The students at Yadanabon are remarkably respectful. They stand when I enter room, and after thanking me in unison, they stand at the end of a class period until I leave. The language of instruction is English, a holdover from Myanmar’s time as a British colony (when it was known in the West as Burma).
After a long period of self-imposed isolation under a dictatorial government, from 1962 to 2010, the educational system in Myanmar has languished and fluency in English is not strong for most of my students. But they are certainly eager to learn and all of them speak English much better than I speak Burmese. Still, the language barrier between us is a frequent challenge.
So, too, is the difference in the level of technology in the classroom. At CWU, we take it for granted that classrooms are equipped with internet-connected computers, projectors, and document cameras, and there is wi-fi everywhere.
None of that can be taken for granted at Yadanabon. There is no wi-fi in the Geography building, no connection to the internet in most classrooms, and only two projectors to serve a department with nearly 500 students.
One day, I wanted to introduce Google Scholar to a seminar of graduate students so I needed a link to the internet. We got it done, with cables strung across a lab and one PC perched dangerously on a plastic chair.
[CWU Geography Professor John Bowen will be sharing his experiences of living and working abroad in regular dispatches appearing on Cwucrimsonandblack.com. He and other Wildcats abroad are featured in the Spring 2020 issue of Crimson & Black, CWU’s alumni magazine, available in May.]