Thai Scholars and (a Little) Beyond

By Vy N.

The Royal Thai Government scholarship, also known as the “Thai Scholars Program,” is a scholarship program from governmental units in Thailand.

It is granted to outstanding Thai students with excellent academic achievements, as a chance for them to study abroad. The government fully funds and sponsors the student throughout their study until the end of their PhD. After finishing their education, they have to come back to Thailand and work as state officers for the ministry that offers them the scholarship. If they do not succeed, they will have to pay back three times the amount of money invested on them. In order to be selected, applicants are required to have a minimum GPA of 3.50, their IELTS should be 6.0 or higher, and they have to show an adequate level of knowledge for the field of study they request. They also have to take multiple tests and interviews in order to assess if they would be a good fit for abroad education.

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Thai Scholars 2017-2018 (1st row 1st left: Prom ‘16, 3rd row 4th right: Khim ‘18)

I decided to interview our own Thai scholars. Setting her books on the desk, Khim sat down. She turned to me and asked “So, what do you have for me?”

I took a moment to observe the girl in front of me. She looked just like another student, with her hair tied back neatly and her smart square-glasses. She dressed just like another student, with a pair of washed jeans and comfortable white sweatshirt. There was nothing that would separate her from a normal American student, who was born in the land of freedom and inherited the fortune of being a citizen of the country. I cleared my throat and started my interview slash profile with her by the simplest question, the classic opening line for any dramatic affair. “So, tell me your full name?”

“It’s Ruthairut Wootisarn,” she said. “But I go by Khim.”

“Why?” I curiously asked. The idea of the origin of her English name had never occurred to me. “It’s just a nickname. Everyone in Thailand has a nickname that people usually call them by. We don’t usually call people by their real name, like it would be really rare to hear someone calling me Ruthairut.”

Nodding, I continued with my prepared list of question. “Where do you come from in Thailand?”

“The North. To be specific, Nan.” She answered slowly. I raised my eyebrow, and she wrote the word down on a piece of paper. I nodded in confusion and said. “So since I have never been there before, where should I visit in Nan?”

“Well, we have a lot of temples and five national parks, but you really should visit Phumin Temple, or Phumin Wat. It’s 400 years old, and there is a mirror that tells the story of Buddha inside.”

Inside Wat Phumin

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Inside Wat Phumin

“That’s pretty cool.” I exclaimed. Khim nodded in response, and I asked: “So, an unrelated question: What do you do during your free time?”

“At OES? Oh, I hang out with some freshmen and I help Tina with cooking.” She answered.

“Another totally unrelated question: What’s your favorite movie?” I was firing these off faster than Internet Explorer.

“I like fantasy movies like Harry Potter, and also musicals, for example The Sound of Music!”

“So what’s your favorite genre of music?”

“Based on my mood. I just listen to basically everything.”

“If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go?”

“Egypt.”

“Another plot twist: Teach me a curse word in Thai?”

“I would like not to answer this.” She finished with a laugh, then we parted ways.

It was a short interview, about twenty minutes or something, but it really made me think. There are people that tell me about their thoughts about Thai scholars, and the answers ranges from “Oh, they are nice”, and “They are quiet and shy” to “They are so smart”. So why do people only know them, the Thai scholars, as an acquaintance? Why are all those descriptions so vague and general, why no “oh, she likes to eat this”, or “eh, I bet you ten bucks she would totally do that”. To some people, in order to get to know such personal information, it requires another level of understanding and relationship, but is it that hard to open your circle and talk to a Thai scholar?

In fact, most of us are even unaware that they are Thai scholars, and the fact they have to try so hard to be here. Most of us are unaware that they are someone just like us, who like Harry Potter and Sound of Music and listen to rock music when they are angry and need to release their bottling-up feelings. Most of us just stay in the comfortable circle that we are in, and don’t feel the need to approach a new student and bid in a ‘hi.’ We exist, they exist, and that’s just that.

So step out, ‘varks. Not just the Thai Scholars, but (a little) Beyond.

 

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