DENDEN's International Student ConferenceGlobal

Overwhelming perception amid misconceptions

While asking myself where to start respectively what to write about the two-week experience in Hanoi I realized that I ought to begin by stating; No, Hanoi the capital city of the socialist republic of Vietnam is nothing as I imagined.

I doubt that one page could sum up all the self- generated perceptions I had created about the ‘communist’ country that seemed so alien to me and everything I had familiarized myself with. Furthermore I was curious and somewhat hesitant when envisioning our fellow Vietnamese students. How and what would they think of us, behave towards us, talk and moreover study with us? The dorms where another big question mark and it was the first answer I received as we arrived there first thing in the morning. I am not going into my own insecure awkwardness and the anxiety that haunted me prior to the trip. But as some of you remember it was something to Farhang’s that pierced my core and the fact that I did not really know anyone well enough to possibly be sharing a room with that gave me the inner shivers when thinking about participating in this module.


The accommodation…

…Was different than expected! As a smoker I enjoyed that there were no smoking restrictions anywhere although I realized that all of us nicotine junkies overdid our unhealthy habit in the time spent there.

The rooms, rather spacious were suitable for two and I enjoyed getting to know my room mate Tessa. In general the trip was great in terms of meeting fellow students from my course who I would have probably never met if it were not for this field trip. Learning in an international environment was beyond interesting to meeting the Vietnamese students, lecturers, and sales people and restaurant owners as much as it was wonderful to learn about the various backgrounds of fellow students.


One remarkable feature I observed on the trip was that whenever we were asked where we’re from, we replied, sometimes undecided, sometimes immediately “we’re from London” and although almost none of us are actual Londoners it was interesting to consider the meaning of ‘where are you from’. Many of us who come from all over the place have many characteristics in common and I loved the conversations we had about the different experiences of our upbringing, talking about what motivates us to live and study abroad and most of all about our ambitions and dreams. However, beyond trying to understand the simplest portrayals of identity, this short burst module made me reconstruct certain notions I had previously formed on narratives of ‘identities’.

A valuable insight to the familiarity of Vietnamese life


I enjoyed walking across the campus grounds, from our dorms to the classrooms, seeing the youngest working out and playing with the oldest generations. Whether they were engaging in a team sport, using one of the many sports- & leisure equipment or simply practicing their respiratory functions by conducting taekwondo or yoga, it was wonderful to see a picture of young and old simultaneously working on their mental and physical health.

What would life be without a challenge?!


The food challenged me! I am a passionate foodie and enjoy tasting different flavors of dishes wherever I go. Yet, traveling in a group first of all is definitely challenging, as in a group of 20 you will always find two or three students who are rather fussy when it comes to trying different things. In our group however the case was different. It was not even that most of us were spoilt in our eating habits but the fact that we were such a diverse bunch religiously, spiritually and philosophically, transformed our meals at the canteen into a ‘Trauerfest’ with laughter. It was tricky to figure out what kind of meat was located where, and whereas one of the staff members serving us told some of us the bowl with the brown sauce was chicken, the other server guaranteed it was pork.

I have come to the realization that we take so much for granted, especially when it comes to the presentation of our breakfasts, lunch and dinner. One more thing that I had painfully come to learn, -even one month after the field trip; its that our eating culture and habits are so very accustomed in the sense that our stomachs, skin and intestinal cannot handle every water drop or noodle soup that came our way. (HaHa)


I feel that this trip has enriched all of us on so many levels. Personally, it opened my eyes and reminded me that I shan’t make ‘prejudgments’ and simply adhere to the narratives of our often one-facetted outlook towards the East and their political ideologies. Since what I’ve learned is that Vietnam’s economy thrives; their inhabitants are as eager as most of ours to become successful in their business. All of the students we met are as keen to graduate with the highest of merits as most of our students are on ‘our side of the world’.


Simply the implication of ‘us’ and ‘them’ has become an even more blurry concept to me as ‘they’ are definitely different in numerous aspects but in so many qualities the same.

If there is one thing I wished my very own surroundings would adopt from the Vietnamese, it is the role, respect and significance of family life that I enjoyed witnessing. Just as I have noticed it from Arab culture, some African communities and to a great extent have experienced it in Mediterranean families, there is a beautiful emphasis on the stronghold of family. Simply by observing a father and his daughter and a grandmother with her grand- child and daughter I could feel the spirit of the sometimes- unrecognized segment of the world.

I am truly grateful to the department of Politics and International Relations. Most importantly I am thankful to Farhang (who I realised isn’t as scary as he initially came across), Dibyesh (whose vibrant lectures we all enjoyed) and Ricardo (whose brilliant mind kept challenging our ideas) Thank you for going above and beyond; not only by enabling the few of us to get such a firsthand experience but moreover for the opportunity for us to study in one of the remaining ‘communist nations’. Many thanks to the Vietnamese faculty members who excitingly presented their topics to us. And a thousand hugs and ‘THANK YOUs’ to all the students who welcomed us, as if we had been long standing friends; embracing us and showing them the best sides of their culture and country.

Recalling my memory of the ancient village with its narrow path ways and glazes through windows and doors, I reminisce about the golden pagoda and the many many tourists treating us as the main attraction.


Finally I cherish the strong and beautiful memory of Ha Long Bay. The struggle, the kindness, the patience and laughter. I remember my tears, the super delicious food buffet, the embraces and my passport. It is the ups- and downs that make life worth living, just as the waves coming back and forth that make the ocean worth admiring.

By Tallulah

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