Soci 180: Hands on Thailand (HoT): Service Learning in Chiang Mai
(4 units; Cr/NC; no prereqs; instructor approval)

Professor: Dan Brook, PhD
Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences (SISS),
San Jose State University, San Jose, CA 95192-0122 USA

SJSU Study Abroad Special Session: Faculty-Led Program (FLP):
Saturday, January 1 – Saturday, January 22, 2022

The course Schedule / Itinerary is on its own page.

two young monks, one with Apple earbuds in, at Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai

“At San Jose State, part of the educational mission is to develop global citizens.”
SJSU President Dr. Mary Papazian

In the College of Professional and Global Education (CPGE) at San José State University (SJSU), we provide access to relevant educational programs that allow individuals to gain knowledge and skills that create a solid foundation for them to be engaged and productive members of a global society. We offer a learning environment that is dynamic and innovative, ensuring that we are responsive to the ever-evolving workforce and industry demands. Our college is the nexus for connecting professionals, institutions, businesses, and industries, locally and from around the world, to the knowledge, resources, and talents of Silicon Valley’s premier public university.

The Study Abroad and Away office (SAA) supports San Jose State University (SJSU) and the College of Professional and Global Education (CPGE) in developing accessible and academically-focused cross-cultural programming for all SJSU students. We aim to foster global competencies in our students and scholars through innovative programming and through the development of targeted, mutually-beneficial partnerships with institutions, agencies (governmental and NGOs), and companies that share and support the globalization ethos and the University’s priorities and values.

This course will analyze various social aspects of Thailand and our role in them. Through reading, writing, service learning, field excursions, reflection sessions, reflection journals, group meals, site visits, monk chat, meditation, meeting people, eating, free time, and more, students will directly and deeply explore and experience the varied processes that shape culture and society in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

This is a sociology course, so we will approach everything we do from a sociological perspective, situating our experiences and observations in social and cultural context.

Blending thinking and doing, service learning is a unique and vital modality that brings the classroom into the community and the community into the classroom. Service learning is an integrated form of experiential learning involving cycles of preparatory reading, collaborative work in the service of others outside the classroom with local organizations, and reflective writing and group discussions, as well as linking personal and social responsibility. With service learning, we directly experience the practical applications of academic knowledge and social analyses in both community and classroom. Doing so in Chiang Mai, Thailand will only amplify our learning and enjoyment.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Studying abroad in Thailand, especially by being embedded in Thai culture and society for three weeks, is educational and immeasurably worthwhile. Further, direct knowledge of Thai culture and society is useful as a comparative case to better understand and contextualize other cultures and societies, including that of the U.S. This will contribute to the students’ repertoire of knowledge, skills, abilities, and capacity, as well as their social and intellectual development and their social and cultural intelligence. Asia is an increasingly important continent, for a variety of reasons, and increased student knowledge about and experience in Asia will better prepare them for the future.

When not engaged in volunteering or other course activities, students are free to explore and experience the many wonders of Chiang Mai as it celebrates its 725th anniversary.

HoT is organized to provide unique structured opportunities for students to immerse, participate, reflect, and learn in Chiang Mai, while also being organized to be unstructured enough to allow for personal exploration, growth, and development.

Studies have shown that service learning and study abroad experiences have various personal, social, educational, and professional benefits.

Studies have shown that service learning and study abroad experiences have various personal, social, educational, and professional benefits. The Harvard Business Review, for example, reports that “social science studies have shown that international experiences can enhance creativity, reduce intergroup bias, and promote career success.”

Course Requirements (there are no prerequisites for this course, as well as no tests, research papers, essays, projects, books, or presentations required in this course, but there is work to do, goals to accomplish, and experiences to be had):
1. Joining the SJSU-HoT email listserv
2. Attending the Orientation sessions during Spring semester
3. Required Reading
4. Working with one or more local organizations for at least 15 hours per week
5. Participating in group reflection sessions
6. Attending group excursions (field trips and group meals)
7. Attending a group monk chat
8. Being familiar with the FAQs About HoT and the HoT Info Guide, as well as this Syllabus and the Schedule
9. Maintaining a journal (or blog, vlog, podcast, etc.) of experiences, reflections, and social analysis
10. Following all program rules (especially regarding health, safety, SJSU regulations, and Thai laws)
11. Being at the hotel on time for our first meeting (and first group meal) and staying through the end of the program (and last group meal). Plan accordingly.

I do not use Canvas.

Optional Classes:
In addition to many other learning and leisure activities, students can take classes in Thai cooking, massage, yoga, meditation, language, art, batik, silversmithing, jewelry making, Muay Thai, tofu and miso-making, etc.

