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April 18, 2013

Local Voices From Around the Globe: Will I be American or will I be Thai today?


During my first months in Thailand, I can recall the deep longing to be with the other foreigners I saw on the street. Traveling to beach resorts with my host family, places where the populace is almost entirely Caucasian, I felt the strong attraction to the foreigners in contention with my sense of obligation to my mission as an exchange student. Places like these are where an exchange student faces the ultimate test — will I try to be American or Thai? Will I dress like the Americans, speak English and eat bad pizza or will I strive to live as the Thais do? For an exchange student, shifting one’s entire mindset and constitution to best adapt to the location where they’ve chosen to live for a year is exceedingly difficult, but it is the only road to a satisfying exchange experience.

Eight months later I can confidently say that my exchange has been very satisfying. Using the Thai language at all times, adhering to their culture of behavior and conduct as well as eating only Thai food (that’s not too hard to do), I haven’t felt very American at all ... lately. Ironically, however, as soon as I have come to feel very comfortable living here in Thailand, I will be forced to go through the entire process of adaptation once again as I return home in another two months. Until that time, however, I think I’ll be Thai.

Zak Aldridge is a junior at Milford Central School. To read more from him, visit




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