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From the First Day of School to the Last


By Victoria S., YES Abroad 2017-18, Thailand

During the last week at my host school, I decided to reread the journal entry I made on my first day of school in Thailand. I described my excitement about meeting my new classmates and teachers. I read over my thoughts and confessions about feeling overwhelmed and out of place and how everything felt different. I had even made a list of things that shocked me, both big and small: morning assembly, taking off shoes before entering classrooms, school uniforms, and “wai-ing” to teachers (bowing to show respect), to name a few. While reading, I suddenly realized that these things barely register on my radar anymore. I wake up every morning in Thailand and grab my school uniform without thinking, morning assembly has become a constant fixture in my school life, and now it feels weird to walk into a classroom with my shoes on.

Reading over my thoughts, I can tangibly see how much I’ve adjusted to Thai culture. On my first day of school, I was so culture shocked by everything that I felt like I would never get used to Thai school. Now, it is my new normal, and one that I will miss deeply when I return to the United States. It’s weird to think that when I look out the window next year, I won't see an intricately-built temple or the sprawling city skyline behind it anymore. 

On my last day of school, I brought doughnuts and gifts for my Thai classmates and asked them to sign my school uniform. Afterwards, we spent probably 30 minutes posing for pictures with each other. It still hasn’t sunk in yet that I’ll never be a student at my school again. But, I know I will see my Thai friends again, and I will always have my memories of my adventures with them. 

Attending school in Thailand taught me that despite having a different language, culture, and traditions, friends can still be made and laughter found. I’m excited for the end of school and to be able to sleep past 6:15 AM, but a part of me will always miss the life of singing the Thai national anthem and saying morning prayers during morning assembly, buying my favorite snacks from street vendors and drinking bubble tea with my friends, or traveling around town with them. I will always look back at my time in Thailand with fond memories of happiness and friendship and, of course, a healthy dose of culture shock to keep me on my toes.