%1131%right%After graduating from Colby, Ly Tran '05 packed her bags. She wasn't headed for her home, in Hanoi, Vietnam, but rather to Urubamba, Peru. As an intern acting as volunteer affairs coordinator for ProWorld, a development organization with a focus on community health, youth development, education, and ecotourism, Tran was put in charge of organizing cultural and educational activities for international volunteers and being a liaison with the local community in the rural Andes.
Pretty intrepid for someone who arrived in Peru with just two semesters of Spanish at Colby, but not too different from having left Vietnam six years earlier headed for Wales without knowing much English.
Tran took Spanish lessons for two months, then picked up the nuances of the language from her host family, colleagues, local residentsand her young charges. "The kids ended up teaching me the language," she said, referring to the Peruvian children at the local shelter where she taught for the first two months in Urubamba. In addition to her official duties, she volunteered her time teaching arts and crafts and dance to kindergarten students. She even gave lessons on "African dance", courtesy of a semester abroad she had done in Ghana. The bulk of Tran's time in Urubamba was devoted to her internship and volunteer work at Kanchay Wasi, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. Visa complications cut short her stay though, and so, a year after graduation, she was back in Vietnam.
Tran's credentials and international experienceshe's lived in Ghana, Peru, Wales (where she attended United World College of the Atlantic) and, of course, Watervillelanded her a job in Hanoi as consultant to UNICEF (the United Nations Fund for Children). Her duties focused on bilingual education for ethnic minorities and on early childhood development. "I got to travel a lot around the country," she said, "but other than that, it was mostly translation work."
While her volunteer stint in Peru was "a great way to ease into life after Colby," Tran has found the transition from college to home quite challenging.
"I realize I have changed a lot and that now I need to build a new life back home," she said. "It can be tough to connect with people, even those you were friends with before.
"To people here, I sometimes come across as unrealistic and different," she said, making a reference to the idealism she cultivated in the UWC and Colby.
The best part of returning home, she said, is being with her family after six years of living abroad. During this interview, held shortly after the Vietnamese New Year holidays, Tran excused herself a few times to speak in Vietnamese to a family member. She recently became an aunt for the second time.
After almost a year on the job with UNICEF, Tran is already thinking of her next job.
"I would like to get a better understanding of development work here in Vietnam, preferably within an NGO.," she said. "Ideally, it would be something more hands-on than my current job, which leans toward technical input and consulting."
Graduate school also is on the horizon. Tran said she is still unsure about what field of study to pursue, but she is considering programs in education and development. For the time being she was making contacts with education practitioners through her work.
It may be that before long those well-traveled bags will be packed one more time.
Adriana Nordin Manan '07