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Publication Date : 04-03-2013
Students from the Land of the Thunder Dragon explain why they love living in the Thai capital
Like many students who go abroad to study, Pema Kota, a 23-year old from Bhutan, was apprehensive about heading to Bangkok to start his course at Rangsit University.
Today, well into his second year of studies, Pema is thoroughly enjoying his new life and regards the Thai capital as the perfect place for higher education.
"The heat was hard to get used to and shopping was difficult at first," says Pema, who is working towards a bachelor's degree in international relations.
"But the compulsory Thai lessons during the first semester helped address some of the basic problems and today I speak enough Thai to be able to go everywhere by myself."
He cites similarities in culture, lifestyle, religion and even the food as the reasons why he's found it so easy to adapt.
"I’ve never suffered homesickness and I can only afford to go home once every two years," he continues, adding that the experience and qualifications he gains from living in Thailand will have a major impact on his family's livelihood when he does eventually return to Bhutan.
Pema is one of around 70 Bhutanese currently studying at Rangsit University. He lives in an apartment with a couple of friends and says they cook Bhutanese-style meals for themselves. Weekend football matches, trips to the beach over the holidays and parties keep them occupied and happy.
Another Bhutanese student, Damchoe Dorji, 29, who is studying for his masters in Computer Science at Assumption University (ABAC) is also more than happy with his stay in Bangkok.
"There's entertainment everywhere so you never get bored," Damchoe says, adding that while his missing his wife and two children, he is able to regularly chat to them by phone and over the Internet.
His only complaint is that Bangkokians always seem too busy to say hello. "In that respect, it's every different from Bhutan. Sometimes I find it frustrating."
Abac University, he adds, has more than a 100 Bhutanese enrolled.
Kinley, a master's student at Mahidol University, is also one of the representatives of recently formed Bhutanese Students Association of Bangkok (BSA), which was set up last year to respond to the ever-increasing number of Bhutanese coming to study in and around the city.
"BSA caters to the welfare needs of Bhutanese students, organises social gatherings and most importantly, observes events of national significance," says association president, Sangay Dendup.
Formally launched on July 29 by 2012 by Dasho Kezang Wangdi, the Bhutanese ambassador to Thailand, Australia and Singapore, at the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Bangkok, the association currently has 273 members from 13 universities, 2 schools and 2 hospitals around the city.
Many association members meet up over the weekend for sports, the cinema and dinner parties. They also get together to mark the days of national significance like Bhutanese National Day,
Current figures put the number of Bhutanese in Bangkok at more than 2,000. The majority are students, though there are many professional here too, attached to the embassy, international organisations and private institutions.
That number swells over the weekends when Bhutanese business people jet into town to shop for goods at malls like MBK, Chatuchak weekend market and Bangkok's Indian market that they can resell back home.