Vietnam: Myth and Reality

“Why Vietnam?”  My family and many friends asked me this question when I chose the module “Learning in an International Environment”, which was about Vietnam. My family was so scared when I left Italy for the field trip to Vietnam because they never knew anything about the country except for the War and that Vietnam is a communist country. So, to the question “Why Vietnam?” I replied that I was intrigued because there is not much talk of this state in Europe and because it is located in Asia, a continent that I had never had the chance to visit.  Now that I look back on this field trip, I’m glad I had this curiosity to explore and know more about their culture and traditions, and now I know better why I wanted to go to Vietnam.

There everything is a source of amazement: you find yourself immersed in the chaos of scoters in the capital, you go from being quiet as in your little bedroom in London to “partying” in the streets of Hanoi, and you feel at home because you are surrounded by laughs and smiles, you taste new drinks with tropical fruits or cane sugar, you enjoy the warmth of the sun and the sounds of the forest, the ticking of the rain on the palms of Halong Bay, you see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, you immerse yourself in the slow and traditional atmosphere of a little town like Duong Lam, you visit the scenarios of the war passing through the cells of Hoa Lo Prison and then find yourself drinking an excellent egg coffee in one of the many cafés close to the Old Town.

Flying to Vietnam and living there for 7 days was such an amazing experience because I didn’t realise how nice and friendly the Vietnamese population and the Hanoi University students would be. I would have never tasted real Vietnamese food if I hadn’t gone there. Also, the trip gave me the chance to see what it means to be a “developing country” and how hard the Vietnamese are working to create a better future.

What I learned in the module in one semester was nothing compared to what I learned in 7 days in Vietnam because lots of things are impossible to explain with words. Of course, one of the reasons why I have applied to the field trip is because of what our lecturer Dr Farhang Morady explained during our seminars about Vietnam; he told us about the beauty and the particularities of the country by showing us videos of the previous trips, making us read reports and speak to Vietnamese students.

When I returned to Italy, my friends and family asked me why I liked Vietnam so much, and it was hard for me to explain it in words. It is just something that remains in my memories, and there is so much to say that if I start, I would never stop.

So far, Vietnam is the trip that I have loved the most. I will never forget our cruise to Ha Long Bay, my first time kayaking, my first time fishing and our evenings getting lost in the streets of the Old Town and us following the train tracks to get back to the hotel.

I know that I still have so much to see of Vietnam, so I hope one day to have the chance to go back and see the rest of the country. Also, I hope to see all the Vietnamese students again and maybe look at other countries, such as Malaysia and Thailand. No doubt I will and can’t wait till next time.

Silvia Toni, Year 2, BA (Hons) International Relations

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