By Mon Mon Myint Thu, Myanmar/Burma
Happy Mothers Day! I saw many families had gathering, especially with their mothers, in Holiday Inn while I had breakfast there. It makes me feel homesick for a while. However, I realized that it’s a good trade-off for me to leave my family and business for five weeks after completing one week orientation of the program. Within one week, we learnt many things and let me say what MONTANA stands for me.
Missoula – We lived here for the whole week and studied in Mansfield Center of the University of Montana. We took the city tour on the first day and I found out that it is a beautiful city in this state. We also had a chance to meet with the Mayor of Missoula and learnt the policies and how he manages the city in general. I felt that he loves Missoula people and tries his best to help people. Having a good leader can be the best gift from the God for this city.
Opposites & Similarities – In this week, we learned not only about America and American People but also about Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar by discussing our culture, our people, and our country compared to U.S. It was interesting for me to know opposites & similarities of each of us so that we can adapt each other to create the long-term relationship between us.
Networking – This is one of my main objectives to come here and this program made me fulfill this objective even in the first week. We can create the network with 14 participants from different countries in this program, people from Mansfield Center, some professors from University of Montana, people from Holiday Inn, people from Missoula, our fellowship coordinator, and our host family. We also had a chance to have a teleconference with other Asian leaders in Washington DC. It was a great honor for me to be one of the YSEALI fellows. I hope we can continue to expand our network during our remaining weeks in U.S.
Tribes and Immigrants – We visited SALISH and KOOTENAI tribes in this week. In Myanmar, we also have many tribes and the government is facing many challenges with them. It was good to learn the relationship between U.S government and the tribe and their strategy to maintain their traditions, lands, own businesses and so on. We also visited to Home of Shu Shu and Tuyen Pham who are immigrants in Missoula, Montana. We heard about their journey and experiences in their stay in U.S. Moreover, I also got a chance to meet with a Myanmar family who are living here for 8 years and heard their story too. I recognized that this is really the land of Diversity.
A helping hand – We did the volunteer work in Missoula Food Bank in this week. The purpose and the way they implement the project was impressed me a lot. This was the second time for me to participate in this kind of social work in foreign countries. It reminds me to start some CSR works in my country as soon as possible. I will also share this experience with my friends and other organizations once I am back to Myanmar.
Nature – The nature of Montana makes this trip as an unforgettable trip in my life. We visited Glacier National Park, Garden of 1,000 Buddas, and the mountain with letter “M” near University of Montana. We went hiking up to the “M” in one evening and the view from there was really nice. I hope I can get a chance to explore many other places in my home stay time too.
Action plan – This is the main part of our program. After getting some experiences in this week, we will come up with an action plan that we will implement when we are back to home. To be able to do this, our fellowship coordinator and host family will support us in coming two weeks. And then, we will come back again to Mansfield Center and discuss about our action plans with our program manager and other colleagues. I am excited to present my action plan and see action plans from others too.
This is the definition of “MONTANA” for me. I think everyone in this program will have their definitions too.
I am looking forward to seeing everyone in Missoula again.