Western Instructors Learning Hmong Culture In Thailand

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Western Technical College’s Lin Rauch and Pam Solberg have visited a historic Buddhist temple, hiked through Doi Inthanon National Park, and traveled over 8,000 miles across the globe.

This all occurring in just one week.

Rauch and Solberg are currently in the Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces of Thailand, as part of the Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad program from the U.S. Department of Education. Rauch, a Nursing instructor, and Solberg, a Communication Skills instructor, are with members of Chippewa Valley Technical College and other high schools, hoping to broaden their understanding of Hmong history and culture. They left the United States on June 15, and plan to return July 14.

“I was so overwhelmed at being chosen for this honor,” said Rauch. “With such a rich history of Hmong culture in our area, this trip will provide a great perspective of how we can better support our students.”

That perspective is gained by visiting nursing colleges and elementary schools, speaking with local students and learning along the way. During their time in Thailand, they are learning about how different cultures and societies incorporate local knowledge into their program. The hope is to incorporate what they learn into teaching practices here in the United States.

“I can’t imagine a better way to develop understanding and cultural mindfulness than participating in an immersion experience in Thailand,” said Solberg. “I hope to share everything I’ve learning with my students and with others to foster the cultural competency and communication skills that will help us navigate the world with each other.”

In between their visits at local schools and universities, the group has taken in the sights, sounds, and smells of Thailand. They have been enchanted by welcome dances, treated to dinner theaters, and immersed with the natural beauty of the country.

“I never could have imagined any part of this,” said Rauch. “We have learned so much in just a short time here. We have been to markets and in the classroom and learned about the political system in Thailand. It has been beautiful.”

The trip is far from over. The group will be visiting with groups from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Minnesota Hmong Consortium, exploring the White Temple in Phu Chi Fa, and visiting with Chiang Mai University Faculty to learn more about Hmong and other indigenous peoples in Thailand.

“This has already been an experience of a lifetime,” said Rauch. “What we are learning here in Thailand is so important, especially to our area. I already know that what I’m learning here will make me a better instructor to my students and their patients in the field.”

The Fulbright-Hays program provides grants to support overseas projects in training, research, and curriculum development in modern foreign languages and area studies for teachers, students, and faculty engaged in a common endeavor.

Western Technical College will be providing updates on Rauch and Solberg’s trip on Western’s Facebook page.