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Sarah Powell – Thailand

Name: Sarah Powell

Host Country: Thailand

Host District: 3350

Host Club: Angthong

Sponsor Club: Mt Vernon

School: Mount Vernon High School

สวัสดีค่ะ Hello! My name is Sarah and I will be spending my Junior year of high school in Thailand. In Ohio I attend Mount Vernon High School. I play trumpet in Band, run cross country, and swim, and in summer I work as a lifeguard for the local pool. I was also a counselor in training this summer at YMCA Camp Willson. I chose to go to an Asian country because I want to experience a culture that is completely different from my own! Some of my goals for exchange are to become more independent, try new foods, and become less shy. I feel that the year of training I have completed with District 6690 has already been helping me to accomplish these goals. I have gained so many new friends through Rotary and I am very excited to make more this year! Thank you District 6690 and the Mount Vernon Rotary Club for giving me this opportunity.

 

September 1

Thailand is amazing! Everyone here is so kind and happy to take care of me. When I first arrived I was greeted by lots of happy cheering and flowers from my host family and Rotary club. Since I have arrived I have gone to the market many times, ridden on a tuktuk, traveled to the province of Amphawa, started school, participated in a school fashion show, toured the province of Ayutthaya, traveled to Bangkok for inbound orientation and then explored the city, etc. I have had so many new experiences here! One of my favorite moments took place in Amphawa, which is famous for its floating market. I traveled there with my second host family, and we spent the day eating Thai fruit and shopping. If we wanted to go anywhere, we had to travel by boat. Once the sun went down, we got on a boat that I thought was taking us back to our hotel, but it turns out we were going on a firefly tour. The fireflies in Amphawa are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. We floated past trees that sparkled like christmas, and at one point my host dad started clapping his hands and all the fireflies flew towards us. It felt like something out of a Disney movie. Recently a girl from France, Claire, moved to my province and school. She is so kind and we get along great! Next week we will compete in a  dance competition together. Last weekend was the inbound orientation, and I got to meet even more of the  other exchange students in my district. They are all so nice! I found out many of them are in neighboring provinces, so we are planning to meet up soon. One of the things that has shocked me most since arriving here is how much fun school is! The students are always very excited to see me and often ask me to take pictures with them and shake my hand. I’ve gotten really close with some of the students and we often go to the market together after school.  I get to choose most of my classes, so I usually take Thai culture classes such as Thai dance, cooking, and banana leaf crafting. I have done so many amazing things since arriving and I have many more to look forward to. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to go on exchange. I am so happy to be here, and I can’t wait to share more about my time in Thailand with you.

 

October 1

Everything is great here in Thailand! Class recently ended for the semester, so I have had a lot of time to travel with my host family and school. Just this week I’ve had three field trips with my school! One of them was volunteering to help give food and clothing and teach English to elementary kids in a poor province. The others were to a science museum and a military academy. At the military academy we got to go swimming in a waterfall and ziplining across a lake. It was so beautiful! The trips were with different classes, so I have made a lot of new friends this week! I go to Bangkok almost every weekend with my friends from school. One time I had to take the bus by myself. I was terrified I was going to miss my stop, but everything went smoothly and my friends were right there waiting for me when I got off the bus. I felt really proud of myself. Everybody here has been so kind to me. There is never a day when I’m not doing anything. Now that school is out, my host club arranged for me and Claire (the other exchange student in my city), to go to Khon Kaen for the month. We are so excited to get to live together in a different part of Thailand! I also recently went to church with friends of my host family. Thai church here is very different from in the U.S. The service is mostly songs, and afterward the whole church eats breakfast together. Everyone there is very welcoming. They offered to let me become a member and to spend Christmas with them! Everyday I see and learn something new. Whenever I don’t have plans for the day, my host family takes me to temples. I have been to a Chinese temple, a temple with a giant reclining Buddha, A temple in the ruins of Ayutthaya, and a temple on the side of a river where you can feed fish and turtles. I have also been to a few different kinds of markets, a movie theater, and an orchid garden. Even though my city is small, it feels like there is always something new to discover! My Thai has improved a lot since I arrived here. I have been speaking it as much as possible, and my friends and family have been helping me learn. This is truly the experience of a lifetime. I am completely in awe of Thailand, and I could not be happier. Thank so much for sponsoring me.

