Simon Fraser University


MEd. scholarship students (l to r) Bounthay Chanboualapha from Laos and Sen Vicheth and Chan Tola from Cambodia are among 25 Southeast Asian educators spending a semester at SFU this summer as part of the CIDA-sponsored Adult Education for Economic Development project.

Thinking of the world, miles from home

August 3, 2007

They haven’t had much time for sightseeing. But Cambodian MEd. students Chan Tola and Sen Vicheth and their Laotian colleague Bounthay Chanboualapha are nevertheless delighted to be studying at SFU’s Burnaby campus this summer.

“It’s a great chance to expose ourselves to different environments and cultures,” says Tola, who admits “I expected to find all white people here, but I found that it’s a very multicultural country.”

Vicheth agrees, adding “it’s also very beautiful and green. It’s not too cold for us now, but I’m not too sure about the winter.”

And his colleagues both nod in agreement when Chanboualapha observes: “We’ve gained a lot of experiences studying at SFU, especially in the library. It has a huge amount of materials for us to learn. And a lot more computers – the computer pool is very useful. And the Internet is very fast.”

The trio are with a cohort of 25 MEd. scholarship students from Thailand, Cambodia and Laos who are here as part of the Adult Education for Economic Development project, a Tier 1 initiative sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The innovative MEd. program – the project’s professional development component – is the result of a unique collaboration between SFU’s Faculty of Education, Continuing Studies and the Office of International Development (OID).

“We designed it to train students to successfully devise and implement education programs relevant to the needs of adult learners in their communities,” explains Allan MacKinnon, the education faculty’s field programs director, who led the instructional team that developed the five-semester program.

“And SFU instructors are also delivering it, both here and at our project-partner institutions in Southeast Asia – Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and the National University of Laos in Vientiane.

Beginning in September 2006, the cohort completed its first two semesters in Thailand and Cambodia and, following this semester at SFU, will complete the final two semesters in Laos and back in Cambodia.

They head home Aug. 19. But Chan, Vicheth and Chanboualapha agree they will never forget their semester on Burnaby Mountain. Nor will they forget the hospitality of their home-stay families in Coquitlam.

And they’ll always treasure the friendships they’ve made, particularly within their cohort.

“We are all very close,” says Chanboualapha, “even though we speak different languages.

“Plus the people here are very kind. Especially the lecturers and the staff in SFU. They are very helpful. We all had a wonderful time in B.C.”

By Stuart Colcleugh