Shelby is a college student in Colorado, where she freelances and dreams of traveling. With a background in writing and editing, and a passion for children, writing a kid’s book is near the top of her bucket list. She’s got a passion for hot cocoa, cats, and writing about anything and everything, which thankfully her wife supports fully, since it means many hours sitting at a computer screen with a kitten, her laptop, and a steaming mug o’chocolate.
By Shelby Conques
Recently, I spent some time in Vietnam, attending a celebration for the Day of Vesak in Ninh Binh and exploring Ha Noi for the day, and I realized that we as Americans have somewhere gotten the wrong impression of the beautiful country. A granddaughter of a USMC veteran who fought in the Vietnam War, I have always considered the country to be a war-torn, strictly controlled place that’s maybe a little backwards. And in some ways, I learned that I was right. There is still a lot of poverty in and around the country, and I definitely saw my share of police officers, especially in the countryside.
But the country is so much more. The people of Vietnam are so kind and personable, and it’s easy to make friends quickly. Vietnam National University, located in Ha Noi, offers a wide array of programs with courses from finance to pre-law, and most students who attend are already bilingual, speaking both Vietnamese and English. The landscape in Ha Noi is gorgeous, and once you acclimate to the humidity, you’ll love spending time outside, whether studying in the park or shopping in the streets.
Speaking of the streets, here’s a tip. Don’t be polite. Being a Southern girl myself, I am undoubtedly polite, and that attitude won’t get you anywhere in the city – especially not across the street. While there are traffic lanes in the street, no one in Ha Noi uses them, and mo-peds are plentiful and fast, so learn to demand your space as you cross the street, and cross quickly.
One thing my friends have always expressed concern about when talking about studying abroad is the food; a kid’s got to eat, right? Vietnamese food is certainly not flavored the same as most American foods, but it is cheap and delicious. Just a walk down any street will have you passing many tiny cafes and small diners, each with its own atmosphere and unique cuisine. And if you must have it, there is still a McDonald’s easily attainable.
Studying in a different country isn’t all that different from studying in your own country, at least as far as academics is concerned. It’s the people and the atmosphere that makes studying elsewhere a blast, and you certainly will have one if you study in Vietnam.