My semester abroad at Mahidol University in Bangkok was a great experience and I can only recommend everyone to do it right away. Of course there are a few things to consider and tips that make life easier.
At the CMMU, the academic year is divided into trimesters. That means you can choose whether you want to study from January-April, May-August or September-December. The big advantage here is that you have enough time to go on longer trips before or after your semester abroad. The application itself is simple and includes a letter of motivation, curriculum vitae and a language certificate for sufficient English language skills (DAAD, TOEFL, or similar), a current certificate of enrollment from the home university and of course the current certificate. The MicroEDU team helps with the compilation and optimization of the application so that there are no problems. You can submit your application a few months before the start of your studies, but you will only receive the notification of admission about two months in advance. Visit anycountyprivateschools.com to get information about study in Portugal.
When choosing a course, you should look for several possible courses, as there is no guarantee that the desired courses will take place in every trimester. I was a little unlucky myself and had to take completely different courses spontaneously. At the CMMU (College of Management, Mahidol University) the normal workload is three courses in one term. I would also not recommend taking more courses, as many courses are very time-consuming (weekly presentations, group work, etc. ). The courses are booked online and have a maximum number of 20-30 students, so you should book directly on the day the portal is activated. If it doesn’t work out to register for the subject of your choice, you can talk to the professors on site, who usually turn a blind eye and then let you participate.
For Thailandyou need a visa if you want to stay there for more than a month. You can apply for this at the Thai embassy or partly at the consulates. It is best to plan a little time for this, especially if you have to send your passport by post. The Education Visa is valid for 90 days, but can only be issued after the letter of admission has been presented. I had already left Germany four months before the start of my studies and therefore applied for a tourist visa (multiple entry, 90 days). The three months of validity are usually not quite enough for the trimester, especially if you want to stay a little longer. The CMMU will help you to apply for an extension of your visa so that you can stay for another three months. As far as I can remember, that costs around 1000 baht. Another option is to travel to a neighboring country and then re-enter. Upon re-entry you will receive a tourist visa for one month, which you do not have to apply for in advance. However you do it, be careful not to stay in the country longer than your visa allows. Such so-called overstays quickly become very expensive.
For me this was one of the most stressful points of the whole stay.
The CMMU is located in the center of Bangkok, near the Victory Monument, so the apartments nearby are not the cheapest. It is usually worthwhile to look for an apartment in the center, as Bangkok sinks into traffic chaos at almost any time of day and you never know how long you will need by taxi or bus. I hadn’t booked an apartment in advance because I arrived in Bangkok earlier and wanted to look for it personally. Unfortunately, that didn’t help much, as only a few apartment buildings have doormen who speak English and most of the apartments are only rented out on a long-term basis. Ultimately, I founded a shared apartment with another exchange student in the “Chewathai” (Ratchaprarop), which is just 15 minutes’ walk from the university and 10 minutes from the Victory Monument. The rent (23. 000Baht / month for 2 people) was comparable to European student flat shares, but you have European living standards, a pool and a fitness studio in the house. Of course, the additional costs depend heavily on your habits (air conditioning in particular is often a cost trap). In our flat share it was mostly about 100 Baht / month for water, 800-1100 Baht / month for electricity and about 700 Baht / month for the internet connection. Except for the water bill, everything is paid at 7-eleven (and there is one every 10m). Water is paid for at the reception in the house.
We also recommend “The Complete”, which is diagonally across from the “Chewathai”. Apartments can be rented monthly in both buildings and most of the CMMU exchange students live here. The English-speaking administration takes care of both buildings and is located in the entrance area of ”The Complete”. There is a Skytrain from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the Ratchaprarop stop, from where it is a 5-10 minute walk to the apartment buildings.
A tip: The deposit is usually 1-2 months’ rent and must be paid in cash when the contract is concluded in addition to the first month’s rent, which is paid in advance. Some credit cards have a weekly limit for cash withdrawals abroad, so it is best to check whether you can withdraw enough baht. After the lease expires, you will get the deposit back in cash in baht. Should you then plan to leave Thailand directly, it is best to find out beforehand which bank or exchange office you will get the best exchange rate. Only large bank branches change Baht to USD or Euro. It is not advisable to change the money back at the airport or in Germany.
The CMMU is a modern university that is housed in a high-rise building, but unfortunately has no campus. Everything you need is available: library, cafeteria (good food for little money), printer, computer, etc.
A great service is the free shuttle bus that connects the university with the BTS station Sanam Pao and the Victory Monument.
Before the trimester starts for everyone, there is a two-day introduction and getting to know each other for all exchange students. They tell you a lot about Thai culture and life in Bangkok, which I found very helpful. We also visited some sights together and cooked and ate together.
The courses mostly take place on the weekend or in the evening, as the Thai students almost all have a full-time job and therefore cannot work on weekdays. I was welcomed quickly and very warmly by the local fellow students. The teaching style differs from that at German universities, as the courses are smaller and a lot of active participation is required. But that’s a very pleasant change from listening to quietly in the crowded lecture hall, I think.
