Year — Fall 2019
Application deadline: December 5, 2018
Spend a year exploring a country whose ancient traditions, friendly attitude, and tropical landscapes are world-famous. By living with a Thai host family, you’ll be able to make yourself at home as you attend a local high school and get involved in your community. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in cultural activities like touring Buddhist temples, visiting lively night markets, and tasting spicy gaeng (Thai curry). If you’re a person who values the quiet and calm but also seeks to find sanuk (fun) in all things, then Thailand is the place for you.
Thai people greet each other with a wai (pressing their palms together as they bow or curtsy) in order to show respect. You raise your hands higher and bow lower when you encounter someone of high stature, like a Buddhist monk. In Thailand the king and royal family are highly respected and it’s actually against the law to insult them! Thais try to live with a jai yen (a cool heart), so you won’t usually see them expressing extreme emotions. They also value the Buddhist principles of acceptance and detachment, which means they tend to be non-confrontational and easy-going. Because of the country’s Buddhist history, many Thai people understand and accept dietary restrictions like vegetarianism.
Your journey to Thailand will begin in Los Angeles, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the US. Together you’ll attend an overnight orientation and then travel to the city of Bangkok where you’ll be met by AFS staff and volunteers.
Soon you’ll be ready to head to your new community. Along the way you might pass by rainforests, coconut plantations, or sandy beaches with cerulean waters. No matter where you are, you’ll likely catch a whiff of the spicy and sweet flavors drifting from local food markets and street vendors. And keep your eyes peeled for some ancient, ornate architecture, as the golden stupas and steeply sloping roofs of Buddhist wats (temples) are often the focal points of Thai communities.
AFSers have lived all throughout Thailand, from the northern teak forests to the southern tropical beaches. You might end up in a regional capital or a small town, and your host family could live in a traditional rural home or a small city apartment.
Like anywhere in the world, all families in Thailand are different. But most are close and caring, with several generations often living in the same house. Young adults usually stay at home until they marry, so you could have host siblings in their twenties or thirties. Your host family is likely to have namjai, which means they endeavor to show generosity without expecting anything in return – though it never hurts to reciprocate.See where past AFSers have lived
Your Thai friends might invite you to sing karaoke or go shopping at night or weekend markets. Many people enjoy dancing, and American-style breakdancing is getting more and more popular among teenagers. A lot of students participate in sports like soccer, table tennis, badminton, volleyball, and basketball. They also might like playing Mahruk (a game similar to chess) or watching Muy Thai (Thai boxing) on TV. Other common activities include Tai Chi and aerobics, with people gathering in parks at dusk and dawn to practice in groups.Teenagers in Thailand also like to hang out in Internet cafés to meet people and play games. There are tons of different activities available, but as a student you’ll spend most of your time—and make most of your friends—at school.
Thai food is often a combination of sweet and spicy flavors, with kao (rice) served at every meal. Families eat in the communal style; each person has their own bowl of rice while other dishes are placed in the center of the table and shared by everyone. Some popular foods are pad Thai (pan-fried noodles), satay (pork or chicken on a stick with peanut sauce), yam (spiced salad), and tom yum kung (lemon-flavored soup with shrimp). For dessert you can try khao niew mamuang (coconut sticky rice with mango) or bua loy (rice balls in sweet coconut milk). You’ll also find that fresh, tropical fruit is available year round.
The Thai school year starts in May and ends in March, with a mid-year break in October. You’ll probably be enrolled in a public secondary school, but you could also attend a same-sex or co-ed private school. You might even be enrolled in a specialized program like a technical, vocational, or art school. Your typical day will begin around 7:30 am and finish around 3:30 pm. In addition to subjects like math and science, most AFS students take cultural classes including language, history, religion and meditation. Other activities such as dancing, sword fighting, boxing, music, cooking, and arts & crafts might also be offered. As authority figures are highly respected in Thailand, you can expect to greet your teachers with a traditional wai. And on Wai Kru Day (Praise Teachers Day), it’s customary for students to honor teachers by offering them flowers and gifts.
"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.