Ed. note: Jonah Levy '08 of Brooklyn will study abroad in Vietnam during the Fall 06 semester. He has agreed to keep a journal of his preparation and during his time there. This is the first excerpt.
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Saturday night I went to a party at the Beta Sigma Cooperative. I saw a girl I had recognized from last year whom I hadn’t seen in a while. Naturally, I assumed she had been abroad last semester, and I asked her where she went.
“Vietnam.” she answered with a smile, and took a drag from her cigarette.
“Yeah? I’m going there next semester!” I responded.
“Oh, I’m so jealous.”
“But you were just there!”
“I know, but I want to go back,” she said.
Ever since I arrived at HWS, it’s these types of reactions I’ve been getting from students recently returned from a semester abroad that have increased my anticipation for the same experience. With programs available all over the world, I gawked at the possibilities at my first study abroad orientation early during my first year. Around this time last year, I came frustratingly close to spending a culturally intense two-week all expenses paid trip to Japan.
I remember getting off the phone with my father immediately after the second round of interviews and looking out over the lake thinking ” … Japan …”
My liberal arts education has provided me with the opportunity to learn about ancient Eastern civilizations while pursuing my career in film and theater. But it has been my dream to visit a non-Western country for so long.
Now that the preliminary meetings for the purpose of Vietnamese culture training have begun, my dream is becoming a reality. Clichés aside, one of the main things that has stuck in my head since the meeting is the issue of food. I’m a huge fan of exotic foods, hailing from New York City, one of the biggest cultural melting pots of the US.
“You can get a meal on the street for a dollar, and eat in a restaurant for three to five dollars,” Jack Harris said gleefully — he's the professor gleefully charged with this orientation.
“Get a beer for thirty-five cents …” mentioned one of the kids sitting behind me.
There were nine students at this meeting; six Hobart students and three William Smith students. Joining us will be approximately 10 Union College students whom we will be meeting in August, during our two week Vietnamese language crash course.
I’ll be sacrificing the end of my summer as a camp counselor, but there’s no doubt in my mind it will be worth it.