GlobalStudent Journeys

Vietnam: From Education to Cultural Immersion

Vietnam is a country deeply rooted in a rich culture, history and an increasingly stimulating stance on the current world stage. Whilst visiting Vietnam in December 2018 it infatuated me to gain a first – hand experience of an amazing country with an unfortunate pattern of social, environmental and economic impacts. Accompanied by Dr. Farhang Morady and Professor Dibyesh Anand we knew we were in safe hands, allowing us to fully get involved and immerse ourselves into the education, culture, and lifestyle of Vietnam.

We started off at the Ho Chin Minh Mausoleum and the Temple of Literature. These visits significantly portrayed and demonstrated the rise of Communism and higher education in Vietnam. Whilst traveling to the Mausoleum, we were mesmerized as the local people were in awe and conveyed their idolization their founder of communism: Ho Chin Minh. This was not only surprising but for some of us, it was also a culture shock. This experience was also similar to the Temple of Literature. On arriving at the Temple – Vietnam’s first university – we were greeted by 150 University students graduating and using the amazing setting for a commemorative photo of their journey through university. This was truly great to see, as the history of higher education is not something celebrated in the UK. After attending both, we were all hungry and went into the old quarter, which in time developed into the social hot-spot for most of its students to spend their free time. The hustle and bustle, culture, constant moving and friendliness of those in the old quarter grew into an aura that made it place that students loved after a day spent doing classes at the The University of Hanoi. These classes were not foreseen as the most exciting part – especially when met with our jetlag, but it gave an overview of the way that seminars are structured and presented in the lessons that the students who we had grown so close to experienced.

After attending seminars in another country, the trip to the United Nations was incredible. Attending the talk from UN-Habitat allowed us to gain knowledge of what international organizations are currently undertaking and how we would be able to work and get involved with the UN after university. After immersing ourselves in the educational organizations, Farhang decided that we needed one more amazing experience. A night on a boat in the remarkable setting of Ha Long Bay. Surrounded by emerald waters and towering islands as far as we could see. This soon became one of the most rewarding times of the trip. Being able to wake up and see that as soon as you step out of your cabin door, is a sight I will never forget. Vietnam is a place deeply sown into my heart as the experience allowed me to feel inspired and grateful. The culture and atmosphere is one I shall not forget anytime soon. I hope the mesmerized feeling I developed is one I can endure on every trip I take in the future.

I have confidence that this trip has truly benefitted me greatly in the continuation of my second year studying International relations and development and my passion is fuelled further that will keep me fascinated until my graduation. My course has allowed me to realize that every country has an essence of development, no matter the definition. But this can also be flipped, every country is also plagued by different issues that hinder development. In going to Vietnam, I believe this was part of my journey that has allowed me to become a true, well-rounded global citizen – an obvious win for me. While the lessons within the classroom allowed me to gain knowledge and history, there is
no class that is equivalent to going to a country and immersing yourself in the culture. ‘Learning in an International environment: a short-burst module’ is one that offered an amazing balance between the typical education journey and a unique, holistic approach. I would definitely recommend a module similar to this for the level six portion of my course.

Vietnam was above and beyond; as it was fun and educational, when these two things are combined it allows for students to want to get good grades and delve deeper into the region being explored. I also believe that for the Democratic education network (DEN), a trip like this would be excellent. It would allow students who may not get the opportunity to do this course within their degree to gain access to an unequivocal once in a lifetime trip. I believe that a module similar to this is amazing and if I could I would recommend it to every course and every department as a way for students to really connect with the world around them.

What motivates me? Cultural exploration, experiencing new things, broadening my knowledge, meeting new people and understanding different ways to live. As a student I believe these are similar desires from all students were the things that bonded Hanoi and Westminster students. The students for me were one of the best parts of the trip, with an astounding outlook on life, generosity, and kindness that cannot be matched. The work they put in to make sure we enjoyed ourselves is one that I will always be grateful for. For me, the students had no problem with showing me how to adapt and fully enjoy my time there – even accompanying me to an Indian restaurant, when I began to crave some. This was not an easy place to find in Vietnam, and many of the students that came were trying this cuisine for the first time. Clearly, for both us and them, this trip created bonds and friendships that will never be forgotten, it was a learning experience that created a context for a commitment and extended communication to be forged with people I would have never connected with prior to this trip. All of these factors put together, I believe perfectly summarises my trip to Vietnam in 2018.

Article- Zeenat Khan, Year 2, International relations and Development

Video credits- Khaled Mohammed

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