GUYSBOROUGH – For those that know him, Kittitee Vanuptikul, better known by his nickname TM’m, is touted as the poster boy for the Nova Scotia International Student Program in the Strait Regional School Board. The soon-to-be 18 year old is outgoing, polite, talkative, active in extracurricular activities, and can boast many new friends at his new school. Vanuptikul came to Nova Scotia from Nonthaburi, Thailand, near Bangkok two years ago and is now getting ready to graduate from Guysborough Academy and head off to Ontario to follow a passion for cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute. Before the final Grade 12 crush overwhelms him, Vanuptikul sat down with The Journal at home in Guysborough to talk about his experience as an international student in rural Nova Scotia.
“People, everyone knows each other...everyone will say hi to you...even if you don’t know them,” said Vanuptikul when asked what was the most shocking thing he discovered when he initially moved to Nova Scotia.
The move from a city of hundreds of thousands to one of hundreds is undoubtably an adjustment but Vanuptikul did his best to make new friends. He said that making new friends in school was difficult at first as most of the kids in his class had been friends for 10 years or more but he approached his fellow classmates with an open mind and became an integral part of the graduating class. “I have to go to talk to them...If I want to have friends I have to make them. You can’t be shy you have to talk and start the conversation.”
The biggest adjustment for Vanuptikul was the weather. “You cannot do anything outside cause it is too cold...you can build a snow man outside and that’s it...For Thai people, the weather is too cold,” he said of winter, a season that does not exist in tropical Thailand.
Aside from the chilly winters Vanuptikul said life here, in general, is easy. “It is not hard to live here. It is easier than Thailand; it’s safe. Everything is good.”
One of the things that makes life easier is the lack of traffic. Four cars in a row is a traffic jam in Guysborough and that suits Vanuptikul just fine. Back in Thailand, if you got a late start and hit morning traffic a 15 minute trip to school easily became an hour long ordeal.
Vanuptikul also enjoys school life in Guysborough. In Thailand he studied seven subjects a day while here he has only four per semester. He has smaller classes in Guysborough, a smaller school population overall (in Thailand his school population was approximately 4,000) and a shorter school day all of which has made his school experience better.
The one thing Vanuptikul misses about home is food, in particular, street food. Thailand is known for its street food culture. The saying goes that you are never more than five minutes from food in Thailand. Vendors line the streets day and night with a wide variety of different dishes. That’s been an adjustment but he’s been fortunate to be living with a host family, The Favaros, with a strong Italian food culture, which he enjoys. He’s also acquired a taste for the Canadian standard poutine.
He misses his family and friends back home but not as much as one might expect. “It’s not often I miss my family cause I am having fun in Canada,” he said.
Vanuptikul knows that learning English is the biggest benefit he has derived from being in Canada but he also realizes that the experience has taught him to be adaptable to new environments and situations. “At first you are not going to understand everything and they may not understand you too; and that’s hard...If you’re brave enough to talk to people that is going to help a lot.”
The qualities an international student needs are bravery, a sense of adventure, and an outgoing personality. Vanuptikul has demonstrated that he has all of those traits. Guysborough will miss this adopted son and wishes him all the best after graduation.