Walk in their shoes
Get to know Sirikanya “Meemee” Sripat, our foreign exchange student from Thailand
“Thailand is the Land of Smiles,” says Sirikanya Sripat, an exchange student from the South part of the sunny country with worth-visiting beaches and gorgeous mountains, merrily. Known as Meemee by other students, she is enjoying her stay in America.
Sirikanya’s story began with the invitation from a teacher for taking part in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Exchange Program. “At that moment I didn’t know anything about this program but I decided to try and see what it looks like, what are the main purposes of the program and its advantages.” To become a member of the students’ exchange community, Sirikanya had to pass many different tests, intended to consider pupils’ English knowledge and the willingness to move in another country to live with the host family during the academic year. “I am very happy now. I am the person who likes watching people and always guess what they are thinking about, wonder how and why they are engaged in the particular activity,” Sirikanya says.
That’s why Sirikanya appreciates the opportunity to be a foreign student. It opens her up to a new society, culture, and emotions. “I am grateful to my teacher for providing me with the chance to try myself in the YES (Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study) program and receiving an amazing experience.”
Sirikanya believes that being in a good mood and having irenic thoughts leads us to a peaceful life. “In our province, people are very kind. We don’t like to fight with anyone and always respect each other.” She explains, “I want to cognize another culture, the reasons which make people follow their traditions, and their attitude towards different aspects. We can live in peace even if we know each other. That’s why I never criticize humans by the first impression. Even if I see someone is doing anything sad, I wonder if a person has his own reason for that, or is trying to improve the situation.”
Sirikanya finds Mead High School a great place to study in. “In Thailand we don’t have choices about the courses we want to attend. We can’t match the level of the class either. Our education system implies seven or eight different lessons a day with the in-depth study of mathematics and science.”
Sirikanya draws a distinctive line between her home-country’s school and her new American school saying, “We have to show the apparent respect to our teachers and it makes the communication with them more formal. Here, in the USA, I can easily talk to a teacher in a friendly way, discuss all my concerns and questions and it will not be considered rude.”
Also, Thailand’s schools have special activities at the beginning of the day. “Before 7:50 am we have to be at school to start our ceremony where we first sing the anthem of our country, then pray, and, at last, do some sport exercises singing our school song with the music that is playing,” Sirikanya says.
As for after-school activities, there are not any clubs but students can choose a sport they want to play. “We have a volleyball and a soccer team at my school. But one of the unique sport which is popular in our country is Sepak Takraw and senior students play it at the PE lessons,” she says. In order to greater emphasize the differences, she adds that, “In general, our physical classes’ activities differ by the grade level. In the seventh grade we play table tennis, the next year it is Krabi Krabong, a weapon-based martial art aimed at developing our self-defense. In the ninth school year we start playing volleyball. The tenth grade begins with soccer and ends with badminton in the second semester. The higher level of Krabi Krabong is taught at the penultimate year and seniors play basketball.”
Besides sport classes, Thailand’s students can attend first aid trainings, or the “Student Soldier” community, where pupils learn basic military skills, after passing the special exam focused to estimate the participant’s current physical and mental abilities. Another choice is to be involved in trainings which develop your abilities to survive in the natural environment without any modern technology or means of communication. Sirikanya tried this one. “I was attending The First-Aid Skills class. It took place once a week and I enjoyed it because we were taught how to help other people.” Students have their camp in the nearest province and take bus to go there. “Sometimes, other pupils also join us and we travel all together”.
Thailand stands out by having the spiritual holidays. One of the most soulful is Thai New Year, or Songkran, which is from the April 13 to April 15. “This is the celebration for Buddhists, not for Muslim people,” explains Sirikanya. “We always gather at home with our families and go to the temple in the morning to pray. We believe that this activity helps us to purify.” During this holiday, Thai people splash water on each other to bless them. “We believe all bad thing will go away by that.”
Buddhist citizens also show respect to the elders. “Old people usually hold a special ring made of flowers which is called Phuang Malai and young men pour the water on their hands. It symbolizes reverence and happiness”.
Sirikanya likes to volunteer in the different places in Colorado. And one of her dreams is skiing. “We don’t have snow in Thailand. I watched it on television and it seems fascinating for me. I want to try a winter sport and very excited about skiing.” Sirikanya also wants to celebrate Thanksgiving in the states, along with Halloween and Christmas.