Spencer Seballos – 2016-2017, ETA, Laos
Hi, my name is Spencer Seballos and I was a 2016-2017 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Vientiane, Laos. I was an English Teaching Assistant at the national medical school in Laos, the University of Health Sciences, and at the U.S. embassy-sponsored American Center @ Thatdam. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and am of Spanish-Filipino and Central European heritage. I majored in Hispanic Studies and Biochemistry/Cell Biology at Rice University.
My grandparents immigrated to the U.S. to continue their medical education, so moving abroad to teach medical students was in some senses bringing the story of my family to a full circle. However, even though I came in Laos to teach, my #Fulbright experience was characterized by learning: a new language, a new culture, and a new way of negotiating interpersonal interactions. I gained a much greater appreciation of the challenges my father and his family faced when they arrived in the U.S.
A nation of 7 million people, Laos has over 150 ethnic groups and 84 unique languages. By comparing the multiracial, multilingual and multicultural diversity in the U.S. – and that of my own family – to my students’ experiences in their own country, I could share a more nuanced perspective of what it means to be an American. Indeed, when Lao ethnic minority students discovered my family background and that I speak languages other than English, they were more empowered to share their own stories.