Introducing our 11 SAILers in this year's Summer Study Abroad in Laos (SAIL) program (June 27-July 31)! We are proud to have a diverse group of talented and bright participants, which consists of four Lao Americans, six females, and five males. The Center for Lao Studies is excited to continue our relationships with the Fulbright program, with this year's participants increased to five Fulbright Scholars. Laos's popularity is growing and so is the SAIL program's!
With the assistance of our in-country Program Leader, Ms. Phetladavone Lamlong, our participants will experience the language and culture of the country through daily language classes with top professors from the National University of Laos, a history and culture class taught by a Lao historian, and real-life Lao experiences outside the classroom where students can create a better understand of the country, its peoples, and society.
1. Devin A.
Devin A., 25, was born in Provo, Utah where he spent most of his childhood living with his Mother and three other siblings. Since the age of ten Devin has worked in the fields of construction, auto mechanics, and carpentry. He also enjoys playing football, soccer, and golf. One of his proudest moments was when he was accepted into a semi-pro football team.
Devin developed an interest in Lao culture since the age of 19, and for the last two years, he has been spending two hours a day, seven days a week studying the Lao language and culture. He is able to speak, read, and write Lao, but would like to keep learning. Thus, he joined the SAIL program.
Devin would like to focus on Southeast Asian Studies, mainly Laos and Buddhism and hope to pursue this further when her returns from Laos. He is currently studying at Brigham Young University, Hawaii, majoring in Anthropology.
Devin is married to his wife, a Khmer American, for two years.
2. Michael B.
Michael B., 26, grew up in Virginia and received a BA is marketing management from Virginia Tech. After graduation he became a New York City Teaching Fellow. He has recently earned his M.Ed in Special Education and Math. Through the fellowship, he has worked two years within the New York City public school system as a full-time teacher concurrently with his Master's work at St. John's University.
Michael is a part of Fulbright ETA (English Teaching Assistant) where he will spend one year in Laos teaching English after the SAIL program.
During breaks and vacations, Michael sometimes volunteers with Autism on the Seas, a program that assists families on vacations with children living with Autism. When not at work, Michael enjoys playing the piano, editing and shooting film and digital video, and swimming.
3. Joshua B.
Joshua B., 27, from Nashua, New Hampshire currently works as a university lecturer in Bangkok, Thailand. He earned his bachelor's degree summa cum laude with highest honors from the University of Maine and a Master of Arts in Performance Studies from Texas A&M University. Joshua's interest in Laos developed during his formal studies where he first learned about the country and grew during his extensive travels in Southeast Asia. He looks forward to becoming an engaged community member while in Vientiane and gaining a deeper understanding of the Lao language, history and culture.
Joshua is one of the SAIL program's Fulbright Scholars and will be an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Laos following the program. In this role he will represent the United States as a cultural ambassador and work to enhance mutual understanding between Americans and the people living in Laos. Joshua believes that the SAIL program offers an excellent opportunity to improve his understanding of Laos and will provide the foundation for becoming a successful ambassador for the United States.
4. Pierre B.
Pierre B., 38, from Seattle, Washington, is currently employed at the Boeing Company in Business Operations leading Project Management and Risk Management at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. He is a graduate of Seattle University with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and the University of Phoenix with a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). Prior to living in the United States, Pierre grew up in Calais, France, and learned Lao as his primary language and French as his secondary tongue. He completed boarding school at Crawley, UK for a year where he learned English as a third language and later Thai as a fourth language. To his surprise, he came to the United States, speaking the "Queen's" English with a French first name and a Lao last name. This was the perfect fit in the "melting pot" that was America!
Pierre's family is from Khammouane, Laos. His father is Lao and the former Headmaster of the Vittaya Academy in Vientiane, Laos. His mother is from Hatyai, Songkha, Thailand. Pierre has grown up all his life surrounded by Lao and Thai culture and loves its music, cuisine, and pop culture but he never had the opportunity to learn how to read and write Lao. He has also never been to Laos to be amongst his people and to be "immersed" in Lao traditions.
Pierre's interests include Community Service with his Lao Community. His latest assignment was serving as Master of Ceremonies (MC) for the 2011 Seattle Miss Lao Beauty Pageant and Scholastics. He enjoys playing competitive Tennis, Ping Pong, Racket Ball (anything with a racket!) and volleyball and has an appreciation for the Classical Arts such as the Opera and the Symphony. Pierre has a specific interest in the preservation traditional Lao Dancing depicting Lao Oral history and tradition.
Upon his return to the U.S. after the SAIL program, Pierre wishes to share his experience and advance knowledge in the field of Lao Studies by establishing a network for Lao Language education in Seattle, WA. He wishes to follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps who where educators in Vientiane, Laos by bringing an added awareness and cultural educational network to Seattle, WA.
