Kwan Sirisakunngam ’18 Speaks on Postgraduate Experence

Although the most prominent transitions for Kwan Sirisakunngam ’18 when beginning her postgraduate year at Choate were with the school system, one surprise Sirisakunngam experienced at Choate was a cultural difference. It occurred early in the year, when Sirisakunngam sneezed during a class. She was shocked and confused when the entire class turned to face her and simultaneously mumbled “bless you,” before returning back to work. She explained that in Thailand, nothing is customarily said following a sneeze, and that it has taken adjustment and observation for her to understand when to say “bless you” to someone else.

Sirisakunngam is the only female PG currently at Choate. Last year, Sirisakunngam was awarded the King’s Scholarship, a program that chooses nine students from Thailand to study abroad. To be awarded this prestigious scholarship, Sirisakunngam first took five two-hour subject tests, ranging from math and sciences to Thai language and English. Two months after placing in the top ten students (of more than one thousand), Sirisakunngam was interviewed and, soon after, selected.

The next step for Sirisakunngam was choosing a high school. Choate’s extracurricular options first drew her to the school. “In Thailand, we don’t really have activities like this,” she said recently, “You can only attend one club per year,” a stark contrast to the diversity of club choices at Choate.

In addition to Choate’s variety of clubs, the difference in athletic systems influenced Sirisakunngam’s decision to matriculate. At Sirisakunngam’s previous school in Thailand, each grade is assigned one sport to play per term, lessening the opportunity for individuality among students. At Choate, Sirisakunngam chose to play senior soccer during the fall, and recently decided to try archery for the winter term.

Sirisakunngam also noticed a change within the classrooms. Sirisakunngam had studied with the same 34 students for three years in a row, the students remaining in one room for the day while teachers traveled there to meet them. The classes were mainly taught through lecture, while the tests were often solely multiple choice. Experiencing a transition fostered Sirisakunngam’s appreciation for Choate’s discussion-based classes and skills-based assessments.

Although Sirisakunngam’s PG year has presented many different challenges, she has discovered similarities between her school in Thailand and Choate to make her feel more at home. Just as the town center of Wallingford is an integral part of Choate to many students, Sirisakunngam explained that after classes, she would often walk to the shopping center in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, to eat with other students. The international students at Choate have also created a comforting environment for Sirisakunngam to adjust, especially those who can talk to her in Thai.

Moving to a new country without the same native language, and entering a new high school as the only female postgraduate would be a difficult challenge for most. Sirisakunngam handles all of this with both grace and a sense of humor, expressing her love of Choate by saying, “I wish I could stay [at Choate] for four years. I want to be a freshman here!”

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