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Vietnam Study Tour Report


Interviews at pagoda

Ten undergraduate students and two faculty members took part in a weeklong study tour to Vietnam from Sunday September 6 to Sunday September 13, 2015.

At an orientation session before we left, students learned about the situation in Vietnam from Vietnamese students at Ochanomizu University and Tokyo Medical and Dental University as well as learning a few phrases of basic Vietnamese. Participants chose their own research subjects, carrying out preliminary research based on printed materials and preparing for on-the-ground group research in three subjects once we got to Vietnam: “Poverty and Social Disparity,” “Medicine, Public Health, and the Environment,” and “Education and Welfare.”

During the tour we visited Ho Chi Minh City and the city of Can Tho in south Vietnam. In Ho Chi Minh City, we visited Ajinomoto Vietnam, two orphanages and a welfare shelter for street children, the JICA office and the affiliated Vietnam-Japan Human Resources Cooperation Center (VJCC), and two local universities. In Can Tho, we visited two preschools and Can Tho University, among other places.

On the economic front, many Japanese companies (particularly small and medium-sized enterprises) have expanded into Vietnam in recent years. At Ajinomoto Vietnam, we were able to visit the factory and see the company’s products being made, giving us a first-hand sense of the work of Japanese firms in Vietnam. Our visits to the orphanages and welfare shelter showed us the reality that still lies behind Vietnam’s burgeoning economy, and was a reminder of the problems of regional development.

Group picture with the Can Tho University students

On the educational front, I was moved by the warm welcome we received at the preschool we visited in Can Tho, where the children presented us with handmade lanterns, a traditional part of autumn festivities in Vietnam.

At Can Tho University, we enjoyed lively exchanges with fellow students. There were presentations in English and activities to introduce Vietnamese and Japanese culture, providing an ideal opportunity for people from the two countries to get to know one another. I was surprised and impressed by the Vietnamese students’ English and Japanese language abilities and by how dedicated they were to their studies.

Children carrying handmade lanterns
at the preschool

In addition to these visits to universities and other organizations, we also visited local historical and cultural sites and the War Remnants Museum. From the perspective of environment and public health, experiencing the differences from Japan by seeing local conditions and people’s lives at first-hand (particularly hygiene issues such as litter and rubbish left on the streets and the fact that tap water is not safe to drink, the traffic situation, and the ongoing development of the cities), allowed us an opportunity to see both the strengths of developing countries and the problems that often accompany development.

At the War Remnants Museum, alongside disturbingly graphic images of the war, I was impressed by the strength of Vietnam as a country that is now enjoying one of the top growth rates in Asia 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War.

The seven-day trip was packed with interesting activities, enabling us to visit all kinds of diverse facilities and organizations. For part of our itinerary, a student from the Ho Chi Minh University of Medicine and Pharmacy accompanied us as interpreter in English, so that the study trip was significant not only for helping us to understand Vietnamese society and culture but also from a language point of view. More than anything, the experience of another culture, and everything I learned from the people and things I saw in Vietnam, was irreplaceable. Being exposed to diverse ways of thinking beyond the limited context of Japan was a precious experience, and one that I hope to put to use in my future career.

(Ayano Fruichi, 3rd year student, Department of Human and Social Sciences,
Faculty of Letters and Education)

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