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Cultural immersion

Cultural immersion

Loyola student Cate Walters, second from left, spent the fall semester of her junior year studying in Vietnam. The University's Vietnam Center allows students an opportunity to experience a new culture, meet local residents, and travel to various sites in Southeast Asia. (Photo: Courtesy Cate Walters)

A semester abroad in Vietnam is a chance to experience the incredible diversity of Southeast Asia

By Eric J. Martin (BA ’92)

More than 8,000 miles from Loyola’s Chicago campuses, students explore the ruined temples and tombs of Mỹ Sơn. They see the floating markets of Mekong Delta and take an historical tour of Saigon. They traverse the underground tunnels of Củ Chi and visit the Royal Palace in Cambodia. It is all part of the cultural immersion experience that comes with a semester at Loyola’s Vietnam Center.

Located in Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon), the Vietnam Center allows Loyola students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the social, economic, and political factors shaping Southeast Asia through a variety of classes and excursions. Participating students—a select group limited to 15 to 25 per semester—attend classes held at nearby Open University (OU), a partnering institution.

Students choose from approximately 12 courses offered by Loyola University Chicago, such as Culture and Politics of Development in Contemporary Vietnam, Modern Vietnamese History, and Humans and the Environment in Contemporary Vietnam. Every student is paired with an English-speaking Vietnamese OU partner/guide and resides in a dormitory set in District 10, a lively area with shops and restaurants. 

But it’s the program-sponsored field trips in and around the country that are often the most memorable.

“I loved our excursion to Cambodia and getting to see the ancient city of Angkor, as well as kayaking in the stunningly beautiful waters of Ha Long Bay, rock climbing in the little mountain town of Da Lat, and hiking in Sa Pa,” says Loyola senior Cate Walters, a global and international studies major who attended the Vietnam Center during the fall semester of her junior year. “My experience was incredible for many reasons—new friendships, fascinating classes, delicious food, and amazing trips.”

Walters says the experience taught her how large and diverse the world is. “There are so many different cultures, traditions, and experiences outside our own little bubbles,” she says. “Living in Vietnam taught me how to go with the flow and try new things. It also gave me the opportunity to volunteer with more vulnerable populations outside of Ho Chi Minh City.”

The study abroad program in Vietnam began as a summer session and expanded to a fall or spring semester option in 2010. Kelly Heath, associate director of Loyola’s study abroad program, says that a semester in Vietnam helps students grow personally, spiritually, and professionally.

“Students learn a lot about Vietnamese culture, language, history, and current events through the program,” she says. “And they get a chance to get out of their comfort zone, live somewhere new and challenging, and learn how to adapt to a new lifestyle.”

Learn more: LUC.edu/studyabroad/Vietnam