After my first trip to Asia in 2016, I knew I wanted to return. My study abroad experience in China helped further ignite my passion for learning about a diverse and new part of the world where I quickly found that only by totally immersing myself in the local culture could I ever begin to understand it.
I started searching for overseas work opportunities after returning to school that would allow me to live abroad and graduate in four years. My research led me to an opportunity to work as an English instructor for the summer at the Military Science Academy in Hanoi, Vietnam. Given that the position involved working with military officers, cadets, and traditional college students I was naturally intrigued due to the unique history between the United States and Vietnam.
While at first hesitant to dive too deep into anything that could be portrayed as sensitive, I quickly learned that the Vietnamese were open to discussing the past and the warmness of the people made it easier to get past the initial awkwardness.
My first trip was limited to what was once “North Vietnam” where I visited Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Dien Bien Phu. Each taught me about the unique history and beauty of Vietnam and its people.
After departing I stayed in close contact with some of my Vietnamese friends and continue to keep up to date with them today. I have since returned to Vietnam twice to visit my friends' rural northern villages and to take a tour south to see what was once “South Vietnam”.
Today the legacy of the United States and France can still be seen across the country. Students continue to learn English and French with both countries being desired destinations for higher education.
With Vietnam’s economy on the rise, some have given Vietnam the label of “1990’s China”. While both China and Vietnam hold similar government types and have chosen to undergo a path of increasing openness and reform, the unique destinies of both countries were and continue to be different.
Vietnam should be viewed as its own entity. Given its increasing eagerness for foreign investment, opening up, and internationalization combined with its traditional culture of kindness and friendship, it’s worth taking a closer look – whether it’s for business, tourism, or finding a second home.
About the Author:
Alexander is a recent graduate from Portland State University in the United States where he received his undergraduate degree in political science. He is currently pursuing his graduate degree in international relations at Peking University in Beijing, China.