Vietnam: a deeper educational and cultural immersion

This trip to Vietnam was nothing less than spectacular and transformative. It was one of the best trips and experiences of my life. A unique group of people attended the trip, all from diverse backgrounds, all incredibly different. Yet we found common ground and similarities, creating a very different bond you can’t make with your classmates at university.

Being put into an uncomfortable environment with these people who seemed like strangers at first helps develop the newfound relationships with which all the students are returning home. I know for sure I am. Additionally, having a student ambassador along for the ride with us was extremely helpful, as they offered direct insight into the world we were stepping into.

Before going to Vietnam, I had this idea of an underdeveloped world like that of border towns in Mexico, yet I was pleasantly surprised by the reality of Hanoi. The buildings were tall and elegant, some even skyscrapers with magnificent lights beaming off them at night. The infrastructure was fascinating, and comparing it with other cities, like New Orleans or French towns, was also more connective to our learning.

I found the dynamic of relationships there exciting, as people seemed happier than they do in the western world; it’s almost as if it doesn’t matter what is going on. The acceptance of what is the way it is. The Vietnamese don’t mind what is going on politically, as they believe they are doing it the right way, which varies significantly from western practices.

This connects to my next point of how it affected my studies and course. Within my degree, we spend a lot of time hypothesising how content would vary if written by non-Europeans; however, little of it supports these hypotheses. This understanding, for me, changed. To be able to engage with Vietnamese students who were studying International Studies and ask them about their political climate made me even more interested in exploring what exactly was going on and how it differed from that of western culture.

It was fascinating to hear students say that they support their government when outsiders believe it’s corrupt and communism is in decline. That may be true in some regard, but people there seem pretty at peace with how things are.

Field trips like this are significant in my eyes. The chance to immerse yourself in your studies helps broaden your understanding of the topics and the world. Never in a million years would I have been able to afford to visit Vietnam, yet here I am, having been there and planning on finding ways to return. These trips help make students more well-rounded, diversify their circle, and understand more about themselves and the world around them. If I had the opportunity to do something like this again, there is not a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t say yes. This trip has changed me for the better.

Madeline Briscoe

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