 

December 1

The past month in Thailand has been great. I’ve had the chance to meet so many new and amazing people. This November I’ve been living with Claire, an exchange student from France. Her family right now is my third host family so it has been great to get to know them ahead of time! Claire takes Thai boxing after school, so I get to go with her everyday to see that. Even though I haven’t paid for lessons, all the instructors let me participate and sometimes they even bring me snacks. I’ve made so many new friends at Thai boxing this month, and I’m going to miss it a lot when I switch host families. I really love getting to go there everyday. I also feel like I’ve gotten really involved with my host club. I go to the club meetings almost every week, and I got to spend a weekend with the Korean sister club of my host club where we got to go on a boat tour, see a school talent show, and ride elephants. Despite not speaking the same language, all the Korean Rotary members were very friendly and welcoming, and even invited me to come visit them later this year! I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I am so grateful that they would offer to let me come. The possibilities seem endless here. Another highlight of this month was Loy Kratong. Loy Kratong is one of the biggest holidays in Thailand. Everybody goes to a temple and floats a Kratong down the river after they make a wish. The “Kratong” is made of part of a banana tree with folded banana leaves surrounding it. Then it is covered with flowers and a candle is lit in the middle. I’ve been taking a banana leaf folding class in school so I got to make my own Kratong! Earlier this month I didn’t have a schedule in school, so I would go to the art room everyday. I ended up working on a drawing for the late king and was invited to go on national television because of it! I was really nervous because part of the interview had to be done in Thai but luckily it all went smoothly. Another thing I got to do this month was attend a Thai wedding. I even got to wear traditional Thai clothing! During the wedding we all got in a line behind the groom while carrying gifts. We walked down the road surrounded by drummers, and as we got closer to the bride the drums began to beat faster. I think the ceremony itself takes the entire day, so we didn’t see the whole thing. Even though I didn’t see the whole ceremony it was really cool to be able to be a part of a wedding. I am so grateful to have been able to participate in all the wonderful things I’ve gotten to do this month, and I am also grateful to the Mount Vernon Rotary Club for making all of it possible, Thank you for sponsoring me!!

 

January 1

Happy holidays from Thailand! The past month here has been full of activities. At the beginning of the month, all the native English speaking exchange students helped run an English camp at a middle school. The first day of camp we were all assigned a partner to run stations with, and the last two days were spent preparing a Christmas themed skit. The children left at the end of the school day, so the other exchange students and I had time to hang out in the afternoon. At the end of English Camp, I went traveling on the north with three other exchange students. We got to eat fresh strawberries and go to a beautiful temple. When our trip was over I went and stayed at one of the exchange student’s house for a couple days. She lives in Lopburi, a province know for monkeys. One day we were walking to 7/11 when we thought an air conditioner was leaking on us from one of the buildings. However, when we looked up we were being peed on by a monkey! It was really gross but also really funny. We also had a rotary party in Bangkok with all the in inbounds, outbounds, and rebounds this month. It was a lot of fun getting to see all the other exchange students, and after the party a few of us who live far from Bangkok spent the night at one of the exchange student’s house in Bangkok. Before going home the next day we all went to a cat cafe. It was the cutest place in the world. The cafe had all different types of cats, even the kind with really short legs! For Christmas, My host mom sent Claire and I to her friend’s house in Bangkok, and we got to go to the beach and eat fresh seafood on Christmas Eve. It was some of the best food I’ve had in Thailand so far. On Christmas Day I went to a rooftop dinner in Bangkok with some other exchange students. It was an amazing view of Bangkok. For New Years I am currently in Chiang Mai, the same city Earn is from! Unfortunately I won’t be able to see her on this trip, but I’ll be back in Chiang Mai later this month so hopefully I can see her then! Thank you so much for making all of this possible!

 

February 1

This past month in Thailand has been the best month so far in exchange. I’m finally able to have some complex conversations in Thai, and I can understand most of what is going on around me. At the beginning of this month, I went to the beach with my host family and Claire, a French exchange student. We went to a less touristy place, so it was a really different experience from the last time I went to the beach. Later in the month I had a Thai speech contest with all the other inbounds. The theme was that it had to be on how to make something, so I taught everyone how to make paper snowflakes. I was shocked that I won a place in the top 10! After that I spent the weekend exploring Bangkok with some other exchange students and our host families. On Saturday I spent the day shopping with friends, and then a friend and I stayed in a hostel with my host mom. The next day we all met up with another exchange student and her host family and went on a boat tour around the city. It was one of the highlights of my exchange. One of my friend’s host families even offered to let me stay with them anytime I’m in Bangkok. This past weekend I went on a school trip to Chiang Mai for a couple days. I made a lot of great memories there. One of the things I enjoyed the most was that I got to meet a lot of other foreigners there and hear their stories about why they were in Chiang Mai. I also feel a lot closer with my Thai friends now after getting to travel with them. We spent the first part of the trip collecting bugs that live in the river and figuring out what they were. Then, we got to go tour around Chiang Mai university. It had a really beautiful campus. After that we went on a night safari. Most of the animals were in a closed off area like a zoo, but all the zebras, giraffes, pigs, and antelopes were able to roam around and I could feed them from the side of the bus. At one point a giraffe licked my hand! We spent the next day exploring all the famous temples in Chiang Mai. One of the temples was made completely out of silver that was handcrafted by the monks. All the students even got to make our own key chains out of silver and have a really cool conversation with one of the monks. In the evening we went to a big walking street where we were free to go wherever we wanted. We met up with some exchange students in Chiang Mai and they showed us around and told us all about what it’s like being an exchange student in the north of Thailand. I really hope I can see them again during my exchange. The next day we went to another famous temple in Chiang Mai. There were a lot of French tourists there, so Claire was able to translate a lot of what the tour guides were saying so we could understand the significance of different symbols in Buddhism. Next, we went to another walking street before going to the train station. To get back, I got to go on the overnight train. It was a really cool experience.  Everybody got to sleep in a bunkbed and all of the train staff were really kind and woke up individual people up when it was time for them to get off. I was really sad when the trip came to an end, but I’m really excited to be closer with all my Thai friends and I can’t wait to spend more time with them. Thank you for making all of this possible!

