STEP Homestay, Thailand
Rayong Province, Thailand, 5 – 12 November 2012: Fourteen Dunman High School Year 2 and Year 3 students packed their bags to embark on a seven-day fun-filled Overseas Immersion Programme. The Singapore Thailand Enhanced Partnership (STEP) was first started in 1999 and aims to promote international understanding, collaboration and bonding between Thailand and Singapore students through cross-cultural learning and live-in experiences. For this programme, Dunmanians are privileged to be guests to Rayongwittayakom School, one of the largest and most famous secondary schools in Thailand.
Looking back, all of us were anticipating how this whole Homestay experience would be. We had mixed feelings about it and did not know what to expect. Some of us were very excited while others were curious about how spending time with a foreign family could possibly enrich our lives. Fast forward to seven days later – everyone enjoyed themselves immensely and looks forward to playing host to our Thai counterparts in January 2013.
Upon arrival at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, we were pleasantly surprised by the warmth and enthusiasm that greeted us – from the Thai teachers and students alike. The Welcome Ceremony that was held the next day was also an extremely novel affair. There was much fanfare and excitement from the entire school as the Dunman High School (DHS) delegation was led towards the grand podium. After the official welcome speech from the School Director, Mr Wiroj Bamrung, the exchange of gifts, and the badge pinning ceremony, DHS students were led to join in the formal lessons of our buddies. We spent the rest of the day learning and experiencing lessons in Rayongwittayakom School. It was a definite eye-opener!
The rest of the trip was spent alongside our Thailand buddies and teachers. We were introduced to the rich Thai culture and learnt to communicate using simple Thai phrases as well as learnt to write our own names in Thai characters. Our experiential journey extended to visits to various landmarks in the Rayong and nearby provinces such as the Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, a crocodile farm and zoo in Samut Prakan town, Khao Kheow Forest and Wildlife Park where we learnt about educational ecotourism activities, and Pattaya Floating Market, the biggest man made floating market in the world. DHS students and our respective Thai buddies also had the opportunity to showcase our culinary skills during cooking lessons. Here, we fancied ourselves great chefs as we were tasked to prepare the famous Pad Thai, Thai Green Curry and fish pancakes. Lunch on that day was definitely worth the effort.
The highlight of this trip was the farewell party. Students of both schools were expected to prepare a performance for this evening. All of us stepped out of our comfort zone. We had to learn a classic Thai dance in mere hours, donned costumes and had our face made up. The Thai dance teachers went out of their way to make this experience all the more meaningful for us. The costumes were beautiful, the accessories were exquisite and they were especially patient when some of us squirmed when getting our makeup applied. The farewell party was a success. It was a night to remember.
It is apt to state that this immersion trip has allowed all of us the opportunity to gain experience in ways where we, otherwise would not have had. Our greatest takeaway was the homestay component as it not only allowed us to understand Thai culture from a totally new perspective, it also increased our awareness of a lifestyle and culture that is different from Singapore. We also developed strong bonds and grew close to our buddies and their families. So, when the time arrived for us to say goodbye, it was truly emotional. This trip was definitely enriching and all of us look forward to receive our Thai buddies when they visit Dunman High School in January 2013.
Teachers-in-charge for STEP 2012:
Ms Lee Siew Choo (Team Leader)
Mr Wong Yexiang
Mdm Siti Arfah
12Y3H Melvin Wong Weijie
12Y3L Hoong Yan