The professors very often come from business and therefore bring a lot of practical experience and real examples with them, which makes the courses interesting and practical.
I had taken three courses in the field of financial management, which were a little more labor-intensive compared to other courses. In some courses you don’t write exams, but instead give presentations and write homework. The learning curve differs from subject to subject, but is definitely feasible. The exams are very fair and most professors narrow down the material precisely.
Tip: The CMMU has a high-performance air conditioning system that is also popular. It is therefore advisable to take a jacket or something similar with you to university, even if it is very hot outside. We often froze in the courses.
Life in Bangkok
Bangkok is a lively and varied city that I had a lot of fun in. The Thais are very nice, open and helpful people with whom you can quickly get into conversation. Tip: If you ask for directions, you may get wrong information from time to time. This has happened to us a couple of times, so it’s best to ask two or three people before walking in the wrong direction for an hour.
You should be careful with your valuables in the tourist areas, but in general Bangkok seemed very safe to me. There are many attractions (various temples, Royal Palace, Chatuchak Weekend Market, Khao San Road, etc. ). Aside from the things you find in every travel guide, here are a few places that I found very interesting:
- The Klong Toey Market: A large and authentic food market that is open every day. Nothing for everyone, as fish, for example, are so fresh that they still fidget. Even sensitive noses should prepare for many impressions. Closed shoes are definitely recommended.
- The Ghost Tower: A 50-story ruin that was built in the 1990s but never completed.
- Bangkok United: A visit to the Bangkok football stadium is definitely worth it. You shouldn’t expect too much as the stadium is much smaller than German stadiums and mostly not sold out, but it was still a nice experience for me.
- Songkran: The Thai New Year. It is celebrated in April and all of Bangkok turns into a great water fight for a week. It’s a lot of fun that you should definitely take part in. Tip: Pack everything that shouldn’t get wet in plastic bags or something similar and expect to get completely wet.
- The main campus of Mahidol University: It is a long way from the center, but it is a very nice, large and green campus. You can also buy souvenirs with the university logo there.
- The Escape Hunt Experience: This is a detective game for 2-4 people in which you have to solve a crime in order to escape from a room. If you are more people, you get more rooms. We had a lot of fun here.
- Nightlife: There is a huge choice. From karaoke bars to large clubs and rooftop bars with live music. (Recommended: Above 11 (rooftop bar with restaurant), Levels (large club. Here you need an ID card to get in and chic shoes or no flip-flops. Tip: On Wednesdays there is a bottle of vodka for free for groups of 5 people), Park Society in the Sofitel Hotel (rooftop bar with a view over Lumphini Park and the skyline of Bangkok beyond. Tip: go to sunset)
- Cinema: It is worth visiting a cinema in Bangkok. The 4-D cinema in the Paragon Cineplex is something special. There are also cinemas that have couches instead of normal seats.
- Food: Definitely try the Thai cuisine. She is worth it. Anyone who doesn’t like to eat spicy should always say so, as chili is used in almost every dish. Do not hesitate in front of street stalls or small restaurants in garages, you will usually get the best and most authentic dishes there. I always had the feeling that great attention was paid to cleanliness everywhere.
Bangkok is located in the heart of South East Asia and offers the best opportunities to visit different places. Within Thailand you can get a lot with minivans (e. g. from the Victory Monument), long-distance / night buses (from various bus stations) or trains. Of course you can also fly. Bangkok has two airports and you can often find good deals for various destinations in Asia. I was also very impressed by the neighboring countries of Thailand, so I can only recommend everyone to plan a little time for travel.
If you plan to take a taxi to the CMMU on the first day of the university, be aware that the taxi driver may not know (or understand) where you are going. The best thing to do is to look for the address of the university and the name in Thai on the Internet and print it out or show it on your mobile phone. This is to be on the safe side. If you prefer to talk to the taxi driver, you should try different accentuations. A tip: The “L” in Mahidol is pronounced like an “N” and “R” is usually better understood when it is spoken as an “L” (“Ratchaprarop” then becomes “Latchaplalop”).
Punctuality is not as important in Thailand as it is in Germany: There are no bus timetables (the bus comes when it comes), professors sometimes come too late for the course, and deadlines for homework can even be negotiated with some professors.
The TukTuk drivers in Bangkok are very pushy and often try to get very high prices from foreigners, so try to negotiate. Always insist on the taximeter when taking a taxi.
It is important that you do not become unfriendly or even angry in contact with Thais if something does not go as planned. This has a lot to do with Thai culture and you can achieve a lot more with a friendly smile than with threatening or angry words.
Most ATMs in Bangkok charge a fee for every cash withdrawal. Some German credit institutions will reimburse you for these fees. If you have a bank that doesn’t do this, you can go to a Citibank ATM. No fees are charged there and you can withdraw higher amounts than at other ATMs.
If you learn a few words of Thai, the locals react very differently to you and you often have it easier in everyday life.
I can only recommend the CMMU and Bangkok as a destination for a semester abroad. The mix of city life and culture is unique, which is why almost everyone gets their money’s worth here.