Southeast Asia holds a special place in John Thao’s heart. The son of Laotian immigrants, John wanted to understand the people of the region and their ways of life. In the Spring of 2008, he became the first TU student to study in Thailand.
Though he kept an open mind, John had to adjust to some major changes. He went from comfortable living in Tulsa to a shack by some railroad tracks. His days of long, hot showers were over and he had to get used to outdoor tubs of water and sarongs (traditional wrap skirt). But as soon as it came time for his first dinner with his host family, all of John’s fears melted away. The whole family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, children, and neighbors all gathered together for the meal. John spoke no Thai, and could only communicate with gestures. Despite their language barrier, the locals created a warm, loving atmosphere made him feel right at home half-way around the world.
He enjoyed his time in Thailand so much that he returned almost immediately after graduation. John worked as an International Teaching Team member helping Thai teachers become more fluent in English. There he realized that he wanted to be educator. John chose to return to TU to pursue a Master of Arts in Education. Yet, Southeast Asia kept calling him back. When John was accepted into the Fulbright program as an English Teaching Assistant, he couldn’t be more excited. He was able to reconnect with his heritage during his work at the National University of Laos.
Now, John is back at TU completing his Master’s program and working as a graduate assistant in the International Living community. Not surprisingly, he is looking into doctorate programs and teaching positions in Asia. He hopes to visit China next.