A Day Well Spent in Mae Sot

A Day Well Spent in Mae Sot


“The graduation ceremony for the Australian Catholic University (ACU) Diploma in Liberal Studies was held in Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma Border on May 23, 2015. Professor Geraldine Castleton, Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Education at ACU gave the formal address and presented the testamurs. Others in the platform party were the parish priest, Fr. Chawin Sangiam Kaew, the Diploma’s Coordinator, Maya Cranitch, ACU lecturer, Aisling O’Donnell, Kim Roberts from the Department of Geography at York University in Toronto, and resident tutor, Professor Rosaleen Smyth (Palms Australia volunteer).”

So reads the formal introduction. Prof Rosaleen Smyth has volunteered in Mae Sot on the Thai/Burma border since 2013, assisting refugee students to complete their studies online through a special Diploma in Liberal Arts offered by ACU. A highlight for everyone – students, lecturers and the whole community – is the sense of achievement at Graduation! Rosaleen continues.

It is a thrilling event for the students and their families and friends, a real rite of passage, marking a further step upwards in their fight to access tertiary education.

Graduates Eh Tah Mee, Aung Aung Myat and Maybel Htoo with Rosaleen
Graduates Eh Tah Mee, Aung Aung Myat and Maybel Htoo with Rosaleen

At the start of the ceremony some of the graduating students stepped to the front and welcomed guests in different ethnic languages, an inclusive touch. Maya acted as MC and a graduate from the previous cohort, Seesarnono, interpreted the formal speeches in Burmese for the benefit of many non-English speaking relatives and friends. Maya read a message from the previous Coordinator, Duncan McLaren, Professor Castleton delivered the formal address, then two students one male and one female, elected by the students addressed the audience. They collaborated in the writing of the speech which was delivered in English by Saw Than Min Htun and in Burmese by Lin Myat Kyu. Both students have won scholarships to the Hong Kong Institute of Education together with last year’s student graduation speaker, Eugene Sein; They will all commence their studies in Hong Kong in September this year.

Fr Chawin’s speech at the ACU Mae Sot graduation Ceremony
Fr Chawin’s speech at the Ceremony


The official graduation ceremony followed. Professor Castleton presented the testamurs individually to the students. The tutor said a few congratulatory words, emphasising that now was the time for this year’s ACU graduates to go out and act, and the MC announced that the formal ceremony had concluded. The students sang a couple of songs, with guitar and drum accompaniment prior to the departure of the academic procession.

Then came some traditional dancing exquisitely performed by students from Minmahaw school followed by photos, photos, photos…the all important pictorial record, as the academics mingled with the friends, relatives and newly minted graduates. Finally, after all those photo opportunities, everyone went to lunch. A day well spent.

Graduates singing at Australian Catholic University Mae Sot graduation

What a buzz! Many of us will recall the collective HIGH of our graduations! See Palms’ Facebook page for more of those “photos, photos, photos”!