For the first week of my Fulbright experience, I participated in an in-country orientation with other Vietnam Fulbrighters in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. Led by the Fulbright Team from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, the in-country orientation provided an opportunity to learn about Vietnam from officials, network with other scholars, and participate in networking/team-building activities.
Topics included in the in-country orientation highlighted a discussion on the United States’ relationship with Vietnam and briefings on security and safety, political issues, economic issues, and medical issues. The U.S. Department of State has a great briefing on U.S. relations with Vietnam: https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-vietnam/. A few statistics I found interesting:
- Bilateral relations between the United States and Vietnam were established in 1995
- Tens of thousands of Vietnamese students study in the United States, contributing nearly $1 billion to the U.S. economy
- New direct flight routes (Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City to L.A./San Francisco through Vietnam Airlines and Bamboo Airlines will increase economic, political, and social relationships between the two countries in next few years
I also greatly enjoyed hearing about projects from my colleagues who will be spending the semester/year in Vietnam. Interestingly, there is a strong delegation from Colorado in this year’s cohort! Here are a few fascinating people I met and a brief description of their Fulbright projects:
Dr. Lucinda (Cindy) Janel Shellito – University of Northern Colorado – project titled, “Interdisciplinary curricula to prepare university faculty and students for climate change in Vietnam”
Dr. Susan De La Paz – University of Maryland–College Park – project titled, “Improving literature outcomes for students for climate change in Vietnam”
Dr. Trevor Grant Gates-Crandall – Colorado State University-Pueblo – project titled, “Teaching sexual, gender, and cultural diversity in regional Vietnam”
Dr. Randy Lee Bell – Oregon State University – project titled, “Science teacher education and internships in Vietnam”
As part of orientation, we also completed a road trip/team-building activity/overnight in Bến Tre (part of the Mekong Delta region), about 50 miles from Saigon. This region of Vietnam is stunning: it is where the Mekong River approaches the sea through numerous tributary rivers and is a strong agriculture region. This destination is increasing in tourism, and tourists are able to participate in agriculture tourism, culture, and enjoy fantastic cuisine. Some of my favorite foods/drinks included: hủ tiếu nam vang (noodle soup), coconut (candy, drink, jam), and tropical fruits (mango, jack fruit, sapoche, and plum).