Sophomore experiences life across globe

Connor Julian returns from his three year stay in Thailand and tells about his encounters with a different culture


Sophomore Connor Julian talks about his experiences living across the globe in Thailand. (Photo by Hunter Bessey)

Why did you and your family move to Thailand?

Because of my mom’s work. She got a business opportunity to go and work there for a couple years and it ended up being three. It was what she wanted it to be. It could’ve been two, it could’ve been two and a half, but she decided to make it three. We moved there halfway through 7th grade so that would be 2010. I just got back at the end of June.

How did your parents tell you that you were moving to Thailand?

My mom came home one day and she sat the whole family down and said that she was able to have this opportunity and if we wanted to, we could move to Thailand for a certain amount of time. It took about a month to set in stone, but in the end we decided it would be fun and a good educational experience.

What did you expect it to be like there?

Well, I didn’t really know much about it at all. Until she told us, I never even knew it was a place. It was a big [opportunity], one that we wouldn’t get every day. Some of [the other opportunities that we had] were in other states and it was very rare for it to be to [Thailand], for us, at least.

Why did you choose Thailand over the others?

There was not a big selection. There were two of them and the other one; I can’t remember what it was. It was something pretty crazy. I think it was Africa. In the end, we just decided Thailand.

What was the transition like? 

When we arrived it probably took me about a year to fully go with everything, figure out how stuff worked with the school and environment and how to get around … little things like that.

When did it hit you that you were living in Thailand?

When the plane landed. On the plane it just kind of felt like a vacation or something that’s not real, but when we hit the ground and started unloading big bins and stuff we finally realized, at least for me, that we were there.

What kind of everyday routines did you have to get used to that were different from the ones you were used to living out here in America?

I started riding my bike everywhere because we lived in a small, gated community and there was a school and a mall and little shops. We would ride our bikes everywhere.

What was the farthest you ever had to walk or ride your bike to get somewhere?

We went to a mall and it’s called Central and we were chilling there and the group splits up and I go with one half and they were doing something boring so I go back to the other group and I can’t find them and then I go back to the other group and I can’t find them, either. Well, they left. So I’m a good distance [away from home]. It took me like 2 hours to walk all the way back.

What about the legal system there?

Let’s say it’s open. It depends on your choices. You can do quite a bit.

What was the most difficult part of moving across the world?

It had to be that I grew up and had the same friends for about 12 years and just leaving that all behind so suddenly, so close to graduating from middle school. That had to be the hardest part. Adapting to losing friends and making new ones.

What were some of the ways that the school system in Thailand differed from the American one? What was the school like there?

Because of its location, it was just about as big as a full-on campus. There were multiple buildings and a gym building, multiple fields, tennis courts, the whole school experience and surroundings all in one enclosed, gated area. Teaching wise, there’s not a whole lot of difference except for things like history and stuff like that. Like, instead of learning about things from America you learn about things from everywhere.

Who were some of the most interesting people you met there?

My best friend was Israeli, so that was cool and I had friends from all over the world. I had one from China, the Philippines, Indonesia … It would be a sentence to say all of them.

How did you keep in touch with people back home when you were there?

We mainly used Skype and we never even knew there was something like that, so that was pretty cool, and we just emailed and all that. Just all the international capable things.

What was the hardest thing to leave behind when you moved to Thailand?

You know, it was probably just knowing the little things, like no one would ever think that, but just being able to communicate with someone you’re trying to order from or read things on labels or pick out foods that you would know.

Could you tell me a situation when the language barrier made things difficult for you?

Me and my friends were out doing random stuff and we were trying to find a skate park and as much as we tried to ask, and my friends knew a little Thai and I knew a little Thai, but as much as we tried we could never break the barrier of any idea of what we were talking about. The people we talked to had no clue what we were trying to say. Eventually we found it, but we anticipated to skate all day and we ended up skating for an hour. It took all day to find this place.

Did your friends speak English?

Yeah. Most of my friends were trilingual. They spoke  [their native language], then they spoke English because it was an international [school], so that was the main thing, and then they spoke the language they were learning in the international school.

How did you get past the language barriers?

