I still remember a conversation I had with my high school friends one day, when I told them that I wanted to study in the U.S.: “I don’t think I’d ever go there,” said one of my friends.
“It seems too liberal and dangerous.”I also remember another moment, when I was at a store with my mother, and she had told the shopkeeper that I attended an international school:
“Learning English is a good skill, but I don’t think I want my kids in that kind of school,” he said. “I don’t want them to be Westernized.”
Although I attended an American international school, few of my friends actually went abroad for college. Most stayed in Thailand, a handful went to colleges either in England or Australia, and I was the only one to go to the U.S.
The prevailing attitude was that while, sure, the U.S. offered a good education, it was just a bit too far, too expensive, and too different.
When one of my friends expressed interest in going to an American college, her parents dissuaded her, saying that they wanted her closer by.
To me, getting away was the exactly the point; staying in Thailand was the last thing on my mind.
I had graduated from high school, seen all my close friends leave, and was overcome by the feeling that I was done with it all – that there was absolutely nothing left for me in Thailand, and there was nowhere to go but away.
It wasn’t that I disliked Thailand although I have been accused of this in the past: in eighth grade I delivered a passionate, though severely misguided speech about how I disliked my native language; it was just that I never quite fit in. I had heard so many times, from so many people and often with disapproval: “You’re so Westernized, you’re pretty much American anyway.”