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Connie Vandermay/FOCUS Nunnapas Paparkun (far right) will be staying with Liz and Wes Foley and their daughters Janie (held by Paparkun) and Ella for the next year as a foreign exchange student.

'It's cold': A girl from Thailand warms up to NY Mills

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When 16-year-old Nunnapas Paparkun, nicknamed Mony, stepped off the plane in Fargo, N.D. a month ago, her first impression of America was, "It's cold."

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Even though it was around 65 degrees that night.

But it didn't take long for Paparkun to warm up to her host family, Liz and Wes Foley and their two-year-old daughter Janie and one-year-old daughter Ella, of New York Mills.

Paparkun has since showed her hosts how to write their names in Thai, helped prepare some Thai meals for them, and spent many evenings visiting about their various cultural differences.

Although Paparkun is excited about being in NY Mills and attending NY Mills High School as a foreign exchange student, she is dreading the winter and snow to come.

During an interview last week, Paparkun explained that her first month in Minnesota has been spent adjusting to American life and trying to prepare for the upcoming cold weather.

In tropical Thailand, where Paparkun is from, the temperature never dips below 60 degrees. Though the rain comes down in sheets, stopping traffic and making television reception scarce, Paparkun has never seen snow. And even though little Janie is excited to show her the ropes of snowman building, Paparkun shivers at the thought.

Earlier this month, the Foleys dug out their winter gear, showing Paparkun the fur lined hats and overalls. Paparkun was not impressed.

"You are like Eskimos?" she asked with a smile on her face.

Paparkun smiled easily through the whole interview, living up to her country's reputation as the, "Land of Smiles."

School in NY Mills has been going well for her, though she has come across some cultural differences that left her confused.

On her first day, her teacher tossed a worksheet on her desk.

Paparkun was horrified.

"Is he angry at me?" she asked a classmate.

In Thailand, paper is set in front of someone, or passed hand to hand as a sign of respect.

In fact, respect for one another is a big part of Thai culture. Paparkun is used to bowing her head when she greets her elders, and the entire student body at her school in Thailand assembles at 7:45 a.m. to sing the national anthem and raise the country's flag.

Paparkun has noticed that school is a little more intense in Thailand, as getting into college is highly competitive. Classes begin at 8 a.m. and go until 4:30 p.m., but Paparkun, along with many other students, take extra classes in the evenings and on weekends, such as piano, chemistry and physics.

Paparkun hopes to someday go to college to become a surgeon.

She describes American food as "different, but good," but has one complaint: It doesn't give her the full feeling she is used to. Thai food consists of a lot of rice. The country is one of the world's major rice producers.

Paparkun said, "I eat and eat, but (do) not get full."

She visits with her family through Skype and phone calls a couple times a week. Her mom is a housewife and her dad works in forest government. The middle child, she has an older sister and a younger brother.

In recent weeks, Paparkun has experienced a longstanding Minnesota tradition that she absolutely loves - the sauna. She said it's the one place, since coming to America, where she feels warm.

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