The GoGlobal Blog

A Press Release

A Press Release

So I was asked to write a piece for a Loyola Press Release about the Vietnam Center, so here it is on my blog. Hopefully it will perk up people’s interest in the program!

It is simply amazing being on this one of a kind program. I feel like a trailblazer, being part of the inaugural ‘class’ at the Vietnam Center. That is part of the reason I rushed to sign up, as well as the fact I would actually save money going abroad in Vietnam as compared to other programs where I would burn through my savings quickly, explore Southeast Asia, and the fact I would be doing a lot of service. I think other students will consider coming to the Vietnam Center in the future for these same reasons. Off the beaten path compared to other study abroad programs, this gives students opportunities for exciting new experiences. For example: I got the chance to spend Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, with my roommate’s family up in rural central Vietnam on the coast of the South China Sea. I was fed delicious Vietnamese delicacies at home, dined on simple bowls of rice with Buddhist monks and nuns at a pagoda in the mountains, told my roommate’s family I that like dragonfruit and was then promptly handed a bag of thirty dragonfruit from their plantation, explored the ruins of ancient Hindu hill temples, saw parades of acrobats and dragon dancers amidst fireworks and beating drums, swerved through intense traffic on the back of a motorbike, and went swimming in the South China Sea. That was all within the course of a week!

During actual school weeks I spend most of my time in Green Bamboo, a shelter for boys living on the street that helps provide them with education, vocational skills, and eventually reunites them with their families. I am the new ESL teacher, and also simply a big buddy for the boys who range in age from eight years old all the way up to boys who are eighteen, only two years younger than me, and holding part time jobs. These boys love to play and learn about America and the English language. Their hearts are so large and after the older boys challenge me to friendly wrestling matches, the younger ones like to curl up on my lap for a nap. Working at the shelter is rewarding for both me and the boys. This service that I am doing is a component of our Development class, one of our two required classes along with Vietnamese. There are several interesting electives to choose from, and I even got to create my own class. There was no Theology class listed for the program, and as a Theology major I requested one be made, so Fr. Julio Giulietti worked together with the Theology Department and Office of International Programs and I had my class: Religion in Vietnam, taught by Fr. Julio himself. Fr. Julio has set up meetings with several local religious leaders, and is planning trips to Buddhist centers to compliment our readings. Classes themselves are also very small and that gives each student a more personal and engaging experience. Classes range from being held in the Vietnamese University, at the Loyola Center, on site somewhere, or even in a café with some Vietnamese coffee, or ca phe, to stimulate discussion. We also have done several fieldtrips, such as a trip we did with our Environmental Studies class today to explore the mangrove forest we covered yesterday in our lecture or the fieldtrip we did last week to see how Ho Chi Minh City is improving its infrastructure by upgrading its canal system. This program is truly hands on. It is unmatched in the immersion you experience. The center is so small that everyone is very close: the five Loyola students, our Vietnamese roommates who have quickly become our best friends and guides to this beautiful country, Trinh our secretary, Vien our Coordinator, Mr. Ky Nguyen our Administrative Assistant, Dr. Rylan Higgins our main professor and Program Director , and Fr. Julio Giulietti the Vietnam Center Director. It is a very personal environment where the whole Loyola community can meet for dinner and tea and then head out for an evening of karaoke, which is good change of pace from Loyola back in Chicago where it is impossible to know everyone. Ho Chi Minh city itself is very dynamic, with many rural Vietnamese flocking for jobs, Vietnamese living in the West returning to re-unite with their families and open business in the booming economy, foreign investors arriving in the emerging market, a trickle of tourists from across the world, and now us: five Loyola students seeking to explore a new place on the other end of the globe. With everything I have said, I truly mean it when I say this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus the program isn’t even halfway over. We still get to travel to the Mekong Delta, Northern Vietnam, Cambodia, and a smattering of smaller trips to compare these locals to Ho Chi Minh City. There are bound to be many more exciting happenings before this program concludes. If you are an undergraduate I strongly recommend you apply for this new program.

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