Required Reading:
1. Dan Brook, HoT Info Guide
2. Dan Brook, GO!: Travel Quotes to Send You Off (Smashwords)
3. FAQs About HoT
4. Instructor-delivered readings on service learning, voluntourism, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Thai language, Thai culture, Thai Buddhism, elephants, and contemporary social issues in Thailand (to be assigned)
5. Dan Brook’s articles related to Thailand
6. Thai mass media articles (to be located individually while in Thailand)
7. Selections from Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture
8. Other materials as required (to be assigned while in Thailand)

Optional Reading:
Karen Armstrong, Buddha
Walden Bello et al., A Siamese Tragedy: Development & Disintegration in Modern Thailand
Mischa Berlinski, Fieldwork (novel)
Julia Cassaniti, Living Buddhism
Jaed Muncharoen Coffin, A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants
Karen Connelly, Touch the Dragon
Phillip Cornwel-Smith, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture
Lee Craker, The Last Elephant
Alexander Gunn, A Year in Chiang Mai
Carol Hollinger, Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind
Harold Kerbo, Modern Thailand
Patcharin Lapanun, Love, Money and Obligation: Transnational Marriage in a Northeastern Thai Village
Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Sightseeing: Stories
Franz Metcalf, What Would Buddha Do?
Pasuk Phongpaichit, From Peasant Girls to Bangkok Masseuses
Pasuk Phongpaichit, Guns, Girls, Gambling, Ganja
Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught
Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences
Chiang Mai articles on ThingsAsian
Any of the various books or articles with “Behind the Smile” in the title or subtitle
Any article or book about Chiang Mai specifically or Thailand generally

Optional Viewing (Thai Films):
Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story
Buddha’s Lost Children
Cemetery of Splendour
Lost in Thailand
Love and Bananas

Monrak Transistor
Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior
Pai in Love
Same Same Is Not the Same
The Elephant King
The Songs of Rice
Tears of the Black Tiger
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Yes or No
(and its sequels Yes or No: Come Back to Me and Yes or No 2.5)

And various sad Thai commercials, often referred to as sadvertising.

Working with a Local Organization:
Students will choose one or more local organizations in Chiang Mai with which to engage in service learning for a minimum of 15 hours per week.

This HoT program will avail itself of the richness of Thai culture and work to integrate students into the local community by engaging in service-learning projects with local organizations (in no particular order):

Wat Don Chan (temple orphanage);

Wat Mae Rim (teaching English to novice monks at their temple);

Suksasongkro (boarding school for disadvantaged youth);

Chiang Mai University’s Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) (academic editing);

Pun Pun (organic gardening/farming);

Burma Study Center (helping refugees).

“Volunteering can be a wonderful way to help those in need while having a memorable experience.” Lori Zaino

Attending group excursions/field trips:
Students are expected to attend all group excursions/field trips, each one amazing in its own way.

We are planning to visit (1) various local craft factories with veg lunch, (2) an elephant sanctuary with veg lunch, (3) the countryside, including Hill Tribe villages with veg lunch and bamboo rafting, (4) share some group meals together, (5) get introduced to Vipassana meditation, and (6) participate in an agendaless monk chat at a Buddhist university. There may also be other excursions: e.g., yoga and events at or with Chiang Mai University and/or another local university.

Maintaining a journal of experiences, reflections, and social analysis:
Students are required to maintain a reflection journal in response to: volunteer work with a local organization, required readings, group excursions, items of interest from the Thai media, monk chat, meditation, markets, food, as well as any personal experiences and social analysis that highlight cultural phenomena in Chiang Mai and your thoughts, feelings, etc. It is best to write something in your journal everyday, even if not much some days and more other days, though missing an occasional day is OK.

There should also be a final and cumulative entry at the end of the journal, which reflects on your entire experience with HoT, including your feelings about it, what was best, how HoT affected you as a person, what you would recommend about HoT to other SJSU students, what you are grateful for, etc.

“If you are truly invested in learning about yourself through travel, documentation and self-reflection always help to solidify the experience.” Kay Rodriguez

Journals can be handwritten (either bring a notebook or buy one there; softcover is preferred), typed, blogged, vlogged, podcasted, or emailed to me. Please include a final statement of some sort at the end of your journal, whatever form your journal takes. Although I will read your journals with interest, they are most importantly for you and they will be kept strictly confidential (with the exception of brief testimonials) and will not be shown to or discussed with anyone.

Handwritten journals can be handed to me at our final group meal, our Breakfast of Exile; digitized journals of whatever form can be sent to me within 2 weeks of the course conclusion. After that, I will submit grades.

