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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo

Pun Chatnantawej: navigating transition, cultural identity

Pun Chatnantawej: navigating transition, cultural identity

Story by Jane-Aubry Page

Students wrote stories like this one in the JRN 115 Intro to Media Writing course, taught by Alan Blanchard, associate professor of journalism – Editor.

Transitioning from three different cultures, freshman Pun Chatnantawej went on a journey of losing and regaining her identity.  

Native to Thailand, Chatnantawej grew up in Bangkok. The culture was very much a go-go-go atmosphere. 

From a young age, her parents placed her in as many extracurricular activities as possible. Same with sports — and not by choice. 

“I appreciate my parents pushing me to do things,” Chatnantawej said while reflecting.

All the sports and extracurricular activities gave her a foundation for pursuing her interests. She knew what she did and didn’t like. 

“I’m lucky to have parents who have my best interest at heart,” she said. 

Three years ago, she doubted she would have ever acknowledged the extent of her parents’ impact. 

At the age of 12, her family relocated to Australia due to jobs. Chatnantawej had not expected the culture shock to be that jarring. Her culture shock went further than all the slang, all the foods and society’s expectations. 

Not even the difference in Australia’s ethnicity caught her off guard. After being raised in a Christ-centered home, the culture jarred her because Australia represented all that she didn’t. Secularism dominated the culture and schools. 

“The majority here doesn’t agree with me,” she said was one of her first thoughts after their move.   

The years ahead brought hard times. Chatnantawej began a journey, a digression. She lost a sense of herself as she went through high school. 

Her friends factored into her identity struggle. They didn’t know who they were either. And she had no solid friend group to identify with — none of her friends had experienced the liberation of following Christ. 

While in high school, Chatnantawej sought her value in grades. But like her friends, it was never enough. 

Once during dinner, Chatnantawej recalled, her mom said that she didn’t seem Thai anymore. Those words caused further pain and confusion. 

“I got to figure out who I am,” she said. 

Yet, in losing herself, there presented the opportunity to discover herself.  

After graduating high school, Chatnantawej went through the college process. She enrolled at Taylor University as a psychology major and is currently a freshman.  

The transition to Taylor University came a lot easier because of her previous experience in Australia. 

“My experience has made me appreciate change,” Chatnantawej said. She laughed: “I thrive in change!” 

Not to say that she has never been homesick. She of course misses her parents. But what made the biggest difference was having a support group. 

“You shouldn’t have to go through change without a form of support,” Chatnantawej said. “And don’t be afraid to ask for that support.” 

Most of her support came from her parents, especially her dad’s sister, whom she calls “god-mom.” 

Her family ultimately knows her better. 

“There is no way to break that bond,” she said. 

In her relationship with Christ, family and friends, her foundation has strengthened and deepened, making college possible. 

“Don’t underestimate the power of support,” she said.

At Taylor University, Chatnantawej has had the opportunity to live a certain lifestyle that in Australia she was rebuked for. That lifestyle had been disparaged. She was belittled for centering her life on her pursuit of Christ. 

Pursuing Christ in her opinions and ideas was hard. Chatnantawej advised taking advantage of the opportunities that a place like Taylor offers. 

“Here at Taylor [University], there has been an opportunity to rebuild myself to the best version of myself,” Chatnantawej said. “ I’ve learned to live my life as an act of worship of God.”