Mahidol University International College Exchange Report Sept-Dec

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					             Mahidol University International College Exchange Report
                                  Sept-Dec. 2007

                                     Adam Pressacco
                                     Kailee Douglas
                                       Nick Rose

Visa

For obtaining a visa in Thailand, you have 2 options.
   1- You can send your passport and money order ($80 CDN) to the Thai Embassy in
       Vancouver which will allow you to stay in Thailand for 90 days. This process
       takes roughly 2 weeks.
   2- You can travel to Thailand, without having previously purchased a visa, and be
       allowed to stay in the country for a maximum of 30 days for FREE.

I was not told about option number 2, so I purchased a visa for 90 days before I went only
to use it up within the first couple weeks I was there. If you plan to leave the country
within 30 days of arriving (which you most likely will as travel around S.E. Asia is very
cheap) then there is absolutely no need for purchasing a 90 day visa from the embassy.
You will meet a lot of people that will be willing to travel to different countries. The vast
majority of exchange students there simply left the country within every 30 days to renew
their visa.

IMPORTANT- Once you leave the country, even with the 90 day visa, you will only
have 30 days as of the date of your return to Thailand before you have to leave again.
Immigration at the airport will stamp the date on your passport. The process to obtain a
re-entry permit (at the airport- once you leave the country then return), which allows you
to stay in the country for your full 90 days as of when you first entered Thailand, is very
complicating and difficult to obtain due to the language barrier. It is much easier and less
expensive to simply leave the country every 30 days to renew your visa (you will only
need to leave the country 3 times if you plan it out well).

Courses

        There is a wide selection of available courses to take at Mahidol, all of which are
taught in English. At the University, there are roughly 10 faculties, which includes the
International Faculty, also known as MUIC. This is where Thai students learning English
and exchange students are enrolled. MUIC has its own building and all classes taught in
English are in that building. Courses can usually be arranged to be taken on Mon-Weds,
which leaves a 4 day weekend for travelling. Due to the shorter semester, you will be
taking 4 hours per week of classes rather than the usual 3.

       Courses that were approved-
             Poverty and Rural Development in S.E. Asia (Recommended)
             Introduction to Thai Language and Culture (Recommended)
               Cross-Cultural Management (Recommended)
               Business Law
               Retail Management
               Religion, State, and Politics in S.E. Asia
               International Trade

Teaching

         You should expect to have at least 1 or 2 professors that are fluent in English and
are possibly even Canadian or American. In all of the classes we took we had 2 Canadian
professors and 1 European. The Thai professors usually have decent English and
understanding them in class is not a problem. In our experience, sometimes they ask you
to spell a word for them. There is a huge difference in teaching style when comparing
western to Thai professors. Western professors will typically start class on time while you
can expect class to start at least 5-10 minutes late with Thai teachers (you will experience
this a lot in Thailand, and not just in school). The teachers also realize that travelling is a
part of your schedule, especially the western professors, so deadlines and test dates may
be flexible.

International Services and Orientation

        The IRO Office is usually helpful with any problems; we didn’t really have any
other than dropping a class which was very easy to do. You should expect to be involved
in a buddy program there where you will get paired with a Thai student to help you with
any problems. The buddy program was new for our term there, and didn’t start until half
way through the semester. Hopefully it starts at the beginning of the term for next
September so you can take advantage of some local knowledge.

        One problem with our exchange there was that we did not get a very good
orientation. They did an alright job of explaining the courses and how to enroll in them,
but they did not tell us where the class would be, give us a campus tour, or even a map.
You can get a campus map from the IRO Office, which you will visit during orientation.
There will be someone at the airport waiting for you to take you to your residence,
however, expect to have to wait for another student, which could take a few hours. Also,
the driver will most likely not speak English so you will be given an envelope explaining
what to expect.

Housing

        There are two housing options for international students promoted by Mahidol:
Chaiyapruk and Green Park. I stayed at Chaiyapruk, where there are single and double
rooms for exchange and international students. It is in a gated neighbourhood, and has
guards, which I found to be unnecessary. Mahidol’s orientation was on the September 4,
and school started on the 17th, so many of us traveled in between those dates. Three
months rent and two months deposit were due within the first month, so you will be
basically be paying five months upfront, then get the deposit back in December. Make
sure you ask to get it back in mid-December so you can spend it there, rather than getting
a cheque for about baht 10 000 weeks after you leave. Utilities are an additional cost and
vary depending on how much you use the hot water; electricity (like air-conditioning)
and telephone (expect a bill around $30-50 per month for a shared room).

