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In the late 1960’s Krassanai “Krass” Wangrangsimakul at age only 19 went to the USA to say with the Jewett family on Fairview Street in Lexington, Davidson County USA.
Today Krassanai Wangrangsimakul is the vice president of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Thailand and president of the Chulalongkorn University Alumni, Songkhla, he is also the former dean of the faculty of dentistry at Prince of Songkla University Thailand.
Krass, who credits his time in the USA for helping him experience Christianity and democracy, which led him to fighting for those things in his country, is back in Lexington to attend the 45th reunion of the Lexington Senior High School Class of 1968.
“I’m happy just being here and coming back to see the people” he said. “It’s very important that, at a young age, you have a good foundation of understanding of humanity and the people of your own culture. This was a very good experience for me.”
Krass received an International Scholarship from the American Field Services, now referred to as the AFS-USA, which is a nonprofit organization that offers international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals, schools and communities in more than forty countries around the world. In order to get his place Krass had to go through written tests and an interview process.
He wanted to be part of the program to gain knowledge about the American way of life by living with an American family, the late Bob and Pearl Jewett, whose son Hank was a senior at LSHS.
Krass has fond memories of being a member of the National Honor Society and loved having BBQ’s and not having any spicy food options to choose from. He was a guest speaker at many events and relished the opportunity to share his culture.
“American people are very friendly and hospitable” he said “ I tried to learn as much as possible in the year that I was there. Every day is precious and valuable; never let a day pass by without learning something.”
During his time in the States the Jewett’s neighbours the Nance family became very fond of Krass. Caold, Jim, Frankie and Buddy became almost like a second family to the 19 year old from Thailand. Carol said that Krass was the first exchange student from Thailand in the history of Lexington and that he is now well known throughout Thailand for his surgical skills.
She said “Kras turned out to be the man we knew he would be, he is very accomplished and I am impressed with how great of a person he is and the life he has lived. He is devoted to family and friends here and has done so much with his life it is amazing.”
Krass had the opportunity to travel to other US sates with fellow students before returning to Thailand. On his return he went on to college and the field of dentistry. Krass comes from a Buddhist background but today is one of the small percentage of Thai people who consider themselves Christian. He had studied both religions before his trip to America and since he returned has been instrumental in building churches in Thailand. He finds it very important to share his experience with other in Thailand and strives to end the stereotypes of the American people. He says “American people are very lovely, kind and open minded. They are great.”
This is not his first trip back to Lexington, he has been back on many occasions including the 25th class reunion, and visited the family on the many occasions he travelled to the States on business. Bob and Pearl came to visit him in Thailand and Hank Jewett, who now lives in Wisconsin and Krass went to visit him there with his own wife and children.
On this trip Krass is staying with the Nance family and cooked for them one night. “It’s nice to see so many of my old friends and how they live, it seems like yesterday and none of us look the same, but the spirit of yesterday is still here, it is like a dream” he said.
Wangrangsimakul encourages students from the United States and in other counties to take advantage of experiencing another country. He noted that a lot of the participants of the AFS-USA program are very successful in life. He leaves advice to anyone in the program to participate in as many activities as they can during their stay where ever they live.
He admits not wanting to come at one point, but he’s glad he was given the opportunity because it helped shape his life mentally, physically and spiritually.
“The most precious experience in one’s life is that of the people,” he said. “The student exchange program is very valuable. More should participate.”