An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | May 14, 2018

Outside 80: Analyst gains global perspective from student exchange

By Thomas Perry DCMA Public Affairs

Editor’s Note: DCMA acquisition professionals spend their 80-hour pay period contributing to the agency’s warfighter support mission. “Outside 80” is a series of articles designed to highlight how team members serve their communities outside of those 80 hours.

Virginia and Thailand are separated by more than 8,700 miles. Culturally, the gap is even wider. From food, music, sports, architecture and traditions, the two communities share few similarities. A visual representation of this cultural disparity is perhaps best illustrated by Thailand’s national animal — the Thai elephant — and Virginia’s state dog — the American foxhound.

Societal differences too often lead to misconceptions as the lack of shared experiences prevent understanding. Last summer, one Defense Contract Management Agency analyst decided to cultivate global understanding and broaden her family’s international horizons without ever leaving Virginia.

Tammy Van Scyoc has hosted Vasiporn, a 17-year-old Thailand native, for the past year as part of the Program of Academic Exchange, or PAX. And even though Vasiporn came to Virginia for an education, both women have learned much about themselves and each other.

The soon-to-graduate junior is a member of her high school track team. She has been to China. She likes the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And in August 2017, she boarded a plane destined for Richmond International Airport in Virginia.

Waiting in Richmond’s arrivals terminal was Van Scyoc and her family. They held a welcome sign and a hope against delay.

Vasiporn loves to dance, read, play badminton and swim. She enjoys learning about art and different cultures. She hopes to attend a university. And after graduation, she hopes to design furniture. Bounce badminton for basketball, and her profile would resemble that of a typical American teenager.

Van Scyoc is an Army veteran. She has never been to China. She likes the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And she is a program analyst with DCMA’s Small Business Office.

The military, and now host-family, veteran began her agency career protecting her fellow team members. She was a Department of Defense security guard at the agency’s Fort Lee, Virginia, headquarters. She transferred to the Small Business Office through the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act program. According to Tatia Evelyn-Bellamy, the Small Business Office director, Van Scyoc has excelled since the transition.

“Ms. Van Scyoc has and continues to perform exceptionally well since joining the small business compliance team,” said Evelyn-Bellamy, who called her employee’s host-family experience an uplifting example of global community building. “She has taken action to acclimate herself not only with managing our small business budget and compliance review travel, but has demonstrated her analytical skills for records management and surveillance of our mission requirements. She truly is a DCMA success story.”

That story’s latest chapter began when Van Scyoc researched opportunities to host a foreign exchange student because it sounded “exciting and educational for my family.” After whittling down the options, they decided to use PAX.

According to its website, PAX was founded nearly 30 years ago. “The dream was to enable both deserving young people from around the world and their U.S. host families to share not only their customs, language, and points of view, but also the very essence of what it means to be family.”

Much like biological families, this international adventure wasn’t always “all sunshine and rainbows.”

“My family has had a great experience hosting Vasiporn,” said Van Scyoc. “She was very shy at first, but has become much more comfortable. When she first arrived, she did not eat much, and I was worried, but now my grocery bill is much higher. The most challenging aspect of her stay is that she has a hard time sharing her thoughts at times. I can usually tell when something is wrong, and it can be hard to get her to talk about what is bothering her.”

With the communication speed bumps and wallet-friendly food shopping in the past, the Van Scyoc family fully embraced their Thai guest and the knowledge she has to share.

“Our family has truly benefitted from hosting Vasiporn by learning the culture of Thailand,” said Van Scyoc. “The most rewarding part of her stay is seeing her excitement when we take her different places. We took her to the zoo, aquarium, family visits on the holidays, ice skating and snow tubing, which was her best experience. She does not get snow in Thailand, and she loves when it snows. We also took her to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and she loved it. I would have to say to anyone who is interested in hosting a foreign exchange student to be ready for a great and truly different experience. In the beginning it can be frustrating, but once the student gets acclimated and comfortable, it is so much fun.”

For the two women, a school year of relationship building is coming to the end, but like two school-aged friends soon to be separated by summer vacations, they are already making plans to reunite.

“Getting to know Vasiporn will always be rewarding because we will always have her in our lives,” said Van Scyoc. “She may be going back to Thailand, but she will always be a part of our family. She wants us to come to Thailand and visit her, and she said she will show us many places there. This is such a great feeling to have someone to care about in a totally different part of this huge world.”