If there was a prize for the student who traveled the farthest to graduate as a Maine-Endwell Spartan, Toey Weerasrinara would win.
Toey actually traveled 8,217 miles from her hometown of Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Spartan Country to spend her senior year at Maine-Endwell High School as part of the Endwell Rotary Student Exchange program. Toey’s father wanted her to have the experience of traveling abroad, as her older sister did before her. For Toey, the experience is a chance to exert her independence and prove that she can be successful on her own.
Toey arrived in the district this summer and has spent the year living with host families and soaking in the American high school experience. In addition to attending her full schedule of classes, Toey became an active member of Art Club, International Club, and the track team. She showed her talents in the school’s two art shows, and was a member of the stage crew for the spring play. She also attended prom. Toey gives back to her host community through Rotary by volunteering at the group’s events.
Spartan Country has embraced Toey. Her rotary family has helped her to overcome any barriers she’s encountered throughout her exchange. Her host families, especially the teens in the households, have helped her adapt to teenage life in the U.S, as well as overcome her feeling of homesickness. She’s made a lot of friends along the way.
“I’m so lucky, not only being here, but the people I’ve met,” said Toey. “Everyone is a big support.”
When it comes to naming the best thing about her time at Maine-Endwell, Toey can’t pinpoint just one thing. She loved her teachers and her classes, especially art and psychology. In her school at home, students stay with one teacher and in one classroom all day. So she enjoyed changing classes and meeting new classmates. Her full immersion has also helped to improve her English speaking skills.
Toey plans to attend a college or university when she returns to Thailand this summer and study English.
When it comes to advice for students who may be thinking of participating in an exchange program, Toey offers a message she received from her older sister before beginning her new adventure. “Embrace the new culture and don’t make judgments based on your own culture.” She would say, “You are here because you want to learn.”
She has a simple message to her Spartan community. and everyone who came into her life as part of this wonderful experience, “Thank you!”