Sip a mango smoothie on your bike ride home from photographing tumbling ruins, while you wave at the locals. They love to shout “hello” as you pedal past. Volunteering in Thailand means night markets crammed full of piles of papayas, prayers in temples adorned with gold Buddhas, and jungly vacations. See for yourself why this place is called the “land of smiles”.
A semester in Thailand is a lot of what you’d expect — intricate Buddhist temples dotting the streets and thick jungles with lots of hot and humid weather. Vacations are all about the incredibly picturesque beaches. But during the week? You get to dive deep into the culture that tourists don’t get to see. You’re living in Central Thailand, high up in the northern part of the country, tucked away in spots that are a flight from the postcard beaches you’ve seen all over Instagram. Come live in cities small enough that the locals know who you are. Come ride rusted bikes down to the central market for your favorite smoothie place. Truly see how friendly the people are in Thailand. Here’s a glimpse at what a typical day looks like in this country …
Glimpse a day in Thailand
Time for breakfast. Sit down for tiny Thai bananas and fried scones drizzled with sweetened and condensed milk. That sweet stuff is everywhere here! Your ILP semester is all about a local experience, and the food is a huge part of that. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all provided for you by school cooks — on a special days, get your fill of warm curries: yellow, green, panang, Massaman, red, pumpkin … you name it. On other days, tuck into a plate of tuna-fish sandwiches. Sometimes, you’ll see stir fried veggies full of peas and chicken, but not matter what, there is always lots and lots (and lots) of rice.
For teaching, you put on a pair of sandals just to walk to your classroom, then take them off before entering the school … you’ll be teaching in bare feet here. Volunteers headed to Thailand should be excited to experience the culture during their semester. In general, Thai culture is very respectful and modest, so you’ll need to stay covered up whenever you’re on campus. You will be teaching in dresses and skirts. No worries, because it’s much too hot to teach in something heavier than a skirt or dress anyways.
After teaching, it’s time for lunch with your ILP group. After that, you all hop on old rusted bikes to ride down to the central market. It’s smoothie time (for less than a dollar, in fact). You really like this smoothie spot because it’s delicious, cheap, and above all, because it has A/C. It’s hot and humid in Thailand and you won’t find A/C in a lot of places. Take advantage where you can! As you ride on the way back, you do a lot of waving: the locals here are so nice — you don’t really ever run into people who speak English, but that doesn’t stop anyone from waving and saying “hello” anyways.
After teaching the day is all yours. Volunteers say it’s more free time than they anticipated, which leaves time to check out that nearby wat (that’s Thai for “temple”). Think about shopping at the night market, and getting to know your Thai city in the afternoons. Weekends are long enough for a quick trip to Bangkok or up north to the jungles of Chiang Mai. Vacation days give you even more options: explore countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bali, and more. But don’t forget to plan plenty of time experiencing the islands in Thailand! Besides the beaches, some of the highlights of the semester are found in northern Thailand. We really like the artsy mountain village of Pai, and all the elephant adventures in Chiang Mai.
HELP CHILDREN IN THAILAND LEARN ENGLISH
In this Exchange Program, you’ll be making a difference by helping children learn English, up to 20 hours per week. No experience is needed, we provide training on our teaching method! The school you are teaching at is very prestigious. It’s home to some of the top scorers in the entire country when it comes to the English exams required by the Thai government. They are high caliber schools, with parents who can afford to send their children to an English program taught by the very best — a native English speaker, like you. English is a top skill coveted by many Thai students, but to have classes taught by a native speaker is the best of the best, and exactly what the parents of your students are after. Teaching here comes with high expectations.
Volunteering and Costs
You’ll be teaching young kids which are very (very) cute, but can be a handful, too. For a few of them, this is the first time they’ve been away from home, let alone in a classroom! Teaching English some days may mean drying a few tears and handling meltdowns, along with some rowdy older kids (you know how kids are). In any case, the kids are the focus of your semester. They really do make for the hardest goodbyes. Semester after semester, volunteers say that teaching is the hardest but best and most rewarding part of their whole semester. Despite high energy and difficult teaching days, the kids are so easy to love in Thailand, that’s for sure.
