Swadee krup. My name is Nadanai Laohakunakorn. I am 14 years old, and I study at Winchester College in England. I wrote this ‘small’ article to let readers know a bit about my life (well, more than a bit), and to find out about a Thai boy studying in England.

I grew up in Bangkok, and I went to ‘anubarn’ school there. When I was seven, my father (an MD from Chula) decided to specialise in pediatric cardiology. He wanted to study in America, so it was there that we went.

My adventure in America was probably the biggest one I’ve had to date. It wasn’t really an adventure, but it seemed like one to me, as I boarded a plane and changed my entire life. America was an entirely different world to Thailand. Full of surprises for me, I quickly got used to it. My dad did his training in two parts: a preliminary 2-year course at the Jersey City Medical Center in New Jersey, and then the actual 4-year pediatric cardiology course at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. I attended the first and second grades in the small town of Livingston, NJ. In my first year, I hardly knew any English, and so I attended a school with a good ESL (EFL) reputation. Then, in the second grade, I moved to a different school, one with a superior academic record.

In the third grade, I was supposed to go to a school in Charleston. We had an exciting move down South, and made the entire journey by car (by that time, I was already used to long-distance car journeys—we had already made two trips, one to Virginia, and the second one to Florida, which was further from NJ than Charleston). But my dad found some problems in getting a house, and so I came back to attend Ruamrudee International School in Bangkok.

I had visited Bangkok once, in my summer break, and this second visit home reminded me of where ‘home’ really was (I tended to forget Thailand when I was in America). Really, I shouldn’t have, because I had lived in Bangkok for seven whole years before. I re-learnt reading and writing (not speaking, though—I always spoke Thai with my parents).
My dad finally finished renting a new home, and so we all moved back to Charleston. I spent the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades at a private school in Charleston. I had always gone to public schools before, in NJ, and one would have expected a large difference, but the quality of education in South Carolina was lower, and so the SC private school was about the same as the NJ public schools. I was really happy there.
My dad finally finished his training, and we moved back to Bangkok two summers ago, and I was transferred to a boarding school in England. English people are very different from Americans; they see the Americans as inferior (partly because of their accent). I found this quite shocking, really. I went to Brambletye, a prep school in West Sussex.
The English system is a bit different from the Thai one; here is a brief explanation: Pathom 1 is equal to English Year 2, and Anubarn 3 is Year 1. Years 1 and 2 are known as Pre-Prep. Years 3-8 (P. 2 to M. 1) are known as Prep. These years are spent at a Junior, or Prep, school. Then, it really gets confusing. Years 9-13, or Forms 3, 4, 5, 6a, 6b, (M. 2-6) are Senior school years. These years are spent at a Senior school (surprisingly). Forms 3-5 work on the GCSE (General Certificate for Secondary Education) syllabus (formerly O-Level) (also done in English Thai International Schools), and the two sixth forms work on the A-Level syllabus.
So, after a hasty introduction, I was faced with a difficult choice: which senior school do I want to go to? I was in Year 8, and had one year to prepare before the entrance exams. I looked at two schools, King’s Canterbury, and Winchester College (http://www.winchestercollege.org). My dad wanted me to go to Winchester, and I thought that it wasn’t bad, and so I applied. But, there was a small problem. I wasn’t allowed to register, and I would have had to be put on a waiting list. My headmaster encouraged me to take music and academic scholarships, and I thought that that wasn’t a bad idea.

I play the piano and violin (I had to take an exam before I took the scholarship, and I took Grade 7 on both instruments). The preparation was pretty frightening, but the scholarship went alright. I was delighted when the Winchester Master of Music informed me that I had received a scholarship, cutting my fees by 50%.

The academic scholarship would gain me a place in the Scholar’s house at Winchester (there are 10 Boarding Houses, and 1 Scholar’s house). There were 60 candidates, and 18 scholarships and 3 exhibitions were given (scholarships = reduction of 50%, exhibition = 33%). Scholars would stay in College (House), and Exhibitioners would stay in a normal boarding house. I took the exams (3 days), and passed well enough to become a scholar.

And so, this year, I have come back to Winchester for the second time. I have spent one successful and fun year there, and I am ready for more. I will try to give you an idea of what it’s like to be a scholar.

I wake up around 8am, and get dressed. There are no strict guidelines for dress, although they must be reasonably formal (any colour shirt, tie, black shoes, etc.). The only piece of uniform I have is the gown. It is reserved specially for scholars—completely black (although some reflect a little blue), long, and waterproof; not unlike the ones that Harry Potter wears, but they have some differences.

Breakfast is anywhere from 8am to 9am, and it’s quite informal. The first event of the day is Morning Chapel for the first two years, from 8:45 to 8:55. Then, I am off to two lessons, 40 minutes each, starting at 9, with a five-minute break in between. That puts me at 10:25, time for Morning Break. I go back to College, and sit in my own private workspace. We don’t have our own rooms in College; there are two types of very big rooms, known as Upstairs and Downstairs Chambers. The Upstairs Chambers are the dormitories, and the Downstairs ones are like common rooms. I have a resonable-sized workspace; there are about 14 or so to a Chamber. Other than workspaces, a Chamber has a small kitchen, lockers (for bigger, more valuable possessions), and a living-room type atmosphere consisting of a fireplace, couches, sofas, and a table.

There are three more morning lessons. There are some compulsory lessons, such as Math(s), English, History, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Latin, and French. And, there some that we could choose, such as Greek/Spanish/German/Geography, Music/Art/Design Technology/Information Technology, and, in the first year, PE.
Lunch is at 1:10, and then comes the afternoon. The afternoon is the most varied part of the day. First of all, there are two types of days, half ones, and full ones. In a half day, the entire afternoon is free. In a full day, during the winter terms, we have two hours of free time, and then three lessons. In the summer, we have three lessons, then two hours of free time (this is due to the fact that in England, in the winter, it gets dark very quickly, and so sports should be done early on. In the summer, the sun sets very late, and so there are ample opportunities for sports.).

Tea (or dinner) is at around 6pm, and continues until 6:30. Then, we have a period of prep, from 7-7:45, 15-minute break, then 8-8:45. It is a chance to do all the day’s homework, and study other work. The first two years work in a classroom in College, under supervision. The last three years work in their workplaces. After all of this, we have Evening Chapel for fifteen minutes, and then, we are free until our bedtimes.

I normally ‘hang around’ in a Downstairs Chamber when I’m not doing anything. There are usually many people there, and most of the other boys are very nice (by the way, Winchester is not co-ed). I have no trouble in getting along, and bullying is not a big problem.

Really, I don’t have much chance to hang around, because I have many other commitments. Much of my free time is taken up by music. I have music lessons, three orchestra practices for three different orchestras per week, and a choir practice (we sing in chapel on Sundays). Apart from music, I also like to play some sports, including football (in the winter), and tennis (in the summer). So, all the free time slots are spent doing all of this, and the unavoidable music practice.

I normally go home once a term, at the very end. So, I am in Bangkok for about a month, in December, April, and for two months in the summer, July and August. I really enjoy this lifestyle. I am getting to know both sides of the world much better than before—I am having fun re-learning Thai, and continuing my studies in England.

I still think of Thailand. I haven’t forgotten it completely; after all, I am Thai, and I will probably come back to work here. I would like to help the country. I feel that there is much to be done, that can be done, to improve the country.

Please feel free to email me; my address Is just below.

Nadanai, (Ae), September 28, 2002
School email: n_laohakunakorn@wincoll.ac.uk