Each month, Office of International Students and Scholars introduces one international student/scholar by highlighting their cultural background, personal experience in both home country and U.S. It is our hope that this mini introduction will help Lehigh community to have a better understanding of the international students and scholars on campus. We encourage every student to participate in this activity. If you would like to be featured, send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) Hi Fon, so tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What are you studying here at Lehigh? When will you be done with your studies?
Hi Sean, I am Fon or my full name is Benjamaporn Wonganu. I came from Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. I am a PhD student in Bioengineering here and I plan to graduate in 2015.
2) So far, what do you think about Lehigh? Do you like the campus? The faculty? The people? Your housing?
Lehigh is the one of academic and beautiful universities in northeastern USA. I like the environment of Lehigh. It‘s green and peaceful, especially, my favorite part is in the mountaintop campus. Faculty, staff and students at Lehigh are nice. They are willing to give your help anytime you need. I live in an apartment close to campus. It takes about 5 minutes to walk to my lab or I could also take a bus. It is quite convenient and cheap.
3) What is your daily life like at Lehigh?
Most of the time in my life is dedicated to my experiments now. I work in the lab on the weekdays and work in the Lehigh library and UC on the weekends. However, not to make my life too boring, I always take time off to go shopping in NY or camping in the park during a vacation.
4) So in this short new journey of discovering America in terms of the culture, language, ideals, and traditions, what have you discovered or learned about the American culture?
I learned more about American life and thinking. It’s quite different from my country. People here have small family and do anything independently whereas in our country we live with a big family including grandmother and grandfather live together in the same area. The eating style is the one that made me to have to adjust myself a lot because my labmates are all American and we have a lab lunch every Thursday. When I went out to have a dinner with my friend in Thailand, we ordered and shared with each other. It made me able to try different dishes in the same time. Here, however, we have to order separately. It is embarrassing to ask people to share although my labmates are nice and willing to do that.
5) What is the most obvious difference between American culture and the culture in your home country?
The behavior in driving here is the most obvious difference. All drivers respect the other drivers and the laws. Here, they always stop at the stop sign and drive politely. However, it might be because it's a small town here in Bethlehem. I came from the capital of Thailand. My city is quite chaotic, crowded and has a lot of traffic so it made me feel different but good. Giving tip in the restaurant is another thing that is totally different. My country does not require to give 15-18% tip. It is depended on the customers. It has both pro- and con- sides. It helps to stimulate restaurants to give us a good service but some restaurants serve badly but we have to pay that % tip.
6) Describe what daily life is like for you in your home country.
When I lived in Thailand, I worked as a lecturer in King Mongkut’s University. I need to leave my house in early morning to avoid bad traffic and will allowme to arrive at my work place in time. I visited my aunt‘s house every weekend to have dinner together.
7) What are your hobbies? Interests?
Watching movies, Playing tennis or badminton are my hobbies. However, trying to play Ukulele is one of my new hobbies right now.
8) What kinds of adventures have you been on here in the US?
Snowboarding is my first adventure when I came here the first time. I've never seen snow in my country so my first experience with snow was here. It was so exciting! Camping and hiking are other adventures that I can do a lot when I am here because it is not popular in Thailand. However, I think when I am back to Thailand, I need to figure out time and places to go camping and hiking there. Unfortunately, I won’t have an opportunity to play snowboarding when I live in Thailand.
9) What kinds of adventures have you been on in your home country?
Rafting is my adventure when I lived in Thailand. In my country, we have many mountains and waterfalls that you can visit to do many activities such as camping, hiking, sightseeing exotic animal life and tribe villages living traditional lifestyle or going whitewater rafting.
10) What do you miss most about your home country?
I miss Thai food a lot!! I need an authentic taste of thai food and I never get it here. All thai restaurants here make thai foods too sweet. First thing I want to do when I get back is to eat!
11) Would you like to share one tradition that is unique and important in your country with us?
I would like to share with you about the Thai traditional greeting that is with two hands prayer-like palms together. It is known as a wai. This represents a polite and respected thai style culture. If you visit my country and the locals give a wai to you, you should give a wai back to show a kind response.
12) If someone was going to visit your home country, what would you tell them to do there and where would you tell them to visit?
Thailand is a Buddhist country and has the king and the royal family as held in very high respect. Therefore, there are many beautiful temples and palaces around Thailand that I would like suggest visiting. However, those places are highly respected by Thais so the suitable costume and etiquette are required when visiting these places; you should wear “polite dress”, no flip-flop, no shorts, no skirt above the knee for ladies and no sleeveless t-shirts.