Teenager Georgia Gibson spent a month in Thailand being treated like a pop star.
The 15-year-old from Howick College was on an exchange programme to Thailand’s Montfort College and didn’t exactly know how to react when students of the private school in Chiang Mai screamed out Taylor Swift’s name and wanted to take selfies with Georgia.
“I was the first international student attending the Catholic school that has been around for 80 years and so they were all wondering, ‘who is this blonde walking around the school?’” said the blue-eyed Year 11 student.
She recently completed a four-week exchange trip to Thailand funded by the Thai embassy.
“My host sister, who spoke perfect English because she has been on an exchange programme to America, told me `you are the most popular girl at school. They are all talking about you in Thai’.”
She says she wanted to cry flying back home “because my host family was so caring and loving. They took me around to all the places I would have never seen had I travelled by myself”.
One of her best experiences was visiting a rescued elephant sanctuary where she had the opportunity to feed and bathe elephants which freely moved around in herds. Georgia hopes to be a veterinary nurse.
“The elephants sat down in the river and we got a chance to sit on them and brush them down,” she says.
From attending class to learning Thai cooking, making a Kiwiana presentation and even trying to teach Thai students some Maori words—her only regret is that the trip should have been longer.
“There was an English programme at school which was good because everyone in the class spoke English. They said they understood my accent very easily,” she says.
“Everyone was so friendly it was like the entire country smiles.”
Georgia now talks to her host family regularly and can’t wait to go back.
“I would seriously recommend this to everyone.”