In an interview with VOA, Dr. Chia said the goal of this Study Abroad/Travel Program to Laos is to provide Wisconsin college students an opportunity to explore the history and cultures of Laos and to interact with and learn from a variety of people in this multi-ethnic nation. She said,
“It’s necessary and important for students to explore and getting to know other customs and cultures besides their own, especially in today’s world. I’ve always wanted to do something like this. It’s really our Study Abroad office that supported this program. Laos is a country where I was born. I am very excited to learn more about its history, culture and its people. I came to the United States at a young age and always wanted to go back to learn more about my birth place,” said Dr. Chia Vang.
There will be fourteen students in this class who will be traveling to Laos to experience firsthand the lifestyle of the local people, to really see how they live. Joe Sacco, a graduate student in the Film Department says, ”This will be the first communist country that I’ll go to. I don’t know the reason and why it’s intriguing me. I’ve traveled to a third world country before; I think I know what is like. I am excited to learn more and really to be connected to the local people spiritually.”
Meghan Strobel, a junior in Communications also voices her thoughts, “I’ve traveled to Europe and it’s beautiful and all, but it’s too familiar to me and I don’t feel that I am foreign. This trip is going to be a very different; food is going to be different, language is something that I don’t understand. But I am looking forward to put myself out there to really learn about this corner of the world. So far I have only learned through books.”
Lao-Hmong American Dao Chang, a UW senior majoring in film studies, is also joining the group. Dao, who came to United States at age one, says she barely knows anything about Laos. What she has heard about the country came through her parents, when they reminisced about how the Hmong people lived in Laos.
“I’ve never traveled to anywhere outside the country and it’s my senior year, I want to explore and have fun before getting a real job after graduating. Since I am a film major, I’ll get a lot of footages and I’ll be documenting the trip so that I can incorporate into my thesis. I really want to know how my life would be different if I were not in the United Sates, and still lived in Laos,” Dao explained.
This hopefully will be the first of many more of this type of program – U.S. universities networking and connecting with universities in Laos to learn from one another. In this program, the University of Wisconsin is working in collaboration with the Lao-American College in Vientiane.
Listen to audio files for more details.