RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
It was thumbs-up for Veronica Dye, left, Michaela Mendiola, center, and Jessica Au yesterday as they and other teens got ready at Honolulu Airport for a two-week educational tour to Vietnam. CLICK FOR LARGE
Students head to Vietnam
Twenty students will spend two weeks touring and learning
WHEN Sianha Gualano heard that the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council planned a summer study tour of Vietnam, the 16-year-old jumped at the opportunity to apply for the full travel scholarship.
Her interest in traveling to Vietnam for the first time stems from her mother's ties to the country. Gualano's mother, Anh Starr, left Vietnam for Maui with four siblings at 14 when her mother married a U.S. soldier before the end of the war.
Gualano's mother has not had the opportunity to return to her home country to visit.
But as one of 20 public high school students selected to participate in the educational tour, Gualano, of Kaneohe, said her mother, who was ecstatic for her daughter, will be able to live vicariously through her as she visits the country where she was born and raised.
"She's like, 'Take a lot of pictures,' " Gualano, a University Lab School student, said.
A group of students from various public high schools across the state left Honolulu Airport yesterday for the two-week educational trip to Vietnam through the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council's High School Travel Program. The students will learn about its history, culture and environment.
The students' trip will include a tour at the French Old Quarter in Hanoi; a visit to the former capital, Hue; an overnight stay on a junk boat in Halong Bay; an overnight train ride to Sapa; and spending time with host families in Sapa and the Mekong Delta.
This is the first international trip for many in the group. A majority of the students are from Oahu, with four from the Big Island, two from Molokai and one from Lanai.
It's going to be an eye-opening experience for the students, said High School Travel Program Director Natasha Chappel. The group will learn about modern Vietnam and the historical relationship between Vietnam and the United States at the height of the Vietnam War.
The students will gain a better understanding of the country as well as foster international interests, said the organization's executive director, Jill Takasaki Canfield.
Jesse Sliva, 17, who just graduated from Kailua High School, said he looks forward to developing friendships with students in Vietnam and to learning about the culture through the tour instead of solely relying on books.
As more students were dropped off by their parents at Honolulu Airport, 16-year-old Yuki Miura of Roosevelt High School read pages from the book "Vietnam Today: A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads" by Mark A. Ashwill. Miura said he awaits sampling the local food, visiting the rice fields and meeting the people.
Since 2004, the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council, a nonprofit organization that serves as the World Affairs Council for Hawaii, has arranged student educational tours to China, South Korea and Japan. Each high school student is offered a scholarship funded by the Freeman Foundation, which covers the entire trip.