The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


Global Visitors Program welcome Thai students

Every semester, a number of Gannon University students have the opportunity to study abroad in locations like Spain, Great Britain and Jordan.

This spring, the roles have been reversed by the Global Visitors Program, which has allowed two groups of Thai students to spend time seeing what it’s like to study abroad in the United States.

Kathleen Kingston, an associate professor in the education department, has had the opportunity to interact with schools in Thailand last spring, spending much of her time in Hua Hin, a city just over two hours south of the capital, Bankok.

Ubolmas Praditkul, who goes by her Americanized nickname, Thelma, said that she met Kingston at the Catholic Thai high school where her brother-in-law teaches. Their meeting became the spark that would give life to the Global Visitors Program.

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Praditkul has helped coordinate the three-week long trips for both groups of visiting Thai students. The first group was composed of students ages 11-17, and the second group features students who are currently studying at Kasetsart University in Bankok.

“They are learning how to study in the U.S., because some may be looking to stay here after finishing their undergraduate,” Praditkul said.

The students have gotten the chance to sit in on various Gannon classes, including Michael DeSanctis’s intro to visual arts.

According to Praditkul, the students have not had any difficulties with the language, as they already have strong backgrounds from taking trips to other various English-speaking countries like New Zealand and Singapore.

Thelma added that since she and Kingston hope to continue the program in years to come, she would like the Thai students to be able to make the trip earlier in the semester in order to establish

trip earlier in the semester in order to establish friendships and connections sooner.

Many of the friendships the visiting students have made have been forged outside of the purely academic setting through various other activities. One of these activities was learning the game of baseball.

Philomena Rad, an instructor in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program, said that the first group of younger students had attended a softball game without having any knowledge of the game that is not at all a part of Thai culture.

“They had absolutely no understanding of the game at all,” Rad said, “But they wanted to learn.”

Rad said she proceeded to contact Nate Cocolin, the baseball coach, who, along with three of his players, agreed to help the students learn the rules of the game.

Lou Downey, a biology/pre-med major and junior on the baseball team, said that he was humbled to have been asked by Cocolin to help teach the students.

In order to make the lesson easier, Cocolin and his players decided to first teach the group how to play kickball – it has essentially the same rules, but is a little simpler to play when first starting.

“Maybe the more rewarding part was being able to teach my favorite game to kids who had never experienced it before,” he said. “Playing the game is something only a few blessed people get to make a career out of, but coaching or teaching is something you can carry with you at any age.”

Downey said that he was surprised at how well the students spoke English, but that some of the baseball-specific jargon was difficult for them to understand at first. He said that when he told one of the students to tag the base, he proceeded to bend down and hit it with his hand rather than his foot.

Along with Downey, Jeff Bellanca and Ryan Bodamer also gave their time to interact with and educate the students.

“It was a blast,” Rad said. “Kudos and thanks belong to the baseball coach and his giving players.”

The extra time given by Cocolin, Downey, Bellanca and Bodamer allowed the students to attend a SeaWolves game with a much better understanding of the game.

Praditkul said they all really enjoyed the experience, and that they said they wanted to share the game with others after returning to Thailand. This underscores one of the most important things Praditkul said she hopes the students will take away from the experience, and that is the exchange of cultures.

Chris Vilevac, associate director of the International Student Office, has also played an integral role in helping the students make the most of their trip.

He said that in addition to the sightseeing they will do around Erie, the students will also take trips to see Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Niagara Falls.

Vilevac noted that Americans typically do not know a lot about Thailand or Thai culture. Lately, though, he said that the food has begun to slowly help bridge this gap.

“In popular American culture, for whatever reason, Thai food is really in style right now,” he said.

The second and final group of students will be in the U.S. until May 17.

Praditkul said that the students have felt very welcomed during their time at Gannon.

“It’s been great,” she said. “When people here smile at us when we walk by, it means a lot.”

Downey added that his opportunity to interact with the students was eye-opening.

“I always hear Gannon students saying, ‘all the Chinese kids hang out together,’ or ‘all the Saudi kids talk to are themselves.’ But the reality of it is we don’t always make that extra effort to make these international students feel welcome,” he said.

“Opportunities such as this allow me to reach out to international students and make a few friends in the meantime. To them, I’m a symbol of Gannon baseball, but to me they are a symbol that the world is moving in the right direction.”



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