Celebrating 10th consecutive years of International Honors Program in Vietnam
(World Learning’s School for International Training)
To date, Institute of Population, Health and Development (PHAD) has been coordinating International Honors Program (IHP) Health and Community: Globalization, Culture and Care for 10 years! IHP is a program from World Learning’s School for International Training, examining crucial global health issues in countries from four continents – the U.S., Vietnam, South Africa and Argentina. The program integrates traditional classrooms and site visits for learners to acquire comprehensive knowledge on each country’s major concerns. This spring 2016, it was our great pleasure to welcome 29 students from several well-known universities in the U.S., such as Brown, Yale, Cornell, etc., and faculty and fellow to Vietnam.
First destination: the green and windy Lac village
On their first day to the vibrant Vietnam, the group was brought directly from Noi Bai International Airport to the idyllic and picturesque Lac village, Mai Chau district, Hoa Binh province. Here, they got a chance to taste the one and only Ruou Can (Can wine, a type of rice wine made and fermented from the home-grown high quality rice); experience living in village-style house of Nha san (Stilt house); explore Trieu cave; and teach English to local kids as community reciprocity. At the same time, students were immersed in the beauty and fragrance of local rice field, right outside their house. They were much loved by community people there and were so popular that Province Television HoaBinhTV approached them to ask for their reflection on tourism in Lac Village: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcHuao4Uij8&feature=youtu.be
Enough fun time, it’s POD time! Every day, there is a Person of the Day (POD), who is in charge of leading the group through the whole day activities. This helps to make everyone practice and develop their leadership potential. After having some relaxing time to chase “jet lag” away, students were ready to explore not only Vietnam’s health care but also global health from Vietnamese (Dr. Kieu Cuong “KC” Nguyen) and American faculty (Dr. Allison Heller) in various contexts to provide a foundation for the program theme of Globalization, Culture and Care. Program courses comprise past and present issues, theoretical framework, and their meaning to real life solutions. Throughout the program, students are divided into 5 groups: Mental Health, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Diseases, Environmental Health, and Traditional Medicine. To help them thoroughly understand theories given in class, field trips to nearby villages were arranged for the five groups to interview people in Thai and H’Mong community regarding their belief and experiences in one of the above topics.
Xin chao, Hectic Hanoi!
It was then time to leave “peace and quiet” Lac village and say hello to “busy and noisy” Hanoi. “I thought I was all prepared for the hustle and bustle of Hanoi” – one student said. But no, living here means crossing the street of layers and layers of motorbikes, which are considered dangerous and scary to many foreigners. With the help of the extremely helpful and thoughtful Vietnam Country Coordinator Dr. Nguyen Cong Vu, his team and volunteers, students were taught survival skills, including making it across the street safe and sound, and Vietnamese basic communication to help them order foods and drinks.
Fortunately, the program team is not their only source of information and assistance. During their 3 weeks in Hanoi, students live with host families, who love them, take care of them and share with them meaningful moments in the family as if they are daughters and sons. Homestays are a critical part of learning on the program as they serve as “living dictionaries” of Hanoi and Vietnam and as interlocutors for student research.
Apart from classroom lectures, students are introduced to field experiences by exploring neighborhoods; visiting popular sites; visiting NGOs/centers supporting people with disability, Friendship village for orphans; traditional medicine department at Hanoi Medical University; meeting with experts in guest lectures on gender equality, HIV/AIDS prevention, maternal and child health, Agent Orange, etc.; panel discussion with HIV self-support groups and engaging with locals.
See you again!
Four weeks went by in the blink of an eye with lots of laugh and lots of love. “… each day is a loaded log of interactions with the familiar and the foreign, a mixture of what is known and what is not, whether that’s with food or friends or something else. That is not to say that everything is perfect; it is rather to say that everything is new and rich, academically, personally, and inter-personally.” – as Laura McIntyre, a student wrote in a letter home (source: SIT Study Abroad)
We want to express our sincere thanks to World Learning for making Vietnam one of the program’s destination and for giving all of us this precious opportunity to have such amazing and talented students on board (video made by a student – Olivia Charles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX7uOWdrP7E). Cam on (Thank you) our dear faculty and fellow for being collaborative and understanding. And last but not least, big thanks to our host families as the program cannot be without your care and support for our students, you are always “home” to them (Students saying thanks in Vietnamese to host families – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pUC3daEkN0) (video: PHAD). We do hope to see you all again, some day, somewhere in the world; we can tell the story of what we did in Vietnam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58OukjA0CGI).
PHAD country team.