Chaiyapruk International House:
-about 25 rooms (single and double)
-telephone in each room
-bathroom in each room
-kitchen (not many people use it since it is very cheap and easy to buy meals elsewhere)
-laundry machine for about $1 per wash
-computer room and wireless
-daily housekeeper than cleans the rooms and house
-pool/restaurant in the neighbourhood with a baht 850 (about $25) for a 3 month
membership
-20 minute walk to school, or 10 minute bike ride or 5 minute car ride
-many students bought their own bicycles for about $60
-minibus that picks up students at 730am to take to school
-motorcycle taxis are only baht 20 (about 60 cents)
-taxis were also used a lot by groups of students going to school at the same time

         Chaiyapruk is one of the nicest housing options in the area. After backpacking
around Asia, you will feel spoiled with the hot water, huge clean house and housekeeper.
Green Park is another option for international students, and it is cheaper than Chaiyapruk.
It is on a bus route to school. A few students at Chaiyapruk moved out during the
semester because they found they could get their own apartments at a similar cost. I think
Chaiyapruk is a great place to meet friends and travel buddies, but if you feel confident
finding your own apartment when you arrive (quite easy) then go for it.

Campus Facilities

        There are great facilities at Mahidol. MUIC is the international college building of
the university, and is where all your classes will be. It has a few computer rooms with
free printing. The Canteen in MUIC has a variety of Thai dishes for cheap. Cuppa, the
student-run coffee house, is quite popular. There is a large cafeteria located in the campus
as well. The gym (weight room/cardio/fitness classes) is baht 800 **************** for
3 months, and is comparable to gyms in Canada. It is located on the other corner of
campus and takes about 10 minutes from MUIC to walk to. Mahidol also has free health
services for students, and usually has a line-up since the doctor is only in a few hours
each day.

Social Events and Recreation

       There was a buddy program, but it was odd that you met your buddy about a
month after you arrived and already feel comfortable with the country and school. Thai
students at MUIC can speak good English, but most of the international students stuck
together because we took many of the same classes, and had traveling as a priority.
There are about seven free clubs at MUIC (such as basketball or muay Thai), and it is
mandatory for the full-time students to join at least one. It is also easy to make friends at
the gym, or by joining an athletic team. As for nightlife, there are two bars in walking
distance of the school. Khao San Road is full of backpackers and has many bars and
clubs. RCA is also a popular club district, and both these areas are a taxi-drive away.

Traveling

        There were opportunities to do small trips with the hospitality class at Mahidol,
but most students traveled with other international students. I put my four classes into
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so I could travel for the other four days. There are
only 11 weeks of classes, and the school says you can only miss two classes. I traveled
every weekend (very tiring!) and went to Taiwan, Malaysia, Lao, Vietnam, and many
islands, beaches and cities around Thailand. I flew to the countries with Air Asia, and it
cost between $100 and $200 for a round trip. Flying gives you the most time in your
destination, but taking the bus or train is more economical. Lao required you to buy a visa
upon arrival, while Vietnam required you to obtain a visa from the Vietnam embassy in
Bangkok, which takes a few days.

Recommended:
-Koh Samet, Koh Chang, Hua-Hin when you crave a short trip to the beach
-Koh Tao for scuba-diving and great beach parties
-Koh Pha Ngan for the full-moon party
-flew to Phuket to get to Koh Phi Phi (one of the most popular islands in Thailand)
-Chiang Mai (in the north)
-Kanchanaburi (2 hour bus ride from Bangkok; has the bridge over the River Kwai)
-country’s ancient capital of Ayutthaya (30 minute train ride from Bangkok)

Co-op

        I didn’t hear of any assistance provided by the school for finding a co-op. The
average daily wage in Thailand is between baht 140 to 190 (about $6) so needless to say,
there aren’t very many people that stay for a co-op semester. It is also said that Thai
businesses prefer to employ Thais. I heard of two job positions: one international student
spent a week handing out resumes downtown and got a job at a hotel, and another
internship position offered by a professor at his international trading company.

