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The exchange Thai teacher Kuapan Nakbubpa (C) and the Thai students at the Beijing Foreign Studies University

The exchange Thai teacher Kuapan Nakbubpa (C) and the Thai students at the Beijing Foreign Studies University

In recent years, China and Thailand have launched several programs to promote bilateral educational and cultural cooperation. Each year, hundreds of teachers and students travel between Thailand and China to teach and study.

Kuapan Nakbubpa is an assistant professor of the Thai department at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

She first came to China in 1992 at the age of 47. The big change that came with moving from all that she knew in Thailand to China, where she knew virtually no one, weighed heavily on her mind back then.

“I think too much (before leaving) because I don’t know much about China. I know nothing about Chinese language. But fortunately, before I came here, there are a few Chinese teachers came to my university and we knew each other well. So that is the reason why I came here and I have friends here.”

Without knowing much of the city, she arrived in Beijing.

However, the cool, arid weather of northeastern China was in stark contrast to the humid warmth of Thailand.

Likewise, the language barrier made living in Beijing particularly difficult, especially back in the 90s.

But before long, Kuapan adapted, getting a bit of help from local friends and even a few strangers.

“The first time I came here, I don’t know how to buy food to cook; my students often came to help me. Such as sometime, I caught a taxi. I said to the taxi driver that I am a foreign expert, I am a teacher. He told me don’t worry, I will take you to your building.”

As Kuapan adjusted to the change in her surroundings, Beijing started to feel more like a second home.
This allowed her to focus more on teaching.

There are many exchange programs in Chinese universities and school, which are part of a cooperation agreement between Thailand’s Education Ministry and the Chinese government.

Her particular exchange program, between Beijing Foreign Studies University and Rajapat Chiang Mai University in Thailand, started 20 years ago.

Currently, Kuapan teaches  courses on the Thai language and culture.

However, she gradually feels that two-hours teaching time every week is not enough to provide students with a thorough understanding of her native language.

Kuapan, therefore, goes the extra step to ensure that her Chinese pupils learn Thai.

“Teach them how to correct the right consonant, vowel, but I cannot in two hours. So I ask them to come to my room at night so everyone will come here every time a week. I can improve each one of the group the same, because I cannot teach them well within two hours a week.”

Her devotion to teaching not only helps her students in their lessons, but Kuapan also sees it as a way to promote the benefits of the teacher exchange programs.

Last year, Chinese educational institutes sent 10,000 Chinese language instructors to the kingdom as part of a Sino-Thai education and cultural exchange plan.

In the exchange, about 500 to 1,000 Thai language professionals came to China and teach.

With the expansion of the exchange programs, more and more Thai students are choosing China as a destination for overseas study.

Pawonwan Boondicharoen is a graduate student studying Thai-Chinese translation at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. She came to Beijing in 2012.

“Before I came here, I knew that China had a long history and beautiful natural landscapes. I saw a program on the discovery channel about Chinese culture and history–I thought it would be really interesting, so I came.”

Like Pawonwan, her classmate Hathairath Udomlarptham also had a big interest in China and chose Chinese as her undergraduate major back in Thailand.

And after arriving in Beijing, she found Chinese people are even more kind than she thought.

“There is one time I got lost, and I asked for direction from an aunty. She said, ‘Oh, come here, I will lead you the way.’ She just not took me to the direction, she led me there, and then she also asked me do you want to have dinner together? I say, ‘What? You are so friendly.’”

While there are many differences between Thailand and China, these exchange teachers and students can find similarities among the two societies as they spend more and more time abroad.

About Beijing Foreign Studies University

BFSU is the first institution specializing in foreign language studies. It has the longest history among universities of its kind in China, offering a complete range of degrees, diplomas and programs at various levels, with the largest number of foreign language programs in the country. It has about 1,400 international students. Students mostly come to this school to study Chinese language, others study English-taught business programs.

Chinese language programs in BFSU

English-taught business programs in BFSU