By Caroline Cerf
“Where is that again?” I have been repeatedly asked this question since returning from my trip to Myanmar. To be honest, I didn’t truly realize it’s place in the world until visiting. Located in the thick of Southeast Asia, Myanmar, or Burma, as it is formerly known, is a country filled with rich culture, an active environment, and plenty of humidity. With 11 students, 3 faculty members, and 1 Burmese tour guide, the Myanmar immersion program offered both self-discovery and world insight that I had never before experienced. As fellow program participant Kenley Wynne describes, “It was total step outside my comfort zone,” but quickly remarks, “It was the best risk I’ve taken as a Santa Clara student.”
Backpacking through rural Myanmar and visiting local industry along the way, the Food and Agribusiness Institute crafted a trip that exposed me and other students to a diverse array of agriculture, wildlife, and culture, with an emphasis in sustainability. Traveling from region to region, we were also introduced to the efforts of foreign aid and the newly established government. Visiting a microfinance firm, current senior and economics major Marcus LeJay expresses, “Visiting PGMF gave me insight into the financial foundation that is required for local industry to develop—particularly in farming efforts.” Local industry would follow us throughout our trip and was highlight for all students. While in the Inle Lake region, my fellow peers and me had the opportunity to participate in leg rowing—a type of fishing native to the lake. After realizing how difficult it truly was and falling into lake, this experience gave students a new appreciation for physical labor and the unique culture of Myanmar.
Myanmar offered me more than just an educational experience—it provided me with a refined career path, a global perspective, and friendships that I would not have had without the immersion. As I reflect on my time at Santa Clara, this experience will always have the most profound influence on my future.
Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and Thailand
tropical monsoon; cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (southwest monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild temperatures, lower humidity during winter (northeast monsoon, December to April)
central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands
petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower, arable land
natural gas; wood products; pulses and beans; fish; rice; clothing; minerals, including jade and gems
56,320,206 (July 2015 est.)
Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%