Thailand is one of our Exchange Programs which is the most budget friendly option while still giving you all the perks of a classic ILP experience. We’re able to keep your costs so low because your student’s family helps subsidize the program for you by paying a fee to have their child attend ILP classes.
Live in central Thailand, in the large city of Phitsanulok or the nearby town of Phichit.
Thailand is a bit unique because we have more than 3 departure and return times per year (which is pretty normal for our other programs). Our schools here are very prestigious and prefer to have classes running year-round, so we’ve shifted the dates a bit and added in a couple more groups to minimize or eliminate the small breaks that happen typically happen between ILP semesters and have as many ILP classes per year as we can. The good news is this gives you more possibilities for semester dates that may work better with your personal or school semester.
- Group 1: Depart early/mid January – return mid March/mid April
- Group 2: Depart early/late March – return early/late June
- Group 1: Depart end of April/mid May – return end of Aug/early September
- Group 1: Departs end of July/early August and returns end of October
- Group 2: Depart mid August/early September – return middle/late December, just in time for Christmas
—6-15 volunteers in a group
—18-about 25ish years old
—Volunteers from the U.S. and Canada
—No experience needed!
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT COVID-19
We paused our Thailand program at the start of the pandemic and are so excited to be back again (and have been here since Fall 2020)! So what’s life like in Thailand now? We’ve seen that rising case numbers have determined the restriction level in this country, which impacts the operating hours of local businesses, public transportation, virtual vs in-person learning, testing requirements, if there is a quarantine, etc. Recently, a 7-day quarantine is required. There is a mix of virtual and in-person learning, with travel available to various locations in Thailand. Volunteers going to Thailand must have their Covid-19 vaccine.
We are so happy to have volunteers in this location again!
There are plenty of amazing things to do during your semester abroad in Asia. Go island hopping in southern Thailand. Hike to mountain-top villages in Chiang Mai. Spend a weekend wandering temples and watching the sunset on rooftops in Bangkok. Travel all over Thailand for your vacations or jump on a flight to a nearby country like Cambodia, Vietnam, or even Indonesia.
Here are just a few of our favorite spots to go adventuring in Asia …
Chiang Mai — Take a Thai cooking class or visit an elephant sanctuary … we love Chiang Mai! After, receive blessings from a monk at the temple in the mountains, or zip line through the Thai forest. Want a few more adventures? Head to the nearby hippie town of Pai for a couple days.
Bangkok — Explore all the beautiful Buddhist temples in Bangkok, then shop by boat at the floating market. Come get a taste of city life in Thailand’s highest populated city.
Chiang Rai — Visit one of the most popular temples in Thailand, “the White Temple”. After that, come pick up souvenirs at the night market and bike through rice fields.
Phi Phi Islands — Besides all the kayaking, hiking to beautiful overlooks, snorkeling, the Phi Phi Islands are also home to some of the most famous views of Thailand.
Krabi — We love Krabi. Here, come take a boat ride around the rocky coastline then relax on the white sand beaches. It’s much less crowded than other spots in Thailand which makes it that much better.
Sukhothai — Ready for an adventure close to home? Hike around and explore ancient Thai ruins that are only a few hours away.
Cambodia — Walk through world wonder ruins in Angkor Wat. Come swim in waterfalls. Lastly, take a boat cruise through a floating neighborhood.
Bali — Fly south to visit the beautiful island of Bali (and nearby islands). Hang out with monkeys and jump on the famous swing over the rice fields in Ubud, enjoy the beach and go snorkeling in Lembogan. Come treat yourself to the trip you’ve always dreamed of.
Laos — Your neighboring country is home to turquoise pools and a bustling capital city, with a massive Buddha park on the fringes of the metropolis. Just a couple of reasons why we like Laos!