BSSD (National University of Laos) Graduation 2013

BSSD (National University of Laos) Graduation 2013

On Sunday, September 8, 2013, a party was held at Madame Xuyen’s home for 2013 the graduates of the Social Work & Social Development program (the 4th batch) at the National University of Laos, in Vientiane.

On Sunday, September 8, 2013, a party was held at Madame Xuyen’s home for 2013 the graduates of the Social Work & Social Development program (the 4th batch) at the National University of Laos, in Vientiane. 135 Social Work students graduated this year with 8 of the students having received a CWS/ Global Ministries scholarship for their studies. The current total number of trained social workers throughout Laos is now 385.

The party started around 8:30 AM when guests began to arrive. Guests to the party involved an assortment of people totaling 55 individuals.  People came from various centers/agencies where they work and do volunteering including Donkoi primary school, Nahay primary, Udomphome primary school, the National Children’s Hospital, Good Neighbors, the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Center, Great Peace, MCC, Faculty of the Social Sciences, as well as other students from the National University of Laos. After the guests all arrived the first hour was spent making final preparations for the celebration and lunch that followed the party. Around 10 o’clock some of the graduates (those with scholarships) and all the guests gathered together. The graduates sat in front of the room to be honored and so that all the guests could see exactly who some of the graduates at the party were. This was an excellent idea to recognize and honor the 8 social work graduates by having them sit in front of the room. This way all the guests could know the names and faces of the graduates if party they hadn’t known already. Some of the guests at the party are unfamiliar with the social work program at the National University of Laos as well as who and how many students complete the program each year. By having some of the school, the graduates present as well as an assortment of guests the link can be made to show others current graduates. All the guests of the party were recognized by name and where they work or volunteer also. This was an excellent idea so that guests can all get to know each other, if they haven’t met before and be recognized for their time and work. 

In terms of social work gathering lots of guests from a variety of social work places and agencies is important and valuable for networking and communication on ideas of some cases in their work.  Having all the guests plus the graduates also at the party gives inspiration, hope, power, and energy to everyone involved to “visually see” social work in Laos (where it is happening, with who, and what it has become over a few years).  The graduates at the party were awarded with special certificates for their time volunteering and service outside of classes (even though one of their classes is called Volunteerism).  It is important to recognize the time social work students have spent outside of their classrooms getting real life experience and knowledge.  Volunteering is very valuable not only in getting experience but allowing a student to judge what type of social work/ population of people they may or may not enjoy working with. Volunteering also allows them to see the need for social workers in Laos, and how they can give back to their country and its people.

The party also involved a candle/singing walk by the graduates as reflection on their journey to earn a Bachelor’s degree and the sense of unity among other social workers in Laos they were now joining. The candle/singing walk was very beautiful and a good addition to the party. The graduates and guests also heard an inspiring speech read by a 4th year student, Chanthaly, which was sent from a lecturer at the National University of Laos who is currently in Korea. I think it is beneficial for students to hear an inspirational speech at graduation. An inspirational speech gives graduating students a sense of pride in their work and acknowledgement for time spent getting their degree, but also hope and inspiration for their future work. Inspirational speeches are valuable to bring energy and positive support to individuals, especially in social work, an area of work that is not always easy and can bring sadness, frustration, anger, or other challenges. After all the speeches and the certificates were handed out, all the guests got involved in sharing songs and dances.   This was great idea as it allowed others to share talents and skills for fun with their fellow friends/ social workers. Before concluding the party everyone had lunch together.  It was nice to be able to share in lunch with everyone because it allowed time to communicate informally between friends and/or groups of people/ social workers that work or are located in different areas and rarely communicate. The party concluded around 12:30 PM with pictures taken of all the guests and the graduates.  The 2013 party of BSSD graduates was an excellent idea.  It not only allowed some of the current graduates to be honored and inspired in different ways than at the university, but it also allowed many friends and other social workers to join in the celebration.

Hopefully social work graduates and fellow social workers/ friends living in Laos will come together to honor and celebrate this special accomplishment in future years!

On Friday September 13, 2013, the actual graduation of the class of 2013 at the National

University of Laos occurred. I went to Dongdok Village (where the University of Laos is located) to see a couple of my good friends, Sing & Botanh, in particular. By the time I arrived, around 9:00 AM the graduates had already received their diplomas and were gathered around the school with their friends and family. I met up with another friend, Sai, and Sing’s mother (who had come from Savannakhet- a southern province- for the day) and brother. We met at Sing’s flat and then all went to find Sing and others. We took pictures, as the grounds were covered in flowers and stuffed teddy bears (which are popular graduation presents- the bigger the stuffed teddy bears the better)!! After taking many pictures with different combinations of people we went back to Sing’s flat and gathered to eat lunch together. There were about 16 people who came for lunch, including other friends and family members. We ate fish, sticky rice, and Phun Mee, noodles plus fish and vegetables rolled in cabbage and then all dipped in sauce. It was a delicious meal. We then spent part of the afternoon relaxing and talking with one another.

I was excited to see what graduation day at the National University of Laos looked like and it was inspiring to see so many people who had finished their studies in Social Work or other areas. It reminded me of my graduation day from college; only mine included a large number of unfortunate events that did not happen here. Lao students are very bright and will help their families and the country in many ways.

Congratulations to all graduates of 2013!

Nicole Betteridge teaches English with the Lao Evangelical Church and volunteers with the Dankoi Children Development Center.