My Study Abroad Experience

All pictures are my own unless otherwise noted/sourced; do not use without permission.

Studying abroad gave me a chance to see the world like never before.  I studied abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a semester. We were the first group of students in Chiang Mai, so the program was quite unorganized. During weekends, often we'd try to travel a bit, and that's how I got infected with this evil but amazing travel bug!

So why did I decide to study abroad? Well, for a few years, I wondered and researched about where or if I should study abroad, but was too afraid to step forward. One day, the decision to make a call to the University asking about the programs changed everything. They advised I go to an informational session. I did just that, and about 10 months later, I was in Thailand! It was unbelievable!

Preparing to study abroad. First things first, attend a study abroad informational session. Still interested? Worry about financials later, but I would consider what program(s) is/are doable for you. Pick a study abroad program to go through. I went through University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), and they are pretty good. I would recommend them. But, keep in mind there are many other programs. Pick a country of interest you'd like to go and study/explore. OK, ok... here comes the wait.  The teasing starts, especially if you're as excited as I was. You will start to receive information/things in the mail - acceptance letters, luggage tags, t-shirt, insurance, housing options, etc.

Then the picking of your classes is next. I picked the below courses:

  • Hill Tribe Peoples and Culture (3 units),

  • Buddhism (3 units),

  • Thai Cuisine (1 unit),

  • Thai Language for Daily Communication (3 units),

  • Thai Society and Culture (3 units),

  • Hill Tribe Field Study (1 unit w/ required registration in Hill Tribe Tour), and Hill Tribe Tour (0 unit, and additional fee of $100!).

Housing options. Our study abroad housing options were: UNISERV CMU Hostel, Sa-nguan Malee Mansion, and Sinthana Resort. They were all nice, but having checked out the UNISERV myself, I think that beat the other options but it was a bit more expensive (when you're a broke student, lol). I ended up picking Sinthana Resort, but later on moved out into an apartment at Malee Mansion 2 with two other classmates; we each paid around $250 for the semester.


There was still the MANDATORY STUDY ABROAD ORIENTATION on campus. Below was the breakdown from mine:

  • 8:30-11am - Lectures given on study abroad topics (such as health and safety, packing tips, etc.).

  • 11am-12pm - Lecture on culture shock and communication.

  • 2pm-1pm - Break out session with our specific country group (Thailand). There were only 4-5 students going with me from our university.

Another two things came after:

  • flight arrangement - you can either choose to do the group flight or book your own. The group flight was more expensive (also from LA - an approximately 9-10hrs drive from where I lived at the time) than booking my own (i saved about $500!).

  • travel immunizations - make sure to consult with a nurse or doctor and get all the necessary shots. I went to my student health center, talked with a nurse, and got my immunizations - Hep A, Dtap, and Typhoid. I had to pay out of pocket for the Typhoid shot ($57).

Malarial medication? I got some in case I travel to surrounding countries. I was given Doxy to take 1 tablet daily beginning 1-2 days prior to departure and until 4 weeks after returning home. I only bought 90 of them (for $8.80 at the time), hoping they will last because it all depends on how often I travel to places with high malarial rates.

I had talked to my Mom about this, and she said it's not necessary as long as you use mosquito spray with deet, and that should be enough protection. She stressed that she's gone to Thailand and Laos many times and never used any malarial pills. WELL, turned out I never used any.

However! I still recommend getting them in the case that you DO travel to malarial places. Better safe than sorry!

UNIFORMS? Yes please! It was a requirement I was hoping for. Black skirts and white button down shirts were what we would be wearing. We were told we could get them at the University for around 200-220 baht (which was approximately $6).

I will say that uniforms really do make life easier. You get up, snooze your alarm, shower, and throw on your uniform. You don't have to spend 15 minutes deciding/picking what to wear. It's a time saver, not to mention you also look cute in it too!

VISA? Soon as I received information about it through USAC, I searched for and downloaded the visa application, filled it out, and attached the following required documents:

  • multiple entry student visa fee (in money order),

  • two 2x2 full frontal face photos (you can get this done basically anywhere nowadays),

  • acceptance letters,

  • bank statements,

  • passport, and a copy of passport,

  • copy of round trip ticket showing flights into and out of Thailand. My flight partner had only bought a one way ticket to Thailand because she was going to stay for a year and didn't know exactly when she was returning. In this case, she had to buy her one-way ticket home to get her visa (she had to change the return date later on, of course),

  • a self-addressed return envelope

Note: USAC recommends using express mail, but it's expensive! I only sent priority and got it back in a decent amount of time. So as long as you do it early, you should be fine GIVEN the embassy is close to you; mine was in LA (9-10hrs away). Give it 1-2 weeks processing time.

Currencies? Honestly, you're better off getting them at the airport or the ATMs when you land in Thailand. I tried getting some at my bank, but apparently thai baht is something you can only order online or call a 1-800 number to order.

What to pack?

  • Pack light, because I promise that you WILL end up buying clothes there - everything is very cheap.

  • Females - if you use tampons, pack enough! The ones there are basically the tampon without the plastic inserter, wrapped in plastic, and you will have to insert it with your fingers (sorry TMI, but it's good information to know - I never knew this before I went unfortunately).

  • A good pair of walking shoes and sandals. They have plenty there, but if there is one you really like or if you have huge feet, pack yours!

  • A good camera/phone for taking pictures. Capture those memories!

  • Underwear, shorts, pants, and shirts. Their sizes do run small.

  • Bug spray / insect repellent with deet - they do not have anything with deet abroad, so pack enough!

  • Whatever prescriptions you need.

What NOT to pack?

  • Outlet converters. You do not really need them. Get an outlet strip from one of the street shops and you should be good.

  • Toiletries - you can get these anywhere!

Last but not least... go have fun, hang out with the locals and do what they do, take pictures, document your trip, and come back with the travel disease. Haha.

Thinking about studying abroad? I say DO IT.

And do it NOW.

Because if you don't do it now, you may never get another chance.

I promise you that it will be the best thing you ever do for yourself...

because it really was the BEST THING I ever did for myself. No regrets!

Here are some pictures from my study abroad semester in Thailand.