Participating in Reflection Sessions:
Students are expected to attend and participate in all of our six reflection sessions (Mondays & Thursdays, 6 – 7:30 PM & our final Friday instead of Thursday) at our hotel, where we will discuss what we have been doing and experiencing, what has been going on, and what it means. Students should be on time to all meetings.

We will also discuss many issues related to Thailand: agriculture, AIDS, air quality, alcohol, animals, animism, archeology, architecture, ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), backpackers (and begpackers), Bangkok, beauty, biodiversity, Buddhism, business, capitalism, Chiang Mai, Chinese influence and investment, climate change, coal, coconuts, colonialism, colorism, commodification and commercialism, corporations, corruption, cosmetic surgery, crafts, cross-cultural communication, culture, currency crisis, cuteness, debt, deforestation, democratization, development, digital nomads, Disney, driving, drugs, e-waste, economic growth, education, elephants, environment, equanimity, ethnicity, fair trade, fashion, food, free trade, freedom, Full Moon Party, gambling, gastrodiplomacy, globalization, gold, health, healthcare, Hill Tribes (and other ethnic minorities), human rights, human trafficking, IMF, imperialism, industrialization, inequality (economic, geographic, social), insecticide/agricultural chemicals, international trade and investment, jewelry, karma, ladyboys, language/lingusitics, lese majeste, LGBT, local laws, lotus flowers, Major Non-NATO Ally, markets, massage, medical marijuana, medical tourism (meditourism), Mekong River, migration, military (e.g., coups, dictatorship, entrepreneurialism, power), mindfulness, minimum wage, modernity, monarchy, monks, Muay Thai (kickboxing), music, norms, obesity, oil, orphanages, pangolins, Peace Corps, personal growth, philosophy, plastic, politeness, political economy, politics, pollution, poverty, racism, Red Bull, refugees/refugee camps, religion, resistance, respect, rice (e.g., agriculture, culture, exports, public policy), road safety, rubber, sadvertising, safety, secession/separatism in the South, schools, service, sex work/prostitution, sexuality, shrimp/prawns, silk, skin whitening, slavery, smiles, socialism, social responsibility, sociological imagination, spirit houses, spirituality, sports, Sriracha sauce, study abroad, subsistence farming, sweatshops, T-Wind (T-Pop), tapioca, tattoos, temples, terrorism, theories, third gender, tigers, tourism, Toyota, traditions, transportation, tuna, underground economy, urbanization, US military bases, US-Vietnam War, voluntourism, water, welfare, women, work, veganism/vegetarianism, xenophobia, etc.

“If you want travel to change your life, it helps to reflect on where you have been and how you have grown.” Allegra Lynch

Group Meals:
There will be planned group veg meals included in our program, where we can casually eat, talk, socialize, laugh, and share experiences.

Grading Information:

Students will be graded on a Cr/NC basis. This will be based on student volunteering; attending group excursions/field trips; maintaining a journal of experiences, reflections, and social analysis; and participating in reflection sessions.

Traveling to Places outside Chiang Mai during HoT:
Although students are allowed to travel by land for a day trip during HoT in Chiang Mai or to a neighboring city/province (e.g., Chiang Rai or Pai), I would like to strongly discourage it. No solo trips, flights, or overnights away during HoT are allowed.

Here’s why:

1) I believe 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 fascinating local scene;
2) If students leave Chiang Mai and something happens, I may not be able to assist them;
3) You’ll lose a lot of time in transport;
4) 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.

There shall be no use of motorbikes/motorcycles or airplanes during HoT. If you want to go beyond the local area, do so before or especially after HoT.

Personal Activities:
Allowed: With the exception of during our meetings and whenever else inappropriate or otherwise disrespectful, you can use your phone at any time for any purpose. Thailand is very photogenic!

Although allowed, I recommend minimizing contact with social media during HoT, with the possible exception of posting, so as to enhance your immersive experience in Thailand and not scroll and distract your life away while having the privilege to be in this special place. I also recommend minimizing non-Thai media, videos, and music, while experimenting with Thai culture.

Prohibited: For safety and insurance reasons, certain activities are strictly prohibited during HoT: absolutely no riding on a motorbike/motorcycle (whether as driver or passenger), driving, flying, ziplining, cliff jumping, bungee jumping, skydiving/parachuting, hot air ballooning, diving, scuba, swimming alone, jet skiing, parasailing/paragliding, spelunking/caving, abseiling/rapelling, or engaging in any other especially risky or dangerous activity. These activities are also not covered by our SJSU insurance policy.

