Tag Archives: Thammasat University

The Missing Final

Thought I was done talking about Thailand? Me too. 

But guess what Thammasat University finally produced this morning? The final I never received

As in, the final due June 15 that they never sent out? Yeah, it is now due July 15.

Good thing I didn’t get around to throwing out my notes yet. (That was actually what I planned to do this weekend because who expects a final at the end of June when school has been out over a month?)

To quote my Mom, it is like I’m back being homeschooled. School never ends. You just do it all summer.

To See Libraries Again

A glorious thought came to me today while I sighed in frustration at the lack of immediately available titles on my library app: in less than a week, I will have access to libraries again. 

I think this past semester represents the longest I have ever gone without accessing a physical library

Not that Thammasat University does not have libraries. Oh, it does. But like access to the WiFi, the office never quite got around to giving me access to them. You need to swipe your permanent ID card to get in. I asked for one. They promised it would come. And…nothing happened. (Incidentally, did I mention I’m still waiting for that take home midterm worth 25% of my grade? Any day now, folks.) 

I stepped foot inside the law library a few times because a fellow student offered to vouch for me to the librarian guarding the front desk. Honestly, with an English section taking up about as much room as the Spanish section at your local library, I did not miss much. I already own quite a few of the volumes. (Water Law in India, Second Edition being a particular favorite.) But it is the principle of the thing. I need to breathe in books! 

(In full confession mode, lack of libraries does not mean lack of books. I’m rounding out this semester so far with 160 books read since January. Not knowing anyone really provides lots of free time for reading.) 

Finals: AKA What Is Going ON???

Honestly, I do not know how anyone manages to graduate from Thammasat University. I am told the other departments do not run as haphazardly as the legal department. But really, I don’t know how any of the students keep track of anything. My entire finals experience has been nothing but chaos! 

I am taking 5 classes. Allow me to briefly summarize my experiences: 

Class 1: The professor announces that any student who wishes to write a paper instead of taking the final may do so. I tell him I want to write a paper; we select a topic; I do initial research. A month before the final, I check in to ask if he wants an outline or draft before I turn in my final work. He looks surprised and informs me he did not realize I was writing a paper; no one is writing a paper; I should just take the final instead. I protest. He insists. I end up taking the final. 

Class 2: The professor gives out a syllabus at the beginning of class and another one a few weeks later when she makes some scheduling changes. Both clearly state: midterm = 50% of the grade, paper = 40%, final = 10%. As I review for the upcoming final, it occurs to me we never did write a paper. I ask my classmate. She says the final is worth 30% of our grade. I ask what happened to the remaining 20%. She sort of shrugs and after digging through my notes I see we had an in-class presentation. Apparently that was worth 20%. 

Class 3: The professor strolls into class and inquires how the take-home final is going. We all stare at him blankly. Take-home final? Now he looks surprised. Did the office not send out the final like he asked? No, no the office did not. Oh, well, if one student will provide their e-mail, he will send the final to that student and the student can distribute it to everyone else. Except guess whose e-mail that student does not have? Mine. I managed to get a grainy picture of the final from someone who took a shot of it from their phone. Exactly how we turn in the final once we finish remains unclear. Apparently the office will contact us.

Class 4: The office sends out a list of in-class finals with rooms and times. I ask my classmate how she is studying for it since we’ve had at least 6 different professors for this class. She says only one professor is testing us and it is a take-home exam. I say it is not a take-home exam; the office clearly put it on the list of in-class finals. She says the professor changed his mind. I flip through my notes. Sure enough, he told us a take-home. I ask where we get the take-home. She says he hasn’t given it to us yet. I ask when we should expect it. She doesn’t know. I ask another classmate. She thinks we might receive it Monday. Maybe Tuesday. It will be due in June. When in June? Uncertain. 

Class 5: I don’t know how to study for this final. Because the office kept scheduling another class at the same time, I only attended about half the courses we are being tested on. The professor responded to my e-mail for more information brusquely and basically told me her portion of teaching is done. I assume this means I can expect no further clarification. If I had a friend in this class, I could ask for notes. But far from being friendly, the students did their best to ostracize me. [And if you think I am being paranoid, allow me to inform you they actually switched their conversations from English to Thai when I walked by trying to find a discussion group to join because my group members all bailed. The professor saw and yelled at them and they designated one person to converse with me in English while they continued their conversation in Thai. My designated conversation partner spent the entire time looking miserable.]

