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Thai programme develops resilience

QMC student Zoe Cooper with some Thai friends in front of a temple in Thailand.
Zoe Cooper with friends in Thailand.

A Year 11 student had the opportunity to challenge herself in Thailand after being selected for the seventh Thai New Zealand Language and Cultural Student Exchange Programme.

Zoe Cooper spent a month in Thailand over the summer, going to a local school and immersing herself in Thai culture.

She is the first student from Queen Margaret College to be selected for the programme and was encouraged to apply after hearing about it from Director of International Students Laura Davison.

“I knew immediately after her talk to Year 10 and 11 students that I wanted to go. That day, I went home and filled in the application form,” Zoe says.

“It was incredible to find out that I was one of the 10 students from all over New Zealand to be selected.”

Ahead of the programme, Zoe met with the other students at the Royal Thai Embassy, where they got to know one another, watched videos from their host families and learnt more about Thai customs and culture.

“Only a month later, we were thrown in the deep end in Bangkok. After a day of sightseeing, all host families arrived to meet us before everyone departed to their respective provinces.”

For the next three weeks, Zoe lived with her host family and attended Udomsuka School in Bangkok. She then spent her last week in Thailand exploring the city with the other travellers.

Highlights for Zoe include having the chance to go to Chiang Mai with her host family and cycling around the temples at the Sukhothai World Heritage Site.

She is also grateful for the opportunity to extend herself and be challenged in new situations. “The programme involves
numerous public speaking engagements, performances and dances, with little preparation, so you definitely need to be confident and be able to think on your feet,” Zoe says.

“Performing a Thai dance in front of hundreds of Chinese visitors and students at the school with only two days’ preparation was definitely very challenging, but it increased my confidence and provided much entertainment for my Thai friends.

“For any future students that are lucky enough to be accepted, I hope they whole-heartedly embrace the experience and give everything a go, even if it is challenging or pushes you out of your comfort zone.”