Story posted May 22, 2008
They are Thailand's best and brightest — the Royal Thai Scholars.
Every year the Thai government administers nation-wide, highly competitive exams to students who have a minimum 3.5 GPA to determine who will earn a scholarship to study abroad.
Kraichak delivered the 2007 Sarah and James Bowdoin Day address, "Bowdoin as a Second Language," in which he shared his challenges as an English as a Second Language student.
"I came to Bowdoin not knowing what 'freshmen fifteen' or 'screwed up' really meant," said Kraichak. Right off the bat came an assignment to describe his 'educational utopia.' "The disaster was looming in front of me....What did 'utopia' really mean?"
Kraichak likened his struggle with the English language to the enriching challenges faced by his fellow students in learning to be part of a new community. "By allowing ourselves to be in an unfamiliar situation, to be unsettled by the whole new experience, we will be able to gain a better understanding of things — or, using a flowery and vague term, to gain 'wisdom.'
"Bowdoin is a place that allows us to feel uncertain, unsettled and, then, ready to reconstruct ourselves," said Kraichak. "Let us use our Bowdoin experience to make sure that once we get out of this bubble, we are ready to be unsettled again."
Read the full text of Kraichak's address here.
Based upon the results of the exam and an interview for the highest-ranking candidates, the scholars are selected, and placed in boarding schools for one year, as they learn English and apply to college.
Of the approximately fifty students who have come to study in the U.S., five are currently at Bowdoin.
They are graduating senior Ekaphan "Bier" Kraichak, sophomore Chaiyaboot "Tee" Ariyachet, and first-years Kanokwan "Paggard" Champasa, Pawat "Champ" Seritrakul and Teerawat "Tee" Wiwatpanit.
Another has been admitted to the Class of 2012.
After graduation Kraichak, a biology major and education studies minor, will be working at the New Thai Scholar Orientation Program in New Hampshire this summer before heading to the University of California, Berkeley, to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology.
The other four Thai Scholars plan to stay at Bowdoin this summer, working on campus in labs and at the library.
The Royal Thai Scholars is a government-supported program to educate students so that they may bring back innovative ideas and expertise to help in the technological and economic development of their country.
Scholarships may assign specific subjects for their scholars; others may give a wide range of choices.
Bowdoin's strong biology department has attracted many Thai Scholars in the past few years.
Four of the current Royal Thai Scholars are are biology majors; one is studying biochemistry.
Royal Thai Scholars repay Thailand with two years of work for every one year of support they receive while abroad, which can mean making a 25 to 30 year commitment to their country.
Bowdoin is a place that allows us to feel uncertain, unsettled and, then, ready to reconstruct ourselves
— Ekaphan "Bier" Kraichak