We recently posted an article which describes the distance education program between Sa Nguan Ying School in Suphanburi, Thailand, and Lodi High School in Lodi, Wisconsin, USA.
One of the great things about that program is the distance teaching of two teachers from each of the schools and also the contact between students in both schools. It is a way of making US history much more real for Thai students as it is taught by an American teacher, and for their American counterparts, being taught by a Thai teacher from Sa Nguan Ying brings deeper understanding of South East Asian history and culture.
This distance program grew out of the student and teacher exchange program between Lodi and Sa Nguan Ying Schools.
Holly Jean Hargis’ journal posted below is further evidence of the great learning that can come out of an effective student exchange program.
Holly’s journal affirms how this exchange program opened her eyes to the broader world.
Thank you for allowing us to reproduce it here Holly .
Letters From Thailand
Holly Jean Hargis
When I first came to Thailand I never would have guessed I would be back a mere 14 months later. I first came as an exchange student from a small town in Wisconsin, and it was my very first time leaving United States. I was 18 years old and a senior in High School, and this would be the longest amount of time that I would spend away from my family.
Travel had always interested me ever since I was young, but I came from a large family who didn’t have the opportunity to do much of this. When my school in Lodi, Wisconsin offered the chance to spend 3 weeks in Thailand , half way across the world, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be part of this experience. I started saving money with a summer job and was able to fund my trip, which was with 9 other students and 3 teachers from my school.
I remember the exact moment I stepped out of the airport into Thailand that first time, I remember feeling the hot and humid air at 3 in the morning and feeling so excited about having the chance to experience another culture. What I didn’t know was that this exact trip would alter the entire course of the following year for me. It would give me courage and opportunity to experience a different life after high school than I ever would have considered before.
My 3 weeks in Thailand went so fast that afterward everything felt like a dream. The exchange program was with Sa-nguan-Ying School in Suphanburi, where I lived with a host family in Thailand and had two sisters with whom I was able to become close with very quickly. My host parents couldn’t speak more than a few words of English but their smiles and laughter everyday made me feel so happy and welcome in this country. I felt a part of the school that I attended every day and also was able to see and learn more about Thailand, so I felt part of Thailand too.
It was on the train to Kanchanaburi where I sat with my two best friends agreeing that the 3 amazing weeks in the country could only be the beginning. In this small amount of time we had been introduced to a complete different culture than our own and had made so many new friends. We wondered how much we could learn by travelling more, since we had learned so much about travel, culture, and ourselves in just 3 weeks in Thailand. It was that point when we all talked about taking a year off before college to travel more, and it was at that point I had made the decision I would be travelling abroad very soon again, and maybe even back to Thailand.
Now, 15 months later I sit at a desk in Thailand, at the very same school I visited before. Instead of being a student this time, I was offered the opportunity to be on the other side of the spectrum and work as an assistant teacher, teaching English. I will be here for 8 weeks, and I believe this opportunity to be the best one I have had in my entire life.
In the United States, taking a year off before college is not widely accepted. When I shared with my friends and family that I would be travelling abroad for 8 months prior to enrolling in college, I was welcomed with concern and fear. Now, many months later, these same people are praising me for the opportunities I have been able to experience. Both my parents who have never traveled abroad before visited me on my journey, my Dad visiting me right here in Suphanburi, Thailand. I feel that these opportunities have not only benefited me personally, but those around me as well.
I started my year with the confidence I had gained from the exchange experience in Thailand previously. Starting in October I lived in Paris, France for some time while also travelling to Morocco, London, and Germany. Next, I made my way back to the Land Of Smiles to reunite with many friends and also meet some of the most amazing people I have ever had the chance of calling friends. It would also be the very first time I would live on my own, a huge step for a 19 year old travelling abroad.
Not only did I begin to live on my own, but also began a job, and a job that I loved. I have always wanted to be a teacher and my experience as an assistant teacher here has helped me realize that this is something that I am good at and that I can imagine doing for the rest of my life. I worked with Ms. Tuke, a Thai teacher here who I learned so much from and who I can call a friend. I taught children in grades 7-9 and helped them improve their pronunciation and understanding of the English language. I helped them with their grammar on papers and presentations as well. It feels so good to know that I can help these students learn, and I really feel like they always appreciated my help. The relationships I have made with my students are ones that I value so highly, I absolutely love the students here and I love the tutoring and teaching I have been doing.
This teaching opportunity has also given me the wonderful chance of seen more of Thailand. Almost every weekend I was able to travel somewhere new and experience a new part of Thailand. Whether it was seen Wat Poh in Bangkok or spending a weekend with friends at Koh Samet, each experience will be one that I will never forget. Other experiences such as eating Thai dinner every night with friends or learning Thai songs and the Thai language are priceless. All of the friends and teachers I have met here, Thai, American, Chinese, and Tasmanian, have helped me feel so happy in this country and I know the connections I made here will never be lost.
I am so thankful that Chaht and the English Program at Sa-nguan-Ying presented me with the opportunity of returning to Thailand. I cannot even express how important the connection is between my school in Lodi and Sa-nguan-Ying. I truly believe and know that I would be a completely different person leading a very different life if I hadn’t been on that trip in November 2010.
It’s now almost 2 months after my second arrival in Thailand and my time is almost up. I cannot believe that I am leaving this wonderful place where I have been given the chance to learn and take away so much. I have learned how to live on my own, I have met wonderful people from over the world, I have built relationships with my students, I have started to learn how to teach, I have learned so much about the Thai culture, I have learned more about myself and I have gained confidence and courage. I feel so lucky to be part of the EP family and I know that I would be welcomed back anytime. As I have learned, most people don’t stay away from Thailand for too long, and I know I’ll be back again in no time.