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Girl Walking in Vietnam

One of the best parts of Dartmouth is the strength of its study abroad program, run bythe Guarini Institute. This December I took part in the first ever "Guarini Study Away" program to Vietnam. These "study aways" are three-week programs that count as one course and take place after Thanksgiving. Currently, there are two offerings: the Asian Societies, Cultures, and Language Department's "Developing Vietnam" in Ho Chi Minh City, and the German and Jewish Studies' "Migration and Memory" in Berlin. 

As I grew up as an American-Canadian in Asia, I didn't come to Dartmouth with a strong desire to study abroad. I also wanted to maximize my time on Dartmouth's campus given the time that was lost due to the Covid-19. At the same time, my classmates who studied abroad came back raving about their experiences, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I first heard about the three-week Vietnam study abroad from Professor Edward Miller, who teachings "The Vietnam War" and is now my thesis advisor. Professor Miller spent years developing the study abroad program in conjunction with Fulbright University,Vietnam's first liberal arts university. However, because of Covid-19, he had to postpone launching the program until restrictions relaxed.

"Developing Vietnam" is a two-part program that begins with a course during the fall. Both the preparation course in the fall and the study abroad counts as individual course credits, which I was able to use towards my Asian Societies, Cultures, and Languages minor. During the Fall portion of the course, we read extensively about the history of Vietnam after American withdrawal, focusing on economic, societal, and environmental development. Early on, we were paired up with Fulbright students, who we called with once a week to start planning for our research project.

My group decided that we wanted to use our strengths in history and government to explore the impact of economic reform policy on the growth of Vietnam's economy during the "Doi Moi" period after the Third Indochinese War. Once we got to Fulbright University, we were able to conduct on the ground interviews, access archives, gain video footage, and collaborate with our peers in person. Professor Miller, who led our trip, is a world-renowned historian on the Vietnam War, and his numerous contacts in Ho Chi Minh city allowed us incredible access.

Girls on a roof top

Outside of academics, over the course of the three weeks in Vietnam, we visited a Mangrove reserve, traveled throughout the Mekong Delta, and explored Ho Chi Minh City itself. From trying various types of pho and banh mi to shopping at the Night Market to visiting the Presidential Palace, we were able to do and see so much during our short time there. It truly felt like a full study abroad experience. One of my favorite experiences in Vietnam was visiting a former Viet Cong camp in the mangroves just outside of Ho Chi Minh city. Another highlight was exploring the night life of Ho Chi Minh City, especially the wide array of rooftop restaurants from which we could watch the sun set over the city's vast skyline. 

Girl Exploring HCMC

My unbelievable "mini" study abroad experience in Vietnam is just one example of how Dartmouth's opportunities to learn off campus are unparalleled. You don't need to commit to a full ten weeks to get the study abroad experience. If you are at all intrigued by Dartmouth's study abroad programs, I highly recommend you visit the Guarini website. No matter what your academic interest is, there is something for you. 

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