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 his fifth installment.
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For the final Vietnam meeting last night (April 9), only three of us were in attendance. Professor Jack Harris comfortably explained the general history of the French involvement that lead to the Thirty Years War (The Vietnamese tend to crush the French and U.S. occupation into one war). Also discussed was the invention of a Romanized alphabet, the poor condition of Vietnam under communism, and the extreme ethnic disparity (There are 56 different ethnic groups in Vietnam). I found all of this important, but I blame my inherent aversion to history for my occasional zoning out.
I was worried that the fall semester’s academic work would prove to be a constant battle with this aversion, but am becoming more confident. First, learning the history of a nation while being completely immersed in its culture must prove an ideal learning environment.
Second, although I know there are books and lectures to be had, just like any other class schedule, the semester is in the experience. I’ve been told this by many students returned from abroad.
I should mention at this point that there is also an independent study/internship required for the course. One woman from our group has plans to work at an elementary school; one man will be interning at the Danish consulate. One particularly diligent student plans to embark on a study of women’s involvement in the war.
I mentioned how I’d like to work in a film or TV studio and it just so happens that Professor Harris has a friend who has a friend who runs the most popular variety show in Hanoi! On that note, I ought to take a look at my résumé.
At the end of the meeting, I got some basic questions answered. Cash availability is not a problem: there are ATMs on every corner, which dispense Dong (about 16,000 to each dollar), but we are advised to bring a stack of one dollar bills (Vietnamese LOVE dollars).
Sleeping conditions won’t be an issue either, even for someone of my height. I may be a little cramped as we travel to different areas, but the mattresses should be long enough to fit all 6’3″ of me. As for weather, we will be arriving after the very hot and very rainy season. Conditions will run from coolish to warm, but in the South, it is always warm.
Now that the meetings are over, it seems like more like the home stretch. There are books that we’re supposed to be reading, streaming videos on the web that are incredibly informative, and logistics to be figured out, but that’s it.
One friendly student has suggested that the eight of us get together for a little party sometime soon. Unfortunately, my end-of-the-semester schedule seems to be so crazy, I’ll have to miss out. It sounds like a great bonding experience, but from the previous meetings, I have a feeling that we’ll be getting along famously.