The TEAN academic program provides incredibly qualified professors, ajaan in Thai, that challenge you mentally without assigning a huge workload. They are employed to teach you the vast knowledge they have, and they do that and then some. My favorite part about taking classes at Chiang Mai University is that most of the professors are Thai. In fact, all of the classes I take are taught by Thai professors and I see the benefits everyday.
The most obvious benefit of Thai teachers comes in my Thai language class with Loong Gai (which means uncle). He is the most energetic and enthusiastic man I know and brings that excitement to class every week.
In a 90 minute class session he will go from teaching us simple Thai greetings to singing and dancing to quite literally the beat of his own drum; all the while teaching us words and phrases that we can apply to our lives as students in Chiang Mai. His patience with our seriously questionable attempt with a tonal language, and his unrelenting ability to make us smile, is teaching us about the language of Thailand and why it’s accurately been dubbed the land of smiles.
Once a week I take an art class with a Thai professor named Ajan Chatcha. She’s a quirky little woman that studied a lot in the U.S., making it a breeze for her to interact with us and more importantly to make cultural comparisons based on experience.
More of our class time has been spent in markets and and temples than in the classroom because she wants us to learn about Thai art and culture through the lens of the city we’re living in. She understands the traditional classroom setting isn’t as effective in teaching about Thai artists as the city itself is. So she takes us to temples and shows us the importance of doorways in Thai culture, or the meaning behind certain details in Thai artists’ paintings. She gives us artistic insight and excitement every week without fail.
The last two classes in my curriculum are political science courses taught by Dr. Napisa. She’s a woman from Bangkok that studied politics in Thailand and the U.S. She’s a political activist and a powerhouse of a professor.
Every class session I find myself quoting her hilarious cynicism about politics in Thailand and the world. She participated in the Black May demonstrations of 1992 in Bangkok, was taught by a key leader in the 1973 protests, has advised major journalists in Thailand, and pretty much rules the world. Having her insight on a subject so relevant today, is indescribable.
She said to us one day, her finger pointed meticulously and her eybrows scrunched, “prostitution in Thailand is ILLEGAL,” and then animatedly she grinned and added, “but, this is the land of smiles. We don’t enforce anything.” I feel confident that I’m learning more from this woman than mosts textbooks out there could offer, and it’s blissfully reassuring.