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Study Ablog: From Vietnam with Love

Peer advisor Dylan is a senior in the Milken School studying public health.

Our program thought gardening in 95 degree temperatures was a good idea.

Wow, another GW kid went abroad! Groundbreaking.

Well, just like half of GW, I went abroad. To put it blankly: Abroad was one of the most rewarding but trying experiences in my life—and I would recommend it to anyone.

When choosing a program, I knew that it was important to me to choose something a little more atypical. There were a lot of contenders, but I ended up being a part of CET’s Public Health and Development program based out of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. My mother was thrilled!*

*My mother was the furthest thing from thrilled.

 

This was taken from an overlook above Mai Châu—absolutely incredible. I had been reading “Big Little Lies” in the bus so this was tied for the best thing I saw that day

When it came to planning, I was very bad at it. I didn’t know much about the city, how to get around, or even how to say, “hello” in Vietnamese. However, that did not stop me from departing on February 12th for what would end up being one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

My first few days in Ho Chi Minh City (more commonly referred to as Saigon) was the capital of South Vietnam pre-1975. The city was, and still is, a cultural hub and blends Vietnamese tradition, French colonization, and Western influence in a haphazard way. My program paired me and the other American participants with a local Vietnamese roommate who studied at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities. My roommate, Thông, was majoring in Japanese Studies and we bonded over our love of food and memes.

My roommate and I pose in front of the only Zara in Vietnam.

The program was very small—only 4 American students—and is the primary reason the program proved to be so difficult at times. I am a fairly social creature so this small pool of potential friends was cause of great concern. But, I took this challenge in stride (after several dramatic phone calls/facetime sessions with friends and family at home) and tried to use this as an opportunity to engage with Saigon outside of my neighborhood. A lot of my neighborhood travel centered around visiting different cafes considering just how popular and delicious coffee was in Saigon. Vietnam houses a very large growing region in its central highlands. Also, aside from just coffee, Vietnam has amazing food. To this day I dream of the next time I’ll get to have cơm tm, bún tht nướng, or bt chiên.

My DELICIOUS bun thit nuong and my equally amazing friend, Khanh.

There are so many experiences I had abroad that I could talk about now. There was the time I saw an abandoned water park, ate crickets, regularly rode around on motorbikes, climbed down a waterfall, attended a break dancing competition, saw a former emperor’s mausoleum, walked through a rice paddy, and sailed aboard a dragon boat. But, there was something so incredibly special about Vietnam that no amount of words could summarize. Vietnam was the first chance I had to be on my own and rely on myself. Saigon will forever have a place in my heart and 500 words is not nearly enough to tell you how. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

 

My friend Erica and I pose with the star of the Saigon Heat. Did you know that Saigon has a basketball team? His name is Stefan and he is dreamy and his instagram can be found here.

Me and elephants!

On a boat in the Mekong Delta!

 

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