Family thais

Bunprakong quarantines in Thailand amidst stay at home order


Photo by Irene Bunprakong

Bunprakong completed schoolwork while quarantined in her home in Thailand.

Students are ordered to stay home, which isn’t as easy as one might think when home is over 8,000 miles away. 

Sophomore Irene Bunprakong, who started going to RUHS at the beginning of second semester, flew home to Bangkok, Thailand one week after the school announced its cancellation on March 12.

“There was a huge sense of urgency, because my mom made the decision on Tuesday, then I flew on Thursday. Right now if you’re going to leave, you need a health certificate saying that you’re okay to travel and you don’t have the virus. I made it here the day before that was starting, so my friends who travelled last night had to wait a longer line than I had to to get into [Thailand],” Bunprakong said. 

The journey from Los Angeles to Bangkok was lengthened by two temperature checks, health forms affirming that Bunprakong did not have symptoms of coronavirus, and the required download of a mobile app that corresponded with her flight and recent travel.

When news broke about the spread of the coronavirus in January, Bunprakong didn’t anticipate it to spread so quickly, or cause her to return to Thailand.

“I don’t know how I feel about it. I think it’s so scary to me and I didn’t know it would get this bad. It started all the way in China and I’m surprised it got all the way to America in the first place,” Bunprakong said.

For two weeks, Bunprakong was quarantined at her home in Thailand. She stayed in her older sister’s room and cut off all physical contact with her family; she used her own bathroom, washed her own dishes and had her food dropped off on a table outside. She even used her own specific plate and utensils.

“It’s not difficult, it’s just the wifi in this room really sucks, so it’s frustrating to do homework,” Bunprakong said. “I could still talk with my grandma, mom, and sister, but it sucked that I wasn’t able to eat dinner with them, chill and watch TV, or have a regular conversation. It sucked that I wasn’t even able to hug them. But it’s only two weeks.”

Instead of a burden, Bunprakong saw the quarantine as a way to keep her family safe, especially her grandfather, who suffered a heart attack at the end of last year, and as a result has a weakened immune system.

“We all know that if the coronavirus is in our house, it’ll most likely come through me, and it’ll make me feel even more bad than just being stuck in a room for two weeks. It would have a bigger consequence if I was able to roam around,” Bunprakong said. 

Bunprakong lived in Thailand from second grade to her freshman year, and went to an international school from seventh to ninth grade. Like several of her friends, she made the decision to come to the United States at the beginning of her sophomore year to finish her high school education, as she felt the school would provide her greater opportunities. 

But now with school cancelled until May 5, she lost a large amount of support in academics that she could only get while in school. According to Bunprakong, school was already difficult, and now without tutoring from AP Chemistry students and her Spanish teacher, she faces even more challenges.

“RUHS is the hardest school I’ve ever done. I was at a different American school last semester but unfortunately the living situation didn’t work out, so that’s why I didn’t continue for the second semester. Even though these two are both American schools, the way their academics work is so different,” Bunprakong said.

For now, she’s uncertain about the circumstances under which she’ll return to RUHS regarding the travel and second quarantine upon arrival, but she does know that she’ll be back when the pandemic ends.

“[The coronavirus outbreak] took a huge toll on me because I went to America to learn at this school, so with this happening and me not being able to go to school, I had to come home,” Bunprakong said. “Yeah it’s good to come home, but it means I have to travel back, and I don’t know how that process is going to go either.”