Henry, Outbound to Thailand

Last year I was an Rotary youth exchange student in Bangkok, Thailand. When I first came to Thailand I was apprehensive about many things. "How could I learn such a foreign language?" "How do I make friends with these people?" But immediately I felt the warmth of these people towards me. They had never met me before in their lives but they welcomed me into their homes. My first family was a very busy household which was certainly something I was not used to. I had a host brother, mom, dad, aunt, grandmother, and 2 little sisters all in the same house. They were very helpful with learning Thai even if some of them believed it would be impossible for me (It most certainly wasn't). These would be the people I would spend the next 3 months of my exchange. My first day of school was a great day. I walked into the classroom and they were quick to embrace me They were curious about me and I was a notable person from day 1. In school I took many of the same classes I would have taken in the United States had I not gone to Thailand but as a whole they seemed quite a bit easier than the material here in America. I also took the opportunity to take Chinese and supplementary Thai lessons at my school. After I was getting comfortable in my school and in Thailand in general It came time to switch to my 2nd host family. I had a lot of contact with them before I switched because during my time with my 1st family she would take the exchange students all around Thailand on trips. Even while I was with my 1st family I felt like I had 2 host mothers. In my 2nd host family I was an only child. My host dad was a high ranking police officer so his constant absence means I spend most days at the house alone with my host mom and our dog. Our house was in the traditional Thai style. It had only 3 rooms on the top floor and the bottom floor was completely open to the elements. It was made of beautiful teak wood and was next to rice fields and a swamp. Every morning I would go outside and there would be many many large water birds and animals in the fields. My 2nd host was the one I was closest to and still am contact almost daily with. She was an amazing host and would sit down with me and help me learn Thai whenever I wanted to. She was the owner of a successful nursery in the City and I would make frequent trips to help teach English to the kids there. Since I began to stay with her my Thai rapidly improved to the point where I could describe myself as fluent to some extent. My school year ended in February of this year. I spent that summer doing fundraisers, Rotary events, and traveling around the country meeting people. Near the end of my break I entered into a Buddhist monastery as a novice monk for 25 days in May. That was one of the most impact-full things I've ever done. My Thai improved greatly being in a Thai monastery and I made many new connections to the monks themselves. I may be back in America now but I know that I will always have a second home in Thailand

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