ChiangMai University

For those of you out there wondering just how different a study abroad experience in Southeast Asia is compared to one in, say, Europe, I am here to answer all your questions – at least in terms of a study abroad experience in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

I am a TEAN student at Chiang Mai University, taking classes through the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs in the Political Sciences Faculty. I am enrolled in four courses: Thai I, Buddhism in Southeast Asia, International Relations of Mainland Southeast Asia and Thai Art & Culture.

Here is a play-by-play of what my life is like here on a daily basis:

9:00 AM

Wake up, make a cup of tea, workout. We’re lucky enough to have a little gym right in Uniloft, the dormitory where we live, so staying active while abroad hasn’t been a problem.

9:45 AM

Eat breakfast. I have become obsessed with 7-11 since moving to Thailand, because they’re on every corner and they stock just about everything you could ever want. For breakfast, I treat myself to a coconut yogurt from 7-11 and if I’m really hungry, one of these weird, custard buns that are definitely not good for me but have become a serious guilty pleasure.

10:15 AM

Start trekking to class. It’s about a 25-minute walk to the Political Sciences faculty where we have class, but campus is beautiful and walking with friends makes it feel less far. Now that it’s the hot season, the walk is brutal, but hey, I sweat out the bun I most likely indulged in earlier that morning.

10:45 AM

Thai language class with Ajaan Gai, the most enthusiastic, goofy teacher ever. I’m not great at speaking Thai, but I really do try in class, if only to make him happy

Ajaan Gai and Me
Ajaan Gai and Me

12:15 PM

Lunch at the CMU canteen. For no more than a dollar we feast on noodle bowls, Pad Thai, spring rolls and chocolate ice cream cones. It’s wonderful.

1:30 PM

International Relations class with Dr. Paul, a professor so knowledgeable about Thai politics that he regularly has to stop class to give a quote over the phone to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal about the current political unrest in Bangkok. To be in the presence of someone so intelligent, and better yet to be taught by him, is about the coolest thing ever.

3:30 PM

Walk back to Uniloft, where I immediately put the air conditioning on full blast and turn on the television to channel 7, the only English channel we get, and which plays American movies 24 hours a day. I’ve watched Pretty Woman like six times now.

5:30 PM

We eat dinner a little earlier if we want to eat at Penny’s, which we usually do. Penny’s is a little hole in the wall of a restaurant (literally) on our soi (street). Named after Penny the cat, its run by Phon, a 25 year old who cooks every meal made to order, putting in not only flavor but love. No dish is more than 65 THB ($2 USD), and the portions are huge, so it’s the best deal in town.

The TEAN crew enjoying a classic Penny’s dinner
The TEAN crew enjoying a classic Penny’s dinner

Other nearby dinner options abound. Just down Soi 7 is Suthep Road, home to miles of street food that never disappoints. If you want to know more about the street food in Chiang Mai, check out my girl Cara’s post all about it!

There are also several good restaurants within walking distance, including Pun Pun, which has the best vegetarian food you’ve ever tasted, the Magic Garden Cafe, an NGO restaurant with fried morning glory that is to die for, or this awesome ramen noodle bar with a Thai name that evades us all.

If you want to look a little further from home, a plethora of Thai and Western style restaurants await just a walk or song tao away on Nimmanhaemin Road or in the Old City. You might pay a little more than you would on Suthep, but sometimes you really just need a piece of pizza. No judgment.

7:00 PM and Later

If it’s a school night, you might find us studying in the common room at Uniloft, having dance practice or doing yoga in the Uniloft dance studio, or at the movies. The Maya Mall near where we live has a fantastic movie theater with new movies, Thai and American, shown every week – and for less than $5 USD!

If it’s a weekend night, we’re out on the town. A dancer at heart, my favorite haunt is Zoe in Yellow, a dance club in the Old City with cheap drinks, Rihanna jams and cute backpackers aplenty. A less aggressive night might include listening to live music at one of the many bars on Nimmanhaemin or in the Old City.

Zoe in Yellow
Zoe in Yellow

If nightlife isn’t your scene, fear not! Chiang Mai is a great place to experience nature, explore spirituality and access your more creative side. On Saturdays I like to get lost in a new part of the city, find a coffee shop where I can write or draw, or go to a yoga class. There are hundreds of temples to visit, and hikes or weekend trips to places like Pai or Chiang Dao.

Hanging out at our hostel in Pai
Hanging out at our hostel in Pai

So there you have it! Until next time!

Molly Winding  is a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Molly is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Chiang Mai, Thailand.