Charis Smuthkochorn was one of fifteen students to join THINK Global School during our inaugural year in 2010, and one of fourteen students who hold the honor of being a member of our first graduating class. Charis’s four-year THINK Global School journey spanned six continents and over 12 countries, including a term in her home country of Thailand, where she once again resides.
Hi Charis, can you tell us what you’ve been up to since graduating in 2014?
Hello! After graduating, I went to study at Clark University until 2017. My major was Geography but I took quite the mix of classes. Poetry class in my last semester was amazing. Since then, I’ve been working as a sustainability consultant in Bangkok for about a year now.
Graduation at Clark, May 2017
What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on since graduation?
Hmm… the project that I was most excited about didn’t actually work out. It was fun planning though. I was developing a proposal to film a documentary of four schools representing the four regions of Thailand. I wanted the film to discuss the issue of regional inequality. The partnerships were already finalized and the university was already asking for my bank account to send in the research fund, but the final stage which we didn’t expect to encounter any issue with – the ethics committee – ended up being a problem. They were concerned the Thai government may not be happy with children criticizing public schools, and that my project would compromise the children’s safety.
Do you feel your experiences at THINK Global School prepared you for life post-graduation? If so, how?
Definitely and in so many ways. For some people, university was the first time they were living abroad and without their parents. For us, we kinda could just skip that transition part and jump straight into uni life. Also TGS exposes you to so much that you learn to be flexible and resilient, and you can talk to pretty much anyone. At the same time, TGS experiences also came with their own transition challenges. I was very attached to the TGS community and it was honestly so painful to leave everyone knowing that the chances of us all being in the same city again are quite low. It took me a while to accept that, but it was a really great learning experience. Also, I’ve been so blessed with seeing TGS people quite frequently despite us being scattered around the globe.
Charis and former classmates attend educator Breanna Reynold’s wedding in Morocco
It’s been four years since you graduated. Where do you see yourself four years from now?
I’m not sure. There’s so much that I want to do that I don’t know where to start. Maybe more writing, research, and activism. Perhaps a book form of the documentary mentioned above. Hopefully in four years I’m a little more focused.
Any tips for our recent graduates or current students?
It’s funny because prospective students in Thailand have contacted me to ask about TGS, and I have absolutely no idea what to tell them because things have changed so much! Just general tips to enjoy and don’t stress too much. I’m assuming TGS is still as emotionally intense as it was back when I attended… just remember to not take yourself too seriously and make lots of friends! You are there to learn. Also, high school life in general just comes with lots of distractions, but try to be present and keep your mind open.
Looking back, what TGS experience has stayed with you the most over the years?
One that I think about often is the hiking trip we did in Chewonki, Maine.
After traveling around the world and attending university in the United States, what was it like to return to Thailand?
Just before I flew back to Bangkok, my thesis advisor who is originally from Japan but has spent the majority of her life outside her home country advised me this: return to Bangkok as though you are visiting a new country for the first time. Be free of expectations. That completely changed my mindset about going back. Whatever frustrations I expected to get from “Thai culture,” I instead actively looked for evidence to prove me wrong. I’ve been successful so far, and have been able to find experiences and create connections that I thought I’d miss from the US here in Bangkok.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Never forget that travel is a privilege. Question your assumptions. Treasure your connections.