Many Laotian-Americans of the younger generation, who still love their motherland, Laos, long to see it moving to the right direction for the betterment of its people. For this reason, the Center for Lao Studies was established. Dr. Vinya Saysamouth along with several Laotian-Americans founded the Center in 2005 in San Francisco, California. The CLS is dedicated to promote, advance and broaden the field of Lao Studies in many areas. The Center opened its first international conference in May 2005 at Northtern Illinois University, Dekalb, IL; followed by the second at Arizona State University. Thailand’s Khon Kean University will host the third international Lao Studies conference in Thailand in 2010.
In addition to their regular international conferences which are held every three years, the CLS will have its first “Summer Study Abroad in Laos” (SAIL) from mid-Jun to August 2009. This eight-week intensive summer program is meant to provide an opportunity for Lao-American and American participants to live closely with the people of Laos and to learn firsthand about their way of life. Dr. Vinya discussed the Summer Study Abroad in Laos with VOA.
“The program is designed to allow interested Laotian-American and Americans to really experience firsthand with the local people, to learn to speak the Lao language, learn about the culture and traditions. Many young Laotian-Americans who were born here speak very little Lao or not at all. They will learn how to speak Lao and learn about the Lao culture and traditions, so that once they are back in the States they will have a better understanding and appreciation of their roots and heritage.” Dr. Vinya said that there will be an advisor traveling with students to answer any questions they may have and to address any safety concerns. The students will be studying at the Lao American College in Vientiane and will be registered as its students. Upon arrival, they will have an orientation and get to meet US Embassy staffs who will go over the rules and regulations on what to do and not to do in Laos.
Dr. Vinya added that the Center for Lao Studies is the first and only organization so far that will have this kind of program in Laos. For this first tour, CLS would like to make it a small and manageable and plan to accept only 15 students.
For those Laotian-Americans who want to learn about their motherland’s language and culture, this Summer Study Abroad in Laos would be the best option to explore. For additional information, please go to www.laostudies.org
Listen to our Lao Diaspora report for more details.