SE Asia Regional Area Study

Program Snapshot
Semester: Fall
Offered: Even years - Fall 2024, Fall 2026
Estimated Dates: Late August to early December
Program Focus: Regional Area Study
Prerequisites: Overall GPA of at least 2.75 and good academic standing. Students must satisfy the Words and Numbers CORE requirement before participating in an overseas program.
Housing: Varies throughout program
Fall 2024 Program Leader: Bruce Podobnik
Associate Professor of Sociology, 503-768-7664

Program Design

This program is run in coordination with the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI),  a study abroad provider based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Program focus is on sustainable development, with a further focus on experiential education. The Lewis and Clark semester in Thailand is 16 weeks long, based in the 700 year old city of Chiang Mai. The semester also includes weekly excursions in and around Chiang Mai, as well as three multi-day excursions, including to a lowland Thai village, an upland indigenous community, and to a community in Southern Thai coasts and islands.

This program will offer a unique experiential learning opportunity for students interested in sustainable development, environment-society relationships, indigeneity and ethnic identity, rural livelihoods, development practice, the impact of tourism in the Global South, contemporary political, social, and economic debates in Southeast Asia, and participatory/experiential approaches to learning.

Program Location

Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296, it was the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. It is also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.

About the Program Leader: Bruce Podobnik is a sociologist who teaches about topics like environmental activism, radical social movements of various kinds, the power of music to transform society, and the social/cultural roots of happiness. He has also led students on overseas programs to Cuba and India. He lives in an eco-village in Southeast Portland, meditates regularly, and is part of the amazing psychedelic rock band Superluminous!


Requirements Fulfilled: 

General Education – This program fulfills the Global Perspectives general education requirement for students who successfully complete 8 or more semester credits. IS-234 fulfills EITHER the Culture, Power and Identify OR the Historical Perspectives general education requirement.

Major / Minor Requirements - This program fulfills the overseas study requirement for the Asian Studies major.


4 courses (16 credits)


IS-234 Thai History and Society

This course focuses on the history of Thailand and Southeast Asia, as well as major social issues in Thailand, Thai social and political structure, and the economics of Thai development. This will include field studies in and around the 700 year old city of Chiang Mai, looking at markets, temples, and more. This course explores the history and politics of Thailand, from its place among the ancient kingdoms in Southeast Asia to contemporary social and political issues. Special emphasis will be on understanding how contemporary Thai society and politics have deep cultural and historical roots.

IS-235 Thai Language

Focus on conversational and functional Thai language acquisition. Language classes start on the first day, continue throughout the semester, and cover both written and spoken Thai. Emphasis on speaking, listening comprehension, and reading and writing skills. Provides fundamental language skills in Thai for use in daily life, as well as during courses and independent learning throughout the Southeast Asia program.

IS-236 Sustainability and Natural Resources

Examination of the challenges of sustainability in Thailand, especially as related to small-scale tropical agriculture, ecology, and access to and use of natural resources in the Global South. Field studies outside the classroom complement seminars to understand Thailand’s challenges and opportunities for creating a more sustainable future. Three distinct units covering the major issues in sustainability in Thailand and the Global South more generally.


Depending upon the year, one course from the selections below will be offered. LC course availability will vary based on year and program leader, and is determined by the Overseas Office:

IS-239 Topics in SE Asia

Taught by the faculty leader of the SE Asia Regional Area Study overseas program, this course will focus on a topic within the leader’s discipline and expertise. The course will make use of SE Asia resources and will incorporate site visits. Topics will vary by year and leader.

For the 2024 program, Professor Podobnik will teach a course on that focuses on contemporary social and cultural dilemmas that are facing the nation of Thailand; students will conduct research on topics of interest to them throughout the semester for this course. 

LC Departmental course

In place of IS-239, the faculty leader (with the approval of the Overseas Director) may choose a relevant course selected from LC’s existing curriculum to be offered in situ. Course offerings may include a research methods course using topics relevant to the region, or other offerings from the LC Curriculum in the faculty leader’s area of expertise.

Student Life

Housing: Students live in apartments in Chiang Mai. There are homestay components during excursions to the north and south of Thailand.


2024-2025 Fee Breakdown*

Total Fee (includes Tuition, Program Fee, and Health & Wellness Fee): $40,962

Tuition: $32,197

Program Fee: $8,728

Health & Wellness Fee: $37**

Included in the program fee are room/housing, board/meals, and administrative fees. Not included are airfare, passport and visa expenses, primary insurance coverage, photographs, books, immunizations, and incidentals. 

*Fees are updated every February for the following academic year.

**The Health & Wellness Fee supports the operations of Wellness Services staff in delivering pre-program orientation services, as well as in providing health-related consultation regarding participant health needs. All students in the College of Arts and Sciences pay a mandatory fee of $37 per semester.

Stipend: Students will receive a stipend to cover the cost of meals and transportation costs not covered by the program fee.

Estimated Airfare (Round Trip PDX to CNX): $1,500 - $2,000

Estimated Health Insurance Fee: $1,906

All students participating in overseas programs are automatically enrolled in iNext, a supplemental travel insurance program. The fee for iNext is covered in the program cost. However, students are also required to have comprehensive health insurance during their time abroad. All students participating in overseas programs, both abroad and domestic, are automatically enrolled in the College’s student health insurance program. Similar to a regular semester on-campus, students participating in overseas programs may waive enrollment in the student health insurance program if they have other comprehensive health insurance (e.g., through a parent, guardian or employer) that 1) provides coverage for them in the geographic region in which they will be studying and 2) includes mental health benefits. Click here for more information regarding Health Insurance Information & Overseas Programs. 

Program Preparation

Application Process: Applications are due one year before the start of the program. The semester before the program, students who have been accepted will meet regularly for orientation. This orientation is meant to prepare the students for life in Thailand by exploring literature and culture, and provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the logistical details of the program.

For more information about the application process, click here.

Travel: Students usually fly into Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX), where they meet as a group and begin orientation.

Visa: Students will be required to apply for a visa in order to participate in this program. More information will be provided upon admission to the program.

Country-Specific Health Information: Click here to view specific health information for people traveling to Vietnam.

State Department Country Information: Click here to visit the State Department’s Vietnam page.

Thailand, Chiang Mai