7/11/2013 10:55:00 AM Jessica (Larson) Haug, CF '90, to spend three years in Hanoi
by Ken Haggerty
Jessica (Larson) Haug, Cannon Falls High School class of 1990, and daughter of Dallas and Jan Larson, still Cannon Falls residents, is about to start year three of a leave of absence from her job as a senior cancer researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
Jessica and her husband John, a Mahnomen, MN native whom she met at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN where she majored in Biology, always wanted to have an international experience for themselves and especially for their kids, Peter, 12, and Anna, 9.
They researched a number of opportunities and applied for a jobs and landed one in the area they wanted; a teaching job for John at the United Nations International School in Hanoi, Vietnam. "Asia was our first choice as neither of us really had much exposure there," said Jessica.
John was able to get a leave from his job as a high school science teacher in Stewartville and the couple rented out their home and made the leap, two kids in tow.
With two years under their belt and ready to go back for year three, Jessica says its been great for the couple and the kids. "It's really all a new experience," said Jessica. She describes Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, as a big city, population six million. It's loud and hectic, but vibrant, with people everywhere and bike and motorbike traffic flying all around.
"It's not an underdeveloped country, but it is still developing," said Jessica, who has used Hanoi as a base to travel throughout North and South Vietnam as well as Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, the last being her favorite stop so far. "The whole area is so unique, yet so historic."
The people are hard working, friendly and bear no ill-will toward Americans in her experiences, said Jessica. There is also a large community of other non-native "ex-pats" who they enjoy socializing with.
The economy does not make a car really an affordable option. Jessica travels by bike to her volunteer jobs and to events with the children or for shopping. John has a motorbike he uses for travel to work. The economy there does make a full-time house helper an affordable option. The woman does all of their shopping and prepares meals. The family chose to ask her to cook traditional Vietnam cuisine: noodle soups, fresh vegetable dishes with herbs, and seafood are staples.
The kids attend a school where they are friends with kids from 60 different countries.
Moving away has made the heart grow fonder for Minnesota. "After seeing the pollution and the noise, you really appreciate blue sky and open spaces," said Jessica. "I also really miss driving a car."
Jessica has one sibling, Rachel (Larson) Sager. Rachel is a teacher at Hastings High school and lives in Red Wing.
Parents Dallas (former CF city administrator) and Jan made it over for one visit. Jessica and family have made it back to Minnesota each summer.
After Concordia, Jessica went on to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks where she obtained a Masters in Microbiology. She has eleven years in at Mayo in cancer research. She has been working in the Division of Hematology at the Clinic on a project researching myeloma, cancer of the plasma, or white blood cells. Her work involves analyzing DNA and RNA in cells from patients, looking at impacts of various drug combinations. The Mayo job has allowed her to travel to medical conferences in Spain, Australia, Greece and Canada.