Cultural Exploration and Elephant Conservation in Thailand – Fall 2021

Program Dates: Anticipated August 4th – August 16th 2021.

Interested in this Program? Please complete our Interest Form

This is a Fall program however the final paper will be due on 3rd of September.

Set in Chiang Mai and the Kuet Chang region of Thailand this Global Service program will immerse students in the culture of Thailand, a country full of exotic temples, lush tropical jungles, ancient cities and delicious unique cuisine. Students will serve at a renowned ethical elephant rescue and rehabilitation center situated North of Chiang Mai. The center has received many awards from institutions such as the Smithsonian as well as feature documentaries by respected film production companies. Students will care for these animals in this important conservation program as well as broadening their understanding of Thai culture and history, through various excursions and sight-seeing activities. This is a three-credit hour program open to all MU Students.

Elephants in Thailand have long been abused for the amusement of tourists and for an illegal logging industry. Baby elephants are taken from their mothers and forced to undergo a torturous training to domesticate them known as the phajaan. This practice essentially breaks the spirit of the elephant using fear to train them to accept riders on their backs, perform tricks and paint. Students will serve at Elephant Nature park (ENP) which provides a sanctuary for these broken elephants. There are no tricks, and no rides, and elephants at ENP live free from bullhooks and abuse. Students will participate in the following activities:

  • Prepare/ chop elephant food
  • Feed elephants
  • Clean elephant living quarters.
  • Walking with elephants and watching them bathe in the rivers
  • Helping with construction projects
  • Caring for the dogs and cats that now call ENP home

During your time a ENP you will witness how elephants behave in their natural habitat and will see the challenges facing elephant conservation and how ENP is working to help these animals.

Through these projects students will experience and participate in community building and empowerment whilst reflecting on their experiences. You will come away with a fascinating insight into the lives of elephants and help so that future generations can enjoy these beautiful animals too.


All students will be enrolled in a 0-credit hour prerequisite orientation and cultural studies course that takes place during the Spring 2021 semester. A second 3-credit hour course will be taken in-country, and awarded in the Fall 2021 semester. These courses are designed to integrate academic and experiential learning with cultural immersion, identity exploration, and global engagement. The general undergraduate course numbers are listed below. Undergraduate students interested in other credits and graduate students may earn credit by arrangement with the Office of Service-Learning and their individual departments.

SRV_LRN 3028: Global Service (3). Students will earn 3 credit hours (awarded during Fall semester) for pre-departure workshops, held during the spring semester, and while engaging in intensive service in the host country during the Summer.

Class Schedule – must attend all classes

Monday’s between 8 pm to 10 pm towards the end of the spring semester (dates to be determined)

SRV_LRN 0501 The 0 credit hour prerequisite course takes place during Spring 2021 on the MU campus. The course focuses on building cultural competencies, critical thinking, and self-discovery. In addition students will research and study the host country’s history, culture, languages, politics and geography. This course prepares you for your service abroad and students must participate fully in order to remain in the program.

SRV_LRN 3028  Students will earn 3 credit hours while engaging in intensive service in the host country. The main objective of this course is to promote service-learning through direct contact, classes, discussions, reflections, and projects while living in host country. Academic coursework will emphasize the development of critical consciousness while engaging in reflection and group dialogue.

Academic Credit

Grades earned on this program will calculate into the MU GPA and appear on students’ MU transcripts when grades are recorded by the Program Leader. Students must work with their academic adviser(s) to obtain pre-approval as to how the courses might fulfill degree requirements.

Additional Learning and Academic Activities

Excursions are considered to be a part of the coursework and should be looked upon as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Part of the final grade will come from participation and attitude towards learning during these activities and excursions.

Accommodations and Meals

At the beginning of the program students will stay in hotels close to the old city of Chiang Mai and for one night in a central location in Chiang Rai.

Whilst at ENP you will be living on site in basic accommodation sharing with two or more other students. Here you will fall asleep to the sounds of elephants calling. Although there is no air-conditioning at ENP it is comfortable. The accommodations are shaded, have thick walls and have good air circulation with large fans.

The food is at ENP is excellent traditional Thai cuisine, with a large and varied vegetarian buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner. A number of group meals will be provided during our tours at the beginning of the program in Chiang Mai/ Chiang Rai

Tentative Itinerary

Students need to arrive in Chiang Mai on the program start date. Students are advised to research flight options within Thailand to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

  • Wednesday August 4th: Arrive in Chiang Mai
  • Thursday August 5th: Temple and Old City Tour of Chiang Mai with traditional Khantoke Dinner
  • Friday August 6th: Cooking School
  • Saturday and Sunday August 7th and 8th: Trip to Chiang Rai. We will visit the Golden Triangle area as well as various temples
  • Monday August 9th: Travel to Elephant Nature Park to begin Service.
  • Monday August 9th – Sunday August 15th: Serve at Elephant Nature Park
  • Sunday August 16th- Return to Chiang Mai
  • Monday August 17th: Program ends. Leave for USA.

Possible excursion sites

Students will travel within a group but they will have opportunities to explore some sites independently during their time abroad. Visits around Thailand will include tours of:

  • Chiang Mai Temple and Cultural tour
  • Two day excursion to Chiang Rai – Golden Triangle, Hall of Opium, the white and Black Temples.
  • Cooking School

Program Costs

Our anticipated budget for the Fall 2020 program is below. We anticipate our costs being slightly higher in 2021.

Students are advised to schedule a meeting to discuss financial planning.

This program is supported by the Office of Service Learning.


For more information about financing your Global Service Program, please see the Financing page.

Application and Eligibility

Before you apply to your chosen program, please review the How to Apply page.

Applications will be evaluated on the basis of a student’s academic transcript, quality and depth of response to the personal statement. In addition, students must have at least a 2.5 GPA and be in good disciplinary standing with the University for consideration. A personal interview may be required. Admission to a global service program is not guaranteed.

To apply for this Global Service Program, please submit the Online Application by:

  • Final deadline: TBD

More Information

For more information, please email the Office of Service-Learning. To schedule an appointment, visit MUConnect on Canvas, go to your “My Success Network”, type in “Service-Learning”, and click on the link to make an appointment with Yvonne Binfield. You can also complete our Interest Form