By MAX FILBY
When Louann Cummings was a college student, she watched the Vietnam War on TV. Now, as a college professor, she’s discovering what Vietnam has to offer besides its infamous past.
“It’s hard to separate the country from the war, but it’s much, much more than that,” Cummings said.
Cummings, a business professor at the University of Findlay, is leaving today to teach for a semester in Hanoi, Vietnam.
It’s a country she visited once before, in 2011, and one she’s returning to with the help of a Fulbright Scholar grant. Cummings is one of 800 who were awarded the Fulbright research or teaching grants, according to the University of Findlay.
“This is a huge privilege,” Cummings said. “I’ve had so much support for it.”
Cummings was chosen as an alternate for the Fulbright Scholar grant a year ago, and was notified that she would be receiving it in June.
While in Vietnam, Cummings will teach courses at the International School of Management and Economics at the National Economics University.
“We’ll be sharing the best practices for teaching with each other,” she said.
Cummings and her husband, who is traveling with her, plan to be “totally immersed in the culture and community,” she said.
Like his wife, Paul Cummings plans to jump right in by volunteering to teach English classes or by getting involved in the music scene.
“Louann’s taken me on some real adventures, that’s for sure,” he said. “I really want to explore everything while I’m over there.”
Paul said he and his wife were flattered when she was offered the Fulbright grant and the opportunity to revisit Vietnam.
“She works really hard. She deserves it,” he said.
The couple had to plan their trip in just a few months, since she was notified of her grant later than others who applied.
“If people know me, they know I have to plan things out. I’m just kind of flying by the seat of my pants here,” she said.
Cummings’ interest in the Asian community was first inspired by her colleague, Hiroaki Kawamura, chair of the Department of Language and Culture and an associate professor of Japanese at the University of Findlay.
“I was very happy to hear that she’ll get to go back,” Kawamura said. “When Louann came back the first time she was different, you could tell it had changed her.”
Like Cummings, Kawamura has played a big part in trying to explain to students that there’s more to Vietnam than the war that was fought there in the 1960s and 1970s.
“We perceive things completely different from each other,” he said. “We have to try to understand other people from their perspectives.”
Cummings hopes she can do that by bringing back pieces of Vietnamese culture to her students in Findlay, and may even try to establish a collaboration between her Vietnamese classrooms and her American ones.
Cummings said it’s a connection that is best made by traveling overseas, something she’d like to offer her students one day.
“It’s profound,” Cummings said. “It’s sort of surreal because it’s such a contrast to the war front you saw on the news right after watching ‘The Newlywed Game.'”
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