For study abroad students, a semester abroad in Vietnam blends a fun urban lifestyle with a rich cultural experience. As many programs are based in major cities like Hanoi, spare moments will find you haggling with street market vendors after class, enjoying a vibrant nightlife, and taking care when traversing motorbike-laden streets.
Most visitors know that there’s more to Vietnam than the urban scene, and it’s common for students to take weekend getaways into the countryside. On these leisurely escapes, you can pedal past terraced rice fields or float in the waters of Ha Long Bay, a World Heritage Site.
Of course, no study abroad experience would be complete without the educational component. In Vietnam’s universities, you’ll acquire a fresh perspective on your area of study and may even tackle entirely new subjects, like Vietnamese language courses.
Where to Go
Ho Chi Minh City
As the most populated city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City will challenge overseas students to step into the rhythm of a well-oiled urban machine. From business development to environmental studies, there’s a diversity of material to choose from during a semester abroad here. Beyond the classroom, students can explore historic relics preserved in Saigon’s streets or escape to the floating markets of the Mekong Delta.
In the country’s northern region, Hanoi invites students to immerse themselves in Vietnam’s capital. Enhance your learning on urban studies with a firsthand look at how cities and people affect one another or take courses in international relations highlighting Hanoi’s global connections. Free days will entice students to visit pagodas, museums, and more cultural landmarks.
Whereas Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi invite students inland, Danang will take you to the shores of the South China Sea. Students will have no trouble finding an overseas program that fits their needs, with technology, economics, and hospitality just a few of many options for semester coursework. Plus, from peaceful beach stretches to the nearby Marble Mountains, there’s plenty to fill unoccupied moments.
Planning Your Trip
Imagining a semester overseas in Vietnam is one thing, and executing the dream trip is another. Below are a few pointers to help you prepare for your trip.
How to Choose a Study Abroad Program in Vietnam
No matter which program you select in Vietnam, it’s likely that you’ll be placed in a major city, where the country’s main institutions are based. Knowing you’ll be an urban dweller, your program considerations should address how a particular program furthers your studies and, of course, which city interests you as a place to live. Keep in mind what activities the surrounding region offers for your time outside the classroom, too.
Most study abroad students are provided with dorm accommodations, meaning you’ll be bunking with fellow program participants and sharing facilities. However, with Vietnamese culture so different from Western customs, choosing a homestay program is a fulfilling and sometimes overlooked housing option. Live like a local and brush up on your Vietnamese language skills by staying with a family.
A student visa is required for studying overseas in Vietnam. Applying for one will require a passport, visa fee payment, and proof that you’ve been accepted into a program. By submitting these materials along with an application form to the Vietnamese Embassy in your home country, you’ll have your student visa in hand before you leave.
Social Life & Student Culture
The social life of a study abroad student never seems to slow down. After class, you might team up with friends to explore historic areas like Hanoi’s Old Quarter, taste an unfamiliar Vietnamese dish at a group dinner, or discover what the local nightlife is like. Of course, your peers will also be crucial to your studies, and together you’ll learn how to balance education with adventure.
Health & Safety
As a study abroad destination, Vietnam is a very safe choice. Other than the typical risks of city living, like petty theft, there are no major threats cited by the U.S. Department of State. Some months may yield typhoons, and in these instances be sure to heed warnings by local officials.
If you come prepared, your health will stay in good shape in Vietnam. For long-term stays, you may need to consider vaccinations or medication for malaria, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis. Check with your family physician before leaving the country.
Costs & Funding
Now that you’ve determined where you want to study and outlined your pre-departure to-do list, it’s time to figure out how you’ll be budgeting for your overseas experience in Vietnam.
Typical Program Cost
Tuition and housing costs for a semester abroad in Vietnam range from $8,000 to $12,000, and year-long programs can cost upwards of $15,000. Aside from this, you’ll also need to budget for your plane tickets, visa fees, and personal expenses. The cost of living in Vietnam is lower than that in the U.S., so luckily things like groceries and even transportation costs within the country won’t eat up your budget.
Gathering the funds to study abroad may not be easy, but it's well worth it. To cover program fees and additional expenses, try:
- Organizing a Bake Sale: Connect with your fellow study abroad participants and see if they’d be interested in putting together a bake sale. To bring in more dollars, make it a recurring event. This is a terrific way to make money and connect with potential travel buddies.
- Cleaning Out Your Clothes Closet: When you spend a semester wearing only what fits in your suitcase, you’ll realize how unnecessary it is to have a packed closet. Anticipate this new outlook, and sell off your barely-worn clothes and shoes before you leave.
- Taking on Side Gigs: If your current work schedule doesn’t allow time for a second job, try taking on odd projects when you have time. Offer to cut your neighbor’s grass or babysit your cousin’s kids. You’ll be impressed by how these kinds of jobs add up.
Of course, scholarships will partially or sometimes fully fund a study abroad trip. For students traveling to Vietnam, explore scholarships such as:
- Freeman-ASIA: Undergrad students from the U.S. can apply for this award once they’ve been accepted at an overseas program in Vietnam or other countries in Southeast Asia.
- The Education Abroad Network (TEAN): If you enroll in a Vietnam program through TEAN, you can apply to a variety of scholarships, from need-based to merit awards.
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship: For those who’ve been awarded with a Federal Pell Grant, you may be eligible to apply for the Gilman scholarship, aimed at aspiring overseas students with demonstrated financial need.