Tuesday, November 29, 2011

tôn đúc thắng university seminar

I hope I haven't lost my fan base. I realize it has been 23 days since I have last posted, but considering absolutely nothing has been going on research wise over here (besides planning), I haven't been overwhelmed to write. I have been neck-deep in NSF grant proposals and graduate school applications. All I can say is, come December 1 (when most apps are due and personal deadline to myself) I will be drinking one multiple large glasses of Da Lat red wine.

I cannot lie--there is one exciting moment that is rather relevant to my Fulbright work that took place. I had been asked to give a seminar on whatever topic I so chose to Tôn Đúc Thắng University. I was first offered position as a lecturer to give an entire semester long class on "Data Analysis for Biology". Now, don't get me wrong, I was flattered. But we were warned about this from past Fulbrights. It seems as if the word "Fulbright" translates as "God's gift to this world" to the Vietnamese and they all the sudden are asking you "teach this here and that over there and OH while you're at it...could you teach English to my wife's niece's boyfriend? Great, thanks." I know bioinformatics sounds fancy-schmancy but let's be serious. As just a BS graduate, I was not about to BS my way through an entire course while people's educations and future was on the line. I politely told the director that I may not be qualified and offered to give a seminar to the class to see how things go...

So now here I was, trying to plan for a seminar to university students in which I had no idea how much genetics, evolution, biology, etc. background they actually had. Let alone how much English they knew! The Vietnamese sort of do this thing where they just nod and smile and look at you when they are acting like they understand what you are saying. That is what I was preparing myself for. They seem to be really into conservation research at this school so I did what on could with what I knew and decided to give a seminar titled "The importance of genetics in conservation research". If anything, I thought it would be good practice for future work as a graduate student and professor. I didn't really have anything to lose.

The university arranges a taxi for me and off I go. I had never been to a Vietnamese university before so I was pretty anxious to see what it was going to be like. It seemed to be one of the newer schools built on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City and was actually fairly impressed. When I entered the seminar room, I nearly fainted. The room was all decorated and there was a huge banner welcoming "Laurel Yohe-Fulbright Fellow". It was probably the most adorable thing I have ever seen in my life. At that moment, I realized how important it was to these people to have a foreigner come talk to them and share their knowledge and experiences.

I, of course, showed the beloved Tree of Life video that I can't seem to get enough of. I seriously watch that video over and over again and never get sick of it. It seemed to be a huge hit with the students too. As it turns out, the professor had translated all of my slides into Vietnamese prior to when I arrived AND translated the entire 10 minute video into Vietnamese. So the fear of people having no idea what I was saying went out the window. The students asked lots of questions afterwards and I was over the moon with how things went. To top it all off, they gave me a bouquet of flowers and an adorable 'thank-you' gift. All-in-all, it was a very rewarding experience.

me ballin' out

thank you ton duc thang university!

my adorable class & me...you can't see on the banner but on the bottom it says "Speaker: Laurel Yohe-US Student Fulbright Fellow"--so cute

1 comment: