Exchange student from Thailand finds home in Rockland
By Victoria Pratt
Leaving home is hard for many people. Imagine leaving everything behind such as your family, school, friends, and culture.
Meet Saharath Phaetrangsee, foreign exchange student from Chanthaburi, Thailand, who left home to travel across the ocean to experience living in the United States. He is staying with freshman, John Glennon and has been at RHS since September.
Most students at RHS know him by his nickname, Copter. The nickname was given to him by his father who, he explained, told him, “Copter flies in the sky like a big bird. It is the vehicle that can be in the highest position compared to a car, motorcycle, ship – they are just on the earth surface but helicopter can escape the gravity of the earth. It’s independent.”
Upon arrival to Rockland High School, he says he was nervous, as most any teen would be, about coming to a new place; he thought he would be made fun of. But that has certainly not been the case. A few friends have taken him under their wings in his study with Mrs. Fleming, including juniors Ethan Rooney, Kenneth DeWolfe, and Andrew Scheim.
There is a twelve hour time difference between Massachusetts and Thailand so he uses Skype to video chat with his family at night when it is morning in Thailand. Also, Mrs. Fleming has occasionally allowed him to contact his family via Skype during his fourth period study.
His host family, the Glennons have welcomed Copter into their family. Before he began staying with the Glennons he was moved to two other places. He was initially in Rockland, then in Whitman. John Glennon met Copter when he was first staying in Rockland, struck up a conversation with him, and found that Copter would like to remain in Rockland for his stay.
On bringing Copter into their home, Mr. Pat Glennon says, “At first, we thought it was going to be too tight as we have a family of six already pushing the house to its limits sometimes. After some additional thoughtful consideration we decided to see if we could make it work. We contacted Cultural Homestay International (CHI) and started the process of opening our home to Copter.”
Copter has become a part of the Glennon family. He has cooked a Thai dinner for the family and has shared his photography with them. Mr. Glennon says, “Copter is a member of our family with all the good and bad that goes with it. He is expected to pitch in his fair share on family chores and he joins us on family outings. He’s made it really easy to consider him family, our newest (yet oldest) son.”
Becoming accustomed to family life in America, Copter has also experienced the many sights that are quite popular in America. Since he has come to America his best trip was to New York City with CHI . In New York he saw Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and got to see Chicago, the Broadway show. Copter also is an excellent photographer and has shared his photos with the Veritas.
Along with seeing the sights in the United States, Copter has also discovered the food and culture here to be a little bit different. His favorite American dish is Mac and Cheese which can only be found at restaurants in Thailand. Copter’s says his favorite movie is Twilight. He has read the Twilight novels and says he finds the vampires that Stephenie Meyer created fascinating.
The culture of Thailand differs from ours in America. For one, the religious majority is much different. Copter is a Buddhist and believes in the idea of karma. To explain this belief, he gave this example: if a person does something wrong they cannot be forgiven; they must do more good than bad. He compared it to a glass of water and salt; the more salt (the bad) you put in the water (the good), the less good or pure the water becomes.
Mr. Glennon says that Copter and the Glennon family have discussed their religions and Copter has been taking part in the Christian religion. He has also “joined as a guest with John’s Confirmation class.”
In Thailand the people are quite proud of the king named, Bhumibal Adulyadej. He is the oldest king in the world and was born here in Massachusetts. His birthday, December 5th, was a holiday in Thailand.
Thailand’s schools are entirely different than Rockland High School. Thailand is focused much more on studies than on extracurricular activities; there are no organized teams, clubs, or other activities in Thailand. Students take extra classes after school. Students there do not get home until 9. Students in Thailand also all wear uniforms which Copter enjoys about his school, he says, “When you go out, people know where you are a student and it makes you proud of your school.”
Copter has joined the math team this year. He did not join any sports for he would have to start from the ground up and learn the entire game on a high school team. Although not on a sports team, Copter has experienced basketball from watching the game being played. John Glennon plays basketball so Copter has gotten to watch some of the games and has said that the games are much easier to follow than football.
Thus far in his time in the United States, Copter has caught on to the language very quickly. Coming a long way from home can be hard, but Copter has found what seems to be a great experience here, thanks to both the Glennon family and his RHS family.