Vietnam: Reflecting After My Trip

Sadly, I am writing this blog from my desk at home and not from the breathtaking views that Ha Long Bay offers or from the lively streets of Hanoi engaged by people with warm hearts, solid spirits and remarkable willpower. Our field trip to Vietnam only lasted eight days; however, my understanding of the country was taken to the next level, as we had the chance to engage with students, locals and cultural norms.

For most of the trip, we stayed in Hanoi city, and one of the aspects that immediately caught my attention was how busy the streets were! Motorbikes are the most common means of transport, and every family will have at least two motorbikes per household.

Motorbike shock aside, it was my first time travelling to a southern-eastern Asian and Communist country. Although having participated in Virtual field trips throughout the year, you never really know what to expect. What we know of Communism from a western perspective is usually given through the horror tales of the Soviet Union, so I was utterly confused about what to expect, especially as a Westerner. From a political point of view, I was surprised to perceive that people are proud of their country and united as they are all driven by the same end goal: economic prosperity. It was also pleasing to witness in the villages of Duong Lam that same sense of community which is hard to perceive in Western Capitalist countries. From children playing football in the streets, funerals accompanied by traditional music, to an old-folks generational house full of traditional adornments and tribute walls in honour of their ancestors and of General Ho Chi Minh in person.

We were given a few sets of rules to help us adapt to the culture and style of living, such as never taking pictures of any guards or officers and to respect temples by covering our arms and knees during our visits.

I can also definitely say that I witnessed one of the weirdest but also most fascinating experiences when visiting Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. It gave me an idea of how dedicated, proud, and loyal Vietnamese people are, as people from all over the country are willing to queue for hours to pay a 20-second tribute to one of their most beloved leaders.

I am also utterly grateful to the Hanoi University Students who were so helpful, warm, welcoming and patient with us. Grateful to have had them around while visiting important cultural sites in Hanoi, such as the Temple of Literature and Hoa Lo Prison. But also thankful for their patience, whether it was helping us translate and connect with locals, simply delivering daily chores, or showing us delicious local street foods. They were, without a doubt, fundamental to the success of the trip programme; without them, this trip wouldn’t have been the same. “Cảm ơn”!

And last but not least, they say that shared experiences are far better than solo pursuits. I am grateful to Farhang, our teacher, who managed with no little effort to organise our whole stay in the country and have us experience this fantastic trip. Also thankful for my colleagues with whom I shared this experience. Travelling with people from entirely different backgrounds has you not only learn about one country’s culture but also how to deal, work and interact with so many more cultures and witness different perspectives and comparisons one makes with one’s own country. From the shared excitement, peals of laughter, spectacular views, people we met, and things we learned: we can undoubtedly say that this trip was one to remember. 

Veronica Giannelli, Year 2, BA (Hons) Spanish and International Relations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.