65 Ninth Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 USA
tel: +1.415.874.5578
email: info@laostudies.org
Find Center for Lao Studies on FacebookFind Center for Lao Studies on YouTubeFind Center for Lao Studies on Flickr

2010 SAILers

The SAIL program is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for Americans to learn about and experience Laos through language classes, country-specific courses, cultural exposure trips, and volunteering. The program also reconnects second generation Lao Americans growing up in the U.S. with their roots, providing them with the opportunity to gain a better understanding of their identity as a Lao living in America. 

2010 marks the second year of the SAIL program with four energetic SAILers who are ready to immerse themselves in Lao society (pictures and bios below). Please follow their blog as they embark on their eight-week journey.


Ryan F.


Ryan, 26, lived most of his life in Connecticut where he grew up. In the 1980s and 1990s his mother worked with Southeast Asian refugees in a non-profit organization that taught English as a second language. The first person from Laos that Ryan met was a veteran who came to speak to his class in college. Since then he went to study Lao at the Southeast Asian Summer Institute (SEASSI) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2007 and is pursuing his interest in Lao Studies by participating in this year's SAIL program. 

Ryan is currently a graduate student, studying pre-colonial Lao history with Professor Thongchai Winichakul in the History Department at the University of Wisconsin. He will also be studying with Dr. Ian Baird, one of the Center for Lao Studies’ board members, who recently joined the faculty and has been working in Laos for many years.

Ryan’s wife, Nathlie, is accompanying him to Laos after their recent marriage in May 2010. It is her first time in Laos and they both look forward to spending their honeymoon together in the country.

Click here to read Ryan's blog

Phouthasack K.


Phouthasack grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. As a Lao American he is very intrigued with the different aspects of Lao culture in contrast to the American lifestyle of his childhood. Through the SAIL program Phouthasack hopes to have a better understanding of how to maintain Lao values and culture while living in America. He also hopes to improve his speaking and writing skills in order to better serve the Lao American community and to communicate with his family members who live in a southern Lao city of Pakse.

Phouthasack, 20, is currently attending Drake University. He has not yet declared a major, but is spending time discovering his true passion in life.

Phouthasack is very involved with his community and strives to make it a better and healthier place to live and work. He is the founder and a co-president of TOGETHER, a Southeast Asian Youth group. In 2008, members of the group volunteered over 100 hours of community service that included a clothing drive for incoming Burmese refugees, the annual Iowa Asian Festival, and a talent show, Support Local Talent, which attracted over 100 high school students. TOGETHER was recognized for its outstanding efforts and was awarded the Governors Volunteer Award for its dedication to the community.

Phouthasack enjoys the simple things in life such as listening to music, cooking, and spending times with family and friends.

Click here to read Phouthasack's blog

Toby M.


Toby, 29, was born in Savannakhet, Laos and immigrated to Iowa in the late ‘80s with her parents and her older sister. In 2007, after 20 years of oblivion, she finally returned to her homeland. The trip was an amazing experience that opened her eyes to a whole new world of her Motherland and helped expand her global perceptions. Upon her return from Laos, she participated in the Southeast Asian Summer Institute (SEASSI), an intensive language program at UW-Madison in order to learn to read and write Lao while integrating new vocabulary into her already proficient spoken Lao. She is excited to be a part of SAIL and the opportunity to advance her language competencies and gain a deeper understanding of the Lao culture and its history.

Recently graduated, Toby received her MBA with a concentration in Human Resources. She has learned and grown a lot and looks forward to new experiences and opportunities.

Besides traveling and spending time with her family, Toby can be found reading, listening to Kina Grannis music or playing her guitar which she is self-teaching after being inspired by Kina. She is also intrigued and inspired by her family history and looks forward to using her recently acquired blessing of an MBA to be a blessing to others. Toby’s ultimate dream is to fund a girl’s scholarship in her village in Laos.

Click here to read Toby's blog

Akarath S.



Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Akarath is a second generation Lao American. His parents arrived in the US in December 1979 and were greeted by the unforgiving Wisconsin winter. Humbling stories of life in Laos and adjusting to life in the US have always motivated Akarath to learn more about the place his parents remember so well and speak of often.  He hopes that by participating in the SAIL program, he will be able to learn about his cultural heritage and improve his language skills.  He would also like to work within the Lao community to bridge the gap between the generations and teach younger generations the beautiful aspects of Lao culture.

Akarath, 27, holds a degree in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and taught Social Studies for a couple of years before returning to graduate school. He is currently working on an MA in Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  In addition to graduate school, he also works as an admissions counselor at Messmer High School.

In his spare time, Akarath enjoys working on puzzles, table tennis, and a variety of sports.  He has also volunteered at local soup kitchens, the Lao American Organization in Milwaukee, and is currently helping to organize city-wide Asian street festival in Milwaukee later this summer. He likes to learn about anything Lao, from expanding his vocabulary to performing wedding and funerary rituals.  This will be Akarath's third trip to Laos, although his first in 10 years. He is excited about the opportunity to experience what SAIL has to offer.

Click here to read Akarath's blog

Mr. Xuan X.

MR. XUAN S. (2010 Program Leader)

Mr Xuan, 57, was born in a village at Atsaphangthong District of a southern Lao province, Savannakhet. After only three years of schooling, at the age of eleven, Mr. Xuan’s family decided that the only way to continue his education was for him to be ordained as a Buddhist novice monk. He later finished his primary and secondary education at a school for monks in Savannakhet Town. Between 1973 and 1976 he moved to the capital city of Vientiane to study at the Institute of Buddhist Studies where he received his general education and studied the teaching of Buddhist Dharma.

Between 1976 and 1981 Mr. Xuan attended the Teachers Training College of Vientiane (Dongdok Pedagogical Institute). He studied foreign language teaching methodologies with the emphasis on English. After graduation, he taught at the Dongdok Pedagogical Institute for three years.

For more than ten years Mr. Xuan worked for several foreign import-export companies in Laos before joining an International Nongovernment Organization (INGO) in 1996. Through the INGO work, Mr. Xuan was able to improve his professional skills through seminars, workshops, and trainings. One of most important trainings he attended was on rural community development at the Southeast Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute in Cagayan De Oro City, the Philippines. After the training, between 2002 and 2007, Mr. Xuan was assigned as a project manager in Savannakhet Province to work on community development. There, he furthered his knowledge and skills on coordination and operations of project activities with local partners.

Mr. Xuan is now retired as of October 2009. He is pleased to be a part of the SAIL program and to serve as this year’s Program Leader. He is committed to assist the SAILers during their stay in Laos and to make SAIL a successful program.

Click here to read Mr. Xuan's blog




News & Updates

Center for Lao Studies

Online Resources

Lao Basic Course / SEAsite
Lao Fonts / Character Picker
Lao-English Dict. / GraphicME