John Davin, a native of Rockland County, New York, earned a degree in English from Hunter College and a master’s in adolescent education from Long Island University. Before launching his career as a teacher in the U.S., he decided to expand his horizons by teaching in Vietnam for a year. After a few months at Da Lat University, in the Central Highlands, he had these thoughts on his experience: “I imagine that we are building bridges here. I occasionally feel that, because of the lack of Americans here, we are small ambassadors for our nation. I imagine that we are dispelling some negative stereotypes about Americans, and also reinforcing some positive ones. My students all seem to believe that we are free, funny, friendly, and large. I have a tough time telling them what the United States is like, because how can I describe a country as vast and diverse? This lack of a unifying identity is one of the essential paradoxes of being an American.”
“Surprisingly one of the more unusual things for me to make the adjustment to is the instant novelty and popularity that comes with having this identity. My students are fascinated by me. I try to reinforce this interest in a positive manner and teach the students more than just the English language, but to also offer them an avenue to explore a life they themselves may never know. This is the responsibility of the foreigner as an educator. In this regard the learning experience here is twofold, I learn from them as they are learning from me, and this simple exchange is at the heart of travel.”
John Davin is the 2010 winner of the Nancy O’Keefe Bolick Memorial Scholarship.
Joan Easton came to Vietnam after many years of teaching English and other subjects at the college level, both in the U.S. and abroad. In the fall of 2009 she assumed a position at An Giang University, in the Mekong Delta. There her duties include courses in speaking and listening skills for second-year students as well as teaching English literature to seniors. She also helps mid-career Vietnamese professionals improve their English so that they can qualify for scholarships to study abroad. She plans to remain in Vietnam for a second year of teaching.
Below: Joan’s class at An Giang University in action
With some trepidation but openness to adventure, Christina Brodzky and Nick Rozon left behind the friendly confines of New York City for the Mekong Delta early in 2010. For one semester, they taught classes in oral communication at Can Tho, making many new friends and exploring Vietnam and surrounding countries during their free time. Nick bought a yellow motorbike and managed to navigate around Can Tho without mishap. After she left, Christina kept getting emails like these from her students:
“Hi, my teacher – Long time no see. How are you? I really miss you and our class. What do you do now? Continue your work as a teacher? Hope to see you in recent day.” Sincerely, Campbell
“Dear my teacher, How are you these days? I miss you very much. Now, I am in vacation in my hometown. On August 9th, I begins new semester. How about your job? Let me know that you are fine. I hope to hear from you soon.” Best wishes, Sunlight.