During our research trip in April 2014, we scheduled visits to a number of international schools in the Chiang Mai area. Frank and I knew, from our experience choosing schools in Hong Kong, that you can tell within the first 5 minutes if a school is going to work or not. There’s simply a feel that you get when the school is right for your kids. Since Chiang Mai has a much smaller pool to choose from than Hong Kong, we were afraid that finding and getting into the right school would be the clincher that would make our plan unworkable.
Our school visits in Chiang Mai, for the most part, were great. The campuses were beautiful, the standards were high, a couple would definitely work. The admissions directors went through their many electives and AP offerings, etc. We were feeling good about the research.
Our second school was pretty far out in the country, roughly 30 minutes north of Chiang Mai. Another beautiful campus, like the previous school, it was on a former resort property. We exchanged small talk with the admissions director, Melanie . . . the weather, our flight, the adventures of Songkran, and were handed some brochures. We paused. Melanie looked at our girls and asked a question that was simple for most families. For ours, however, with long term stays in Truckee, Hong Kong and Marin…maybe not so simple.
“So, where do you call home?”
After a few awkward seconds, the girls looked at each other, confusion with a bit of consternation in their expression.
They looked back at Melanie like she was asking a trick question and she would soon reveal a punch line.
They both looked at us like they would get in trouble if they spoke their mind.
After just the right amount of time, letting them search for the non-existent answer, Melanie took over . . .
“Isn’t that WONDERFUL!” She recounted all of the wonderful places they had been, expressed delight at all the places they’ve yet to go. “Anywhere in the world can be your home,” she said, “and that is how many of the kids at Prem feel. And that is a WONDERFUL thing!” In fact, she explained, only 27% of the kids at Prem hold Thai passports, the remaining 73% were from all over the world and had lived in multiple places all over the world, many holding more than one country’s passport. The girl’s faces flooded with relief, but, more importantly, a look that said, “You get it! You get ME”. Within the first 5 minutes, Melanie had made them feel welcome in a very unique community.
From that moment on, the visit was with the girls and Melanie. Frank and I were just along for the ride. The tour was amazing. The library, science classrooms, the art building, the theater arts classroom, the pool, the sports and language offerings, like Bhutanese archery and some 12 different foreign languages, including Zdonka (I have a BA in Linguistics and am embarrassed to say I had never heard of it), and most exciting for me, the organic farm with the herd of goats.
We found our school. The admissions process, including application, essay, tests, and an interview, wouldn't start until January 2015.