This June, we're sharing stories of discovery and realisations from people who can be considered in-betweeners as travellers. For staying at a foreign land longer than the usual tour but not long enough and permanent to consider themselves immigrants, here are accounts of people who have come to love and explore an unfamiliar place Like A Local.
Clozette features writer Therese shares how it was like to stay in Thailand for an exchange program while she was in college and what she learned from the experience.
They say that your college years should be memorable and exciting. But at 19, I remember only attending classes, taking tests, presenting reports — basically trying my best to get those grades. While my college experience was nothing short of fun, there were times when I felt that it was not enough. So maybe it was the yearning for some zest in my college life that made me apply to an annual ASEAN Business and Cultural Exchange Program in Thailand in 2015.
Thankfully, I heard back from the board of directors and learned that I was accepted for the one-month exchange program. The length of my stay is relatively short compared to the standard one semester exchange programs since it was more like an annual seminar than a student exchange program. Basically, the goal is to have a gathering of business students across all ASEAN nations to discuss trends and other issues.
Arrival At The Airport
Upon arrival, I was greeted by the Thai students who volunteered to welcome and assist us. It was fascinating to meet students like me from nearby Southeast Asian countries. It was apparent that we share similar physical traits so it was hard to distinguish just by looking around which country each student came from. But once we introduced ourselves, our differences quickly surfaced.
We were very similar in appearance but our names tell a different story. This was the first challenge — to pronounce their names correctly. The Vietnamese had one syllable names with nasal consonants while the Indonesians, Cambodians and Thai had long names that were confusing. Needless to say, aside from the Malaysians and Singaporeans, who had Westernised names like me, I had trouble pronouncing names. And they had trouble pronouncing mine, too.
The compromise was to give each other nicknames, which were inspired by things they like. Among the names were 'Choco', 'Power', 'North', and 'Glam'. As for me, they called me by my last name, which is 'Lim'.