Vietnam Field Trip: Perception and Reality

After spending one week in Hanoi, my perception of Vietnam changed drastically in a very positive way. The assumption and prior understanding of the country is one of underdevelopment, poverty, and war after decades of colonial rule and conflict with the United States. However, after the drastic political and economic change, Vietnam is becoming an influential leader within the region, from working with the UN to meet climate goals and globally to impressive diplomatic ties.

While it was not my first time in South-East Asia, I had never been to Vietnam. Despite similarities to Thailand – such as the chaos on the roads and the style of food- Hanoi is unique for how quickly the country has developed. Its impressive construction and infrastructure projects are aimed at making the country a high-income nation by the 2040s. After visiting the United Nations in Hanoi, the discussion and work around the circular economy to reach the ambitious target of being carbon neutral by the 2030s shows how development in Vietnam has come so far. It is still ongoing but happening much quicker than expected, with many benefits already being seen. After learning about Doi Moi’s economic policy, seeing the benefits in person solidified a change in my perception. It is easy reading and watching how far Vietnam has come over the past three decades but seeing it in person puts the efforts in perspective. From vast shopping complexes to skyscrapers which contrast with the traditional temples and French-built police stations, the respect for and reflection of the past can be seen alongside this modernisation and opening of markets and business to the world.

Having been able to have insightful conversations with students from the University of Hanoi, I have built lasting and genuine connections, creating a global network of peers from universities outside the UK. Asking questions about customs, cultures, and social aspects shows that sometimes there is very little which separates us. One of the standout moments of the trip was visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay. Seeing the stunning view and peaceful scenery of Ha Long’s almost 2,000 caves across the clear water provides a sharp contrast to the noisy, organised chaos of Hanoi. From the story of the Descending Dragons to how the caves were formed made the close to our field trip something to remember.

My perception has drastically changed from lectures at the University of Hanoi, visiting historical buildings in Hanoi, and seeing Ha Long Bay (just some of the activities during the field trip to Hanoi). Despite still finding the currency confusing and holding VND in its millions, I would not hesitate to take the opportunity to go back to Vietnam. To explore more of the country, meet up with the students at HANU and see where the development takes Vietnam over the next decade.

Jamie Greenfield, Year 3, BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations

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