I learned a couple words. Some people might not think that a couple words could get you by, but if you learn just the basics like hello and thank you, people kind of know that you’re trying and they’ll try a little more to understand you, so that always helps. Once I lived there for a year and a half, we could figure things out.

What was the food like?

The food was amazing. I feel so bad for people who like American Thai food because it’s just been altered in the little ways that make it American, but it was just amazing. I loved all the food. You could go on the street and for less than a dollar you could get a full meal on the street, like a soup or meat on a stick or goose. They did everything. They even had all those weird things that you would expect, like chicken feet and grasshoppers and they had snakeskin and a bunch of other stuff like that. And people liked it. I tried the chicken feet and it was nasty. I mean, it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s chicken feet.

What was the weather like?

It was always hot. The lowest I ever experienced in Thailand was high 80’s. Not necessarily high, but 85 was probably the lowest it ever got. On an everyday basis it was 90 and above. [The last time I saw snow was] about four years ago because it didn’t snow the winter we left. [When I got back to Kansas,] I was in 65 degree weather and I mean, I was dead cold. My skin was blue, I was shivering, and I had goose bumps.

What kind of hobbies and activities do they do over there that aren’t popular in America?

Imagine volleyball with your feet, your shoulders, your elbows, and your head, and you can’t use your hands. The ball’s made of bamboo. That’s a sport that they played. It hurts.

How was the music, television, and general entertainment different?

They had AXN, HBO, and those were the only two from America. They had Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon but they were all in Thai and, let’s see, I watched one episode, the very first time we were there on one of the American channels they rearranged to be Thai and it was just horrible. So basically I didn’t watch a lot of TV. Movies were the things I watched there.

What celebrities were popular there?

Beyoncé is huge. She’s on the thing called the BTS, which is like a subway in the sky on highways, so that’s cool. It was all over that – Beyoncé, Pepsi, all of that. American celebrities, that was probably the only one, but Thai celebrities were everywhere.

Did you listen to the Thai music?

Some of the traditional stuff because, I mean, you can’t really understand anything if it’s not. Mostly traditional though. Nothing modern that they listen to.

Did you ever hear any American music?

No, I was completely behind on all the music. I don’t know any of the music you guys talk about. I had no clue who Macklemore was until I came back and I didn’t know the dubstep thing.

How did people from Thailand view Americans?

Literally, when everyone talked about it, it was exactly the stereotype that you guys would think. It was almost funny to listen to what they thought it was. One of my friends was making a joke and he was talking about how there was a fat American on a lawn, eating a hamburger, shooting something. It was absolutely hilarious. It’s so true, too! We were all laughing so hard and it was hilarious.

Could you ever hear about what was going on over in America?

I am completely behind on everything. Pretty much everything having to do with media.

So did you even hear about the big things, like the Boston bombing?

Well we were in Singapore and they were broadcasting it, so we did hear about that.

What was one of the most interesting things about Thailand?

I could go all around Bangkok and spend less than $20. And I mean like every nook and cranny of Bangkok. I could take the BTS and I could take the MRT, which is the subway, and I could go anywhere for so little amount. It’s amazing. And then you go to buy technology and it’s double the price at least because of all the shipping and all this other stuff.

Would you had liked to have lived there longer or were you ready to come home?

I wanted to live there, at least finish high school, and/or live there for a little while, but just because we didn’t have that option, I came back. I loved it. I had friends and we went all over Bangkok and Bangkok is huge and crazy, so that was always fun.

What was moving back to America like?

It made me appreciate all the little things, like I was telling you before. When I came back in the airport, I was starving, so I went up to a Taco Bell and I asked for something I wanted and he was just like, “OK.” It took me a second to take it in because no one had ever said, “OK,” just easy like that. It would’ve been, “What was that?” or, “Point to the picture,” or something like that, but it was the first time that someone understood me like that and that’s what everyone thinks is the funniest thing, but it’s all the little things.

How would you describe the overall experience of living in another country?

In simple, it was amazing. The people, the cultures, how things work, how they do things differently, food, technology, prices, I mean, my mental vision is so much bigger than it was. I see things from different perspectives now just because I’ve experienced this multitude of different ideas. That’s probably the coolest thing about it.


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