The Thai Student Association, soon to be an RSO, has big plans in the works

“We want to promote inclusion for Thai students and students who are interested in Thai culture”

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Nina Walat / Daily Collegian.

By Kami Nguyen and Sarah Yi, Collegian Staff

A Thai Student Association was recently formed at the University of Massachusetts with the mission to spread awareness of the culture and bring together Thai students on campus.

Although the group is not yet an official RSO, Thai Student Association is currently planning events to celebrate festivals, bring Thai students together and spread Thai culture.

President Nid Kittisapkajon, a senior hospitality and tourism management major, has wanted to start a Thai student group since her freshman year at UMass, despite only knowing a few other Thai students. The group came together through word of mouth and now has over 30 members, including many graduate students.

Junior operations and information management major Alita Wanasilp is the treasurer of the Thai Student Association and got involved when she was asked to join a group chat to meet other Thai students. She said she initially just wanted to make friends but then found out about their plans to create a student association.

“We don’t know where it is going to go, but I’m hoping to create a space for other Thai Americans such as myself,” Wanasilp said.

Jasmine Praneejit, a junior accounting major is the vice president of the group and transferred to UMass her sophomore year. Praneejit attended the student activities expo at the start of the semester, where she saw lots of Asian clubs and student associations but no Thai associations.

“I wanted to gather other Thai students at UMass to start a club because I felt like they were also trying to find a sense of belonging,” Praneejit said. “Our mission for the club for this semester is that we want to promote inclusion for Thai students and students who are interested in Thai culture.”

ThaiSA’s first event was a gathering at Moge Tee, which is where many of the members met each other for the first time. The group also recently held its first fundraiser, selling Thai tea at the Commonwealth Honors College.

Kim Promthaw, a junior computer science major and secretary of the club, said, “Even though we just met one day, I think we have a great vibe.”

One of the events they are planning for the end of the year is a water festival called Songkran, which marks the Thai New Year.

“If we were to become an official RSO, we could do it around April or May and hold this water festival outside,” Wanasilp said. “That could be really awesome, it’s the one event I would really want from creating this club.”

Praneejit agreed, saying that out of all the Thai festivals, she likes Songkran the most.

“We would usually do water guns all over town and people just have fun for three days and everybody has time off,” she said.

They are also currently planning Loy Krathong —a festival that takes place in November— and food-related events, like a hotpot night.

Whit Viranuvatti, a senior sociology major and ThaiSA’s event coordinator, said, “I, like many, love Thai food, so I am really excited to be in the process of making those foods and sharing them with people here.”

Alongside creating a strong on-campus community, ThaiSA provides networking opportunities for their members by funding trips to Boston in order to meet up with Thai students from other universities. In the future, they also hope to attend annual conventions that are held by Thai Student Associations across the country.

“We’ve been planning more events and have reached out to other ThaiSA’s from other schools, mainly Babson, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern. We’ve reached out to them to try to plan more regional-sized events,” Praneejit said. “Those will probably be in the spring.”

ThaiSA’s members come from many different backgrounds. Kittisapkajon was born in Thailand and immigrated to the United States at 11 years old.

“My mom won the lottery Visa for citizenship, so coming here was very abrupt, and since I was so young, I didn’t speak any English,” she said. “I feel like my identity was stripped from me.”

Kittisapkajon hopes that ThaiSA will be able to help international students in their transition to UMass as a second home where they can speak their own language and practice their culture.

“Prior to this club existing, I would never speak Thai here, because when and where would I do that? Only when I called my parents,” Viranuvatti said. “This club gave me an opportunity to speak more Thai, which has been very new and exciting for me.”

ThaiSA is also providing a space for domestic students to reconnect with their culture.

“I do try my best to keep in touch with pop culture and the language. I can speak but I can’t read or write,” Wanasilp said. “I love listening to students who grew up over there because they have a lot more knowledge.”

ThaiSA is planning on becoming an RSO during the spring semester application cycle.

“We can make an experiment of it, which event is going to work, how to operate as a team, or as an organization, find a connection,” Promthaw says of work they will do until then next application cycle. “Make it big enough [so] that when we become an RSO we will be ready to jump on anything.”

Kami Nguyen can be reached at [email protected] umass.edu and followed on Twitter @kamihnguyen. Sarah Yi can be reached at [email protected]