February and March have been very busy months for Fort Wayne Sister Cities, IPFW, and Mawlamyine University. Just as how this is the first time that Fort Wayne Sister Cities is conducting an English language teacher program, this is also the first time that Fort Wayne Sister Cities and IPFW are conducting a student exchange program with Mawlamyine University. Five students and one professor from Mawlamyine University spent three weeks in Fort Wayne in February. For the first two weeks of March, three IPFW students, Meghan, Htaik, and Yin, 2 professors, Dr. Chad Thompson and Dr. Hao Sun, and award-winning author Ms. Helen Frost visited Mawlamyine. At the heart of all of our travels are warm conversations and deep appreciation for the hospitality and care that we received from Mawlamyine University.
As much as I enjoyed seeing the wonderful sights of Mawlamyine, my favorite aspects about the teacher and student exchange programs are the growing friendships among people who are committed to making the world a more peaceful place. Here are some highlights from our first week of March:
1) Our visit to a state school and orphanage. Ms. Helen Frost and the IPFW students delivered books to a school on March 1. In exchange, the school also gave books for us to bring back to Fort Wayne.
Then on the following day, on March 2, we visited a local orphanage to donate books and spent time with the children and staff/teachers. This was my second visit to the orphanage; I visited last month with members of Fort Wayne Sister Cities. This time though, I was able to play and interact more with the kids.
I think time is one of our most precious gifts in this world, but it is also one that we take for granted. As I spent time playing with the children, I also thought about the sacrifice that the teachers make each day to care for them. One of the teachers mentioned that she doesn’t get enough rest. Despite her tired countenance, I could sense her dedication and love for the children. Truly, love is patient, kind, endures all things, and is not self-seeking.
2) Mawlamyine University’s Welcoming Ceremony on March 3. It was wonderful to see fellow colleagues and students from different departments perform traditional dances and songs. Even though they have a hectic schedule, the Rector, the Department of English, professors from different departments, and students prepared a memorable event for us.
3) Reunion between the IPFW and Mawlamyine exchange students. In such a short time, they were all able to meet up again. Moments like these seem to highlight that the world is much smaller than we think.
4) Cross-cultural understanding and comparative education. I was so happy that some of the students in my class had the opportunity to interact with the delegation from IPFW. Many of the students in my class were curious about the differences between the university experience in the U.S. and Myanmar. During our panel discussion, students learned about the differences in teachers’ expectations, approaches to learning, and career paths that are available to them. I enjoyed these discussions a lot since they highlight our ongoing work in identifying characteristics of high quality education. At the same time, these discussions encourage students to consider the benefits of studying abroad.
photos taken by Meghan