Further, drinking alcohol responsibly is OK, if you choose to, but getting drunk is not (enjoy your special time in Chiang Mai, don’t escape from it!). Alcohol is prohibited at all HoT meals and events.

Doing any of these prohibited activities may result in removal from HoT, including from the hotel, without credit for the course or financial refund.

Also Strictly Prohibited: any illegal drugs or other illegal substances, including marijuana; most smoking and all vaping and e-cigs; any criticism or insult of any sort of the king, royal family, or monarchy; any criticism or insult of any sort of the military; any criticism or insult of any sort of the government or any of its institutions; any criticism or insult of any sort of the Buddha and/or treating any Buddha image in a non-sacred way; and any other illegal activities (including shoplifting, defamation, spreading false information that could cause public panic, graffiti, and public indecency; there are many closed-circuit cameras around, both public and private). Pornography, sex toys, gambling, flying most drones, buying alcohol between 2 and 5 PM, and advertising alcohol are also illegal.

It is illegal to post anything online or offline comments, messages, tweets, posts, shares, quotes, photos, videos, art, links, etc. that can, broadly interpreted, negatively affect “peace and order, good morals, and national security.”

Whether online or off, whether seriously or jokingly, doing any of these strictly prohibited activities may result in removal from HoT, including from the hotel, without credit for the course or financial refund, and could result in arrest, imprisonment, fine, and/or deportation by the Thai police or military.

Group Norms:
Respect; no cliques; inclusion; kindness; health; safety; legality; punctuality; open hearts and open minds.

Following Program Rules:
Failure to follow program rules or instructor’s written and/or oral warnings, especially regarding health, safety, legality, SJSU regulations, or Thai laws, including the ones above and in the HoT Info Guide, may result in failure of the course and removal from this program (including the hotel) without course credit or financial refund.

All HoT group activities, events, excursions, transportation, and meals are included in the program at no additional cost.

Course Learning Objectives (CLOs) for the Undergraduate Sociology Program and How They Will Be Accomplished:
CLO1: Students will be able to think sociologically about the relationship between social structure, interaction, identities, and inequalities;
How CLO1 will be accomplished: Based on readings, lectures, and discussions, students will apply the sociological imagination to their service learning and other academic, social, and cultural experiences in Chiang Mai, Thailand and will demonstrate those applications in their written journals and during oral reflection sessions.
CLO2: Students will be able to identify and explain major sociological theories and apply them to everyday life;
How CLO2 will be accomplished: Through oral reflection sessions and written journals, based on their service learning, site visits, readings, lectures, discussions, and other program-related activities, students will be able to analyze, explain, and apply key sociological theories, concepts, and terms to various social issues, social problems, and social solutions in Thailand.
CLO3: Students will be proficient in qualitative and quantitative research design, data collection, and data analysis;
How CLO3 will be accomplished: As participant-observers engaging in qualitative field research at their service-learning sites, students will be studying social problems as they work to alleviate them. By analyzing their projects and other activities, and reporting back in their written journals and during oral reflection sessions, students will be able to convey their sociological assessments of their own and others’ experiences. We will also apply comparative and historical analysis.
CLO4: Students will be proficient in oral and written communication skills appropriate to the discipline;
How CLO4 will be accomplished: In addition to students communicating with their supervisors, colleagues, and those they serve, as well as communicating with Thai students and others, students will also communicate sociological knowledge in writing through their journals and orally through the reflection sessions. Students may also use computers, where available and appropriate.
CLO5: Students will be able to practice sociology as educated and civically-engaged persons.
How CLO5 will be accomplished: This is the raison d’etre of this faculty-led service-learning international program to Thailand. Each student will be critically engaged in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working with a local organization, such as a school, and will bring these vital experiences back to SJSU, enhancing their roles as educated, experienced, thoughtful, innovative, and active agents in a democratic society as well as other systems and societies, allowing them to be better global citizens.
By accomplishing these learning objectives, students will increase their social and intellectual development. Students will engage in Thai service-learning projects, working alongside Thai and other people to address social problems in Chiang Mai, while placing their useful field experiences in sociological context. In turn, students will take sociological concepts, regarding work, sex, gender, ethnicity, religion, urbanization, development, culture, cross-cultural communication, inequality, leadership, social change, and others, applying them to their service-learning experiences. Other instructional delivery methods will anchor the students’ service learning, creating a unique and holistic learning experience with which students will return to San Jose State University with more knowledge, skills, abilities, confidence, capacity, social and cultural capital, and excitement to better succeed in school, including graduate school, the workforce, and in society.

