China, Thailand & Laos
Semester Academic Focus:
- Global Development
- International Studies
- Business Ethics
Immerse Yourself in Southeast Asia
Verto Education’s Southeast Asia semester is designed to develop students’ understanding of relevant issues in international business, global corporate ethics, international financial systems, and international development.
Students explore these topics through a combination of fieldwork, case studies, and seminars. The semester is designed to develop essential understandings through the lense of real-world application in Asia. Students study and travel throughout Asia to contextualize the concepts learned in courses and experience first-hand emerging issues in global business practice and international development. Students engage in real-world cycles of topic immersion and reflective learning throughout China and Thailand.
This semester is comprised of four courses. Two courses run for six weeks each and are tied specifically to students’ immersive field experience in China and Thailand. Two additional courses run the full length of the semester and are designed to both frame the experience in the semester and develop skills for students’ enduring academic success.
Students spend 13 weeks abroad, including 4 weeks in China and 9 weeks in Thailand.
The Semester At-a-Glance
Upcoming Program Dates
September 6th – December 5th, 2019 – Fall 2019 Semester
February 3rd – May 3rd, 2020 – Spring 2020 Semester
WHAT YOU’LL BE LEARNING During your time in China
International Business & Corporate Ethics
Over the past several decades, China has re-emerged as a global economic powerhouse. This course explores the interconnectedness of global markets and the impacts of globalization on society, the environment, and political systems.
Through seminar, guest speakers, and field case studies, students learn to analyze the effects of culture and politics on global business management; develop a working understanding of international capital markets and foreign currency exchange, learn the role that the international monetary system plans in global business; and explore critical issues in global corporate ethics.
This course is intentionally paired with a course of study in International development so that students have an opportunity to explore the connections between international trade, global markets, and international development.
Students explore the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an, learn about imperial China’s rich history of commerce and cultural exchange throughout the world, visit bustling metropolitan cities of Shanghai and Beijing, and sample many of the rich flavors of Chinese cuisine.
Arrive in China
Week 1: Orientation
Spend the first week orienting yourself to China and and your new cohort. Get up to speed on how to stay safe and healthy in Asia, spend time building your sense of community, and begin diving into the complexities of business and culture in China. This week you’ll live together with your cohort at a traditional Chinese guesthouse outside of Shanghai.
Weeks 2 & 3: BUSINESS ETHICS AND GLOBAL TRADE IN SHANGHAI
Move into Shanghai and immerse yourself in China’s most cosmopolitan metropolis. Engage in case studies of Chinese businesses, and hear directly from Chinese business leaders about the long-term prospects for Chinese economic growth. Visit the Shanghai Stock Exchange and see first-hand how financial decisions are made and how money flows around the world. Marvel at the modern skyscrapers and dazzling architecture of this global city, and take a boat cruise on the Huangpu river to take in the city lights at night.
Week 4: ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN BEIJING AND GREAT WALL IN XI’AN
Take a sleeper train from Shanghai to Beijing. Stay in a traditional guesthouse as your group learns about the start-up ecosystem in Beijing and hears from entrepreneurs who are seeking to innovate in China’s increasingly market-friendly economy. Travel to Xi’an to close out your time in China at the Great Wall. Learn about the history of this incredible monument while walking atop the wall itself before taking a toboggan ride down to the bottom. Relax and reflect with your group at the guest house as you prepare for the next stage of your journey in Thailand.
Continue on to Thailand
Thailand & Laos
WHAT YOU’LL BE LEARNING During your time in Thailand & Laos
This course explores key issues in the field of international development, introduces students to the history of development policy and practices, and explores the network of organizations working in global development practice.
Through field immersion, seminars, and case studies, students develop both an understanding of the basics of international development theory and experience international development practice in action. Through critical analysis of development practice, students will consider the role that international development work should play in the pursuit of basic human rights. This course is specifically designed around several case studies throughout Thailand that explore both large-scale and local community-based development programs.
Students experience the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, one of Asia’s most dynamic and culturally rich cities; visit the famed temples along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river; and take in the spectacular Royal Palace. While in Bangkok, students meet with development organizations and explore their models for regional development projects. As students travel to the rural Isan region of Northeastern Thailand, they visit remote local communities, meet with community organizations, non-governmental organizations, and government development agencies working on local development projects. In addition to case studies, students contribute to local development projects run by partner community-based organizations. While in the Isan region of Thailand, students dive into Thai culture firsthand through homestays in our partner communities, reflect on the practicalities of implementing development policy, and better understand the human side of international development. Students travel to Laos specifically to explore the social, environmental, and economical impact of Chinese foreign direct investment in large-scale infrastructure projects.
Arrive in Thailand
Week 5: URBANIZATION AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN BANGKOK
Arrive in Bangkok and spend a few days orienting yourselves to Thai culture and customs. Experience the hustle and bustle of one of Asia’s most dynamic cities. Sample incredible food while exploring some of the city’s most impressive landmarks like the Royal Palace and the historic temples along the Chao Phraya. Delve deep into how rural to urban migration is affecting culture and lifestyles across Thailand. Meet with local and international NGOs who are working to implement development projects and initiatives across the region of Southeast Asia.
