I never get to see my mother before, she died after I was born for 5 days. She passed away because of leukemia, this event is what pushes me to work hard and get through obstacles in life. I don’t know if she can see me from down here but I just want to do everything I can to make her feel proud of me. I graduated from Stanford University so I consider myself a hardworking guy. I have a lovely family with two kids. Now I live in Palo Alto with my family enjoying every bit of my life.
When I first moved to the U.S. in 1988, it was a whole other experience. I always asked myself why would I move away from my comfort for a better opportunity in life. Before leaving I would go to a temple that is right next to my house in Thailand to pray to a Buddha for good luck. Before I left my house to the airport, I spent time by myself where I just sat down on the floor and look around the house, I was trying to capture everything at that moment. I could feel the water coming out of eyes and slipping off my face before leaving the house, but I did remember something that my dad told me, “be a strong person,” and, to this day, this word is still in my head.
It was so different in the U.S. In Thailand, I would go to school by myself by taking a boat to the other side of the shore and then taking the public bus to school. One thing I know that was very different in Thai school is when I forgot to do my homework I would get smacked with a stick in front of the class. The teacher would make us stand in front and face the mirror to look at yourself and reflect on what you have done. All I saw was just my face with glasses on and my military hair. Sometimes I would still have nightmares about it.
It was all my decision to move abroad, I felt that my mum would support this decision. At first, I was really nervous, I heard that the people were not so nice in America. When my dad sent me to the U.S., I told him that this will be the last thing that he would have to pay for me. From then on, I never asked for my dad’s money ever again.
When I first moved here, it was very hard for me to adapt to society, because I barely knew any English at all. I remember going into class, on the first day, and the teacher called my name out loud “ Woramol Peck Khamkanist!” Everybody in the class was laughing at me. I raised my hand up high and this guy, who sat next to me, asked me “Where are you from?” “I’m from Thailand” I responded really fast, because I was really nervous. “Oh cool, anyways I have a question do you ride an elephant to school?” He asked while he was laughing. “No…” I said in a very confusing tone. “Oh, I thought that’s what you guys used to travel, so then did you travel by boat here?” “No, I traveled by airplane. Have you seen one?”I still can’t believe that he thinks that I traveled by an elephant to school. I felt so offended and I got so upset on that day, but I was able to ignore it, because I told myself that I wouldn’t let anything interfere to make my mum proud of me.
Later on, I found a way to connect to other people without having to communicate with them. I started playing soccer every day after school. I felt like it was easier to adapt into the society, and I finally felt like I was part of the community. It was really hard for me, because I was the only Asian American in the school. It took me a few months to adapt to society. The first month was not easy for me at all and every day I would sit in the shower and cry. I missed my dad and all my friends back home. But, soccer played a big part that would help me forget about home.
I played so much soccer that I made into the US national soccer team, but I told myself that I don’t think it’s a good decision, because I didn’t feel like my body was fit enough. I remember the first week training schedule of the national team. It was like I was training for war so I wasn’t going to wake up at 5 in the morning and swim for 500 meters before going to breakfast every day.
As the school year went on, I got very close with 2 of my friends and felt super lucky that I had friends like them. They’ve helped me adapt to society, they showed me things that I would not experience if I didn’t have them. We all look out for each other, we were always together until senior year. It was such a stressful moment for me, but they helped me get through it.
I was really stressed when applying to colleges. I applied for both Stanford and Berkeley. I remembered the day when the Berkeley letter came in. I saw the word “sorry” in the letter
and at that moment I thought my life was over. But later I found out that Berkeley didn’t affect
me at all because I got into Stanford.
When I look back to when I was bullied about my nationality, I now view that as a great thing, because that event taught me to be a stronger person. I think that strength then made me realize that being successful is not getting into to a good university or gaining millions of dollars ,but for me being successful is making everyone around me happy and I think I did that, because I know that my mum is proud of me.
This story is based on an interview by Punn Khamkanist, a student at Palo Alto High School.