After 30 long hours of travel, we’ve finally made it to Vietnam! Both the people and food have been exciting and extremely new — the heat, however, is quite the adjustment. We spent most of our day meeting the UEF students and becoming better familiarized with the layout of Ho Chi Minh City. Compared to the United States, Vietnam has proven to be a country unlike anything I’ve experienced before. While on the city tour, I noticed a few items unique to Vietnam. The ever-changing amount of motorbikes (it seemed like a million) was mind-blowing, forcing our group to constantly dodge them in the middle of the street. With the drivers focused solely on their destination, I realized that a greater sense of situational awareness would be of immense help. Additionally, the majority of our district seems to be composed of smaller, hole-in-the-wall restaurants & stores, instead of larger chains and restaurants. This gives our area an older, more traditional feel compared to other parts of town that have newer and more modern architecture .
An immediate, stand-out signal of development and globalization was the Vietnamese / Japanese subway system. Currently under construction, it demonstrates a growing connection of international relations for Vietnam. As the first of its kind in the city, it marks an important milestone, also responsible for laying the foundation for future plans that will expand development even further. During the “Welcome Dinner”, I was surprised to see the creativity level that went into all the dishes that were served. Items like the sugar cane wrapped in shrimp paste were large culture shocks, especially because there aren’t many dishes in America that are similar. I was also shocked to see that water isn’t one of the first drinks that you are served; instead, it’s typically a drink such as tea.
After my brief pre-departure research, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Vietnamese people are constantly smiling and full of emotion, in contrast to Culture Smart’s indication that a smile was a sign of embarrassment. I look forward to starting off with our first site visit tomorrow afternoon! It’ll be the perfect opportunity to network with real international professionals whose jobs may spark an interest.