Students reminisce on global immersion trips to Cuba, Vietnam

Drew Rosenblum, Opinions Editor

From June 11- July 3, 2017, a group of Blake students traveled to the bustling city of Hanoi, the lively city of Saigon, and the peaceful and quiet rural areas of both sides of the country.

Julia Abraham ‘19, a student on the trip, gives a summary of what they did on the Vietnam trip.  She says, “We started off in Northern Vietnam in a city called Hanoi. We did a lot of touristy things such as visiting old prisons that have been turned into museums or going to see Ho Chi Minh’s body (an important leader of the Viet Cong army during the Vietnam war). We also visited a place called Peace Village which houses children who have birth defects due to a chemical that was sprayed by the Americans during the Vietnam war called Agent Orange. After that, we took a night train to Sapa, which is a city very close to the Chinese border, and then trekked to a village in the mountains where we had our first homestay…we took a plane to Southern Vietnam and visited the capital, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). We had pen pals from local colleges in both the north and the south. In the south, we also had a homestay in the Mekong Delta…At the end of the trip, we went to the Chu Chi Tunnels, which is a series of underground tunnels that were used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war in order to hide from the Southern forces.”  

Dion Crushshon, Director of Global Programming, Social Studies, gives insight on the ideas behind the trip.  He says  “The most important point or aspect is student to student aspect… [we] built-in opportunities to connect Blake students to Vietnamese students.”  This part of the trip is one that can be overlooked but is key to getting a true insight into what this culture is like.

Dion Crushshon also talks about the immersion part of the trip and how it ties into the rest of it.  He says, ”What is it like to be a teenager in Hanoi, Saigon, and an ethnic minority” when discussing the main idea of the trip.  This microcosm of a foreign world is another compelling aspect of this trip.  Dion continues on about how the experience affects the people on the trip.  He continues “Students get a sense…[of] How different and how same we are as people…which is a big question that we pondered”.  This question is one that was contemplated throughout the entire trip, which is a thought-provoking and engrossing question.

Julia Abraham ‘19 said “[I] learned more about being open-minded and recognizing bias and perspective when people are telling their stories. We all had preconceived ideas in our heads about what Vietnam would be like, but actually being there and meeting Vietnamese people changed our understanding of their culture.”  This idea of the experience remained constant with what Dion had to say about this as well, as he concludes “One valuable lesson is you cannot understand a country without traveling there.”

Sarah Weinshel
View from homestay in Ta Van Village, Vietnam featuring traditional Hmong batik and cross stitching and tilled rice paddy.