Stephanie Bird

Thailand

Hometown:Jacksonville, Florida
School: Douglas Anderson School of the Arts
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club:Riverside Jacksonville, Florida
Host District: District 3350
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Siquare

 

My Bio


Hi! My name is Stephanie Bird. I am 17 years old and currently a senior at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. I am a piano major, and I have been playing piano since I was 5 years old. I enjoy taking music classes at school such as electronic music and music history. After my exchange I plan to go to Florida State University to study music therapy. One of my favorite things to do is travel. When I was two years old I lived in Thailand with my family for one year. I'm excited to go back again, but I'm feeling somewhat apprehensive about being on my own. Over the summer I went to France and Belgium for two weeks with a group from school. It was the best trip I've ever been on, and I loved being able to immerse myself in a different culture, even though it was a very short trip. I was inspired to apply for this program by my older sister Sarah, who went on an exchange to India a couple of years ago. It was a great experience for her, and I hope I can learn as much from my journey as she did from hers. Thank you so much Rotary for this great opportunity!

My host family!

My host family!

Bangkok

Bangkok

Ukulele Class

Ukulele Class

Mango smoothies with my French friend

Mango smoothies with my French friend

Giant pile of clothes, just 50 Baht per kilo xp

Giant pile of clothes, just 50 Baht per kilo xp

Wat Kiriwong, a temple in my city (Nakhonsawan)

Wat Kiriwong, a temple in my city (Nakhonsawan)

1999-2015

1999-2015

Cutest hokey pokey group

Cutest hokey pokey group

entry-188-thai5

entry-188-thai5

Wai ~ Showing respect to the children

Wai ~ Showing respect to the children

RYE 3350

RYE 3350

Journals: Stephanie - Thailand

  • Stephanie, outbound to Thiland

    From March 26-April 1, my district in Thailand had a bus trip to the south of Thailand. During this trip, I saw the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. If anyone is ever traveling to Thailand, I highly recommend going to the beaches in the south (which is what most people go for anyways, right?) and taking a boat tour to see some of the islands. This trip was very special to me because when I was a baby, my parents were missionaries in Thailand for one year and we visited the south. I have photos from 15 years ago in the same places that I just visited.

    I was actually really surprised because the trip was very well organized. Day by day we had a schedule that showed us everything we would do that day, and the times when we had free time or when we had to be somewhere. During the trip, we went snorkeling, boating, swimming, a little bit of rock climbing, shopping and watched some Thai shows. The best show was called “Phuket Fantasea.” It was really incredible because in the show, they had live animals such as chickens, sheep, a tiger and even elephants. We ate a lot of sea food and a few international buffets, which were really delicious but kind of my worst enemy because it’s so easy to eat a lot and not even realize it.

    The most breathtaking part of the trip for me was not all of the beautiful places, but the beautiful people we met along the way. One day on the trip, we went to an island and did community service at a school there. The tour guide told us that most of the children that go to the school never leave that island. They usually just become fishermen or open a shop on the island. The kids were all really sweet and so happy that we were there. My friend and I did the Hokey Pokey with our group, and I think we had more fun than the kids did. They couldn’t speak English so they were really confused about what we were trying to teach them but they really liked all the jumping around. I was really sad to leave them because I bonded with them and I wanted to take them with me! Also our tour guide was really amazing; shout out to Brittney for calling us the Rotary Bioches for the whole trip and making us laugh when we were tired and grouchy.

    The trip was sanook makh (very fun) overall. Even with all the sunburns and cuts and bruises (from the rocks under the water) I feel really fortunate to have had that opportunity to see “Unseen Thailand” with Rotary and all my YE friends.


  • Stephanie, outbound to Thailand

    I cannot believe I have lived in Thailand for seven months. I still remember the feeling of when I first arrived and saw my host family in the airport, when everything was completely new to me. The feeling of being somewhere new, completely alone, is insane. Sometimes, it’s so uncomfortable to the point where you just want to get on a plane and go home. But the great thing about exchange is that you can’t.

    You are in your country for one year, with barely any contact to your family and friends back home. That’s not a bad thing though, and honestly, the less you talk to your friends and family back home, the easier it is to make new friends and learn the new language. It’s amazing to make the friendships that you make on exchange because you never know how long you will be able to see the people you meet. Some days I meet entire crowds of people and take literally hundreds of photos, and I know I will most likely never s ee those people again. I also lived with an exchange student from Indonesia for one week, and she was one of the best friends I made here, even though our time together was really short. Exchange really makes you appreciate every friendship and acquaintance that you make.

