Service Learning Trip to Thailand
Program Dates: May 20-June 2, 2024
Thailand has long been a famous tourist destination, and it’s not hard to see why. Known as the “land of smiles,” visitors revel in the country’s incomparable pad thai, idyllic beaches, full-moon parties, and sacred spaces. This “Transforming Tourism” program digs below the surface of conventional tourism to examine its pitfalls and the emergence of new community-led alternatives that focus attention on local income generation, environmental sustainability, and social justice.
Journey from the hustle and bustle of Big Mango to the rolling hills of Chiang Rai and glimmering temples of Chiang Mai. Explore ancient ruins, meet gentle giants, taste delicious local food, and immerse yourself in Thai culture while you examine the pitfalls of the tourism industry and the power of community-based alternatives to transform it.
The deadline to apply is January 26, 2024.
SHA graduate students and undergraduate students in good academic standing will be given priority. SHA undergraduate minors are also eligible to apply. This course fulfills the HF440 International Experience requirement.
Contact: Mara Littman, Director of Corporate and Public Relations, at email@example.com
- Embrace the chaos and complexity of modern Bangkok – from the delights of Thai cuisine to the beautiful temples and pagodas, and the harsh realities in the urban slum of Khlong Toey.
- Get up close and personal with the endangered Asian elephant while we talk about the ethics of animal tourism at Elephant Nature Park.
- Stay with local families in a hill tribe village and learn about one of Thailand’s most successful volunteer and community-based tourism initiatives.
Timeline & Fees:
Applicants will be notified by February 7, 2024.
Program Fees: $2395 per participant*
Program fees will be split into three separate installments:
- Universal Deposit ($395/participant) – February 14, 2024
- Membership Fee (50% = $1000/participant) – March 6, 2024
- Program Fee (50% = $1000/participant) – April 8, 2024
Program Fees Cover:
- Lodging: shared rooms and bathrooms
- In-country transportation for tours and activities
- In-country meals (3 daily) with locally operated eateries or family homestays to highlight regional cuisine while ensuring healthy options for a range of dietary needs
All inclusions are “in-country” and not prior to or after the service-learning trip within Thailand. Fees do not cover additional “at-leisure” dining, entertainment, recreation, and incidentals.
*Program Fees do not include international flights, visas, and travel documents.
Need-based financial assistance is available. Travel Grant Request Form.
The deadline to apply for a Travel Grant is January 26, 2024.
Thailand: Transforming Tourism (Two-Week Sample Itinerary)
DAY 1-3: ORIENTATION BANGKOK
After being picked up from Survhanabhumi International Airport, we’ll settle into our temporary home downtown in Bangkok’s historic Rattanakosin district. Over the next 3 days, we’ll explore the diversity of Thailand’s big bustling capital and acclimatize to the sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and smiles of the country. Once we get our cultural bearings, we’ll find our way to some of the best food stalls, markets, and temples Bangkok has to offer! We’ll also escape the crowds of the world’s most visited city and join our friends from the Sikha Asia Foundation and Hivesters for a day of exploration in some of Bangkok’s lesser-known neighborhoods. All in all, our menu will be full of contrasts and lots to chew on as we begin to unpack the differences between mass and alternative tourism.
DAY 4-8: COMMUNITY TOURISM CHIANG RAI
Next, the group will take a comfortable overnight bus from Bangkok to the far northern province of Chiang Rai where we will be met by our friends from the Mirror Foundation. Mirror is a Thai NGO that works towards improving livelihoods for underprivileged ethnic minority groups in the country. One of the ways they do this is through an ecotourism project that combines immersive homestays, volunteer opportunities and cultural exchange in villages with which they have strong connections. Hiking through tropical forests and past rice fields, we’ll get to bask in a landscape of endless hills and lush greenery. Along the way, we’ll visit remote villages and see firsthand the Mirror Foundation’s initiatives while hearing the stories behind them from the volunteers and villagers they work with.
DAY 8-9: ANIMAL TOURISM CHIANG RAI
Leaving Mirror, we’ll head into town and take some time to get to know the city of Chiang Rai Famous for its night bazaar and northern-style cuisine. Then we’ll visit the nearby Elephant Sanctuary (Elephant Valley Thailand) where we’ll learn about a conservation initiative trying to put an end to the mistreatment of elephants in the tourism industry. We will, of course, have a chance to meet the resident elephants and hear their individual stories from the dedicated staff. We don’t ride or bathe these gentle giants, it’s all about letting elephants be elephants in a setting as close to their natural environment as possible.
DAY 9-10: CULTURAL TOURISM CHIANG MAI
We’ll take a short bus ride from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, often referred to as the cultural capital of Thailand due to its well-preserved historical character and a vibrant, modern yet distinctively northern Thai cultural identity. Here we’ll spend time visiting glittering spiritual sites, sitting down and talking with monks to learn about Theravada Buddhism, and of course, trying our hand at the art of Thai cooking!
DAY 10-12: TEMPLE TOURISM SUKHOTHAI
Continuing our exploration of tourism, we’ll make a stop at the World Heritage Site of Sukhothai, renowned for its architecture that has survived since the 12- 14th centuries, a time when this area was a powerful kingdom in the region. So, we’ll rent bikes and get to know a little Thai history! We’ll also take time to discuss issues surrounding tourism at ancient sites like these ones.
DAY 12-14: DISORIENTATION BANGKOK
Coming full circle, we’ll conclude our adventure where it all began, in Bangkok. Here, we’ll reflect on an incredible journey, discuss lessons learned and assess our impact. Then it’s back to the international airport to catch flights home and say our fond farewells.
BU SHA partners with Operation Groundswell, a not-for-profit dedicated to making accessible and educational travel experiences that positively affect the lives of the traveler and the communities visited. The trip combines cross-cultural immersion and responsible community service with off-the-beaten-path adventure. Learn to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues with local activists, grassroots organizations, and host communities. Let’s explore together to help build a better understanding of the world and our place in it!