Foreign exchange student’s life in a year

A student from Thailand shares his personal experience

OFF+TO+AMERICA+%E2%80%94+On+Sept.+11+last+year%2C+I+flew+with+three+other+exchange+students+from+Thailand+to+Dulles+Airport.+It+was+the+longest+trip+I+have+ever+taken+in+my+life.+
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Foreign exchange student’s life in a year

OFF TO AMERICA — On Sept. 11 last year, I flew with three other exchange students from Thailand to Dulles Airport. It was the longest trip I have ever taken in my life.

OFF TO AMERICA — On Sept. 11 last year, I flew with three other exchange students from Thailand to Dulles Airport. It was the longest trip I have ever taken in my life.

OFF TO AMERICA — On Sept. 11 last year, I flew with three other exchange students from Thailand to Dulles Airport. It was the longest trip I have ever taken in my life.

OFF TO AMERICA — On Sept. 11 last year, I flew with three other exchange students from Thailand to Dulles Airport. It was the longest trip I have ever taken in my life.

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Being an exchange student has been my goal since I was in elementary school. At first, I did not have enough courage to be an exchange student. I decided to go to a summer program with my school in Toronto for a month to see what life was like away from home. That trip gave me the confidence to leave Thailand, my country of origin, for a whole year.

In 2017, I applied and took a test for a high school foreign exchange program with the American Field Service (AFS). Three months later, I got a letter saying I was admitted as an exchange student in the United States.

When I lived in Thailand, I attended an all-boys public secondary school with 3,000 students. Instead of moving from class to class, I stayed in one room and my teachers came to me. I had the same classmates in each class, and we knew each other really well.

I had school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 50-minute lunch breaks, shorter class periods and took around 15 subjects. I wasn’t allowed to choose my classes or electives—instead we chose certain curriculum paths to take.

I chose the science-math program, but I also wanted to be involved in English and Thai language activities at school. I played Scrabble in English and Thai and competed in Scrabble tournaments. In our first year competing at the regional level, we won gold medals.

In September, I arrived in America and walked inside an American high school for the very first time.

Everything was brand new. I took classes without knowing anyone or anything at all. At first, it was really hard for me to make my way to different classes. Soon, it became easy for me to navigate.

I noticed a different culture among the students. Back in Thailand, friends just say “hi” to one another, but here at McLean, my friends do fist-bumps, high fives and daps every time we meet. Even though I am bad at responding to American greetings, my friends are very patient when teaching me these motions.

Photography is an activity I have grown to love while living here in America. During every special moment throughout the year, I made sure to take pictures.

I even entered a photography and design project competition for the Technology Student Association, which enabled me to explore my interests.

McLean has given me many opportunities to try new things. One day, a varsity lacrosse coach saw me with a tripod and asked me to film every game in the team’s season. Filming for the team allowed me to participate in videography and sports at the same time, both of which I enjoy.

Outside of school, field trips have been some of the best experiences I have had this year. I went to Harrisonburg, New York City (twice), Pennsylvania and, of course, D.C. My favorite trip was to Columbia University with my journalism class. I made friends with new people and learned interesting tips about design from the event.

These eight months at McLean have been challenging, but they also helped me discover my passions. Once I return home, I will have to catch up on my last year of school and apply to university, where I hope to spend the next four years of my life deciding what to do in the future.

All the memories I made here will remain in my heart and my camera forever.

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