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Student Spotlight | Cari An Coe reflects on time at UW

June 17, 2024

In this Q&A, we speak with Cari An Coe, a recent graduate of the University of Washington and a Center for Southeast Asia and its Diasporas affiliated student. We asked Cari about her love of Southeast Asia, and her time as a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellow studying Khmer at the UW.   

Graduate student Cari An Coe. Coe has brown curly hair and blue eyes, and is wearing a brown leather jacket on top of a multi-colored blouse.

Name: Cari An Coe

Degree program: Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS), Information School

Research/academic interests: I am interested in libraries and archives, particularly providing equitable access to information and ensuring accurate and culturally appropriate descriptions of archival resources. During my MLIS program, I worked as the Graduate Assistant to the Southeast Asian Librarian at UW, helping to improve access and discovery of archival and library materials from Southeast Asia.

What sparked your interest in Southeast Asia: I first studied abroad in Vietnam as an undergraduate and fell in love with the country. I continued to live there and study Vietnamese and pursued graduate school to study contemporary Vietnamese development policy.

Why did you decide to apply for FLAS, and specifically, why Khmer: I already speak Vietnamese, but I wanted to expand my cultural knowledge of Southeast Asia, and Cambodia and Khmer language appealed to me because of the intertwined histories between Vietnam and Cambodia, and because I really had no prior experience with Khmer and wanted to try something new. Having some knowledge of multiple Southeast Asian languages enhances my ability to provide accurate descriptions of Southeast Asian archival resources from different places.

What has your FLAS experience been like: I loved learning Khmer. I was the only student in the class who wasn’t Cambodian-American, so learning the language also introduced me to the local Cambodian-American community. I became friends with my classmates and learned about their culture, attending their Cambodian Culture Night at UW. I also learned much more about Cambodian history through my area studies coursework and my library work, which included adding descriptive metadata to the Elizabeth Becker digital photo collection from 1978 Khmer Rouge-controlled Cambodia. I found learning Khmer very challenging, as I had to learn how to read a new script. Although I am just a beginner, I did learn how to interpret writing and match it to spoken words and I hope I can continue to learn Khmer some day.

Future plans after graduation: I am applying for jobs to be a librarian and looking for work!

Advice for new students (undergrads, grads, FLAS, etc.): The FLAS [program] has been an incredible opportunity for me, helping fund my graduate study and opening up whole new linguistic and cultural possibilities. There are also summer opportunities to study abroad or go to the Southeast Asian Summer Studies Institute in Wisconsin. The chance to study Southeast Asian languages and cultures is a rare opportunity and not many universities can offer that. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t apply for the FLAS to study Southeast Asia, it is such a wonderful fellowship opportunity!

Anything else you’d like readers to know: I am grateful to the Center for Southeast Asia and its Diasporas (CSEAD) for all of its support during my graduate studies at UW. CSEAD included me in its incredible intellectual community and broadened my horizons!