How We Met

Thinking about traveling around the world and then actually doing it involves some interesting planning techniques, as one might imagine. In my case, I drove to a nearby office supply store, bought a globe, and then used my thumb and forefinger to casually measure distances between places where friends live. Very quickly it seemed, I was able to plot a feasible path all the way around the world! Truly, I could not believe how quickly this plan came together. Here is the story of how I came to know such special people…

The Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program

Most of the people I am planning to visit were at one time studying in the US through the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program at Boston University. This program, founded in 1978 and sponsored by the US State Department, brings roughly 200 people per year to the United States. They study at roughly 15 colleges and universities based on discipline, of which BU gets assigned 10-12 each year. The Fellows at BU reside in student housing on Buswell Street (unless they choose otherwise), and engage in a full year of academic studies, professional affiliations, and conferences throughout the US. The professional affiliations are work assignments with US companies for 4-6 week periods, to provide experience and understanding of our businesses and economic system; new opportunities for these affiliations are always welcome.

As host family, I open my home for dinners and special occasions, take the Fellows sightseeing from time to time, and in general provide a home away from home for them — we are their extended family. I have been host family since 2008 to these Humphreys Fellows, although the list of friends made through the BU and MIT programs is much longer:

  • Vesna Dimitrieska from Macedonia 2008-2009
  • Anna Fatneva from Kyrgyzstan 2009-2010
  • Nassera Senhadji from Algeria 2009-2010
  • Azzeddine Daif from Morocco 2010-2011
  • Rima Zarough from Libya 2010-2011
  • Zbynek Stork from Czech Republic 2011-2012
  • Abdel Lawani from Benin 2012-2013
  • Isikeli Voceduadua from Fiji 2012-2013
  • Eonyoung Park from South Korea 2013-2014
  • Angara Sukhbaatar from Mongolia 2014-2015
  • Ali Jafferani from Pakistan 2015-2016
  • Latu (Sera) Kaukilakeba from Fiji 2016-2017
  • Edward Kapili from Zambia 2016-2017
  • Aziza Pulotova from Tajikistan 2017-2018
  • Frank Obeng from Ghana 2018-2019
  • Rana Ibrahimova from Azerbaijan 2018-2019
  • Rustam Tahirov from Azerbaijan 2019-2020
  • Dora Perjesi from Hungary 2019-2020
  • Duanghathai “Pla” Pentrakoon from Thailand 2020-2021
  • Rima Hasana from Indonesia 2021-2022
  • Mungunshagai “Mungun” Bormagnai from Mongolia 2021-2022
  • Ruslan Arykov from Kyrgyzstan 2022-2023
  • Chrystelle Dohou from Benin 2022-2023

A formal description of the Humphreys program follows:

The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program was established by the U.S. Congress in 1978, in honor of the late Senator and Vice President – a national leader dedicated to promoting civil rights and mutual, intercultural understanding. The objective of the Program is threefold:

  • To support distinguished, mid-career professionals from designated countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Central and Eastern Europe to form bonds with one another as they develop their professional expertise in the United States;
  • To support U.S. citizens in higher education, business, and government to learn from, and establish lasting ties with, emerging leaders in other countries.
  • To promote understanding of U.S. cultural, economic, legal, and political systems throughout the world.

The Program is a Fulbright exchange activity funded by the U.S. Congress through the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and administered by the Institute of International Education. It provides ten months of non-degree, graduate-level study, leadership development, professional affiliations, and related opportunities for cultural exchange.

Nearly 5,000 men and women from 157 countries have been honored as Humphrey Fellows since the Program was established in 1978. Eighteen universities in the United States currently host Humphrey Fellows.

Boston University has been honored to be the only university to continuously serve as a host campus since the Program’s inception in 1978, and so far has hosted over 500 Fellows from over 120 countries. 


University Exchange Program

I met my friend Karen, from England, while a university exchange student in Scotland many years ago. Engineering exchange programs can be challenging to coordinate in terms of matching up the curricula, but the benefit of seeing your field of study (and life in general) from an entirely new light is tremendously worthwhile.