5. Elizabeth (Lizz) C.
Lizz, 22, recently graduated from Tufts University located in Medford, Massachusetts, with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chinese. She studied a premed curriculum and plans to eventually apply to medical schools in the US. While at Tufts, she worked as a biology and chemistry tutor and teaching assistant, and as a lab assistant maintaining a frog colony. She has conducted research in developmental biology, antioxidant nutrition, and potential treatments for a pediatric congenital skin disorder.
Other than science, Lizz has spent her entire life creating art and likes to consider herself more of an artist who does science rather than a scientist who does art. She has dabbled and various mediums, but prefers to paint portraits with oils or a combination of gauche and chalk pastel. While at Tufts she was very involved in the art community, which included her co-managing the on-campus open art studio and living in the only on-campus cooperative for artists and musicians.
Her most shaping life experience was the semester she spent studying abroad at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, where she discovered her love of language learning, cultural exploration, and Chinese food. Upon her return to the US she began tutoring online English to Japanese adults, which further convinced her of the beauty of language learning. She is excited to learn Lao and teach English in Vientiane at the National University of Laos as a Fulbright ETA. Lizz believes the goals of expanding one's ability to communicate and use these skills to explore a whole new world of culture makes language learning like a return to childhood and the joy that comes with it.
Lizz's interest in Laos stems from the large Lao Hmong population in her home state of Minnesota and her desire to become a primary care physician for Asian immigrants in the US. She is aware of the problems that arise for this demographic due to cultural barriers with American doctors and plans to use her time in Laos to expand her knowledge of Hmong and Lao values, disease concepts, traditional medicine, and religion so that she can one day provide the highest quality of care to Hmong Americans in Minnesota.
6. Mysee C.
Mysee C., 23, is from Mounds View, Minnesota. She graduated Cum Laude from St. Catherine University with a B.A. in Women's Studies and Sociology. Mysee's passion for the inclusion of women's voices in community development led her to serve as an Americorp Promise Fellow at the Women's Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE), Inc. in St. Paul, Minnesota. WISE is a multi-ethnic organization dedicated to empowering immigrant and refugee women and girls. Mysee's experience as the Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership (GGAL) coordinator at WISE has exposed her to the importance of cross cultural learning. Through GGAL, Mysee has served 90-120 high school girls who come from various Southeast Asian and East African immigrant backgrounds. Mysee is excited to be a part of the SAIL program because she believes it is going to build the foundation she needs for her year as a Fulbright ETA. While in Laos, Mysee hopes to accomplish two things: 1- eat and learn to cook Lao cuisine and 2-increase her knowledge of Lao culture and language by teaching and attending various community events.
7. Jessica E.
Jessica E., 22, grew up just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She stayed in the area for college, attending Villanova University where she majored in Biochemistry and French and Francophone Studies and concentrated in Ethics and Health Care.
Jessica is passionate about public health both domestically and globally. She has spent significant time volunteering at a free clinic in Philadelphia, has traveled to medically underserved villages in Belize on a medical mission experience, and is currently part of a research team investigating medication adherence of HIV+ adolescents in Botswana at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Jessica first became interested in Lao history and culture after reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman, in her Ethics for Health Care Professionals course. The book challenged her to consider what it truly means to be a culturally competent physician.
As one of the SAIL program's Fulbright Scholars, she will be an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) for one year after the SAIL program. The Lao language, history, and culture classes offered by the SAIL program will be critical to prepare her to effectively teach and connect with her future students.
In addition to teaching at the university level, she hopes to become involved in the local community by volunteering at a health clinic or hospital. Particularly, she is drawn to the culture of traditional medicine in Laos and seeks to develop a less Western-centric perspective on health care.
Jessica loves oil painting and watercolor. She also enjoys rock climbing, running and playing board games. She looks forward to the adventure that awaits her in Laos and plans to attend medical school following her year abroad.
8. Khamchanh (Oth) K.
Oth K. , 32, from San Francisco is an artist at DreamWorks Animation. He graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design in 2007. He has worked on numerous award-winning animated feature films and shorts since then. His recent credits include "How to Train your Dragon" (2010), "Madagascar 3" (2012) and "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" (2014). He also illustrates children's books and tells stories.
He was born in a refugee camp outside of Vientiane during his family's expatriation of Laos. He was raised in a culturally mixed home of Lao and American traditions. He had a very involved American education and a working single mom supporting a whole family of seven. Culture and traditional language were side stepped by the need for financial support and basic necessities.
He grew up listening to his mother's personal story about her journey the camps and losing her husband. Then coming to a country with nothing and feeling the effects of those losses personally as he was growing up. He never questioned it much because this was life. He feels that his moms dedication and fearlessness made him never question the extent of achievement that one person is capable of in their lifetime. This encouragement allowed him to pave his own way into an art career in the animation industry.
Oth is very excited to be learning Lao language and synthesizing it into his storytelling and illustration imagery. He would love to publish a Lao inspired children's book or graphic novel and share his stories and culture with everyone.
