Thai Language and Culture Certificate at Chiang Mai University

Information on One-Year Education Visas

Application Process (Level 1 Thai Language)

I consider travel to be the greatest form of education. Having lived in Thailand for 6 months, I applied to study Thai language on an Education Visa at Chiang Mai University starting in May 2019. In January 2019. I collected documentation from the University before commencing a period of travel in Cambodia and Vietnam. Subsequently I returned to the U.K. to submit this at the Royal Thai embassy in London. The process at the embassy was really efficient, I spent around 30 minutes there on both days. Note the opening times and application details as follows:

  • The embassy opens Monday-Friday from 9.00-12.30 and 14.00-17.00.
  • Apply for your visa between the times of 9.00 and 12.30 on your first visit.
  • Collect your passport with visa inside the next day between the times of 14.00 and 17.00.
  • Bring £50 consular fee, your documentation, a criminal record check and passport (including photocopies of these). Use the following link for a reliable and inexpensive criminal record check: https://www.gov.uk/request-copy-criminal-record

*Information accurate as of January 2020. The process has since changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. See updated information in the post: Quarantine Hotel – the full story of returning to Thailand.

Course Cost and Structure

The cost for the visa is 35000฿ (£870) which you pay in advance or when commencing study. You can make the payment in installments, I paid half prior to leaving for the U.K. and the remainder when returning. The visa entitles you to 216 teaching hours split into two sessions per week, mine being on Tuesdays and Thursdays 4-7pm. The classes are at the Language Institute in the main University campus. Meanwhile, there are three individual mid-term breaks (1 month each) and some Buddhist holidays where you are not required to study. I continued to study independently during these periods and could optionally request extra ‘homework’.

Thai Language Course Chronology: May 2019 – May 2020

On commencement of the Thai language program there were five students, yet by September the number reduced to two. In February 2019, the other lady I studied with opted to return home to South Korea so I received personal tuition. Further, my teacher was likable and easy going, meaning studying didn’t feel unnecessarily pressured. From March until the end of the course the classes took the form of Zoom calls due to Covid-19. Certainly this was strange, though due to the patience and flexibility of my teacher there was minimal disruption to my learning. Additionally, my teacher kindly offered to continue Zoom tuition for a month after my visa expired. Below are some of the activities that we engaged in alongside classroom learning.

One Craft, One Gold Exhibition

Interesting exhibits on display in the Social Research Building.

In October there was an art and craft exhibition, named One Craft, One Gold, in the nearby Social Research Institute. During a class break, we had a look around the exhibition which showcased an array of regional artefacts and hand crafts. The experience was fascinating, increasing my knowledge on Lanna culture and both the general and northern Thai languages. In addition, Chiang Mai University has a reputation for innovation and community development. Certainly this was evident in it’s support of local exhibits, some of which I’ve included in the photos.

Preparing Yam Wunsen (ยําวุ้นเส้น)- a spicy noodle salad

Preparing ingredients for Yam Wunsen.

Food is a substantial part of Thai culture and I find this relationship really interesting. Thailand has an incredible variety of food and the availability and affordability amazes me to this day. One of these is the spicy noodle salad Yam Wunsen, which we prepared in a lesson just before Christmas. I had previously tried the dish, yet producing it was enjoyable and assisted my understanding of creating flavour with certain ingredients.

See this simple method for making Yam Wunsen and the list of ingredients we used are as follows:

  • Vermicelli (dried glass) noodles.
  • The meat/seafood can be Vietnamese sausage, pork mince, chicken or shrimp – all are tasty. The vegetarian option using egg/fried tofu or tempeh is also delicious.
  • Tomato – cut into wedges.
  • Red onion and spring onion – finely chopped.
  • Chinese or regular celery – inner stalks and leaves.
  • Cilantro or coriander – chopped.
  • Chilli – finely chopped.
  • Juice of a lime or two.
  • Brown or granulated sugar.
  • Thai fish sauce.
  • Oil for cooking.

Local Market – Kad Fai Hin (กาดฝายหิน)

Kad Fai Hin, a daily market from 4pm, is located in the main campus, a few minutes from the Language Institute. Our teacher drove us here one Thursday in the last hour of our study time. The vendors mostly sold food and drink and being able to order in the Thai language is always satisfying. Further, several stalls sold northern Thai food, some of which I had not sampled. Once we had examined the offerings we each selected dishes to share and chatted in Thai for additional practice.

Flower, Candle and Incense Arrangement

Arranging candles, incense sticks and flowers to place inside the cone shaped banana leaf we made.

When people visit temples, particularly during festivals, placing flowers, candles and incense inside banana leaf is important in merit making. Buddhists consider this a way of overcoming selfishness and calming the mind in preparation for practicing virtue. I had participated in the offering at Wat Thep Phithak in Korat Province, though the materials were ready made. Meanwhile, you contribute 20 baht towards the materials which is another ‘offering’. I find acknowledgment of the Buddha profound and insightful, contributing meditation in tranquil temples.

Thai Language reflections and additional mentions

I recommend the Level 1 course as it provides opportunity to learn about Thai language and customs, in addition to a visa. Likewise, integrating yourself in the language increases the respect you earn from natives as well as being beneficial personally. The variety of activities I mention supplemented my knowledge of Thai culture and traditions. Finally, I involved myself with Chiang Mai University promotional videos. The first was filmed at the Language Institute, along with other students, for the website. My teacher also requested I create a video, in English, discussing my feelings about online tuition. I filmed this from the resort I stayed at in Chiang Dao, with the backdrop of Doi Chiang Dao.

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