A Letter from SJU Grad Vinh Ho
"The 21st Century will be the Pacific Century." As I recall, it was spring of 1995, and I listened intently, a college freshman fascinated by Dr.
Richard Bohr during one of his Introduction to East Asia lectures. It was a theme he would return to again and again over the semester. Inspired by Dr.
Bohr’s pronouncement, I decided to embark on an academic and career path with Asia as the prime destination.
After graduating from Saint John’s in 1998 and a brief stint working in the Twin Cities, I left Minnesota to teach English in Zhongshan, at Zhongshan College in Guangdong province of the People’s Republic of China. During the weekdays, I practiced English conversation with my students and taught them the ins and outs of English grammar, while they taught me about life in China and Chinese culture. I enjoyed my year in Zhongshan so much that I decided to extend my stay in China for one more year. I moved onto Jilin, in the northeastern corner of China, where I continued teaching English, and began learning Chinese in earnest.
After my two years in China, I earned a masters degree in Asian studies from the University of Hawaii, followed by a graduate certificate in regional literacy from the East-West Center’s Asia Pacific Leadership Program. During this time, I stayed in touch with Dr. Bohr. I was very excited to tell him how I had developed a passion for all things Asia-related, and that one of the best things about being at the East-West Center was the international student community -- my daily interaction, and friendships, with graduate students from all over the Asia-Pacific region -- people from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, India, Tibet, Bhutan, Indonesia, Fiji, Micronesia, and Hawaii. My day-to-day life was so rich with inter-cultural friendships and learning that I stayed on for one more year with the East-West Center as a program assistant/teaching assistant.
Having spent the past year teaching English to post-secondary students and businesspeople at Pagoda Academy in Seoul, Korea, I have had the opportunity to expand and build upon my previous experiences living abroad. I have concluded that the old adage: "If you treat others kindly, they will treat you kindly in return," runs true in every person in every country I encounter.
Currently I am traveling throughout China and Vietnam, where I will visit with East-West Center alumni and some former Maryknoll teachers who are now studying or working there. While in China, I will also visit with the same students to whom I taught English almost a decade ago.
Looking back on how my life has changed since graduating from SJU, I have realized what a profound impact Dr. Bohr and the SJU Asian Studies program have had on me. As I focus on my future and a career helping others understand the growing importance of Asia-Pacific region, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Bohr. Thank you, Dr. Bohr, for sharing your knowledge and vision of Asia with me, as well as your incredible leadership in building such a fine Asian Studies program at CSB/SJU.