| The Hoot
From California to Missouri,
Senior Phoebe Brown shares the story of her quest
across the globe to connect with family and find herself
to Vietnam and Beyond
By Rebekah Savage
Phoebe Brown, a senior at William Woods
University, doesn’t know the language, but in
May she plans to move to Vietnam and submerse
herself into the culture.
Shortly after she graduates from WWU with a
major in communications, she plans to pack her
life into one box and move to Vietnam, where her
mother was born.
Brown’s lure for adventure and travel started
during her teen years. After graduating from high
school, she traveled, alone, to Italy. She only had
Standby tickets, but she was fortunate enough
to receive one of the last seats on the plane, and
best of all, it was in first class. When she arrived
in Rome, she still had to travel six hours to her
I was so lost. Nobody could talk to me. I had to
listen for people who were speaking English and
chase them down,” said Brown. “That was cool.
That was the real kick to start traveling alone. I left
the country and it was such an adventure.”
Upon returning to the United States and her
hometown of Alameda, Calif., Brown started
college. Most college students attend one college
at a time, but not Brown. She attended three
community colleges at once. After a few semesters,
though, she wanted a change.
I was so bored in California,” she said. “I changed
all of my classes to online classes for my last
semester, and then I moved to Colorado.”
Brown lived in Telluride, Colo., for one semester
before deciding to move to Missouri. She chose
the Show-Me state because her father, Bill, lived in
Missouri until he was 18. Then he moved to San
Jose, Calif., to find work. There he met Seo, who
later became his wife.
Born in Vietnam, Seo had lived in a refugee camp
in Malaysia for two years before a San Jose church
sponsored her and her two sisters to come to the
United States. Seo lived across the street from Bill
Brown in San Jose.
When Bill met Seo, he asked her out repeatedly,
and she always responded, “Two weeks, two
weeks.” Two weeks went by and her friends finally
admitted that she was learning English so she
could go out with him.
After seeing what her father’s life was like
growing up in Missouri, Brown wants to see what
life was like for her mother.
It’s a huge part of his life. It has really changed
my perspective on him because this is something
that I didn’t know. This is why I have decided to
go to Vietnam, where my mom is from.”
Her mother is from a small village called Bac Lieu.
Brown will not live there, but rather in Ho Chi
Minh City, which is about four hours away.
I think the story behind her is what really makes
me want to go. I hear about all these places that
she speaks about and I want to see them,” said
Brown. “I know it’s going to be hard … and it’s
going to change my life, but I’m really looking
forward to it.”
Brown’s photo of the Colosseum during her trip to Italy
when she was 18.
Photo Courtesy of Phoebe Brown)
Brown enjoys the beach in Italy.
Photo Courtesy of