 

March 1 

February has flown by. There have been a lot of big changes this month. I just switched host families, and school recently finished for the semester. There haven’t been a lot of classes for the past month, so I’ve spent most of the school days studying or hanging out with friends. Sometimes when I don’t have a class, some friends from school and I will take a tuktuk to the town supermarket and do karaoke there. I’ve spent most of my weekends traveling in Bangkok with either friends or my host sisters. We always visit a cute cafe and try to find a different mall or market every time we’re there (there are a lot!) I also got to visit a night market with my friend and her host family. I spent one weekend in Lopburi again with a couple other exchange students. We watched movies and toured the old city where all of the monkeys live. One of them tried to steal my friends bag but luckily it didn’t get it. One of my best memories from this month was when I got to see one of my favorite Korean actors. A lot of students at my school, as well as one of my really close Thai friends is obsessed with Korean dramas, and found out that this actor (Lee Jong Suk) was coming to Thailand. Since this actor rarely comes to Thailand, it was a really big deal and a lot of people at school were planning to go see him at the airport. My friend asked if I wanted to come with her, so with my host mom’s permission we got on a van to Bangkok and went to go see him. I told a few other exchange students who liked him so we all planned to meet up and see him together. When we finally made it to the airport, we were running out of time before his flight arrived and we didn’t know what gate he was at. All of the airport security knew he was coming and helped us find the right gate. However, it turned out the gate was at the VIP airport, which we had to run to from outside. While we were running we ran into some other fans and stayed with them. When we finally arrived, there were over a hundred fans all waiting to see Lee Jong Suk. It was amazing how big the crowd was. I had a lot of fun waiting in the crowd, and made a lot of new friends. The Thai friend who came with me kept messing with everybody by yelling out the actor’s name. Every time she yelled everybody would take out their phones and start screaming only to be disappointed. When we finally got to see the actor he waved hello and talked to the crowd for a bit before leaving. It was an amazing moment, but it was really the adventure of it all that made the experience so much fun. One thing that really shocked me was how much security was there. There were Korean and Thai security guards to keep the crowd under control, but there were a lot of soldiers there as well. Once the actor had left, the soldiers made everybody leave really quickly. We later learned from some of the cleaning staff at the airport that the soldiers were really there because the king of Thailand was in the airport that day, and we had no idea! It’s crazy to think that we were that close to the king. I’m really glad that I went to the airport that day. I became a lot closer with my Thai friend, met a lot of new people, got to see one of my favorite actors, and I now have a story that I will never forget. I seem to never run out of crazy adventures in Thailand, and I am so grateful for all of them. Thank you so much for sponsoring me.

 

April 1

March has been amazing. At the beginning of the month my host sister got married, and I had the opportunity to be a bridesmaid at her wedding. Soon after her wedding I celebrated my birthday with my host family and a couple other exchange students. Later on in the month I attended a meditation camp with a group of exchange students. We stayed in a temple in the mountains and lived like monks. It was a really life changing experience. Before the camp I didn’t know a lot about Buddhism, but now that I do I have a much better understanding of Thai culture. After the meditation camp, I attended a peace education program in Bangkok. I got to spend an entire week taking classes and living in Bangkok with the other exchange students. Most of our time was spent taking class, but in our free time we did things like ice skating, laser tag, and escape rooms. One of my favorite things that we did was the escape room. We were all locked in a room with a theme where we needed to solve clues to escape. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try and I finally had the chance. We also went around to different restaurants searching for the best Thai food. To end the month, I went on my first Rotary trip. The trip was in the south of Thailand, and on the first day we traveled to Krabi. In Krabi we spent the day on a boat, stopping every few minutes to go snorkeling. The next day we went farther south to Phuket, where we spent the rest of our trip. When we first arrived in Phuket we spent the morning sitting in natural hot springs. In the afternoon we hiked to a place called the emerald pool, which is a really beautiful, clear green lake to swim in. The next few days spent in Phuket were filled with swimming, performances, and beautiful viewpoint stops. In the evenings we were free to explore the city and go shopping. On the last day of the trip we went to a floating village to play games with children from a Muslim school. As punishment for losing a game we had to let the winners rub baby powder all over our faces. During the trip, as well as the entire month, I’ve made some of the best memories of my exchange. Thank you so much for making all of this possible.

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