A Night to Remember: What American Prom Means to Foreign Exchange Students


PRETTY IN PINK: Diana Safina ’11, from Russia, smiles during prom | Photo Contributed by Diana Safina ’11

Annie Nelson ’11
Managing Editor

PRETTY IN PINK: Diana Safina ’11, from Russia, smiles during prom | Photo Contributed by Diana Safina '11

Like most other junior boys at Staples, the junior prom on May 8 was an entirely new experience for Narn Chaisawat ’11. But unlike most junior boys, this has also been Chaisawat’s first school year spent in America.

Chaisawat, who originally hails from Thailand, arrived in Westport days before the start of the 2009–10 school year and is one of numerous foreign exchange students currently enrolled at Staples.

“I didn’t know a lot of English, and I didn’t know anybody,” Chaisawat said, of when he moved in the fall. “[It was] kind of sad at first, but now [I’m] so happy!”

Although he knew little about school dances before coming to Westport, Chaisawat has since attended two: the Red and White Ball, which took place in January, and of course, this month’s junior prom.

Accompanying Chaisawat to the prom was Taylor Boone ’11, whom he met at Staples’ American Field Service Club.

“It’s a club to help foreign exchange students get a true American experience,” Boone said.

“In my country, they didn’t have a prom,” Chaisawat said, adding that this dance was a great “first time and last time” in his life.

Also in attendance at the junior prom this year was fellow foreign exchange student Diana Safina ’11, who moved here from Russia three years ago.

On the night of prom, Safina slipped on an off–the–shoulders fuscia pink dress, her hair artfully pinned up in a cascade of curls – but she admits she was still unsure about whether she should go or not.

“I felt nervous, and at last minute, I changed my mind and said to my friends that I [didn’t] want to go,” Safina said.

But she added that once she got to school, she was glad she made the decision to go. “I got a lot of positive energy because everyone was so happy, and I saw smiles on everybody’s faces.”

Still, she admits that there was something missing from the party, in her mind: fireworks. This extra touch is something that is included at the parties she has attended in Russia. “When you hear the sound of fireworks, something changes in your heart,” she said. “There [are] no words for this feeling!”

Wes Langham ’10, whose family has been hosting Chaisawat since Thanksgiving, remembers when the two got ready together for the Red and White Ball earlier this year.

“We posed together with our dates, [and] Narn wore the biggest smile,” Langham said. “He looked pretty suave in the black tux and red bowtie, if I may say [so].”

Langham also recalls a pep talk he gave Chaisawat prior to leaving for the dance: “I said to him, ‘Narn, I want you to try your hardest to socialize tonight. Strike up some conversations with people. Dance with girls!’”

Although Chaisawat had overall successful experiences at both dances, he said it was definitely hard to adapt at first. “In my country, [kids] are more friendly,” he said. “But I think [in the] last few months, I have [made] more friends,” he said.

Langham recognizes how hard it has been for Chaisawat to make friends during his time living here.

“I have heard from Narn [that] Staples can be socially exclusive… People need to understand that it’s difficult,” he said. “Friendliness goes a long way in making studiers of language confident in themselves.”

Chaisawat will return home to Thailand at the end of this school year. As for Safina, she will conclude her stay here with graduation next spring. Both undoubtedly believe that they will remember their experiences at Staples for the rest of their lives.