In summary, I am a law student who might fail a freshman level course because I cannot figure out how any of this works.

Class Time

I previously blogged about Thai Time and some of my difficulties adapting to a difference culture’s approach to school. As time has passed, I find this comes out more and more  in the guideline-like way the school treats class periods. 

Back in Wisconsin: You sign up for classes for a specific time. Barring anything seriously unforeseen, you know you will always have class on that day and at that time. (I once had a professor teach class while suffering from laryngitis!) If your professor needs to miss a class period, he or she alerts the class (almost always with over 24 hours notice) and reschedules, usually for a Friday or noon period when no one has class. Barring something truly, truly unforeseen, no one has make up classes on the weekend. 

Here in Thailand: You sign up for classes for a specific time. You then check a schedule posted every week to find out when those classes will actually be held. Sometimes they are held for the hours you signed up for. Sometimes they get rescheduled for earlier in the day, or the next day, or even on the weekend. Sometimes the professor tells you ahead of time about the change; most times no one tells you anything and you better hope you paid close attention to the schedule and didn’t miss anything important. Professors might cancel class 10 hours before class begins or even later. Hopefully the school or another student notifies you of the change, but no guarantees. 

On top of this unstable scheduling, I deal with a unique problem since I am enrolled in freshman, junior, and senior level courses. Thus, while the office seems to do a decent job preventing class conflicts for courses generally within the same levels, I often find my classes end up overlapping. I then get the joy of trying to decide if I should skip Law of Information Technology (new professor so probably should make a good first impression?) or Fundamental Rights (our attendance actually matters and she gives quizzes which count towards the grade.)

Tomorrow I have 4 classes scheduled within 2 class periods and I am still not entirely sure which to attend. 

Added to the changing timelines, most courses involve multiple professors. One professor will teach the first two weeks and be in charge of 10% of your grade, another will teach the next two months and give a midterm worth 40%, and a third will teach the final classes with a paper, perhaps, worth 50%. Keeping track of who is teaching when becomes extra confusing when you layer in make up classes and weekend classes and morning classes and guest speakers…

Honestly, law school back home will seem so boring and predictable in comparison. 

Lampang: Day 1

As I said in my previous post, I spent the weekend in Lampang.

On Friday, we toured Thammasat University’s Lampang campus. It is a striking, open school that feels rural and empty after the bustle of the Bangkok campus. 

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The “tour” of the school mostly involved a stroll to the new library. 

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Besides the gorgeous mural of books, the place resembled McDonalds with the bright red and yellow everywhere. (Another student more graciously compared the colors to Gryffindor) 

Our new Thai friends shuffled us in, snapped a few group photos, and shuffled us towards the former library, now picnic/banquet/empty rooms area. They then fed us an amazing Thai lunch where the dishes just kept coming.

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Following lunch, we went to a local school to “teach English” and paint fences. “Teaching English” involved mostly playing games like red light green light, hangman, and rock paper scissors. The Thai university students with us explained everything in Thai so we did not actually use much English. But I had an absolute blast. I met lots of cute middle schoolers and shared lots of laughter and smiles. I felt like I was back being a camp counselor. Except perhaps a singularly inefficient camp counselor since I could not for the life of me remember any of the games or songs we used to keep students engaged. 

Following our “community service,” we got a tour of Lampang. 

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We visited two temples and a historically important house.

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You know the movie The King and I?

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If I understood correctly, this was the home Anna’s son owned later in life. He ran a successful lumber business from Lampang. 

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After our tour, we went back to campus for another amazing, traditional Thai meal (I was apparently too busy eating to take picture) and some fun entertainment. We watched traditional Thai dancers, officially “met” our Thai buddies (they’d been instructed not to tell us who they were so we would have to guess), and a few people sang karaoke. (Well, 3 people did and then they sent us home.)

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It was very fun! 

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