The Fulbright Scholar Program was founded by then Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, who proposed the idea to the U.S. Congress in 1945. Approved by Congress and signed into law by President Truman in 1946, the progam’s main purpose is to serve as a vehicle for promoting “mutual understanding between the people of the United Stated and the people of other countries of the world.”
Dalavieng Sitthidej is one of nine Fulbright scholars who came from the Lao PDR last year. After graduating from Laos’ Teachers’ Training School of Dong Dok, Dalavieng received a scholarship to study in Australia for two years. When she returned to Laos, she never got to teach but instead accepted a job with the Swedish Embassy, working for SIDA,
or the Swedish International Development Agency, on Laos’ poverty reduction projects. Dalavieng told VOA she was very happy to be able to help in the efforts to reduce poverty in her country, but she wanted to do more, to have a role in the policy-making level.
Being a wife and a mother of one child did not deter Dalavieng from her pursuits. So she applied for a Fulbright scholarship and was accepted. Dalavieng said she was lucky that her husband approved of her decision and her mother-in-law agreed to take care of her child while she is in the United States. Dalavieng is currently studying for a Masters’ Degree in International Development at Clark College in Worcester, MA. She hopes that with her educational achievement, she will be able to play a role in the policy-making level of her country’s national development efforts.
She urged other Laotians to do the same, to strive for higher education so that they too can help their homeland, encouraging them to take any job and work hard to build up their resume and experiences while waiting for opportunities.
“Laos has opened up and there are many great opportunities for members of the young generation to pursue higher education. Men and women have equal opportunities,” she added.
The Fulbright Program is an international exchange program at the post graduate level, sponsored by the United State Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. If you are interested, you may inquire at the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane.
For more of Dalavieng’s interview, listen to our Lao Diaspora progam.