"Studying Thai, Lao, and Hmong have been essential to pursuing my research questions and gaining a multifaceted understanding of geographical and anthropological issues regarding upland Southeast Asia."
Major(s) and Certificate(s): Southeast Asian Studies
Language(s): Hmong & Thai
Graduation Year: 2013
Current Location: Chiang Mai Province, Thailand
What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?
I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Geography at UW-Madison.
What motivated you to study this/these languages?
Studying Thai, Lao and Hmong have been essential to pursuing my research questions and gaining a multifaceted understanding of geographical and anthropological issues regarding upland Southeast Asia.
How have these languages enriched your life?
My knowledge of Thai, Lao, and Hmong have fundamentally changed my life. Not only has speaking these languages expanded my employment opportunities, but they have opened my eyes to the lives and experiences of thousands of people over the past decade. The lessons I have learned through speaking with these people in their languages have enriched my life and taught me important lessons about how our world works.
What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?
Risking offense to my other professors, I must admit that I always enjoyed my language courses the most. Aside from the enjoyment I get from learning languages, I found that my UW-Madison language courses were challenging and enlivening. My language instructors were willing to offer help outside of class and cultural experiences (including musical performances, cultural gatherings, potlucks, etc.)
How valuable were your out-of-classroom experiences?
I have been involved in UW’s study abroad program as I complete my Ph.D. dissertation fieldwork. The help that I have received from the study abroad programs have been essential to making this process of living and studying overseas possible.
How have you maintained or improved your language(s) since graduation?
I have continually studied and used Thai, Lao, and Hmong since graduating from UW’s Southeast Asian Studies program.
What advice do you have for current language students?
The best advice I have ever been given regarding language study is to make sure to spend at least a little bit of time on your chosen languages every day (20 minutes or more!). Eventually, those little bits of work pay off in big ways. Studying language takes tremendous commitment—DONT GIVE UP!
What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know?
Kuv hlub koj—”I love you”