Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development
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Educational excursions directly immerse students in the cultural context and local realities of diverse Vietnamese communities. On excursion, students explore key questions related to issues such as traditional culture preservation, development pressures, and pervasive social inequalities. During rural excursions, students learn about rural development patterns and sustainable development practices. Direct immersion in varied environments provides students with a deeper understanding and appreciation of Vietnam's cultural and natural heritage.
Mekong Delta (Ten Days)
During this excursion, students examine rural development trends and sustainable development practices by observing rural villages and protected areas in the Mekong Delta. Central to this excursion is conducting a community volunteering project, which could focus on organic farming methods or on installing a bio-digester with local farmers. Students experience how local residents are working to reduce current poverty levels and build suitable livelihood farming systems.
During the excursion to the Mekong Delta, students observe local religious and cultural practices by examining the revival of local festivities and the upsurge in popular religion in Chau Doc, the border area between Vietnam and Cambodia. Students also have the opportunity to experience ongoing conservation efforts to protect the Cajuput mangrove forest in Tra Su. Restoration efforts have been underway since 1983, and the forest has been extended by 700 hectares. The forest serves as a habitat for many kinds of water birds (primarily storks), colonies of bats, and various rare animal species.
Da Nang and the Ancient Cities of Hue and Hoi An (One Week)
During this excursion, students examine sustainable tourism in a Vietnamese context. Additionally, students learn about Hue culture and the last feudal Nguyen Dynasty. Students have the opportunity to visit My Son and Champa holy sites, while learning about Champa art and music. A highlight of this excursion is a visit to the ancient cities of Hue and Hoi An, both recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites. In Hue, students visit the Forbidden Citadel and see well-known tombs.
Students may have the chance to take a speed boat to visit Cu Lao Cham, an island marine park also known as Cham Island Biosphere Reserve. Students learn about plans for sustainable development in the area with an emphasis on preserving the environment and enhancing the income-generating capacity of the local people. In addition, students can go snorkeling in a nearby coral reef area.
Excursion to the North: Hanoi, Sapa, and Ha Long Bay (Twelve Days)
Located on the banks of the Red River, Hanoi is Vietnam's capital, its center of government, and the cradle of Vietnamese civilization. The year 2010 marked the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of Hanoi.
In Hanoi, students attend seminars at Hanoi University, Faculty for International Studies, where lectures are delivered by many of the university's most esteemed professors. Students learn alongside Vietnamese students with whom they share insights, observations, and research.
During their time in Hanoi, students have the opportunity to do the following:
- Meet with top historians and members of the Vietnamese National Assembly to discuss current political topics.
- Visit major historical sites, including Van Mieu temple, the first and oldest university in Vietnam; the Presidential Palace; and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.
- Visit the newly excavated historic Forbidden City, Thang Long, the royal city built in the 11th century after Vietnam gained independence from Chinese occupation and rule. This visit is of particular interest for students interested in archaeology.
- Meet with government officials and residents to discuss the preservation of cultural heritage sites.
- Observe the work NGOs such as Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam, UNICEF, and UNDP are conducting in Vietnam.
In Sapa, students experience Vietnamese indigenous cultures and observe local music, dress, embroidery, and other crafts. They learn about the cultures of Hmong, Dao, and Giay ethnic groups in several surrounding villages. During excursions, students may witness firsthand some activities of a Red Dao shaman and the indigo dyeing of Hmong women, and they may interact with local students there. These educational excursions enhance students' understanding of the regions by allowing them to directly observe the dynamics affecting ethnic minority communities in Vietnam.
In Ha Long Bay, students experience the grottos, caves, and marine life of this beautiful and scenic bay.
The itinerary changes each semester to include less visited sites and rural areas vital to understanding Vietnam and the visible gap between urban and rural areas. Students engage with local residents through visits to religious temples and monasteries, nature reserves, local markets, orphanages, schools, and factories. Immediately preceding the Independent Study Project, this excursion forms the core of the travel portion of the program, and exposes students to myriad possibilities and contacts for their ISP.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Ho Chi Minh City
Language Study: Vietnamese
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