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As the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon, is a bustling urban city that is beginning to grow quickly now, 30 years removed from the war.
Seemingly always on the move, Ho Chi Minh is Vietnam's much louder and energetic brother compared to Hanoi, Vietnam's current capital. People are constantly on the move from eating to drinking to night clubbing to shopping. Whether it's riding around on a moped in the busy streets, learning about Ho Chi Minh's history or stumbling upon a random alleyway only to find the best banh mi sandwiches you've ever tasted, Ho Chi Minh will fail to disappoint.
As a city that seems to be constantly moving (it's been said a lot, but it's too accurate not to overstate), Ho Chi Minh offers so many different things to do and see. Rest assured, you will not run out of things to do during your studies in Ho Chi Minh. Here are a few suggestions:
Vietnam is on the Vietnam Dong, and the conversion rate is about 20,000 Dong for 1 US dollar. As such, Vietnam is extremely student friendly in terms of money. You won't have to budget much and at the end of your trip, you may find yourself surprised by how much extra money you have. Spend accordingly. There are ATMs all over Vietnam, so drawing cash won't be a problem. Try to draw money inside the banks for safety reasons.
Vietnam is quite a ways away from the US, so you'll find yourself going through entirely new and different experiences throughout your study abroad. However, this also means that you may feel some culture shock in the first 2 weeks or so. As such, be sure to pick a problem that caters to American students, so that you can be well informed of the cultural differences and avoid making a faux pas.
However, remember that you have your fellow students! If you're missing the long hours of studying and the obnoxiously loud people back in the US, well, then you're weird. On a more serious note, talk to your fellow peers! If you're experiencing some homesickness, there is every chance that they are as well. Don't be embarrassed if you need to talk to someone about home, it is completely normal and who knows, you may become even closer friends!
Bus is probably the easiest way to get around. They're bright green and travel 150 routes throughout the city. Buses average around 4,000 to 8,000 Dong per ride (less than 50 cents), so it's very affordable. Air conditioning, music and sometimes television are offered on the buses, so you'll have a nice time on the bus as well. The locals are generally more than happy to help, but English is sparse, so it may be a bit difficult to converse.
Be sure you haggle your prices. The vendors will try to mark up their prices 50-100% on average, so you can definitely get a better deal if you stand firm on your price.
So that's Ho Chi Minh! Hopefully you have a better idea of what you're getting yourself into, and now that you do, get on out there!
Ahh the woes of being a student...we have very little money! Luckily, here is a list of scholarships you can choose from!
Albert Ji is from Los Angeles, California and is currently a student at UC Berkeley. He enjoys basketball, music, Korean BBQ, chilling and putting a little flair into life.
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