time. We know somebody who lets students sit a quick test from 9.00 to 9.15 a.m. - and anybody arriving late failed that test automatically. It works: Thai students have no problem to be in class at 9 a.m. sharp. Well, but it costs the social connection time. They make it up with a longer break - after the test.
Should I come alone or better in a group with a couple of friends?
You will get the most out of your time in Thailand when coming alone, there is no doubt. If you come with a group from your university, you will tend to stick to your friends all the time and you will miss a myriad of great opportunities.
Thais are very proud of their country, and they are very hospitable. For both reasons, they want you to have a great time in Thailand. No only that every Thai student wants to talk to you and improve here English communication skills, they are also very happy if you join them for a trip to the sea, a visit to their family upcountry, or just go out for a milkshake.
All these opportunities to look beyond the fence you throw away when permanently sticking to the group of your friend. Thais will not approach you with their questions since they think you wouldn't appreciate that. You like your friends better.
Our advice is, the more you mingle with the Thais, the better your experience in Thailand will be. Try it.