By Keane Muraoka-Robertson
Imagine leaving home at the age of 12. Imagine sitting on a plane and flying to another continent all by yourself. Imagine not seeing your family for the next four months. This is what Bronty O’Leary ’13 did.
The summer before seventh grade, O’Leary flew to Los Angeles to attend Harvard-Westlake, leaving her biological family behind back in Thailand, visiting only during winter, spring, and summer break. Since then, she has continued to do so every school year.
“When people ask me where I’m from, I don’t usually know how to answer,” O’Leary said. O’Leary, who is an Australian citizen, was born and raised in Phuket, Thailand.
“My parents moved to Thailand because my dad started his business there, and my mom started working as a hotel manager,” O’Leary said. “They both fell in love with Thailand and decided to live there. I was raised there with my two sisters and one brother. We all attended a British school and when it was time to make decisions for high school, the Pritzkers offered to let me live with them and be their host daughter so I could go to Harvard-Westlake.”
The Pritzkers were already close family friends when they offered to be her host family.
It was Aug. 16, 2007 when O’Leary left home for the first time.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe I am leaving home, this is insane. I love the Pritzkers and I love my family, but I don’t know if I’m capable for Harvard-Westlake,” O’Leary said, recalling how she felt that day.
“At first it was a little hard getting used to the different rules,” O’Leary said. “There were more kids and more rules, and a whole new family dynamic. Changing was hard, one [family] was in busy Los Angeles, and the other in chill Thailand.”
“It was tough not to see my sisters — not really my brother because he’s older — and not see them grow up,” O’Leary said. “I left when Meg was 8-years-old and she turned 12 in January. I feel like I missed out on watching her grow up, but I know that it’s for the best.”
“It’s good that I can go to Harvard-Westlake and participate in all these sports and academics and have the chance for a better future than I would have had in Thailand,” O’Leary said. “The opportunities that Harvard-Westlake has given me are priceless and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. The only con is that I miss my family a lot and get homesick sometimes”
Because of her situation, the Pritzkers are her legal dual guardians along with her biological parents back in Thailand. Usually O’Leary gets to talk to her family once a day via Skype.
“The best part of this is having two loving families who are fully supportive of my decisions,” O’Leary said.