From Bangkok to D.C.: Meet Napat “Pat” Thongsongkrit
Pat Thongsongkrit / Credits: Lexi Padre
“I had no idea where I was going to be placed,” Napat Thongsongkrit said when asked about his exchange program. “I knew I didn’t want to stay in the country but it wasn’t up to me. It was a risk and I had to take it.”
Thongsongkrit is 16 and from Bangkok, Thailand, a city of over 10 million people. He’s attending Walls as a junior, until the end of the 2022-23 school year. While homesick, he is excited to be in D.C. Thongsongkrit says, “I enjoy biking around the city, I couldn’t bike in Thailand, especially in Bangkok.” He likes the weather in D.C., which motivates him to do outdoor activities. However, he finds that “D.C. doesn’t have many things to do.”
When asked about Walls and school back in Thailand he states, “It’s pretty small compared to my school, my school has 4,500 people.” Thongsongskrit also laments on the lack of recreational facilities that Walls has access to. At his school in Bangkok, he had access to “six basketball courts, one soccer field, two tennis courts, and two badminton courts,” he said.
In order to attend school in the U.S. Thongsongskrit had to take tests and interview with the American Field Service, a non-profit youth international exchange organization, to prove he’s able to speak English. He applied after his older sister participated in an exchange program in Germany and liked it. When his sister left, he said, she was shy, but when she returned from Germany she was very talkative. He admires his sister because she’s “more proud of herself and more confident” and hopes to become like her.
Before Thongsongkrit leaves he would like to make friends in all grades. In addition, Thogsongskrit is attending NBA games while he is here as he cannot in Bangkok. He encourages others to become exchange students but notes that cultural differences can be tough.
While Walls only has one exchange student this year, in previous years Walls has had upwards of 15 students in a single year.
If studying abroad during high school sounds interesting, Maribel Jimeno, a Walls Spanish teacher, coordinates with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), a non-profit organization that promotes international exchange and education. She said more information on exchange programs for Walls students will be available near the end of the school year.