Jirapat Thanaratsuttikun is enjoying living in a small town
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Jirapat Thanaratsuttikun, 16, is a sophomore at Little Falls Community High School. His American name is Kenny and he traveled approximately 8,200 miles from Bangkok, Thailand, to attend school in the United States as an exchange student.
“I came because my brother, Tong, was an exchange student in West Virginia, and he really liked it. I also have friends from Bangkok who were exchange students in the United States and I wanted to try it out,” said Kenny.
Kenny is staying with Roger and Mary Blake in Little Falls.
Kenny’s parents, Tum and Kung, are distributors for Herbal Life, and have traveled with their children to the United States several times. Kenny says he really likes California, where his parents usually have their business meetings.
Kenny traveled to New York City with a group of exchange students during Christmas break and said he would love to return and see more of that city.
Thailand is a country in southeast Asia, bordering Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. It is approximately 198,000 square miles in size, about halfway between the size of Texas and California. There are 64 million people living in Thailand.
Once called Siam, its name was changed to Thailand in 1939, by Prime Minister Pibunsongkhram.
Thailand’s capital is Bangkok, located on the Gulf of Thailand, and is called the “city of angels.” It has about 12 million people, making it the most populated city in Thailand. In comparison, Minnesota has less than half that number.
Major exports of the country include rice, textiles, footwear, fishery products, rubber and jewelry.
When the Blakes picked Kenny up at the airport and brought him to Little Falls, they said Kenny wanted to know where all the people were.
“I like Little Falls because it’s easier to get around town than it is in Bangkok,” he said. “There, public transportation is necessary. It’s faster than by private car because of all the vehicles on the road.”
While Kenny did not choose Minnesota as his host state, he said he preferred to come to the northern climates. He said it’s too hot in the southern part of the United States.
“At home, it gets to be 100-120 degrees and in the summer, and it never gets below 70 degrees in the winter,” he said. “Right now, it’s 81 in Bangkok.”
Kenny said the rainy season comes around in the fall months, and otherwise it is very hot and dry where he lives.
In Thailand, Kenny attends the Bangkok Christian College, founded in 1852 by Presbyterian missionaries.
“It’s for boys only and is the largest school in the country, teaching students from grades one to 12,” he said. “It’s just like Little Falls. We start at 7:30 a.m. and end the day at 3 p.m. But, there are no electives available for the students.”
Kenny said classes are taught in English mostly, but some in his native Thai language. His courses include English, the history of Thailand, math, science, social studies and geography.
“I have found that some of the textbooks I have here are the same as the ones I have in Bangkok,” he said.
After school in Thailand, Kenny takes guitar lessons, plays video games and hangs with his friends. Here in Little Falls, he enjoys bike riding when there isn’t any snow. He said it is too dangerous in Bangkok to ride a bicycle, because of all the traffic.
In his free time, Kenny goes to the St. Francis Health Center to swim and work out.
Food has been a challenge for Kenny. He has not warmed up to the American style of cooking and he does a lot of his own cooking in the Blakes’ kitchen. He prefers spicier rice dishes, and when the Blakes take him out to eat at the local Asian restaurants, he said he still cannot find food spicy enough for his tastes.
During lunch at school, he usually heads for the pizza line.
During the fall quarter at school, Kenny was involved with the Little Falls soccer team, and plans to try out for track and field this spring.
While Minnesota does not have a typical winter to show Kenny, he said it is his first time experiencing snow and really enjoyed it, but only during the first snowfall. He said does not like the cold.
The Blakes took Kenny fishing when he first arrived in August, and on a trip to Duluth to watch the ships come into port.
Kenny’s future plans include a degree in business management through a college or university in Thailand. He would love to operate his own business someday. He’s just not sure what type.