FAQs About HoT

Can I arrive late or leave early to travel around Thailand or Asia?
No, this is a real and otherwise-regular SJSU course, where students are expected to be present and participatory for the entire session.

Are all HoT activities and assignments required?
Yes, all reflections sessions, group meals, volunteering hours, required field trips, required readings, and your journal are required.

Can I leave during HoT to go to the islands or Bangkok?
No, students cannot travel to other regions of Thailand during HoT. Students may travel by land (no flights during HoT) for up to one night in Chiang Mai or a neighboring province (e.g., Chiang Rai or Pai), but I strongly discourage it. Here’s why:

1) There is more than enough to see and do in and around the city of Chiang Mai and I hope you will immerse yourself in the local scene;
2) If students leave Chiang Mai and something happens, I may not be able to assist them;
3) If students miss too much of the program or are unable to complete it, regardless of reason, fault, or circumstance that keeps them away, they would not be able to get credit for the course.

If you decide to leave Chiang Mai for a maximum of one night before the end of HoT,  you would have to get approval from me on the location and then let me know (a) specifically where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and for how long, (b) exactly when you’re leaving, and (c) immediately when you’ve returned. You also need to make sure you are not missing any required activities. If you want to go beyond the local area, it would be best to do so before or especially after HoT.

Will I be able to eat the group meals if I have dietary restrictions?
There will be planned group meals included in our program, where we can casually eat, talk, socialize, and share experiences. Our group dinner, our craft factories lunch, our village lunch on our trek day, and our elephant sanctuary buffet will be veg, so as to be maximally inclusive.

Are we required to eat breakfast in the hotel?
No, the hotel breakfast is a perk that I negotiate as part of our special group rate, but it is not mandatory to eat it. The all-you-care-to-eat buffet breakfast includes Thai and western food (e.g., rice, pad thai, mixed vegetables, congee, meats, fried eggs, pancakes, french toast, bread, mini-croissants, etc.), fruit and vegetables, coffee and tea, juice and water, etc. If you ever don’t want it, you are of course free to eat elsewhere at your own expense.

Can I switch volunteering placements or do more than one?
Yes. As long as you accomplish at least 15 hours per week, you can volunteer at one or more organizations, doing so as you please to get the best experience for yourself.

Will I be required to set up my own volunteering opportunity?
Part of students’ responsibilities is to set up their own volunteering situation, whether it is with an organization listed on the syllabus or another one the student finds. You should try to make contact before you arrive, but if it doesn’t work out beforehand, you can try further when in Chiang Mai.

Will we have a chance to meet as a group before we start HoT?
Yes, we will have a group meeting/orientation, probably the week before Spring Break, to share information and get to know each other.

Will I be able to choose my roommate?
Yes. If both you and the other person write me requesting each other, I’ll be happy to pair you up. If not, I will assign roommates.

Will we fly together?
I encourage students to talk and plan amongst themselves and share itineraries on the listserv after we get administrative approval to purchase airline tickets, but we will not be officially traveling to Thailand as a group and may leave and return from different airports on different airlines on different days. Each student will purchase his or her own flights.

How physically demanding will HoT be?
Thailand will be hot and humid, there will be a lot of walking, and our all-day trek will involve a lot of hiking and some swimming.

Will I be able to workout during HoT?
Our hotel will have a pool and a tiny workout area. There is also a park where people workout, studios for yoga, mountains for climbing, and some people bike, run, and walk around the city and its environs. And our all-day trek will involve plenty of hiking and some swimming.

Should I get Thai baht before arriving in Thailand?
That is not necessary and the exchange rate in America will be considerably worse. When you arrive at the airport in Thailand, you will be able to easily get baht from an ATM or bank kiosk.

Will we get to see elephants?
Yes and much more than that! Not only will we see magnificent elephants when we visit the elephant sanctuary, will we learn about them and be able to get up close and personal with them, including feeding, petting, and hanging out with them. We will also see other animals at the sanctuary, including water buffalo, dogs, cats, butterflies, and perhaps horses and pigs. Because it’s a sanctuary, there will be no riding, chains, sticks, hooks, or other forms of coercion or exploitation of the animals.

Will I be able to sightsee?
We will have some structured activities that explore Thai culture (fieldtrips to craft factories, an elephant sanctuary, an all-day trek in the countryside), as well as plenty of unstructured time to explore, but this is a service-learning sociology course, not a sightseeing tour. Students may go on their own fieldtrips on their days off, alone or as part of a group, and can also explore Thailand before and/or after HoT.

Can I use my phone in Thailand?
If you want or need to bring your cell phone (or tablet), you may have to arrange with your carrier beforehand: incoming and outgoing calls could have high roaming charges. Other possibilities include relying on wi-fi, buying a data plan through your carrier, purchasing a Thai SIM card, or renting a cell phone in Thailand.

With the exception of during our reflection sessions and whenever else inappropriate, you can use your phone at any time for any purpose. Thailand is very photogenic!

Can I ride a motorbike, bungee jump, zip line, cliff jump, dive, etc.?
No. For safety reasons, certain activities are strictly prohibited during HoT: riding on a motorbike/motorcycle, flying, zip lining, cliff jumping, bungee jumping, diving, swimming alone, or engaging in any other especially risky or dangerous activity. These activities are also not covered by our SJSU insurance policy.

What else is prohibited?
Certain activities are strictly prohibited in Thailand and have landed people in jail: any illegal drugs or other illegal activities; any criticism or insult of any sort of the king, royal family, and monarchy; any criticism or insult of any sort of the military; any criticism or insult of any sort of the government; any criticism or insult of any sort of the Buddha and/or treating any Buddha image in a non-sacred way.

Will I be OK if I don’t know anyone else who is going?
Yes, you will be more than OK! You don’t have to know anyone who is going because you will meet others who also don’t know anyone else who is going and students will quickly bond together. Most HoT students go without knowing anyone on the trip.

Will I be OK if I don’t speak Thai or have never been outside the U.S.?
Yes, Thailand is an English-friendly, very-welcoming, hospitable country, where you can explore, learn, enjoy, and thrive! No HoT student yet has been a Thai speaker and many have little to no international travel experience.

How can I learn more about HoT?
For lots more info, check the home page, HoT Info Guide (with info from AIDS to Passports to Zip Lock Bags), and the Syllabus, as well as the pages for HoT Media and Student Reviews. And, of course, you can always contact me.

Application info is here.