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Vietnam Plus3 Study Abroad Program

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Monday, May 11Greetings!

We had a great weekend and can't believe that we are already through the first day of our second week here. Here is a recap of the weekend:

Saturday: We spent the day in the Mekong River Delta area, about two and a half hours outside of the city. On the way to the Delta we stopped at a cemetery for Vietnamese soldiers as well as a Cao Dai temple which each provided additional insight to Vietnamese culture and history from the Vietnamese perspective. When we arrived in the Delta our private boat was waiting for us and we began our journey. Photos below will give you a better idea of what that looked like. We stopped at a number of places including a traditional Vietnamese home, a spot where they make really tasty coconut candy and a restaurant for some interesting, but EXCELLENT food. I think some of the students were shocked to see the WHOLE fish that had been fried and brought to our table. We also once again experienced the monsoon rains and winds and were happy that we had just made the stop at the coconut candy spot and waited it out there. We were very happy that it did not begin again.

Sunday: We began the day with a cooking class that started with purchasing fresh ingredients in the market. The man in charge of the cooking class had the students try their hands with ordering ingredients and also bargaining. They quickly learned the phrase for "too expensive" and some of the locals were shocked at the student's language and bargaining skills. Each group was armed with a list of how much each item should cost as well as a translator so if anything went awry, we would still be able to eat. The cooking class was great and we sampled everything from banana shrimp fried spring rolls to pineapple fried rice. In the afternoon the students had a great time with some children from a local shelter at a large water park.

Today: We returned to UEF for history and culture class and another language class. This afternoon we visited CB Richard Ellis, a real estate firm, where the students learned a lot about Vietnamese property, including that all land is owned by the government and is only leased to those who live on it. In the case of a foreigner, 70 year leases are the max.

I hope you enjoy the pictures!! (see below)

Friday, May 8 - Two more very busy days here in Viet Nam!

Thursday: In the morning we were welcomed by one of the most prestigious high schools in Viet Nam. In a country where only 15% of high school graduates go on to higher education, if I understood correctly, this institution sends nearly 100%; 90% to Vietnamese institutions and 10% abroad. In the afternoon we met with Mark Oakley, a representative of law firm Duane Morris. This firm consults on many projects in Vietnam including those dealing with Vietnam's infrastructure.

Today: This morning we returned to UEF for a business class entitled "Vietnam's monetary policy in the period of financial crisis," followed by a language class. The afternoon was spent with ASCENX Technologies (www.ascenx.com), an engineering firm. The firm's Vietnamese engineers are instructed in English and train abroad for at least a short period of time. Both the students and the engineers enjoyed interacting and sharing their stories over coffee. Following this visit we were lucky enough to spend some time with a Vietnamese family and share an amazing home cooked meal. They were very welcoming and it was a great relaxing way to end another busy day in Viet Nam.

Tomorrow we will head to the Mekong Delta to enjoy a day outside of the city.

Wednesday, May 6 - Greetings again from Viet Nam! Time is flying by here and it is hard to believe how much we have already seen and accomplished. We have had three half days of classes hosted by the University of Economics and Finance. The lessons in language have especially allowed the students to interact with the Vietnamese students who are eager to help. Our teacher is very encouraging which is excellent because the Vietnamese language is INCREDIBLY difficult. 6 unique tones make it almost song-like and very different from the English language.

Monday afternoon we were welcomed by the US Consulate, the former US Embassy of South Viet Nam, and the head of the Consular Section Charles Bennett and associate. The students learned a lot about the American presence in Viet Nam and also about the life of a foreign service officer. A picture with Mr. Bennett on the historic grounds of the Consulate is included below.

Tuesday afternoon we were hosted by Glass Egg Digital Media (http://www.glassegg.com/) a major player in the video game industry in Viet Nam and abroad. Their General Director, Phil Tran, and CFO, Steve Reid, were gracious enough to meet with us to describe their work and what it takes to be successful in their industry. We received a tour and watched as artists, on computers, perfected the most detailed images of, primarily, cars for use in video games.

This afternoon we headed to Phu My Hung corporation (http://www.saigonsouth.com/) a major developer in a project seeking to create a new city center for HCM City. We met in a beautiful, modern building overlooking the area of current development and saw the plan in action. I think that all of us will be following the progress of this project as it looks to drastically redefine and modernize HCM City.

Tomorrow morning we will have a break from the classes and will visit a high school to get a feel for that level of education in Viet Nam.

Each student continues to express excitement for our experiences here even while battling the heat and jet lag. Check out their blogs to get a better sense of their perspectives. Tomorrow additional photos will be added!

Sunday, May 3 - Greetings! We have arrived safe and sound. After about 24 hours of travel and a short night sleep, everyone is in surprisingly good spirits, excited to begin the program.