Ta Her Brings Unique Perspective to Thailand Trip

Friday, July 21, 2023
Ta Her and Lin Rauch
Ta Her, left, is pictured with Lin Rauch, a Viterbo nursing faculty member who led a trip to Thailand last spring. Her is a student in Viterbo's Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program, and she offered a unique perspective to the other Viterbo students on the trip, all sophomore nursing majors.

Ta Her ’19 has had a remarkable journey, from growing up in a poor family in Laos to being on the brink of earning her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Viterbo and becoming a nurse practitioner. A journey this summer for a VUSM class helped put her life’s path into a new perspective.

Although she is a grad student, Her got special permission to take part in an undergrad VUSM class last spring that culminated in a two-week trip to Thailand led by nursing faculty members Lin Rauch and Sheryl Jacobson. Many Hmong families fled to Thailand to escape persecution from the communist regime in Laos, and the VUSM trip was meant to give class members deep perspectives on what life is like in Thailand for Hmong and other tribes living in rural mountain villages.

Ta Her
Ta Her has a clinical placement with Gundersen Health System this summer.

For Her, the trip to Thailand wasn’t a journey of discovery like it was for her nursing major classmates, most of them sophomores. Instead, the trip reminded her of some of the important values she grew up with and put a new perspective on her new life in the U.S.

“I feel very lucky to be in the United States, and not only that but to be in La Crosse especially,” Her said. “Going back to that part of the world was at times emotional. We take things so much for granted here, and people over there in Laos and Thailand are suffering. Because I have the experience of living in conditions like that, I’m more mindful of my resources. I really hope that things will change.”

Her came to La Crosse with her husband, Xue Lor, in 2011, a young woman who knew no English though she did speak Hmong, Lao, and Thai. She learned Thai from watching television shows on one of the handful of sets in her small village.

When she came here, she set about learning English and enrolled in the high school equivalency diploma program at Western Technical College. “I found out that I was a fast learner, and I worked really hard to learn English. I would say I worked harder than any person I knew.”

Instructors at Western recognized her intelligence and work ethic and practically insisted that she continue her studies after she completed her HSED. “That opened up a new world. They said they knew I could do anything,” Her said. “That was so inspiring, but I was so overwhelmed.”

Viterbo Thailand trip

Initially planning on studying to be a medical assistant, she earned 20 credits at Western before transferring to Viterbo’s nursing degree program, crediting her Western instructors and her Viterbo admissions counselor with getting her on the path to earning a nursing degree.

“All of these people, God sent them to me,” Her said. “Maybe God planned everything.”

Starting out, the only thing she knew about nursing was what she had seen giving birth to her two sons, now aged 11 and 8. “I knew I wanted to get a good job so I could send money back to my family in Laos,” said Her, who also has a 1-year-old daughter.

Her graduated cum laude with a nursing degree (and a psychology minor). As an undergrad, she very much enjoyed her VUSM class experiences. “I really appreciated those classes. They taught me to see the world from different perspectives,” she said.

That positive experience influenced her decision to take part in the Thailand trip VUSM class taught by Rauch, who was deeply impacted by her first trip to Thailand in 2019 and wanted to share that experience with Viterbo students.

“I am so grateful that Ta had this opportunity to be a part of this group,” Rauch said. “Ta is so energetic, and she has a sunny, happy disposition that brightens everyone's day. I feel blessed to consider Ta not only as a nursing peer, but as a friend. I think the other 12 travelers would say the same. She is a treasure.”

“She was an invaluable asset to the trip in that she could speak the language and was familiar with many of the customs. It was a delight, for me as her instructor, to watch her interact with the Hmong, Karen, and Akha villagers,” Rauch added. “Ta also was our food expert and guided us to make tasty and memorable choices.”

Her said one of the biggest takeaways from her trip was a realization about how different the pace of life she grew up with is from her life in this country and a recognition of how caring, loving, and respectful the people they encountered there were.

“I tell you, I feel like I’m going so fast in the United States,” Her said. “We need to not be too pushy about life. We should be slower with life.”

Viterbo Thailand trip