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Study Abroad Opportunity in Thailand

3 Min Read  /  Activism

Yom_river_activists2We’ll get your weekend started with a post from Patagoniac and Sociology professor from Kalamazoo College, Dr. Mark A. Ritchie. Dr. Ritchie lives in Thailand and runs a study abroad program for American college students that focuses on the study of ecology and culture, specifically with activist communities in Thailand — groups fighting the damming of the last wild river and working to save the forests and way of life of the Karen tribal people. He worked with NOLS to design the curriculum so the courses are organized like a NOLS expedition. Read on to learn more about this amazing opportunity for college students and how ISDSI uses Patagonia enviro essays in their curriculum.

The International Sustainable Development Studies Institute ( runs a unique experiential study-abroad program for American college students. Working together with activist communities in Thailand, we teach about the fields, forests, reefs, islands and rivers of Thailand.

Our courses are expedition-based, with an emphasis on human powered travel and a direct experience of the cultures and ecology of Thailand in issues as diverse as organic farming and reef ecology. We paddle the Yom river with the village elders and youth who are fighting to keep the river from being dammed. We study mangrove ecology by sea kayaking down the coast, skin diving reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds, and learning from local communities of fishermen and women who are mobilizing to keep the mangroves from being cut down to make way for shrimp farms and resorts…

As we have been growing and developing as an organization, we’vebeen inspired by the example of Patagonia’s own corporate culture.While we can’t surf on our lunch breaks in Northern Thailand, teachinga college course while floating in a sea kayak in the Andaman Sea orsking diving a reef during class is pretty sweet! (We do have great sport climbing and bouldering nearby… and the idea of "dawn patrol" climbing is getting some traction…)

We use Patagonia as a case study of how to do things right in creating a more sustainable world, and we use the Environmental Essays and other articles for our courses as well. The current campaign on Oceans as Wildernesshas been a great source of readings and discussion in class. Werecommend Patagonia clothing and gear to our students, but get ourstudents connected to the Patagonia web site not just as a place toshop, but also as a place to learn about what matters in environmentalactivism, business, and key issues in ecology and the natural world. Weconnect to the site often ourselves, not only to check out what newproducts Patagonia has come up with, but also as a way to get inspired.

Keep up the good work!

Mark A. Ritchie, Ph.D.
Executive Director
International Sustainable Development Studies Institute

kim_on_trail hiking_into_karen_village karen_host_family
talking_with_village_elders teaching_on_the_beach instructors_fishing

[Photos: Kim on the trail; Hiking into a Karen village; Karen host family; Talking with village elders; Teaching on the beach; Instructors fishing. All photos courtesy of ISDSI. Check out more photos here.]

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