If there was a word to describe my time and experience studying abroad in Vietnam, it would be the word "immersive". Throughout the whole experience, the traveling seminars, guided CET activities, and the inclusion of a Vietnamese roommate really allowed me to explore the country for all its unique aspects.
The traveling seminars took us all around north and central Vietnam and we were able to go to Cambodia as well. My favorite excursion was when we made a visit to the Mekong Delta and visited several local farms and kitchens with our Vietnamese roommates. I even learned how to make rice paper and banh xeo from the locals there. We were able to apply some of the academic content to what we were seeing and learning around the country. But of course the best part of the traveling was experimenting with the different foods of each region. The cuisine of Vietnam is flexible and there are options for vegetarians, fish lovers, etc. You can easily find food that is suitable for you!.
In the beginning, mainly in orientation week, CET led us on several guided activities to help us get a better feeling of Ho Chi Minh City and bond with our roommates. I particularly remember the scavenger hunt, where we raced from market to city center to boba shop with my roommate to collect the most points. With her expertise knowledge of the city, we were able to win the competition and we became really closer after that.
This leads to my most favorite aspect part of the program, which was my Vietnamese roommate, Thanh. Over the course of four months, we developed such a close bond and did practically everything together. Over the weekends, I was invited to her house to spend time with her family, went on late night motorbike rides, indulged in late night street food, and even spent the entire fall break exploring more of North Vietnam. I think the most unique thing we did was get our hair done together for seven hours straight. She was the one who convinced me to dye my hair, and I still am getting compliments about my hair today. Thanh and I still chat over the internet everyday, and I do hope to see her in the near future when I return back to Vietnam.
- Be flexible. In America, we have a very structured way of living in our personal, academic, and professional environments. In Vietnam, you will learn how to be more flexible and learn how to accept things as they come. The best mindset to have is not to dwell on what could have been accomplished or done in the time given. You have a large period of time in the country, and you are there to enjoy your time, not complain of what could have been.
- Be open. You will experience some uncomfortable situations. But try and prevent yourself from forming judgements about the person or situation. You are a guest in this country, and you are here to listen and learn.
- Have fun! Anyone can make their study experience good or bad based on the attitude they have. If you don't enjoy a specific aspect of the program or want to change any things, find something else you enjoy to do. You have been afforded a great privilege to study abroad in a beautiful, rich country and the experience will be what you make of it.
- Be respectful.