Studying abroad in Vietnam will provide a global experience in a beautiful country that has one of Asia’s strongest and fastest-growing economies. Known for its stretching coastlines, delectable cuisine, and fascinating, complex history, Vietnam can be the setting for a study abroad experience that will enrich your life both academically and personally.
Food & Culture
Known for fresh and flavorful ingredients, Vietnamese cuisine is among the healthiest and tastiest in the world. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, fish, and rice dominate many traditional dishes. The most famous Vietnamese dish? Pho (pronounced fuh). A satisfying concoction of rich broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat, pho is full of flavor and warmth. A unique and interesting characteristic of Vietnamese food is that it traditionally incorporates five taste elements within each meal: spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (Earth). Consequently, common ingredients include fish sauce, soy sauce, lemongrass, ginger, mint, Saigon cinnamon, lime, and basil leaves. If nothing else, studying abroad in Vietnam will delight and intrigue your palate.
Originally gaining their independence from Imperial China, the Vietnamese were later colonized by the French; hence the evident French influence on architecture in Vietnam’s older cities. In 1954, Vietnam came out of the First Indochina War and divided into North and South Vietnam, two politically independent states. Today, as a result of the Vietnam War, the country is one unified nation, though cultural differences between the northern and southern regions are still evident. However, the two share an underlying culture built on centuries past of agriculture, fondly referred to as Dong Son culture. More recently, French and American influences are evident in different aspects of the Vietnamese way of life. Family and community are of high importance, and about 85 percent of the Vietnamese identify with Buddhism. A rich history in literature plays a part in theatre, with heavy emphasis on traditional folk literature and a unique poetic form called ca dao. To top all that, festivals and traditional Vietnamese weddings are prominent and joyful. Be sure to participate in one of the many festivals based on the lunar calendar!
Things to Do
Bordered by China, Laos, and Cambodia, and a short journey from the rest of Southeast Asia, Vietnam is a great base for anyone wanting to do some traveling before, during, or after their study abroad in Vietnam. Within the country, both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are popular city destinations, whereas Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Hue have scenic and cultural attractions. In Hue, visit the Perfume River, so named because its water scented during autumn with orchids that drop into the river.
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, is big, loud, bustling, and international. Downtown is full of sprawling boulevards and gorgeous historic French colonial buildings. Visit the Museum of Vietnamese History, the War Remnants Museum, or the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens. No matter where the hustle and bustle might take you, Ho Chi Minh City will give you a real taste of ultra-modern Vietnam. If you’re looking for a quieter escape, visit Da Nang. While it is still a larger coastal city, it is home to a major port, beautiful beaches, and is within 100 kilometers of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Imperial City of Hue, the Old Town of Hoi An, and the My Son ruins. Many of Da Nang’s residents work in agriculture, which provides for a diverse setting of city, mountains, farms, and — of course — magnificent marketplaces.
Studying in Vietnam
With several acclaimed universities, Vietnam offers a variety of educational opportunities. Many of the country’s larger universities are based in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City; however, the number of colleges and universities has dramatically increased in recent years, and enrollment is among the highest in the world. Programs of study in Vietnam vary by program and university. For example, the Center for Study Abroad offers Vietnamese language programs and Southeast Asian studies at the Vietnam National University. The Education Abroad Network offers multi-disciplinary study-abroad programs in Vietnam that cover a variety of majors, including Biology, Economics, Geography, Political Science, and Law.
Vietnam is a prominent and historical piece of Southeast Asia. It’s a perfect study abroad option for those interested in delving into Asian history, diverse culture, and fantastic food, all while gaining a unique and prestigious international education.