Study Abroad in Vietnam: Summer Service in Rural Vietnam – Academics
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When eating fruit, remember the person who planted the fruit tree.
- Vietnamese proverb
CET Vietnam Summer Service is a program about “remembering who planted the fruit trees.” Students give back to their overseas community through service-learning. In the rural countryside, they build houses, paint walls, teach English—whatever the community needs.
Students perform their service projects alongside (and live with!) Vietnamese peers. Vietnamese roommates help students navigate rustic, rural life—how to purchase soap in Vietnamese, where not to park your bike, card games to play during a power outage.
Accompanying these projects is a service-learning course. Students examine the larger questions surrounding service-learning. What are the implications of service? How can the effects of service be ensured to last after the program has ended?
More than with any other study abroad destination, CET Vietnam Summer Service students tell us that the program “changed their life.” They leave Vietnam vowing never to forget “who planted the fruit tree.”
Students choose a 4-week term or an 8-week term. All students begin their term with one week of background training in Ho Chi Minh City. Then, the group embarks to rural Vietnam to perform a service-learning project. Four-week term students complete their term at the end of this project. Eight-week term students continue on to perform a second group service project.
All students take a service-learning course. This course includes two components:
- Seven days of background training in Vietnamese language and studies.
- Weekly meetings after the first service project has begun. Students discuss experiences and assigned readings.
This course ends at the completion of the first service project (i.e., at the end of the four-week term.) Course: 15 total hours. Project: approximately 75 total hours. 3 recommended credits for course and project combined.
Eight-week term students enroll in the core course—Introduction to Vietnamese Studies. The course meets during the second service project, and introduces students to high-profile issues in modern Vietnam. Course: 12 total hours. Project: approximately 75 total hours. 3 recommended credits for course and project combined.
Students perform group service-learning projects in rural Vietnam. Students live with and work alongside Vietnamese peers. Projects are identified by the local community. They typically involve performing manual labor in the morning and teaching in the afternoons. Past projects have included:
- Constructing the first-ever toilet for an elementary school.
- Building a three-bedroom brick house for a needy family who previously lived in a one-room hovel. Students helped dig the foundation, transport building supplies and lay brick.
- Renovating an elementary school. Students painted doors and walls, cleaned desks, paved walkways, built a fence and created a fishpond.
- Teaching English at a local school. Students create their own lesson plans and are typically the first native English speaker the students have ever met.
There is no language prerequisite for this program. Students of all Vietnamese language levels are welcome, including beginners and heritage learners.
CET Vietnam Summer Service is a study abroad program for serious students. Classes and projects are scheduled on all weekdays, and sometimes spill over to weekends. Students can expect at least one hour of prep time for every hour of class time. Service-learning projects require lengthy time commitments and considerable physical labor. Participation in classes and projects is mandatory.
Summer students get to know the rural area in which their service projects are based. During their time off, students might visit local ruins, tour battle sites from the “American War” or see performances of local dance. Past students have also enjoyed soccer games with locals, indulged in way too many papaya smoothies, and even created a rap video in Vietnamese with their roommates!