Kristi Post, an inveterate traveler, taught at Can Tho in 2007-08. She was the 2008 winner of the Nancy O’Keefe Bolick Scholarship. She graduated from Connecticut College in May 2007, having majored in anthropology. Before coming to Vietnam she had lived andstudied in Kenya (where, among other things, she hunted for porcupines and tasted fish heads!) and Costa Rica and traveled in Europe and Tanzania – all during her junior year in college. She became interested in teaching in Vietnam after listening to stories about the country from the daughter of a family friend in Vermont. In addition to keeping up with her classes, Kristi does volunteer work on an anthropological research project outside Can Tho and at a nearby pagoda.
I wanted the opportunity to do something unique after college. When I heard of Teachers for Vietnam I jumped at the chance to apply. Because of the director’s enthusiasm and the organization’s willingness to help out financially, I felt that they were very dedicated to this program, and I wanted to be part of something that offered so much support.
After being here a few months, I am absolutely positive that I made the right decision. The people of Vietnam are some of the friendliest I have ever met, and teaching has allowed me to become deeply involved in the culture. Just visiting would never compare to living here and being part of the Vietnamese people’s daily lives. I also love having the opportunity to shape my students’ lives, as they shape mine! They have allowed me to strengthen my cultural sensitivity and knowledge of the world by opening up so freely to me. Vietnam is a wonderful place, and teaching here is by far one of the greatest experiences I have ever had.
— Kristi Post
Emily Mahoney, another Conn College grad, also taught at Can Tho in 2007. This experience helped her to satisfy a lifelong curiosity about other cultures around the world. Before coming to Vietnam, she was eager to be “shaken up and changed by a lifestyle that I know will be very different” from what she had known before. Previously Emily had spent a semester in France, working for an organization that fights racial discrimination. Aside from experiencing other cultures, her big passion is dance, and at Can Tho Emily has pursued this by organizing hip hop groups among her students.
The opportunity to do the fellowship with Teachers for Vietnam changed the direction of my life completely. I had always loved traveling, having lived and worked in France for a year and having the privilege to travel around Europe growing up, but I wanted to experience a culture and country with which I was not familiar. Can Tho was a quiet, special place; I remember running and doing work out exercises at midnight with Kristi on the student campus while avoiding the bats, going to sample the local bia and vegetarian food across the street, buying tofu and green beans from the nice woman in the little market near our house, and a sin to (fruit shake) every afternoon, what a life! I made many friends from my experience here and had incredible opportunities, one of which was to help choreograph a dance routine for students at the university that took me to HCMC. I met a lot of interesting young people involved in hip hop dance and music, got to experience a Vietnamese pop concert, and saw the University of Can Tho team win second! And last, but not least, I was able to travel to Hanoi for my second teaching post, where I met my future husband! We were married this summer. For me, it was law school or TFV- and I am so glad I chose TFV. Now I’m in law school, and it is not half as educational and exciting as living in Vietnam was for me.
— Emily Mahoney (2013, looking back on her time in Can Tho)
Sarah McGowan first came to Vietnam during the fall of her junior year at William Smith College, in upstate New York. During that semester in Hanoi, she absorbed enough Vietnamese to make herself understood and also learned about the history and culture of Vietnam. But, mostly, she fell in love with the people and resolved to come back on her own and get to know them better. The teaching post at Tra Vinh suited her perfectly. Tra Vinh is a small, quiet city in the Delta – a place with few if any foreign tourists or people who speak English. She found the challenge of being on her own invigorating: she was no longer a tourist, but had developed a sense of belonging in Vietnam – a place she now considers her second home.
On a cloudy day, with rain threatening, I can listen to my student more than I do in the classroom. I see the student struggling with what words to express herself with in English, but she is doing better than if we were in a classroom with all of her classmates watching. She is on the brink of tears, but she manages to sputter out her secret. We sit for a long time and look out on the river. I then decide that we should go back to beat the rain but right as we are starting, the rain begins anyway. She is sitting on the back of my bicycle, shielding my eyes so I can see but occasionally covering them as a joke.
The tears are now gone from her eyes, and she is laughing hysterically. She had mentioned to me earlier that she is a bad student and that English is not her passion. Yet, for the entire day, she was speaking English. I was helping her with vocabulary and pronunciation, and she was learning! Would I dare to call this work? No, but I realized that there is a fine line between teacher and friend, and it is crossed a lot. I told my student this. “Oh Sarah, the Vietnamese have a saying for this!” What don’t the Vietnamese have a saying for? I ask myself. I realized that when I am here, I never stop teaching and that is what I love. There is no lesson plan that could even come close to teaching a student what she had accomplished on that day. This is what it means to be a teacher in Vietnam.
— Sarah McGowan