Warhawk by day, YouTuber by night

Exchange student shares story about YouTube success

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When Kay Lertsittichai first came to UW-Whitewater, he never imagined that he would amass over 600,000 subscribers on YouTube and become verified on all social media.

Apart from being an exchange student from Bangkok, Thailand, he considered himself a normal student. Lertsittichai, who goes by Kayavine on social media, can be seen studying on campus and walking to class like everyone else, but occasionally he can be spotted recording one of his famous YouTube videos on campus.

Lertsittichai first came to the US as an exchange student in high school and completed his junior and senior year in Rockford, IL.

After high school, he decided to extend his stay and attend college in the US as well. At first he thought he wanted to go to college in Florida, but his host mom advised him to go to a school that was not too big and not too small. She volunteered to drive him to see UW-Whitewater.

“I remember thinking this school is not too bad,” said Lertsittichai. “It seemed like there was so much to do, so I thought I’ll go here.”

Lertsittichai, who is majoring in actuarial science, said he quickly learned that wasn’t really the case.

Lertsittichai was finding himself wanting to go back home to Thailand for breaks more and more, but his parents told him that he couldn’t return until he finished his degree.

“My mom said ‘if you want to come home, you can find a part-time job and get your own money to come home’. So that is how I started looking for a job,” said Lertsittichai.

By his sophomore year, he was determined to get a job and visit Thailand.

He soon realized that his student-visa restricted him to only jobs on campus, so he began to search through Hawk Jobs, which has now been replaced by Handshake. Unfortunately, nothing came his way.

Lertsittichai then changed his focus and started looking for ways to make money online. He said YouTube kept popping up, but he thought ‘oh no way I’m going to be a youtuber, no way.”

But it stayed in the back of his mind until one day he decided to record his first video. He recorded it sitting at his desk in his small dorm in Wells Hall on his Iphone.

When he finished editing the video, he uploaded it around 1 a.m to Facebook and YouTube and woke up around 7 a.m. to find that it already had 15,000 views.

“The whole day I couldn’t focus. I had three classes that day, and I did not pay attention,” said Lertsittichai.

His first video was all in Thai, and it was about the differences between high school in Thailand and in the US.

“People just seemed to like it,” said Lertsittichai.

His next upload received even more views than the first.

“In the beginning I was getting 3,000 to 6,000 new followers every day. It was so crazy. I didn’t make any money, but I was still happy,” Lertsittichai said.

He kept making videos for his Thai audience, and his subscriber count kept rising.

By second semester of his sophomore year, he received an email that would really kickoff his YouTube career. He had been invited to Bangkok International Fashion Week.

“I got lucky. I think a famous person in Thailand shared my first video, so my story is kind of like a blessing,” said Lertsittichai.

Lertsittichai was finally going to get his chance to go to Thailand, but the experience was more overwhelming than he thought it was going to be. The company flew him out to Thailand and gave him security guards for the event. He said he didn’t know how to react. There were lines of young fans waiting to meet him.

“Every time I was home no one knew me, I was a normal kid. But when I went back it was crazy,” Lertsittichai said.

That event was only the beginning for Lertsittichai. Since then he has received countless other opportunities to travel to different states and countries outside of the US.

He used to travel every single weekend for work until it started to affect his grades. Now he spends more time in Whitewater focusing on his classes.

John DeGraff, Lertsittichai’s professor in entrepreneurial marketing, thinks it is great that Lertsittichai is taking business classes to grow his business.

“We have phenomenal students that are doing phenomenal things that people don’t even know about,” DeGraff said.

Lertsittichai will be graduating from UW-W in May and will be returning to Thailand with his dream of becoming a TV host. He is not sure if he will be using his degree in actuarial science anytime soon, but he said he is glad to have it, and he is glad to have attended UW-W.

“I think college taught me a lot of things like life skills, how to be on time and how to work with other people and their opinions,” said Lertsittichai. “Maybe if I hadn’t came to Whitewater I wouldn’t have pushed myself to get a job. I think everything happens for a reason, so yeah, I’m glad I came here.”