    The thing about being an exchange student in Thailand, or any part of Asia really, is that you will never really feel like you are “Thai.” That is really hard for me. I know that no one will ever mistake me for a Thai person, I have blonde hair and blue eyes, not to mention my skin is pastier than white rice. I have a really good host family, and most days I really feel like I am really my host mom’s daughter. She always tells people that I am; she says “The foreigner really is my daughter, it is my fault because I have two husbands.” (hahaha I love her) There are quite a few people here that think I really am Thai even though I don’t look Asian at all.

    There a lot more days where everyone just stares at me like I am an alien and calls me “farong” (foreigner). Sometimes, even my teachers at school are scared to talk to me because they think I can’t speak Thai. As soon as I try to speak to them in Thai they relax a lot and get really excited because they know they can talk with me (which is really adorable until they start speaking rapid Thai and I don’t understand anything).

    My most memorable time in Thailand was in November, when I went to live in a temple for one week. My councilor organized a trip for me and a few other exchange students to go study Buddhism and meditation in a temple in the north of Thailand. The temple itself was absolutely amazing, it was in the mountains and we could see some little villages from the top. During that week, we walked barefoot for a few miles every morning at 5 am with our teacher, and only ate two meals a day; one in the morning and one at noon. We spent the day meditating, doing yoga, and learning about Buddhism from 24 year old monk who used to live in Australia. This experience taught me to really appreciate every moment and to not worry too much about anything, especially about the things that I cannot control.

    I am really enjoying my time in Thailand more than I could have ever imagined. Thailand was not my first choice, but now I cannot picture doing my exchange anywhere else. Thai people are always extremely kind and helpful, and my family always helps me with everything that I need. My RYE friends always have my back and support me through everything. Thai food is indescribably amazing. I am even starting to enjoy the 100° weather every day. The only bad thing is that in a little less than 4 months, I have to leave this amazing country. I just want to say thank you to Rotary for making this possible. :D


  • Stephanie, outbound to Thailand

    Almost two weeks in Thailand! 

    It's only been two weeks since my exchange adventures began. So much has happened already! I've seen so many new styles and people and experienced culture shock beyond my expectations. I first set foot in Thailand on August 11th. My host family is so sweet. They made a poster for me with my picture and my name on it. My exhaustion from traveling for 26 hours disappeared when I saw them! I hugged my host mom, and then we took a bunch of pictures together. The whole family was there to greet me. There is another exchange student living with my family from France, and she arrived the same day as I did. It was a 3 hour drive from the Bangkok airport to my home in Nakhonsawan. It was all a blur when we got home. I remember showering then going to sleep.

    The first morning in a new place is always kind of awkward. I didn't know what to do, so I found my host mom and she took me to get breakfast. I was surprised when we hopped on a Vespa and drove 5 minutes up the street to get some rice and orange juice. My host family gave me a Thai name, Saruta Suesontaranon, and a nickname, Ohm. My first day, we ate Italian food for lunch and Chinese food for dinner. The "Italian" food was noodles, onion rings and pizza. For dinner, the whole family came. Cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents. We ate so much. All of the food was new to me. They encouraged me to try everything. The next morning, one of my host sisters, Earn, left to go to Colorado. It was very very sad. My whole host family cried. I wanted to cry even though I just met her 26 hours prior to her departure. That day we went to a huge outside market, and to the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

    Amelie, the French exchange student, is here for one month on a short term exchange. My family wants to show her everything in her one month here. I am not starting school until she leaves so that we can see Thailand together. So far, we have seen a lookout in Nakhonsawan, a few temples, a crocodile show, two aquariums (one of which had a poster for the Everglades in Florida!), a waterfall, and many animals. My kun dah, grandpa, took us to feed monkeys the other day. We threw about 3 dozen bananas from the safety of our car.

    My favorite part about Thailand so far, besides all of the smiling people, is my host dad’s resort. He owns this hue resort/museum that’s home to thousands of trees and a bunch of animals. My host family and I stayed there one for night. I was confused when we first got there, because we had a long day of watching Muay Thai, and it was late at night. When I woke up and looked outside, I realized I was in a very beautiful place. My host dad collects ancient artifacts from all over the world, such as Chinese porcelain and French silver. He has a bunch of old record players and juke boxes with American 80s music!

    So far, other than being mildly confused at all times, I’m really happy in Thailand. Thank you Rotary for this awesome opportunity!


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