Monday, March 16, 2015

Three Years Later......

Three years ago today, I was hiking through the highlands of northern Vietnam, reflecting on my then nearly 7 month journey.  with only 2 and a half short months left, I realized how quickly the year had gone by, and how close I was to returning home.  I find myself in that position again, as my sophomore year at George Washington University is nearing the end.  At that point I'll be halfway done with my undergraduate degree (fingers crossed....).

For some reason, this blog has remained relevant since my departure from Vietnam still attracting several thousand hits each month and I realized that there has been no update on my life or of the other 14 SYA Vietnam students.  Just as it was an exceptional group in 2011-12, that remains true today.  Together we attend some of the top schools in the country, and I continue to be impressed by the feats my classmates are attaining.  Though we have not had an official reunion, I have been fortunate enough to reunite with 8 members of the group, and those meetings have been some the highlights of my year.  So as I reflect on not only Vietnam but also college, I thought it would only be fitting to update anyone that still looks at this blog on the whereabouts of infamous SYA 15.

(In alphabetical order - not picking favorites)      

Perrine Aronson
From Facebook
Since shipping out of Hanoi in spring 2012, Perrine has kept on the move.  After two years in Missouri at Saint Louis University, she decided the American Heartland was not for her, and returned to her native Europe to attend school in Italy.  As travel is in her blood, I was not surprised when she told me she was uprooting and leaving America behind. 

Maddy Blais

Dinner in Manhattan - Spring 2013 
After finishing up High School in New York City, Maddy left the Big Apple behind for the quieter, calmer life at Kenyon College in rural Ohio.  She, like Perrine, found that the Midwestern lifestyle was not for her, and transferred east for sophomore year at Boston College.  In Boston, she’s an International Studies major; focusing in Islamic societies last I heard. Clearly she’s come a long way since her days of getting various skin infections from constantly petting stray dogs in Vietnam.    

Nathan Cluss
Nate with his art - from Facebook
Once senior year was over, Nathan moved north from his native Virginia to set up shop in Philly.  During his past few years at Drexel, Nate has honed his artistic craft as a master artist.  Back in Vietnam I thought his photography was amazing, but then I saw some of his Philadelphia street art and was extremely impressed.  I would certainly recommend checking it out. 

Elliott Crofton
Fall in DC
As a fellow Washingtonian (DC), Elliott attends American University, where he too studies International Relations.  Apart from planned meet-ups, we’ve only ran into each other once on the DC metro, but we’ve still got two and a half more years.  Elliott attends American with his boyfriend Nick, who I’ve had the chance to meet several times, and I can tell they are enjoying their time in Tenleytown (that's where American U is).

Anna Leah Eisner
The Californians

Trading in her flip-flops and t-shirts for snow boots and parkas, Anna Leah moved from the warm beaches of Malibu to Massachusetts to attend Boston University.  Apart from her studies, Anna Leah also hosts a radio show on campus, and takes in all Boston has to offer.  We’ve made it a routine to meet up at least once each summer, seeing how we are only about an hour apart.  I hope to one day soon travel up to Boston, seeing how such a large contingent of the group are based in the area.

Nan McMillan
Brunch in Charlottesville 
Though she’s from Boston, and went to school in California, Nan has finally settled in Virginia, where attends University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  She has kept up her amazing singing, and now preforms with one of the a capella groups on campus.  Last year, I had traveled down to Charlottesville to visit Sarah, and while we were trying to figure out how to contact Nan, we went to see a movie.  While I was standing in line to get my ticket, I heard someone call my name, to my surprise, Nan was standing right there with some of her UVA crew.

McKenzie Nagle
Exploring the sea - from Facebook
Just as I left California for college, McKenzie moved in.  He now calls Pitzer College in Los Angeles home.  I have yet to meet up with him, but I do follow his numerous adventures online, as he pings from once place in the world to another.  In the few years since we left Vietnam, he has returned twice to Vietnam (as far as I’m aware), much to the delight of his host family and the other millions of Hanoians he has befriended.  

Woo Nguyen
From Facebook
As a Bay Area native, Woo stayed local for college, attending University of San Francisco.  Over the past few years he has developed his filmmaking, and now shoots for the University’s basketball team. 

Anna Oakes

Just a few months ago over Thanksgiving break I met up with Anna in Manhattan, where she told me about her time at Wesleyan University.  In addition to rigorous academics, she also travels around the country with Wesleyan’s Ultimate Frisbee team, a sport she picked up on the fields of the UN International School in Hanoi.  Anna has also been a driving force to establish a SYA reunion, as of yet not much progress has been made, but she continues to fight the good fight nevertheless.

Abby Ripoli
The Santa Barbara Squad
     Trading in her Chicago accent for the much more stylish Southern Drawl, Abby crossed the Mason-Dixon to attend school at Auburn University in Alabama.  Quickly embracing the south, she picked up her southern belle qualities and a fierce hatred of the Alabama Crimson Tide.  I’ve been lucky enough to reunite twice with Abby since ‘Nam.  Once to accompany me to Prom in Santa Barbara, and again this past November in Mississippi to watch Auburn upset Ole Miss in a game for the ages.  Both times going well out of her way to get to the various spots around the country I found myself in, and for that I am very grateful.
Jaya Sahihi
Grand New York reunion 2013 (Isn't that the same picture from before? Yes. Deal with it.)

Also attending Wesleyan with Anna, Jaya rounds out the SYA Connecticut contingent.  As mentioned earlier, I was able to meet up in New York with Jaya, Maddy and Anna in spring 2013.  There she told me about her trip she had taken a few months earlier to Vietnam, where she visited the old SYA building and some of our local hangouts around the neighborhood.  She admitted that the empty SYA building was pretty depressing, but had a great time back in Hanoi overall.

Julia Shumlin
From Facebook
Julia decided to stay in her home of Vermont for school, where she goes to Middlebury College.  Since returning from Vietnam Julia has been back once, where she spent about a month in Hanoi with McKenzie, volunteering and traveling around the country. 

Sarah Weiner
Washington DC - Summer 2013
The adventure has been never ending for Sarah since her Vietnam days.  This past year, she embarked on a journey to Asia that took her back to Vietnam for a few weeks where she visited with her host family who had relocated to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  From there she spent the rest of the semester trekking through the Nepalese Himalayas and participating in home-stays in Kathmandu.  She now is in her first year at Bard College in New York state. 

Luke Williams
Luke with his nimble fighter plane - from Facebook
Luke began his college career at Howard University in Washington, DC, but has since decided that it wasn't for him, and moved back north to his home and native land, Massachusetts, where he now attends college in Springfield.  Luke has continued with his passion of engineering, and as a result has been selected for internships with NASA and Cornell University.  Surprisingly, I have not seen Luke since Hanoi, as we seem to have a habit of just missing each other.  Until our reunion my plan is to wait patiently for him to return to DC. 



  1. I like how you have so much connection with all these people and waiting for some to return to Washington thats true respect to all your fellow friends.
    By the way this is a santa Barbara middle school kid:)!

  2. Your dad came to our class and showed us videos of places you have been and I wish I could travel that much.

  3. Your travels are amazing I hope you do even more when you are older.