9. Jesica R.
Jesica R. works for the McConnell Foundation as the Director of International Programs. This position brings her to Laos and Nepal about four times each year to work with the Foundation's grant partners. Jesica speaks Thai, but is looking to the SAIL program to help her learn Lao, to experience Laos in a new way, and to meet and draw inspiration from this unique group of individuals who converge in a classroom in Laos for five weeks.
Jesica is from the hinterlands of Northern California, the beautiful and remote Trinity County. Growing up rurally developed her interest in rural communities globally, though her travels have taken her primarily to Southeast Asia. Jesica traveled to Thailand for a study exchange in 1995 and that set the path of her studies and career.
In 2002, Jesica earned her BA in International Studies from Southern Oregon University and her MA in Asian Studies from the University of Hawaii in 2009. Prior to studying for her MA, she worked for 5 years as manager for an international Tibetan Buddhist non-profit. She has lived in Thailand for a total of 3 years for studies, research and work. She is based in Redding, California, where she lives with her husband and 3-year-old daughter.
10. Phensy K.
Phensy K., 33, is an educator from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her educational background includes a BA from Marquette University in Sociology and Social Welfare & Justice and a MA in Urban Education from Mount Mary University. She's taught for 7 years and currently teaches high school Theology. She hopes to obtain a Ph.D. in Community and School Counseling in the future. Phensy's passion lies in education advocacy and social justice. Additionally, she values continuous learning and saw the SAIL program as the perfect opportunity to hone her language skills and learn about her native country. Ever since she learned about SAIL, she envisioned deep conversations with her parents and elders and using her language skills to strengthen Lao families through counseling. She also sees a more confident version of herself from the immense knowledge gained from classroom experiences and cultural immersion. Naturally, this opportunity is a means to solidify her pride as a Lao American.
During her visit to Laos four years ago, she taught English at a local church and community center in Vientiane. This opened her eyes to the need to do more with and for Laos. A couple of years ago, Phensy learned a few classical Lao instruments through the Lao Heritage Foundation and would love to share her love of music with others. So, upon her return, she hopes to share her knowledge with the younger Lao generation. She plans to continue being a visible presence in the Lao community and uphold the essence of being Lao. Phensy has the utmost confidence that the SAIL program will render her a refined Lao woman ready to give back in countless ways.
On a fun note, Phensy is excited about all the adventures that await her. Her love of food will inevitably present itself as she indulges in the different cuisine Laos offers. Last but not least, she cannot wait to meet her fellow SAILers and create a once in a lifetime memory through discovering the beautiful country of Laos.
Denise S., 31, is originally from Iowa but has resided in Indianapolis, IN for the past 12 years. Denise recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and will start the Masters of Kinesiology Program this coming fall. During her undergraduate years Denise conducted research involving exercise in rural populations, which has catapulted her interest in preventative care. Her ultimate goal is to either practice preventative medicine as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine or earn a Ph. D.
Denise's father migrated, from Luang Prabang, to the United States when he was 16-years old. Although she has been exposed to traditional Lao dishes and customs, she was never taught how to speak the language. This will be Denise's first time visiting Laos and will be the most meaningful visit of her life. She hopes to honor her father's life, by learning the language, diving deeper into her culture, exploring the land, and conducting a proper ceremony on his behalf. Furthermore, she would like to make connections in the areas of health and wellness, during her study abroad experience. The goal: Become involved with local organizations and return as often as possible!
Phetladavone L. or Lada is a Lao American who is now living in Laos. She was born in Vientiane, Laos and grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a B.S. in Health Sciences, with a concentration in Health Care Administration. Prior moving back to Laos in 2012, she has held various positions within the health care field as well as with insurance organizations. She went back to school and became a certified Teaching English as a Foreign Language teacher and now teaches English to students of various level as young as age 8, high school, college, and working professionals at her small English school in Vientiane. In addition to teaching, Phetladavone also enjoys travel, yoga, and spending time with her family and pets in her free time.
While living abroad, Phetladavone has been keeping herself connected to her Lao root throughout her life by learning everything about Lao culture, traditional dance, religion, and language. She proudly speaks Lao at home with her family, relatives, and also with her Lao American friends. She was an active member of the Lao Students Organization during her college years and has been a part of starting up the Lao Women Organization in Wisconsin to help promote the awareness of Lao culture and tradition among the Lao American community. Since she has been well connected to her Lao background and has travelled back to her homeland for numerous times in her life, it is no surprise that she and her husband have decided to move back to live in Laos.
Last year, Phetladavone hosted cooking lesson for the SAIL participants to introduce them to Lao food and its cooking process. In her own words, " I am very excited to be the Program Leader this year. This opportunity will allow me to get more involved with the program that is close to my heart. I am looking forward to work more closely with this year's SAILers in helping them getting accustomed to our Lao language, culture, food, people, and learn as much as they can about the country as a whole during their five weeks program here."