By Jamie Corliss, F-1 High School Programs Administrative Assistant

Two years ago, Pleng applied to study abroad in the US on a J-1 visa. Just two days before she was supposed to leave, she still hadn’t been placed with a host family and her future felt uncertain. But, at the last moment she found out about her placement with a wonderful couple in Vancouver, WA where she has spent the last two years and where she will return this fall. The last minute surprise of her host family placement was an important lesson for Pleng who explained,

“I would say, don’t expect anything. Just let everything happen. If it’s going to happen it’s going to happen.”

This open attitude has led Pleng through some of her best years and helped her gain the confidence to try many new things. When she first arrived in the US, Pleng tried out for the basketball team at her school, and though she was brand new to the sport, she made the team and formed strong friendships with her teammates. These great friendships gave Pleng a reason to come back to Vancouver for another year. After her year of public school on the J-1 visa, Pleng transferred to King’s Way Christian on an F-1 visa, but staying with the same host family helped her stay in close proximity to  friends and teammates. At King’s Way last year, Pleng took another risk by trying out for the volleyball team, also a new sport for her, and she was rewarded by making lots of new friends through her time on the team. She’s looking forward to playing with her teams again when she returns to King’s Way this fall.

While in the US, Pleng enjoys exploring the many outdoor wonders in the Vancouver region. Her friends and host family often go hiking together, which has become one of her favorite activities. Back in Thailand, her family lives in a city and her and her friends mainly hang out at the mall. Pleng has really come to enjoy the variety of outdoor activities she can do while she’s in the US and feels it’s better to be outside experiencing nature and playing sports than shopping at the mall.

Along with sports and hiking, Pleng spends lots of time with her host family, which she feels is a great fit for her personality. Many other exchange students share their home with other kids, but Pleng’s living situation is somewhat unique. The family doesn’t have any kids, so Pleng often spends a lot of time talking and hanging out with her host parents and they have even taken Pleng to visit their extended family in Arizona. Pleng is happy to return to this host family because she says, “I like old people in general and I can talk to them, like, all day!” Pleng’s connection to her elders may come from the strong sense of respect she has learned through Thai culture. When she first attended public school, Pleng was alarmed by the casual attitude many of her peers had for their teachers and elders. While she enjoys that American culture allows her to voice her opinion more often, Pleng wishes she could bring back some of the Thai culture of respect for adults and elders.

Friends, sports, and an accepting host family are some of the main reasons Pleng has decided to return for her third year abroad, but it is also her love and dedication to the English language. She says,

“I love English in general. That’s why I decided to go back.”

Pleng will graduate this year from King’s Way and she intends to continue pursuing her love of English by studying English in college either in England or in a new part of the US.

If you loved your J-1 study abroad experience, why not return on an F-1 visa? Apply for the CCI Greenheart F-1 program and choose your school and location!