Friday, January 11, 2008

Princess's days as a French teacher

Princess's days as a French teacher

What Dr Ubonwan Chotewisit, a lecturer at Prince Songkhla University, expected when she wrote a letter to HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana in 1979 was a teacher for French classes. The Princess answered her letter by travelling to the university's Pattani campus to teach the classes herself.

Published on January 6, 2008

Ubonwan said that she was then an English lecturer at the university after graduating with a master's degree from England. She took her students to see a French-language play, "Le Petit Prince", at the Woranaree Chalerm School in Songkhla, which was presided over by Princess Galyani.

After that, she decided to write a letter to the Princess through her secretary, telling her about the lack of a lecturer for French classes at the Prince of Songkhla University. She said she addressed the letter to the Princess, who

was the chairwoman of the French Teachers Association of Thailand.

"In the letter, I told her that my university was in need of French teachers, who were very rare in Thailand," Ubonwan said in an interview.

Later, Ubonwan was told that the Princess wanted to see her. So she travelled to Bangkok and was allowed to ride in the same car with the Princess to have lunch at a restaurant.

"I was very excited and glad that the Princess allowed me to ride in the same car with her. The Princess was very friendly," she said.

The Princess told Ubonwan during their lunch that she could not find a French teacher for her university. "But I myself am willing to teach French at your university instead," Ubonwan quoted the Princess as saying.

Ubonwan said she returned to Pattani and informed the university administrators about the great news.

The Princess's first class had 30 students, she said. "The Princess's teaching style back then was so up-to-date and modern that they are still used by present lecturers.

"The Princess asked questions in the class and told the students to find out the answers together. This way, students had to study before attending the classes. She was an even-tempered teacher," Ubonwan said.

The Princess loved to wander in the university without bodyguards so that she could witness the real lives of students and teachers.

During that time, the Princess also loved to dine with teachers of all departments on rotation basis. She used that time to give suggestions on how to make their teaching more effective.

After finishing her classes, the Princess travelled back to Bangkok. Ubonwan said she reported about what happened in Pattani to her through letters. She had opportunities to be granted an audience with the Princess every summer. The Princess told her sometimes that she was very sorry that she did not answer Ubonwan's letters.

Ubonwan later travelled to France to work on her French PhD on a personal scholarship from the Princess.

The last time Ubonwan was granted an audience with the Princess was on April 29 last year.

"I asked the Princess about her illness. She told me that she was much better. The Princess gave me her pin," Ubonwan said.

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