Sixteen-year-old “Mint” Pitchakorn Chitpiboonsuk calls Nonthaburi, Thailand, home.
But during the 2016-17 school year, she’s living in Conception Jct. and attending high school at Jefferson.
Nonthaburi has a population of 539,504 but is part of the city of Bangkok which has a population of 6.355 million.
street vendors, tok-tok and temples
“It’s a very big city that is hot year-round,” Mint said. “It has street vendors that sell food all day and night. People can use a type of three-wheeled taxi called tok-tok or public transportation called a sky train. There are many Buddhist temples as well as other faiths such as Catholic and Hinduism.”
Things are obviously pretty different in rural Missouri, Mint said, like the small size of the school and driving at the age of 16 instead of 18 in Thailand. She also said other differences include how sports are important and taxes are expensive.
But she has also seen how things can be similar; nice people who help each other.
Mint said she chose to be an exchange student “to have new experiences, improve my English and make new friends.”
corn mazes, cross country and concession stands
A few of her new experiences include going through a corn maze, participating on the Platte Valley cross country team and the Jefferson basketball and cheerleading teams, working in a concession stand and celebrating her 16th birthday in New York City.
She has enjoyed living with her host mom, Jane Walter, taking art classes, making new friends and doing new things. And she’s been able to continue to do some of the things she loves doing in Thailand here in the US — cooking, shopping, watching movies, eating and talking with friends.
There are things she misses, however, and she’s faced a few challenges.
“Doing everything by myself that I have not done before, living far away from my family and the King of Thailand dying,” she said. “(I miss) seeing my parents every day, my friends and studying, eating and going home together with them.”
fried rice, Thai words and hotter weather
Walter, a retired elementary teacher and principal who substitute teaches at Jefferson and gives piano lessons, is being a host parent for the second time in the past few years.
“A couple of other Jefferson families hosted international students in the past and had good experiences,” Walter said. “Since I have never had any children of my own, I wanted the experience of being a mom.
“After having a good experience with the first international student I hosted, I wanted to do it one more time.”
Walter said just being with Mint has been fun.
“We enjoy cooking together, watching movies, shopping and just talking and laughing about anything,” she said. “Mint showed me how to cook fried rice. She has also shown me some words in Thai, but I’m having a hard time pronouncing them. She told me the weather in Thailand is either hot or hotter, much different from Missouri weather.
“We are having such a wonderful time together and I don’t want it to end.”
To learn more about becoming a host family or being an exchange student, visit ciee.org.