Indiana State University Newsroom

Thai students, teachers visit Indiana State, Wabash Valley as part of cultural exchange

April 18, 2011

When Thaksana Mektrairat visited local high schools, she learned that she needed to visit different teachers' classrooms.

In her school, the teachers typically visit the students.

Mektrairat was among a group of 13 high school students and administrators from Thailand who visited Indiana as part of a cultural exchange program. The group spent two weeks in the Wabash Valley, with visits to local places that included several Vigo County high schools and Indiana State University, before spending two weeks in Indianapolis. Members of the group were visiting to learn more about American culture and the educational system in the United States.

"Our visit here is very nice," said Phuwitch Ngiwline, the leader of the cultural exchange group, "and the people in Terre Haute are very friendly and very nice."

The cultural exchange visit is part of an ongoing partnership between ISU and schools in Thailand, said Jay Gatrell, interim director of international programs and services at ISU. Members of the group were part of Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University in Thailand. Last fall, Indiana State president Dan Bradley visited the country in southeastern Asia as part of the ongoing partnership, Gatrell said.

"It allows us to deepen our relationship with our Thai partners," Gatrell said of the exchange program visit. "This is something that they value, and we value our relationship immensely as well."

During the group's stay, members visited Terre Haute South Vigo, Terre Haute North Vigo, and Terre Haute West Vigo high schools. They also visited ISU and went bowling and shopped at Honey Creek Mall.

Members of the visiting group also spent time learning about American culture, as well as teaching Americans about Thailand, by spending time with families that hosted them during their visit.

"So in that way, it's reciprocal," said Zachariah Mathew, ISU associate director of international programs and services. "Both of them are getting an opportunity to learn about each other."

The Thai teachers also had the opportunity to learn about teaching methodologies in the U.S., and how they could be incorporated into their teaching practices in Thailand, Mathew said.

Mektrairat enjoyed spending time with members of her host family, which included watching a movie with them. She also learned about grammar and punctuation during her visit to the U.S.

"It's helped me to improve my English," she said.

People meeting the group have talked with the students, and many international students and Americans have spoken with them, Ngiwline said.

The cultural exchange program could not have been successful without the cooperation of the Vigo County School Corp., as well as the host families who volunteered to house group members during their visit, Gatrell said.

"From that perspective, it really is one of many initiatives over the last several years that have deepened our relationship with the community, as well as the Vigo County School Corp.," Gatrell said.

If they had the opportunity, the group would like to visit again, Ngiwline said, though he added that the group would like to visit during the winter.

"The Thai people, they want to see the snow," Ngiwline added as he laughed, "because there's no snow in Thailand."

Photo: (ISU/Holley Hiett-Myers)
The cultural exchange group from Thailand. The group visited Indiana, including spending two weeks in the Wabash Valley, to learn more about American culture and the nation's educational system. They visited several Vigo County high schools, along with Indiana State University, during their stay.

Photo: (ISU/Holley Hiett-Myers)
Thai students Mahattana Chantasut, Thitisan Twinprawate, Praworn Krapong and Nichawe Viboolpong at Indiana State University during one of their final days in the Wabash Valley. They were part of a group of 13 people from Thailand visiting Indiana to learn more about American culture and the nation's educational system.

Contact: Zachariah Mathew, associate director, International Programs and Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-2440 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or