This Week in Southeast Asian Studies (TWISEA)
January 27, 2017
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From Quang Tri to Manhattan: Discovering Social Impact from Countryside to City

This week we are featuring an article by Jen Louie. Jen joined our faculty member Christoph Giebel's 2015 summer study abroad program Viet Nam: Building for Peace in the Wake of War. The 2017 application for this program closes February 15. 

By the time the egg coffee was in my hand and the sun crept above Hoàn Kiếm lake, sweat began to drip down my back, motorcycles slowly filled the streets, and elderly Vietnamese women finished up their morning aerobic exercise in the park.

Last summer, I spent nearly six weeks studying Vietnamese war and history and volunteering with PeaceTrees in the Quang Tri Province of central Vietnam through a UW Comparative History of Ideas program.  To view the blog I kept, please click here.

Everyone boasts about the glory of studying abroad; being immersed in another culture and gaining unimaginable unique experiences. And these clichés proved true throughout my time in Vietnam. I played soccer barefoot on concrete slabs between busy streets with a team of local Vietnamese boys, painted playgrounds in schoolyards tucked away in the countryside, and ate endless bowls of freshly picked fruits unique to South East Asia. I enjoyed the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises, endless rolling rice fields, and mountainous backdrops.

But study abroad isn’t always the enjoyable eye opening adventure it’s made out to be. It is consistently challenging in all regards: mentally, physically, and emotionally. I can confidently say that those six weeks ruthlessly questioned my perception, pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone, and questioned years of personal values and beliefs more than anyone or anything has before.

Throughout the volunteering portion of our program, my awareness of voluntourism was brought to a whole new level. During this trip, Ivan Illich’s “To Hell with Good Intentions” became one of my most valued texts. What Illich’s discusses remains the basis of a perspective on international social issues, necessary for anyone interested in social impact. Our group discussions on white man’s burden, poverty porn, voluntourism, and sustainable community programs were difficult to have.

But they were some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of.

Professor Christoph Giebel was an inspirational mentor and the Program Directors of PeaceTrees carried an admirable passion for service. These people crafted a space for constructive unconventional conversations to be had without obliterating my idealistic hope for the future of social impact.

To read the full story, click here.

Archived Stories
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Featured Courses

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If you are interested in sharing an article you wrote, an event in the greater Seattle area, or any other information you would like to see in TWISEA, email us at

Recommended Resources

This section lists news items and other recently-published resources that have been recommended by faculty and grad students over the past week. To submit an item for next week, email
Newly Listed:

A big congratulations to Dr. Christina Sunardi for receiving the Philip Brett Award for her book Stunning Males and Powerful Females by the American Musicological Society!

Previously Listed:
  • UW Summer Study Abroad to Viet Nam: Peace in the Wake of War, June 14 - July 19.
    Reduced fee and open to non-UW students. 
    The next info session will be February 6, 4:30-5:30 in Padelford C101. - Application deadline is February 15

  • IMPORTANT! Is your house or office filled with knick-knacks from your visits to Southeast Asia? The Southeast Asia Center is happy to take your donations of material cultural items! We are working on curating cultural kits for K-12 educators and would to make your items available to students throughout Washington State. We will group the itmes with related items and develop item information sheets for educators to use in their classrooms.

    Please keep in mind:
    -Items will not be returned, so please donate items knowing that we cannot secure their return to you
    -No delicate items that children cannot potentially handle
    -Must be small enough to fit in a medium flat-rate box through USPS

    What are we looking for?
    -Original items from Southeast Asia
    -Samples of bills or coins
    -Cloth, weavings, batik, etc.
    -CDs of music
    -Small musical instruments
    -Writing samples
    -Children's book
    -Anything really!

    Please be sure to include a short bit of background information if you have it. You can bring items to the Southeast Asia Center (Thomson Hall 303) or send us an email at to arrange a pickup. Thank you in advance for your participation.

Upcoming Events (3)

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Fellowships and Funding

Previously Listed:

For general information on funding sources, including FLAS, visit the SEAC website
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Conferences and Calls for Papers

Previously listed opportunities:

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Educators: Sign up for our K-14 educator emails for events and resources geared specifically towards teachers. 

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