The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Sara Tantiviramanond

Photo contributed by Sara Tantiviramanond.

Fun fact: outside of the U.S., the [highest] concentration of Grinnellians is in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“That’s where I live.” said Sara Tantiviramanond ’20.

“A bunch of my mom’s friends are Grinnellians, but one of them is like, SUPER Grinnellian. She organized a party for me and had me meet up with students who just graduated and with John Edwards, who’s the international officer. The people who just graduated from Grinnell were so enthusiastic about it. I never visited. I applied ED and got in.”

Because her mom is American, Tantiviramanond had been to the United States several times to visit family and has dual citizenship, but she had no idea what Grinnell would be like and had been warned that it was “in the middle of nowhere.”

“I didn’t really know what to expect at all. And I just remember going on Google Earth and looking at the street view and being like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s trees!’ I was just picturing cornfields,” she said.

Having grown up in the countryside of northern Thailand, Tantiviramanond spent much of her time running around outside, climbing trees and playing in streams. She spoke Thai and English fluently from a young age and learned Mandarin at the international high school she attended. The love of nature she developed during childhood and her language experiences influenced her decision to become a biology and Chinese double major at Grinnell.

“I was involved with both SEPCs for Chinese and biology, which was really fun to get to know what was going on behind the scenes in the departments,” said Tantiviramanond.

The summer after her third year, Tantiviramanond worked on a MAP with biology professor Vince Eckhart and fellow student Rachel Snodgrass ’21. They studied animal behavior towards Clarkias, a type of wildflower native to California, and they spent three weeks in California doing field research.

Tantiviramanond also studied abroad in China one summer and in Tanzania for a semester in a Wildlife Conservation and Management program, both of which she said impacted her life immensely.

“In Grinnell, the second year was just too much of the same thing, so being in a new environment, new people, new food, new culture just really made me so much more interested in what was going on around me,” said Tantiviramanond.

Tantiviramanond loves to explore new cultures. In addition to studying abroad in China, she lived in Chinese house her second year, where she made close friends and developed her Chinese skills. And after participating in IPOP her first year, Tantiviramanond took part in the cultural evening and food bazaar events thrown by ISO.

“Those times were so nice because everybody was so excited to show who they are and where they come from, and I felt like that was really so joyful,” said Tantiviramanond. “I really like to talk about culture and how people grew up. That always fascinates me.”

Outside of her academic endeavors, Tantiviramanond took piano lessons and played keyboard in a five-person band called Migratory Birds. For her, the weekly practices and occasional shows were a welcome break from schoolwork.

Tantiviramanond also began working at Relish during her second year. At the restaurant, she developed a great relationship with the owners, Laura Fendt and Kamal Hammouda, and was able to feel more connected and at home in Grinnell.

“Many international students [at Grinnell] have host parents, but I didn’t apply for that program. Then I met Kamal and Laura, who own Relish, and they were just like, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll be your host parents,’ which is really sweet. I’m kind of their adopted daughter. I think that really

changed my life, too, because I got to meet a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, working there,” said Tantiviramanond.

Although her final year at Grinnell was cut short, Tantiviramanond said, “I feel like my fourth year was really good, so I’m glad to have had the time that I have had to make it fun.”

After Grinnell, Tantiviramanond hopes to continue moving to different places and experiencing different cultures before settling in Thailand. She wants to go back to Taiwan and tech English for a year. After that, who knows?

“I want to go into wildlife conservation. I don’t know where, maybe go back to Tanzania, maybe stay in Taiwan, but my long-term plan is to someday come back to Thailand and work in wildlife conservation here,” she said. “I feel like Thailand needs a lot of work in that area. And since I speak Thai and I grew up here, I feel like I can interact with local people and find something that would really make an impact.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *