Nostalgic Christmas Visit to UNE

Watis, Rapiporn and Dr Wal Whalley

One of the things that never ceases to amaze us, is how often family members of our alumni choose to study at UNE.

Rapiporn with her Australian host family in April 1970.

Rapiporn with her Australian host family in April 1970.

Rapiporn Sotthibandhu was only 17 years old when she started a Bachelor of Science at the University of New England in 1967. Rapiporn who is a Thai national, excelled at UNE and then went on to complete a PhD at the Imperial College- University of London. Rapiporn returned to Thailand and became a lecturer in biochemistry at the Prince of Songkhla University in the Songkhla Province.

When Rapiporn was studying as an undergraduate student in the late 1960s we are confident she would never have envisaged one of her children following in her footsteps and studying at UNE. Fate intervened though as Rapiporn’s son Watis is currently completing his PhD at the UNE School of Law.

Watis decided to enrol at UNE after meeting Dr Same Varayudej at Chiang Mai University. When he realised his mum also attended UNE in her youth, he knew the Australian university was the perfect choice for him!

Watis and Rapiporn outside Booloomimbah

Watis and Rapiporn outside Booloomimbah

Watis’ PhD thesis relates to consumer protection in e-commerce. Watis became interested in this topic after buying a TV stand online. Unfortunately this item never arrived and after some investigation, Watis discovered there was no legal remedy he could seek in this instance. This led him to the realisation that a suitable legal framework for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) needed to be developed in order to guarantee consumer protection. In his PhD, Watis is analysing the consumer protection models including those in the European Union and Australia in order to devise a more effective consumer framework for ASEAN countries.

Rapiporn and Dr Wal Whalley

Rapiporn and Dr Wal Whalley

Whilst Rapiporn was visiting UNE over the recent Christmas period she took the opportunity to meet up with her former honours supervisor Dr Wal Whalley. Dr Whalley is now retired from UNE, but has maintained his association with the university as an Adjunct Associate Professor.  Funnily enough, Dr Whalley showed Rapiporn the place where she burnt the ceiling when conducting research at UNE!

Rapiporn also took the opportunity to meet up with the family who hosted her when Mary White College was closed for university holidays. The Healey family, who Rapiporn describes as her ‘Australian family’ have since moved to Adelaide. In fact, Rapiporn and Watis helped Nola Healey celebrate her 90th birthday just before Christmas!

Their Christmas was spent at the Huon Valley in Tasmania which Watis described as being beautiful. The only problem was they did not buy any food for their Christmas lunch before the day. They mistakenly assumed some supermarkets would be open in the region. Luckily they were able to purchase some potato chips from a bar in Mount Wellington before finally finding a petrol station where they could purchase a meal.

Watis and Professor Mark Perry

Watis and Professor Mark Perry

As well as revisiting the past, Watis and Rapiporn also spent time on Professor Mark Perry’s property during their visit. Mark is Watis’ principal PhD supervisor.

When Watis finishes his PhD he will go back to his academic position at Chiang Mai University.

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