Costs/Expenses

       Thailand is relatively a cheap country to live in, but the amount of money you
spend depends on how you live:

-Living- Chaiyapruk International House – $200-300 a month depending on which room
-Utilities - $25-40 a month
-Motorcycle taxis to school are only baht 20 (about 60 cents) each way
-Cell phone and SIM card- $60, minutes are pretty cheap
-T-shirt- $5
-Meal around School $0.75- $3
-Taxi to Khao San Road (Downtown)- $4.50
-Bus/Boat from Bangkok to Koh Tao (One Way)- $18
-Beer in 7-11- $0.50
-Beer in Night Club- $4
-Text Books- Most classes do not need them

Safety

        Thailand is a relatively safe country to live and travel in. But here are some tips
to consider when entering Thailand or other countries.
-Keep your bags secure. One of our housemates was riding her bike home from school
when someone on a scooter rode up beside her and stole her bag right out of her front
basket.
-Wear a helmet and drive safely on scooters. Many scooters are found in Thailand.
However, one issue that came up was friends rented them for the day and were involved
in some minor crashes. These crashes caused some ugly cuts and put a dent in their
wallet ($15-$300 for damage caused to the scooter). The rental shops usually ask for
your passport, which gives them the upper side when arguing the price of damage. When
taking a bike taxi in the city, make sure they give you a helmet. It is an interesting, but
scary ride.
-Look both ways when crossing the road. The drivers won’t stop for you, and the drivers
drive on the opposite side of the road compared to Canada.
-Stray Dogs will chase you on your bike at night, but they usually don’t bite. However, a
Finnish roommate reported being snapped at.
-Be extra careful at the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan
-A guidebook like Lonely Planet discusses other safety concerns that are found in
Thailand.
-There are other culture differences that need to be learned before entering Thailand,
which can be found in the guidebook. For example, a female cannot touch a monk for
any reason. A female touched a monk in Laos because he trip over his robe and was
following to the ground. He was a very upset monk because of the face that the female
touched him.

What to bring

   1. Guide Book- Good way to learn about the culture and to plan your travels
   2. Camera- Good way to capture the moments
   3. Money- Although it is cheap to live in Thailand, you will want to travel which
      costs money.
   4. Big empty bags- Good way to buy a lot of cloths in Thailand and bring them
      home with you
   5. Ranch Dressing- Items like this are hard to come by, but a necessity when
      ordering from the Pizza Company
   6. Sunscreen- Good way to prevent Skin Cancer
   7. Laptop- Not a must, but convenient for Internet access.
   8. Book- Good way to learn
   9. MP3 player- Good way to relax when traveling
   10. Open and positive attitude- you may pay for a 13-hour bus ride from Koh Samui
       to Bangkok and it may end up being 18-hours after a restaurant crawl. Don’t start
       yelling at people; just laugh it off.

General Impressions

        My exchange at Mahidol University was very interesting and eye opening.
Thailand is a developing nation, but is very developed in most aspects. There are huge
malls with all the designer stores inside and just outside sit stands with counterfeit items
and chicken on a stick. I enjoyed the cheap lifestyle found especially in the suburb
Salaya where we lived. You can enjoy the food and the shopping at an affordable price.
As in Nick’s case, you can order 3 fresh smoothies a day as they only cost less than $1
each. A bike trip around the suburb is a great way to see how the Thais live. You will
not get the full picture if you do not explore Bangkok and Thailand.
        The traveling is cheap and there are many great areas and countries to travel to. I
traveled to Laos, Cambodia, and all around Thailand for an affordable price. The islands
and beaches were definitely my favorite destinations as they are very relaxing and
beautiful. These spots are found on the backpacker’s trail where you can enjoy some
western food and meet people from around the world. You will find that a lot Thais in
the tourist areas will call you friend as they are looking for your money. Thais pushing
for you to pay for their service (taxis, suits, lighters) do get annoying.
        I enjoyed living in the house with 22 other exchange students. One
disappointment was that there were 8 Canadians (7 from UVIC) and 6 Americans in the
house as I was hoping for more of diversity. I was glad I was moving out at the end of
the semester as living that closely to so many people was getting to me.
        There is a beautiful park right beside the school, take a ride and you will
appreciate Thailand for all its beauties.



Feel free to contact any of us with questions you may have!

Kailee- kailee@uvic.ca
Adam- pressacc@uvic.ca
Nick- nrose@uvic.ca