During my stay in Southeast Asia I was given the opportunity to visit several universities to speak in front of the student body and administrators about environmental programs and leadership in the U.S. My first presentation was at the University Institute of Technology in Cambodia where Arun graduated and is now a lecturer. I assumed the information I was sharing with the students would be unfamiliar to them because just like in the U.S. wastewater and trash are “out of sight out of mind” type of services and remember from my last posts, both Cambodia and Laos have septic systems for wastewater so talking about sewer pipeline, lift stations, anerobic digestion and “no-dig” technology will be foreign to them. So, I tried keeping them engaged by asking questions during my presentation and when they got the answers right small gifts awaited them from the Costa Mesa Sanitary District (e.g. reusable tote bag, metal straws, cellphone popsocket, etc.). It worked! They were engaging and connecting with me about environmental programs.
My next stop was at the University of Southeast Asia in Cambodia. I presented at the school’s American Center, which is where students learn about the United States including our history, government and culture. The Center had a DVD box set of one of the best John Wayne movies of all time, The Searchers, so I had to recommend everyone at the Center to watch this American classic. Just like at the Institute of Technology the students were engaging and asking good questions about the United States.
In Laos I presented at the National University of Laos Environmental Science Department where one of YSEALI’s graduate is a lecturer. 2018 YSEALI Fellow, Noi Oulavanh has been an instructor at the school for the past ten years and helped coordinated my visit to the school. The students English was limited, so Noi had to translate for me, but that didn’t stop our engagement with each other.
At all three schools I talked about the YSEALI Program and encouraged the student to apply in the future because it is a great way to connect and learn from each other. I hope some of them will apply and maybe one day I will see them in Southern California.