AP Scholar with Distinction: From Thailand to Columbia University via Brewster Academy

AP Scholar with Distinction: From Thailand to Columbia University via Brewster Academy
Dr. Marta Filip-Fouser

Before she left Wolfeboro to pursue her studies at Columbia University in New York,  Phurichaya (Preach) Apintanapong ’21, sat down to talk about her experiences as a postgraduate student at Brewster. Preach, who calls Bangkok, Thailand home, is one of our Royal Thai Scholars. She attended Brewster Academy during the 2020-21 school year and was enrolled in the 2021 Summer Thai Scholar Program designed specifically for college freshmen. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Preach attended much of the 2020-21 academic year by logging into classes via Zoom. Her academic schedule was quite demanding with six courses: Current Issues in the Global Context, AP Macroeconomics, AP Language and Composition, AP Physics C, Advanced Computer Programing, and Linear Algebra (via One Schoolhouse). “I was impressed that the teachers were so caring about the students in an online environment,” she shared, “even though they had students both in person and on Zoom.” Learning the vocabulary to be able to read (and express complex ideas about) English Literature in AP Language and Composition was the most daunting for her. But practice and persistence helped her read faster, interpret concepts more deeply, and then write rhetorical analyses. Her overall academic performance earned her the AP Scholar with Distinction recognition awarded by the College Board to students who take multiple college-level courses and score at least 3 or higher on five or more of the end-of-year AP exams.

When restrictions were lifted in the spring of 2021, Preach and her fellow Royal Thai Scholars arrived on campus in March. The next few weeks, until the end of the academic year, provided her with a slight taste of the boarding school experience. “I'm really glad I got here. It is one of the best parts of my life,” she recalls. “I felt I lived more here in three months than I had lived my whole 18 years of my life.” Once in Wolfeboro, Preach fully immersed herself in campus offerings. In addition to the demands of her academic classes, she played on the varsity softball team, tried rock climbing, and participated in the school’s production of High School Musical. And she became an undefeated ping pong champion over the course of the summer session!

As someone who experienced education in two different countries, Preach spoke about the distinct elements of learning in the United States and Thailand. For example, in Thailand, classes are more lecture and not discussion-centered, whereas at Brewster, discussions were valued in all of her classes. Even more fascinating, Preach said that when studying literature in Thailand, usually one specific answer suffices, but at Brewster she found literature is used to open the window to other people’s perspectives and the world. Additionally, when discussing STEM-related subjects  Preach commented that “We need to explain our solutions both in Thailand and here. But here, it is quite straightforward, and remembering the formulas is quite enough to be able to calculate the answers. But in Thailand, you really need to understand the topic deeply because there are a lot of further applications. And also we are not allowed to use calculators.”

Preach plans to return to Thailand after completion of higher education in the U.S. to contribute her knowledge and skills to her home community. And she is already working to help other Thai students follow her path: Because Thai students wishing to earn the Royal Thai scholarships have to take additional classes that often are cost-prohibitive, Preach has created a channel on social media to help disseminate her knowledge and information about American education. As she says, “I'm really passionate about education. I really do feel that education should be a right and not a privilege.”

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