We are currently in our 5th week of studying in Vietnam and I can’t believe how time has gone by so fast. From being 58 total strangers and uncertain about what this wonderful country would bring us, we have gone through 4 full weeks of lectures, 1 field trip, explored the city of Hoi An, and experienced Vietnam in ways I never would have thought of if I wasn’t a part of this course.Although we are already half-way through our stay here, I wish to recap and walk you through our first few weeks here to gain some insight to the vibrant and brilliant city of Hoi An, which I am lucky to call home.
But first, here is some quick information about the city we live in. Hoi An is a beautiful city with a long and complex history, and, as its Old Town is an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, it is extremely well-preserved. With its streets and architecture reflecting both foreign and indigenous influences, Hoi An is place where West and East meet. Historically a major port, Hoi An has been the home of plenty different cultures, and you can easily find old Japanese houses, Chinese temples and Buddhist pagodas if you walk around the city center.
Week 1 – Culture shock?
The first week went as fast as it came. I arrived a few days prior to school-start with 11 other girls from Norway, and got to experience some of the Old Town and the beach – which is amazing btw – before we officially started with our course. Checking into our houses on Sunday morning, we met almost all 58 (!!) of our classmates, and the rest of the day we ate, went house-sightseeing and bought a smoothie machine. The following days consisted of lectures every day from 08:00-10:00, trying to finish all our readings prior to the lectures, relaxation at the beach, testing out the local market, Welcome Party arranged by Kulturstudier and a self-organized day-trip to Da Nang. Also, did you know Kulturstudier have their own football team? Neither did I, but we actually had both one practice and a game our first week here against a local all-men team around the age 30+. Though inexperienced and rusty, we survived and it was crazy fun.
Highlights: Rode on an actual bull, discovered the unbelievably great pumpkin enchiladas at Hola Taco, and the Welcome Party at Balance Café.
Topics: Introducing Vietnam, with Dr. Buj Hai Thiem
Week 2 – Settling in
During this week we finally started to settle into a routine of classes, lunch as Balance café and reading, although the days also become filled with more and more extra activities. We got a new lecturer, Mart Vriirand, who would stay with us throughout both week 2 & 3, with focus on economic, political, cultural and social aspects of Development. For me, this week consisted of; establishing Study group, trying out food at the local food court (recommended), Yoga, jogging at the beach, football practice, Thai massage, the beach, and – most importantly – studying. Hahah you could say this week was quite hectic. Also, in addition to all this, on Saturday we had a Vietnamese Day arranged by Kulturstudier. This was in order to get to know the city better, and this we did through breakfast at a local restaurant, Lottery at a local coffee shop, a Quiz, Vietnamese cooking class and a traditional Vietnamese Bingo at the end of the day. I thought the Quiz was super fun, as we had to bicycle all around the city to answer the questions – which lead to our group winning 2nd place and a trip to the sanctuary My Son. Woop woop!
Highlights: Discovering Rosie’s Café (which literally is heaven), and Vietnamese day.
Topics: Economic, political, cultural and social aspects of Development, with Dr. Mart Viirand.
Week 3 – Reading, reading, field trip, and, oh, some more reading
Reflecting the title, there was A LOT reading this week. While there was a lot to read up on, I think this has been one of the most interesting weeks we’ve had. We had double lectures Monday and Wednesday, and a seminar preparing us for our Field Trip to Ka Tu village, where we were divided into different groups and got time to prepare to conduct our interviews. This week there was also the celebration of the Moon festival, which most of our classmates celebrated together with a dinner. Though these were important aspects of this week, we will write more about Ka Tu and the Moon Festival another time as I fear you might already be slipping away reading all this haha. Therefore we will skip to the next week.
Highlights: Trip to Ka Tu village.
Topics: Approaches, agents and arenas of Development, with Dr. Mart Viirand
Week 4 – Days flying by
This week started with yet another lecturer, Berit Aasen, who focused on development theories and strategies in a changing world. Beside lectures and studying, this week consisted of football practice, yet another game played against a team from a local university, and also had movie nights (Mamma Mia and Mamma Mia 2) with my roomies. As we have gotten more into the routine here, the days go by in the blink of an eye, and I’m convinced that if I close my eyes long enough suddenly this whole trip will be over and I will end up wondering where all the days went. Therefore, in order not to lose against time and not miss out on any experiences, some friends and I went to My Son and Ba Na Hills this weekend. Both were day-trips, and both were FANTASTIC. Highly recommended.
Highlights: Mamma Mia movie marathons, My Son and Ba Na Hills.
Topics: Development theories and strategies, with Berit Aasen.
This is the end of my post, and I hope you enjoyed this “short” summary of 4 intense, interesting and amazing weeks.
Until next time,
– Henriette –