By Thuy La
PhD Candidate Educational Administration
University of Hawaii at Manoa
EWC degree fellow 2005-2009
I’d like to write to thank the East-West Center Alumni Office for their Travel Award which helped me to make it possible to attend the Pacific Circle Consortium 32nd Annual Conference on Education. The conference was hosted by the Faculty of Education National University of Samoa.
It was my first time visiting a country in the Pacific. I had great opportunities to learn about a very unique indigenous culture. The Western Samoa people have a strong culture of family and community orientation. Every where I go, whether in the downtown or suburban area, each home has a gathering place, where people welcome their guests with songs, share stories, and have big feasts.
I emerged myself in the community of scholars, educators, and researchers who shared the common values of the progressive education navigating through changes to meet the diverse needs of students in the Pacific region. At the conference I presented my preliminary report on my dissertation “Factors influencing educational and career choices of Vietnamese senior high school students.” I had valuable discussion and feedback from the very experienced educational researchers in the Pacific. I was inspired by the speakers who were regional, national, and international distinguished educators, scholars and leaders in the field of education: Peggy Dunlop, the Inaugural Director of The Vaaomanu Pasifika (Pacific and Samoa Studies Unit) at Victoria University; Rebecca McCullough, who works with the Pacific Region, The Netherlands, USA, and Indonesia to promote inclusive education for people with disabilities; Dr. Timothy Morrison, Associate Professor in the Department of Education at Bingham Young University; Dr. Eula Ewing Monroe, and Lorretta Krause.
As part of the conference activity, my colleagues and I visited the Waimauga college. In Western Samoa, college is referred to a high school including students of grade 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. All students are required to pass grade 13 before going to a university. At Waimauga college, all female and male students dressed in pink shirts and green lava uniforms. My colleagues and I were warmly greeted by a friendly, barefoot principal, Mr. Milikini Timoti and two assistant teachers, Keneti Koli and Pisi. Although the school had poor infrastructure, many ninth and tenth graders had to sit on mats, the principal was generous to offer his guests delicious tuna sandwiches and fresh coconut milk. I was moved by the school’s hospitality and their warm welcome.
It was the greatest conference trip I ever had. Thank you so much, the East-West Center Alumni for your dedicated support, the Travel Award had advanced me to the opportunity of seeing another part of the world and to learn from other culture. It is the meaningful way to experience the spirit of understanding and building a united community from all the differences.