The Thai and Southeast Asian Studies Certificate Program is a fundamental ‘island’ program run by Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Most participants on the semester or year long program embark from U.S. home institutions and organizations. English is the medium of instruction, and all participants and staff are native or proficient English speakers. The impetus for this capstone project emerged from staff observations and student feedback during fall 2006. Twenty-nine students were on the program, twenty-six of whom hailed from the U.S. Participants coined the experience “mini-America,” and isolation from the host culture seemed reinforced by the ‘island’ nature of the program. No venue was in place to aid student processing of cross-cultural encounters. Thus, the effects of culture shock influenced the TS participant experience and, in turn, led to self-segregation from the host community. This capstone project seeks to answer the question, “How can the program design of the Thai and Southeast Asian Studies Certificate Program innovatively encourage and facilitate more student interaction with the host institution and ultimately, the host culture?” A look at strengths and potentials of the current program design presents innovations to broaden the experience outside ‘island’ parameters, and build bridges between the Thai Studies program and Payap University’s Thai and international programs. As a first step, efforts to diversify the student base beyond predominantly U.S. participants offer incentive to underrepresented prospective students. Initiatives to ensure host interaction in program components such as accommodations and cultural excursions are also discussed. Moreover, this project utilizes a new Thai Studies course on Intercultural Understanding (ICU) and creates cross-program partnerships that impel host interaction to fulfill ICU course requirements. In turn, cross-cultural interaction becomes an integral part of the student learning experience.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education | International and Comparative Education