Life Lessons Learned at Pitzer and Beyond: Thanawuth ("Champ") Kittiwan

Pitzer College

My name is Thanawuth Kittiwan ("Champ") and I am an English major at Payap University. I just returned from spending one academic year studying abroad at Pitzer College in Claremont, California and it was definitely worth it. I gained so much experience during the time I was there, both academically and personally. My English especially has improved so much. In America, you have to speak English no matter how bad your English is - you can't be shy about it. Before I went to study there, my English was just okay. My biggest challenge was vocabulary; although I was good at grammar, I did not know what many words meant. When I arrived, I sometimes did not understand what people were saying to me. However, after I had been there for a while, I started learning to communicate with Americans. I was forced to speak English all the time out of necessity, which greatly sped up my imprzovement. After a lot of study and a lot of practice, I was able to just talk to people like everyone else. So now I can speak English fluently and understand everything they say.

Another aspect of my experience in America was the life lessons I learned. Before I went there, I was somewhat of a procastinator. Whenever I had work to do, I would usually just wait until the last minute before I started. However, at American colleges, I learned that you cannot be lazy or too relaxed. In America, work means work and play means play. If you do not work hard, you will not be successful and nobody can help you. So when I was there, I had to force myself to be more responsible so that I could survive in the States. This lesson has stayed with me even though I am back in Thailand. I have been a lot more responsible than I was before, and I believe this will help me succeed in whatever I want to do in the future. I have matured much as I had to deal with many challenges during my study abroad in the United States.

Also, I am more open-minded because I have met a lot of new people and seen many kinds of cultures. Before I went there, Myanmar and Laos were the only countries I ever visited, so my thought was that Thailand was the best country for me. When I talked about my world, I meant only Thailand. However, after living in America, my thoughts have changed. At first, I suffered culture shock. I was constantly wondering what people were doing; I was surprised by different behaviors and customs. I quickly realized I had to open my heart and learn how to accept new things. I realized that people all over the world have different cultures, so in order to be able to live with them, you have to accept and be tolerant. I learned that my culture is not always the best; no one's is. Thinking critically about my own culture and others' has made me a more mature adult.

In addition, since the US is a vast country, I made a point of traveling to many places. I traveled to more than 10 states and I have seen all the famous American attractions. For example, I have been to Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Disneyland in Los Angeles - all only an hour drive from Pitzer College. During the winter break, I went to Times Square in New York City to celebrate New Year's Day. I also went to Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Kansas City, Wisconsin, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. But more important than all of the places I visited were the people I traveled with and met along the way. The friendships that developed while I was in America are the most important part of my experience. In the past year I have made more than 200 friends from Pitzer College and from traveling all over the US. At Pitzer, the campus is not so big, so everyone gets to know each other very easily and well. The community is very close-knit; if you know somebody, they probably know your other Pitzer friends as well. Pitzer students love international students, which made it easy for me to get to know people. Now wherever I go in the States, I have friends who will keep me company. Plus, I met exchange students from all over the world: Europe, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Mexico, Canada, many countries from Africa, and more. I wish I could study abroad again!

Originally posted at Payap University's website on July 2, 2010