Reminiscences about English Camp

Reminiscences about English Camp 
As with every year since 2001, the 2011 PSU – BSU English Camp gathered members of Prince of Songkla University and Ball State University to put together the journey of a lifetime for more than 125 Thai students. Seventeen volunteers from the USA donated considerable time and effort to provide a first-class learning experience for the eager Thai campers. After two weeks together, when the day came to say “Farewell” there were no dry eyes. English Camp once again proved to be a true cultural exchange and an inspiration for all involved, as showed by the following letters from a participating student and two camp leaders.



Student’s Letter 
Hello! My name is Sauwanee Rodyu. My nickname is Koy. I’m a lucky student. I attended English Camp 2010 and I met my camp leader, Mrs. Helen (“Mitzie”) O’Neill. Her husband’s name is Mr.  John Johannemann. They are very good teachers.
The first time I met Mitzie, I was worried about talking with her.  Then she told me, “You don’t have to worry about talking to me.” Then, I did try to talk with her and I didn’t worry about speaking English. I took care of her so she would have a good time in Thailand.  I remember that I was sick in class and she took care of me very well.
After English Camp, I contacted Mitzie and John by e-mail and Skype. They taught English to me by Skype. I love Mitzie and John and I know they love me too.
One day Mitzie asked me, “Do you want to come to America to visit us?” I said, “Yes,” but I didn’t have money to go. Mitzie said “I want to sponsor you.” I was very glad. It took about three months to get a visa. I was very excited to go America.
Mitzie sent me a plane ticket. I went to America on May 16, 2011, with my friend. She was John’s student. The third flight, from Minneapolis to Cincinnati, had a problem and was canceled. I waited in Minneapolis about two hours for the next flight to Cincinnati. Mitzie and John waited for me at Cincinnati Airport. I was glad and very happy to meet them. They took care of me very well. They live in Kentucky, and have a beautiful house with a pretty bedroom for me.

Mitzie taught me about American culture—how to eat American food, and how to use the bathroom and other equipment. It’s different from Thailand. On the first day in America, John and Mitzie took me to the Cincinnati Park’s butterfly show and conservatory. That day was very cold. Next day, they took me to Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, and we visited Mitzie’s sister in a nursing home. I never expected Mitzie and John to take me to see many places. They had a plan every day. The next place that we went to was Breaks Interstate Park, in Virginia. Then, we went to Washington, DC for four nights.
We went to many more places, and I was very happy.  It was a good time in my life. I thought American people were friendly and very kind. I’m very lucky to have met good people like John and Mitzie.  Thank you so much John and Mitzie. I have good memories about you and my time in America. Love you.


Camp Leaders’ Letter 
Dear English Camp 2011 Staff,

We want to thank all of the staff that were involved in any aspect of the English Camp 2011 Program for their careful and thorough planning of every aspect of the event, their hospitality that exceeded anything we could have imagined, their courtesy in dealing with the students as well as the leaders, and their desire to make sure everyone was safe while experiencing many aspects of Thai culture.
The logistics of accommodations for the number of participants - leaders as well as students - could not have been easy.  We appreciate all of the effort that went into that huge undertaking.  From the welcome dinner to the farewell party it was obvious that much consideration was given to our comfort and much thought went into the locations we visited.
The field trips with the students truly exposed all of the participants to many aspects of Thai culture which we would not have otherwise had the opportunity to see.  The Salaka Garden Tour, the visit to the Peninsular Botanical Garden, the Plan Toy Factory visit, the boat trip around Phang-Nga Bay (at a time when the students and leaders needed some relaxation to recharge), and the national celebration of Visakha Bucha Day were all excellent choices for showcasing Thailand. At every event the camp staff took care of every detail, including insect repellant at the botanical garden. Equally impressive was the cultural exchange evening which featured performers from Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. What an amazing display of talent! The trips were representative of many aspects of the Thai way of life and traditions.
The university leaders that assisted on the buses were very helpful to all of the camp leaders. The bus leaders did an excellent job of making sure that all of the students were seated on the bus as we left each event.  They kept us on schedule and informed of the next day’s activities.  Their presence made it so much easier for the leaders to enjoy the time on the bus conversing with the students.

The closing ceremony included certificates and gifts for all of the leaders which we will treasure for many years.  The dinner was delicious and the student creativity in designing their acts and costumes was priceless. The students truly captured our hearts and we were amazed at the self confidence the students developed during the camp.  Watching quieter students blossom and take a risk by speaking and writing in English was the best aspect of the entire trip. The most difficult part of the trip was leaving the wonderful students and university leaders of English Camp 2011.

The final destination of Samui Island accompanied by several staff members and university leaders was a wonderful ending. Relaxing before boarding the plane for the long trek home was a most generous gift to all of us. 
Thank you for a wonderful opportunity to absorb Thai culture, to spend time with incredible Thai students, and to work with staff that embraced us like family. We appreciated all of the support and concern we received when Allison became ill. The support at the hospital (which would have been very difficult to manage on our own) and the support as she recovered from her fever was remarkable. The concern shown by the staff was another example of how they were available to assist in any way they could.
English Camp 2011 is an experience that will forever remain in our hearts. Thank you for providing this amazing experience to us.


Allison Stepp
Debbie Stepp