University Policies [this is required on SJSU syllabi, but some of the following information may be less useful or irrelevant for this course]

General Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities of the Student

As members of the academic community, students accept both the rights and responsibilities incumbent upon all members of the institution. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with SJSU’s policies and practices pertaining to the procedures to follow if and when questions or concerns about a class arises. See University Policy S90–5at More detailed information on a variety of related topics is available in the SJSU catalog, at In general, it is recommended that students begin by seeking clarification or discussing concerns with their instructor. If such conversation is not possible, or if it does not serve to address the issue, it is recommended that the student contact the Department Chair as a next step.

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester’s Catalog Policies section at Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes. Information about the latest changes and news is available at the Advising Hubat

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

Common courtesy and professional behavior dictate that you notify someone when you are recording him/her. You must obtain the instructor’s permission to make audio or video recordings in this class. Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. The recordings are the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material.” Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without his/her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor generated material for this course, such as exam questions, lecture notes, or homework solutions, without instructor consent.

Academic integrity

Your commitment, as a student, to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University. The University Academic Integrity Policy S07-2 at requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at

Campus Non-Discrimination Policy

Please be advised that I am committed to upholding the following S89-15 Policy: Non-Discrimination: There shall be resolute and unambiguous action to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual preference, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, age, disability, or veteran status.

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

Accommodation to Students’ Religious Holidays

San José State University shall provide accommodation on any graded classwork or activities for students wishing to observe religious holidays when such observances require students to be absent from class. It is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor, in writing, about such holidays before the add deadline at the start of each semester. If such holidays occur before the add deadline, the student must notify the instructor, in writing, at least three days before the date that he/she will be absent. It is the responsibility of the instructor to make every reasonable effort to honor the student request without penalty, and of the student to make up the work missed. See University Policy S14-7 at

Student Technology Resources

Computer labs for student use are available in the Academic Success Center at located on the 1st floor of Clark Hall and in the Associated Students Lab on the 2nd floor of the Student Union. Additional computer labs may be available in your department/college. Computers are also available in the Martin Luther King Library. A wide variety of audio-visual equipment is available for student checkout from Media Services located in IRC 112. These items include DV and HD digital camcorders; digital still cameras; video, slide and overhead projectors; DVD, CD, and audiotape players; sound systems, wireless microphones, projection screens and monitors.

SJSU Peer Connections

Peer Connections, a campus-wide resource for mentoring and tutoring, strives to inspire students to develop their potential as independent learners while they learn to successfully navigate through their university experience. You are encouraged to take advantage of their services which include course-content based tutoring, enhanced study and time management skills, more effective critical thinking strategies, decision making and problem-solving abilities, and campus resource referrals. In addition to offering small group, individual, and drop-in tutoring for a number of undergraduate courses, consultation with mentors is available on a drop-in or by appointment basis. Workshops are offered on a wide variety of topics including preparing for the Writing Skills Test (WST), improving your learning and memory, alleviating procrastination, surviving your first semester at SJSU, and other related topics. A computer lab and study space are also available for student use in Room 600 of Student Services Center (SSC). Peer Connections is located in three locations: SSC, Room 600 (10th Street Garage on the corner of 10th and San Fernando Street), at the 1st floor entrance of Clark Hall, and in the Living Learning Center (LLC) in Campus Village Housing Building B. Visit Peer Connections website at for more information.

SJSU Writing Center

The SJSU Writing Center is located in Clark Hall, Suite 126. All Writing Specialists have gone through a rigorous hiring process, and they are well trained to assist all students at all levels within all disciplines to become better writers. In addition to one-on-one tutoring services, the Writing Center also offers workshops every semester on a variety of writing topics. To make an appointment or to refer to the numerous online resources offered through the Writing Center, visit the Writing Center website at For additional resources and updated information, follow the Writing Center on Twitter and become a fan of the SJSU Writing Center on Facebook.

SJSU Counseling Services

SJSU Counseling Services is located in the Student Wellness Center (across from the Event Center) in Room 300B. Professional psychologists, social workers, and counselors are available to provide consultations on issues of student mental health, campus climate or psychological and academic issues on an individual, couple, or group basis. To schedule an appointment or learn more information, visit the Counseling Services website at


If there is ever anything you would like to discuss, clarify, ask, request, or anything else, please feel free to contact me or anyone else who might be appropriate or useful.

Course, program, syllabus, schedule, website, all text, and all photos © DB 2022 Common Era (2565 Buddhist Era). As with life itself, all information in this syllabus and on this website is subject to change. All rights reserved. Enjoy the process!

Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University

1 Response to Syllabus

  1. Pingback: Interested in HoT? | Hands on Thailand (HoT)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s