As a mechanical engineering student at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, I had the privilege of spending the entire third year studying in Scotland at the University of Dundee. Karen (Leigh) Skelton was the upperclass student assigned to be my guide and mentor for the year; she had also come to Stevens on exchange the year before, where we became friends and sisters in the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity (since there were not many women in engineering at the time, many fraternities had ‘sister’ programs as well). At Dundee, Karen and I were the only two female mechanical engineering students during the year I was there. Her husband Steve also has an engineering background, and I will forever be impressed at how they built their own home.

Stevens Institute of Technology — New Jersey, USA

University of Dundee — Dundee, Scotland

The International Youth Service (IYS)

I met Nadine from Belgium when we were introduced through a school pen-pal program as teenagers. As a youth, the IYS helped me to make new friends around the world. By completing a form and paying the seventy five cent fee, I would be sent the address of an international student who wanted to participate in a letter exchange. At one point, I was receiving letters from England, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Peru, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Australia. Forty years later, I look back on a lifetime of friendships that have made the world a much smaller and more welcoming place.

It was through this program that I met Nadine Van Huyse of Belgium, and we have been writing since 1979. She and her husband Rik have been welcoming me to Lauwe, Belgium many times in the years since, along with her family – Tom and Janneke, with children Brent and Fran; and Brecht and Elke. Belgium has so many wonderful sites to see, from beaches to big cities, historical to modern sites, and not to forget its chocolates and trappist beers — and most of all its friendly people. Always many reasons to return…

A Concert at the University of Dundee, Scotland

I built most of the pages of this website while travelling, usually at the end of the day before going to sleep. (Normally I would keep a handwritten travel journal, but there was just so much going on that this was easier.) So I’m adding this entry after-the-fact, as I had no idea in the beginning of the trip that I would be seeing the Scottish band Runrig in person! Coincidence, serendipity, a most wonderful surprise … Here’s how it came about:

On October 6th, 1983 > Runrig performed at DUSA, the Dundee University Student Association building, when I was an exchange student in Scotland. This happened just one week into the academic year, and to see a rock band performing songs in both English and Gaelic with the students singing along to every word was amazing!!

In 2017 > The university held a special anniversary celebration for it’s 50th year, inviting all classes to return for a weekend of events. It was there, 34 years after that first concert, when my friends and I reminisced about Runrig and I learned that they were still performing after all these years! We agreed to go together to one of their concerts the following year.

In 2018 > Runrig announced its final, retirement concert, scheduled for August 17th and 18th at Stirling Castle grounds. With tickets in hand, I flew back to join my friends there. While going for food and drink during a break in the music, I turned and noticed a rainbow that formed over the castle and over the stage, and took a photograph of it. A fan photo contest was later announced, and this photo was one of many selected for an exhibition the following year at Taigh Chearsabhagh, a museum on the island of North Uist in the Hebrides of Scotland.

In 2019 > While planning the Islands to Glens journey, I thought it best to end in Scotland, a place that has so much meaning to me and to my family history (I can trace my father’s side back to 1642, John and Isabel (Gilgor) Doig of Rattray, Perth). Once there, I would visit the museum and try to finish the website.

North Uist is a five hour ferry ride from the west coast of Scotland, or a one hour flight from Glasgow, and the idea of heading to this remote island for a quiet weekend before heading home seemed the right thing to do. In terms of timing, I took a guess that Runrig might have some sort of promotional event for their concert DVD on the one year anniversary of the concert, since it hadn’t come out by spring 2019. It was a longshot, seemed logical, but where in Scotland would the event be held? I guessed Glasgow, and I guessed the closest Saturday to the concert anniversary (August 17th, 2019), but I really didn’t know.

…and it wasn’t until I was out driving in the countryside of Mongolia on July 26th with my friend Angara and her dad Sukhee when the fan club made its announcement: that the band would be having a get-together in Glasgow, on the one night I planned to be there… August 17th!!! Needless to say, it was an evening at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall that will live in my heart forever!