Week 6: AGRICULTURE IN YASOTHON PROVINCE
Travel to northeast Thailand and spend a week living in pairs with local families. Get your hands dirty working in the fields with farming families who are members of an organic farming network. Learn first-hand about what it takes to get food from the field to the table while contributing to sustainable livelihoods. Learn from experts in community organizing about the challenges and successes of transitioning from chemical-based farming to organic farming. Get to grips with the health and environmental impacts that food systems have on communities who provide food for a rapidly industrializing nation. Question your own assumptions about rural life in Asia while forming close bonds with your host families.
Week 7: EDUCATION IN KHON KAEN
Settle into Khon Kaen, the regional hub of the Isaan region. Learn from local NGOs about how they’re implementing development plans in the region. Participate in exchanges with local students to learn about the role that education plays in a developing economy. Explore the student scene in Khon Kaen and wander through the city’s peaceful temples and bustling night markets during weekends.
Week 8: MINING, INDUSTRIALIZATION, AND ANCESTRAL KNOWLEDGE IN LOEI PROVINCE
Travel north to Loei province where you’ll learn up close about the impacts of mining and industrialization on rural communities. Compare different approaches to development by contrasting the efforts of a large scale gold-mining project with a community run women’s weaving co-operative. Understand the power of ancestral knowledge through working directly with grandmothers whose weaving techniques and practices have been passed down through generations. Live with homestay families and participate in community panels to understand the local perspective on development in their region and how traditional practices are kept alive in the face of advancing modernization. Spend the weekend in Chiang Khan, a sleepy town on the Mekong where you can give morning alms at a temple and take bike rides through the quiet streets.
Week 9: EDUCATION IN KHON KAEN
Return to Khon Kaen to debrief your homestay experience in Loei province and participate in workshops and seminars to prepare for your upcoming trip to Laos. Continue to interact with students from the local university and compare the education infrastructure in the city with what you’ve experienced in your rural homestays. Participate in an art workshop in Columbo Craft Village with local artisans, and visit a stunning 9 storey temple.
Travel to Laos
Week 10: VIENTIANE
Cross the border into Laos and get settled into the Laotian capital of Vientiane. Live with your group at a local guest house, while exploring the network of NGOs and exploring the influence of Chinese soft power in Laos. Compare the difference between Laos’ approach to development with that in Thailand while learning about dams and hydropower in Laos. Walk along the riverfront and tackle the legacies of war, confronting the reality of bombings and landmines of the Vietnam war, and how their impact has affected the development trajectory for many Laotian people in the ensuing decades.
Week 11 & 12: CHIANG MAI AND MAE HONG SON
Return to Thailand and spend two weeks exploring the northwest of the country. Travel with your group to the border with Myanmar to learn from the Karen community who have fled from Myanmar over the last 50 years. Stay as a group in a bamboo guest-house while visiting a refugee camp. Learn about the history and present of forced migration in the region and how this affects both migrant and host populations. Examine the ways in which marginalized communities seek dignity and basic human rights, and continue to build your understanding of the legacies of colonialism. Explore Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, wandering through boutique stores and night markets.
Week 13: Capstone Retreat
For the final week, travel to an eco-lodge outside of Chiang Mai. Live with your group in a peaceful idyllic setting and reflect on your semester, pulling together the most influential moments and experiences into your final Capstone project. Celebrate everything you’ve done this semester as a group, and participate in workshops facilitated by your Program Leaders to help get ready for the transition back home and onto campus.
Decide which stories to tell first
Semester-long academic focus
Semester-long Academic Focus
In addition to the two country-specific courses offered in this semester, students will also complete two additional courses that span the full semester :
Rhetoric and Composition for the College Writer
This course is designed to strengthen students’ writing mechanics and prepare students for the demands of academic writing.
This course has been designed to develop writing and rhetoric skills by leveraging core content explored through other Verto courses and immersive fieldwork. Students use essential questions for other courses taken during the semester to contextualize the importance of strong academic writing, develop strong academic prose, and explore the relationship between language and rhetoric.
Identity, Politics, and Equity
This course challenges students to critically analyze how identity — as defined by others and oneself — shapes culture, politics, and the distribution of power.
Drawing from media, texts, and intercultural experiences within homestays and fieldwork, students reflect on the dynamic roles of ethnicity, gender, nationality, and socio-economic status in shaping relationships within communities. Students leave the course with critical understanding and inquiry tools to serve in creating greater equity in relationships ranging from the interpersonal to those between nations.
CORE SEMESTER ABROAD PROGRAM COMPONENTS
In afternoons, students participate in seminars that are related to the topic that they’re working on in the morning. For example, if students are working on farms in the morning, they are doing readings and having discussions related to their field experience in the afternoons.
Mentorship & Support
Each student is assigned a Program Leader as a mentor who helps student set goals for the program and meets with the student regularly to provide feedback and support around the challenges associated with being abroad. There are significantly more support and investment in the student-staff relationship than your typical freshmen student who may have an RA and then office hours for professors.
While Program Leaders provide holistic support for the students, they are not with them at all times. There are built-in opportunities in the program for students to learn and grow together as a group with an emphasis on peer relationships and teamwork.
Students live in pairs with host families in each country to give them insight into a different culture and a different way of living. Students spend the mornings working with local professionals and experts who are engaged in working to address local issues. Hands-on experience and getting outside of the classroom is essential to reigniting a passion for learning.