In Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam, the introduction and widespread use of motorcycles is both a blessing and a curse. Throughout the last fifteen years, motorcycles have changed virtually every aspect of social life in Vietnam. Consequently, in the years prior to 2005, many studies were conducted on transportation. Fortunately, there was a gap in the research, as relatively few studies addressed the social consequences. When an opportunity to work on cutting edge research in Chiang Mai with the Kennedy Center’s volunteer program presented itself, I was excited to do work that clearly had policy implications that could help Vietnam in the future.
The topic I researched on my initial visit to Vietnam was the effect of transportation (especially motorcycles) on social change in Southeast Asia, which became my honors thesis that I presented at the Pacific Sociological Association. After the volunteer program, I set out to conduct research in Vietnam before heading home for classes, lingering in Vietnam for about a month. During that time, while looking for advice at the Institute of Sociology, one of the staff members was impressed with my language skills acquired during a mission in Dallas, Texas, and invited me to return and study at the institute after I finished my undergraduate training.