Piya Bumrungchit of Bangkok, Thailand, dreamed of one day visiting the United States. Through the "Face the World" program, she was able to make that dream come true.
Bumrungchit, 16, stayed with the family of Pastor Francy Powviriya who serves at the New Hope Community Church in Bridgeport.
"A friend contacted us and said that this opportunity was available for her to stay with us," Powviriya said. "We prayed about it, and it was as if God opened the door."
Bumrungchit joined the family in late August and stayed until the end of the school year.
"I wanted to improve my English," Bumrungchit said. "I wanted to see another culture — a different culture with different people — and make different friends."
Bumrungchit enjoyed the quiet and slow-paced life in the village of Bridgeport.
"I think that the town is good," Bumrungchit said. "It's not busy and it's quiet. I like it here."
Enrolled at the high school as a junior, Bumrungchit was active on the tennis team and enjoyed the food classes.
She also was active in the church of her host family and performed with the worship team.
"She has a lovely voice, and we were happy to have her with us," Powviriya said.
Bumrungchit enjoyed several trips to Pittsburgh — visiting the Carnegie Science Center, dining in ethnic restaurants and attending Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games.
The highlight of her stay was a trip to Florida, where she visited Disney World.
"It was really cool," Bumrungchit said. "I liked walking around and seeing things. It was all new to me."
Bumrungchit enjoyed American television, movies and music, stating she has many of the same shows at home, but they all carry subtitles.
Much of the food is also the same in Thailand — with one exception.
"I discovered Wendy's," Bumrungchit said.
She said she likes the Mt. Pleasant school district, enjoying the concept of changing classes.
"At home, we stay in one room," Bumrungchit said. "I like that I have my own locker here."
And she loves the freedom she experienced while in the United States, especially in the school system.
"I don't have the freedom at home that I have here," Bumrungchit said. "I cannot speak what I want to and I cannot choose what subjects that I want. I like that I can learn and that the teachers listen to what I have to say and that they pay attention to what I think."
She appreciates the understanding shown by teachers.
"If I didn't know something, they would help me," Bumrungchit said. "They would answer any of my questions. They all helped me."
"It's been interesting watching her grow, and I've enjoyed watching her experience the United States," Powviriya said. "It's been fun watching all her experiences."
Although she kept in touch regularly with her family, Bumrungchit is eager to see them again.
"I miss my family," she said. "It's been 10 months, and I have talked with my mom, but I never see her face and I miss that."
ARWEE - Manigluck