After two and a half months of studying abroad in Thailand, it seems fitting to actually blog about the studying part of this experience. The much-discussed stereotype about studying abroad is that the classes will be easy and there will be no work. Well, clearly those students did not study at Thammasat in the BBA program. There is definitely work, and classes are not at all something you can blow off…it will eventually catch up with you. So here are four of the most notable differences between University of Richmond courses and Thammsat BBA courses (Disclaimer: the academic faculties at Thammasat are very different from one another, so this blog post only applies to the BBA program).
1. Unlike Richmond, there is not much day-to-day homework at Thammasat, but classes are very much oriented around case studies and group projects. While I don’t have to worry about day to day homework in each class, there is always a group project meeting that I have to attend – and this has been the case since the first day of school, not just something that has crept up at the end of the semester. While sometimes the group projects are overwhelming, doing case-based learning is extremely helpful for applying what we are learning in class and understanding “real-world” examples.
2. Attendance is extremely serious. The rule is that if you miss more than 30% of a class, then you are not eligible to take the midterm or the final. Because all of my classes are three hours long, I am allowed to miss three classes throughout the whole semester – which seems like a lot, but when I’d love to be traveling around Southeast Asia most weekends, those missed classes can add up quite quickly. During the first fifteen minutes of each class, a few BBA administrators sit in the hallways, each assigned to watch over one clipboard as students sign in for their respective courses. Students are required to sign in wearing a full uniform — otherwise, they are considered absent.
3. Regarding class format, most professors use the typical PowerPoint lecture model. I learned very quickly that Thais love PowerPoint. In the US, it is sometimes encouraged for students to ditch PowerPoint and find a more creative way to prepare a presentation, but here it is mandatory to use PowerPoint for presentations. I have to say, though, the presentations that Thai students create are incredible, and much more creative than anything I have ever done with PowerPoint.
4. Classroom culture. This has been one of the biggest paradoxes of my time in Thailand. I have remarked in previous posts about how Thai people are so respectful, and how they value hierarchy and respect their elders and teachers. Yet the actions of the students in classes do not seem to fully reflect these values. Students talk throughout the class, they constantly text on their phones (above their desks, in plain sight!) Some even take calls and just stick their heads under the desks while on the phone. Most students are constantly checking their email or Facebook on their iPads or laptops. Some will leave classes in small groups and come back with Starbucks or other drinks in hand. And throughout class, there are students continuously walking in and out of the room to print something, get a snack, or take a phone call. I have had only one professor actually address this behavior in class, on one occasion. I would never be comfortable acting so informally in a class at Richmond, and professors at UR strongly discourage this behavior. Certainly an interesting nuance of classroom culture compared to Thai culture in general.
Note: I don’t have any pictures relating to this blog, but enjoy some of the pictures from around the city these past few weeks.