Theethad Tothong, Gibson Southern’s newest foreign exchange student

Anda traveled 8,800 miles from Bangkok, Thailand, to spend an academic year at Gibson Southern.


Jenna Schleter

Anda Tothong is spending his academic year at Gibson Southern, away from his family and friends in Bangkok, Thailand.

Theethad Tothong, known in class and in the halls as Anda, is Gibson Southern’s newest foreign exchange student. Anda is a 17-year-old senior from Bangkok,Thailand. Anda is the son of Apatchanika and Amorn. He has a younger brother, 15-year-old I-din. Anda first came to the United States on Aug. 1, 2022. He will be staying in the U.S. for 10 months with his host, Tommy Willis. 

Anda loves to play sports, especially badminton. Everyday after school, Monday through Friday, he would play badminton until six or seven p.m. But, in Indiana, there are no badminton fields – he really misses playing. He also likes to play soccer and basketball. Anda is on the Titan basketball team and just started practicing last week. In school, Anda’s favorite subject is physical education. 

On his wrists, Anda wears two bracelets that his family gave him. The purple and blue one on his right hand, given to him by his aunt, symbolizes the love and bond between them, even if they are thousands of miles away. The bracelet on his left hand is tan and symbolizes the love of his family. That bracelet reminds him how much his family cares about him and the love they have for him. Anda moved to the United States to prepare for the University of Thailand, where they use English and Thai. He is trying to become conversational in English in order to become a dentist.


Southerner: How did you get your nickname? 

Anda: “There was an ocean on both sides of Thailand. On one of the sides, the ocean is named Andaman. So, my grandma just picked [Anda] for me.” 

Southerner: What do you hope to get out of being an exchange student?

Anda: “Making a lot of friends and English skills.”

Southerner: What is your hometown like? 

Anda: “I live in a big city. It has a lot of buildings and a lot of stores. It’s not the same as here because when you are hungry at midnight you can’t go out and buy something.” 

Southerner: Are you able to contact your family?

Anda:“Yeah, [in Thailand] we use an [app called] Faceapp. But here, you guys use Snapchat or messenger. But, I use Faceapp to call back [to home] when I miss them.”

Southerner: What is the best thing about being an exchange student?

Anda: “Learning a whole new language. I don’t know, it’s going to be cool in Thailand. I’m getting to speak Thai and English, so that’s cool.”

Southerner: What is the worst thing about being an exchange student?

Anda: “I think the worst thing is I have to leave my family in Thailand, leave everything I own, and just come here.”

Southerner: What is your school like in Thailand? 

Anda: “We have sixth to twelfth grade. There are 4,000 people in one school.”  

Southerner: Were you nervous about coming to the US? 

Anda: “Yes. In the U.S., everything is very new for me. I went to my very first football game, first time to high school and first time for [American] food.”

Southerner: What do you like doing after school here? 

Anda: “Well, Willis has a lot of kids, and after school I play with the kids and [do my homework]. It is a big problem for me [with homework] because [the homework is in English], and I have to try and understand that so it takes a lot of time.” 

Southerner: What was your favorite food when you came to the US?

Anda: “I like steak, green beans, and chocolate pudding. Usually in Thailand, we eat chicken and pork but never eat beef because my family believes that cows are a big animal that can do something useful [for working]. It is not good to eat [in Thailand] but [in the US], you have no shame so I get to eat [beef].”

Southerner: What is your favorite school meal? 

Anda: “I like cheeseburgers.”

Southerner: In Thailand, do you have one classroom and that’s where you stay for the whole day or do you switch classes like you do at Gibson Southern?

Anda: “It is very different from here because I just go to one class and the teachers will switch.”

Southerner: Have you made any friends?
Anda: “I have one guy, [his name is] Benjamin Roy. He is a funny guy, and I love to talk to him. He likes anime. [Anime] is very popular in Thailand and in Asia, so I love to [talk about it to him]. We get along really well.”

Anda Tothong and freshman Benjamin Roy have become friends, bonding over anime. (Jenna Schleter)

Southerner: So you like anime? 

Anda: “Yes, I like anime movies.”

Southerner: What is your favorite show or movie? 

Anda: “So, the movie I like is ‘Avatar.’ They are going to have [a second movie]. They are going to release [the second movie] on December 16. I am going to the movie [theater] to watch it.” 

Southerner: Are you excited?

Anda: “Yes! Even though I can’t understand English well, I will try [to understand] because it is the best movie.”

Southerner: Is it going to be the first time you have been to a movie theater? 

Anda: “Yes.”

Southerner: In your home country, do you have fast food?

Anda: “Yes, we have burgers and fries. We also have a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). I really miss it.”

Southerner: Is there anything that you would like to say that I didn’t ask? 

Anda: “[When I came here], I wanted to do something that [I] can do along with other people, like joining the basketball team in PE class, doing something like football even, and Homecoming. I just want to make friends with somebody.”