Dean of Admissions, Dane Rowley, travels to Myanmar to recruit students from Asia. He’s launching Augustana’s focused effort to welcome more international students to campus.
Few countries or cities have made as great an impact on me as Yangon and Myanmar as a whole (the US still refers to it as Burma and the capitol as Rangoon). This is my 3rd time in the city. I was there for the first time 5 years ago with large group of US colleges and we missed the violent monk-led protests of 2007 by just a day. I returned there 3 years ago with just one other school to brave the road less traveled and had amazing recruiting success (and personal fulfillment).
In the time since 2009 Ang San Su Kyi is now free and the country is moving closer to social, political and economic freedom. I was a little more nervous visiting this time though because I was the group leader for this stop on the Pocari Sweat Tour and with 2 of the university reps being new to the country I wanted to make sure the city was worthwhile for their institutions. I was also eager for them to see this beautiful land and people the way I do.
A wonderful family I know from some connections with my alma mater helped set us up with a great driver for the 2 days we’d be there. He was there at the airport waiting for us, smiling as we piled into his van. We spent a lot of time with Khro Say and even though he didn’t speak much English, he was a new member of our tour group for a short time. I really packed a crazy schedule in to our time in Myanmar but we did make time for a quick 1 hour stop at the main Pagoda in Yangon.
In most other countries the Swedagon Pagoda would be nothing more than a tour spot that used to be a functional place of worship. But not in Myanmar. The place can best be described as a Buddhist shrine, monastical retreat, place of prayer and worship, and temple complex, all with a mystical beauty enchanting me every time I visit. I hoped that my traveling companions from Babson, Chapman and Elon felt the same way.
After an all too quick stop there, we made our way to the Inya Lake Hotel for a workshop and college fair for the students of Yangon International School. We had a great turnout and the students showed great interest in all 4 of our colleges.
After the 3 hour program we met up with counselors and administrators from 5 international schools and also with 2 US embassy officers who work to promote US culture and education in Myanmar. We had a delicious dinner and lively discussion about the future of Myanmar, the upcoming US election, and how we can get more US colleges to visit this special place.
Monday was an awesome day in Yangon. It rained on us for most of the day and we had a break of only about 30 minutes to eat food in a 10 hour day but we accomplished so much. We visited 3 high schools, 1 educational resource center, and the US Embassy/American Center. All totaled we met with over 260 students in 2 days, talking to them about each of our colleges, how to apply to the US and how to write an exceptional essay.
I left Yangon Monday night exhausted but so grateful for the wonderful students I got to know, and grateful for the dedicated guidance counselors and diplomats who give so much to them. I sincerely hope that it is not another 3 years before I go back to one of places that has transformed me in its own Burmese way.