Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City
At CET, our goal is to make study abroad accessible for all. We believe that learning happens best when your class reflects the world around us—complex and diverse. So we work hard to create and maintain programs that support students of all races, religions, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations. No matter where you are coming from, we want you to have a successful study abroad experience.
CET makes every effort to offer accommodations comparable to those of your home institution. Disclosing early helps us to make proper preparations and work with you to determine if a program will be a good fit. We recommend that you use the following details to inform your decisions and conversations with your Student Services Coordinator.
Race & Ethnicity
The region’s complex history has produced longstanding prejudices between various local communities and nationalities. As a result, racism can be commonplace and often goes unchallenged, both in official and popular discourses. On an individual basis, students of color have reported more instances of staring and general unwanted attention. These behaviors and occurrences are often a result of ignorance rather than malice. Additionally, on-site staff spend a lot of time with local roommates to raise awareness about issues of stigma and prejudice.
Past students have openly discussed LGBTQ issues with their local roommates, but generally speaking discrimination and stigma are the norm and students may find evidence of this in film and comedy, alongside official news stories. As such, students should anticipate some difficult conversations and prying questions over the course of the semester.
Ho Chi Minh City itself has held Pride celebrations since 2012 and is relatively progressive for an Asian city. And though there are no legal protections in place to prevent hate crimes or other forms of discrimination toward LGBTQ individuals, spaces that are popular within the LGBTQ community are not raided by police, and there is growing tolerance for public recognition that such a community exists in Ho Chi Minh City.
Traditional gender roles are pervasive throughout Vietnamese society. Gender norms appear in the workplace and popular media, though this is changing slowly in bigger cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Gender diversity beyond binary is rare, and a student identifying as such would be met with confusion rather than overt hostility.
In 2015, the Vietnamese government made a decision to provide legal protections for transgender people. Although the bill to enforce the law has yet to be passed, there has been growing tolerance of the trans community within Vietnam’s metropoles.
The Vietnamese constitution states that all people have the right to freedom of belief and religion, though there are vague provisions that permit restrictions on religious freedom in the stated interest of national security and social unity. Roughly 10% of the population are Catholic, and most people follow Buddhism loosely. In the past, students of Christian and Jewish faiths have attended local services.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City is considerably cheaper than that of the US but is more expensive than the rest of Vietnam. However, students can still expect to pay far less for daily meals and cultural attractions than they would in the US. Check out a budget sheet to get an idea of what life in Ho Chi Minh City might look like financially for a semester or summer.
ACCESS in ACADEMICS
Students typically attend classes for 3 hours a day, though this can vary greatly by day (some days might be 1.5 hours, while others are 6 hours). Class sizes can be as small as 1 to 2 students in language and elective courses, while the core course can be as large as 12 students.
Available to students with documented need: low-distraction test environment; extra time on exams; note taker; modified deadlines and seating; audio recordings of lectures; sighted companion; term syllabi/readings/assignments in advance.
Language classes are held at the VLS Center, content courses are held at our host university (University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City), and CET staff offices are housed on the first floor of the guesthouse. Unfortunately, the structures of all three buildings are not accessible to those in wheelchairs.
Like much of the city, most internship placement sites are likely not wheelchair accessible and may be difficult for students with mobility issues to navigate. Commuting to internship placement sites varies per student—some students walk or bike while others will need to take a taxi. If a student’s internship placement is over 25 minutes and inaccessible via public transportation, the program provides a modest commute stipend.
CET occasionally plans mandatory academic activities and optional trips to nearby sites and other cities after class and on weekends. Excursions may involve urban walking, rural hiking, use of public transportation, and/or going up and down stairs.
Itinerary modifications and accommodations can be made for students with documented need. Transportation can be arranged as necessary, and excused absences are provided for mandatory excursions that are inaccessible due to a disability.
ACCESS IN HOUSING
Your Home Abroad
Students live in the CET program house (sometimes referred to as guesthouse), located in a residential neighborhood within Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1. It’s about a 15-minute walk to language classes at the VLS center, and an 10- to 12-minute walk to the University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City where content classes are held.
Students are typically assigned to housing by gender. However, arrangements can be made to accommodate gender diverse students if notice is provided in advance.
Rooms are typically shared, but a single room in the guesthouse may be available for students with documented need if requested in advance.
Around Ho Chi Minh City
It is rare to see accessibility accommodations made in public utilities, such as public transit, sidewalks, or roads. Sidewalks are often not well maintained or have significant construction taking place, making it extremely difficult for someone with mobility issues to navigate.
Health & Diet
Health & Medicine
During orientation, on-site staff provide students with basic information and recommendations for seeing a doctor and buying medicine. There are some prescription medications that are not accessible in Vietnam—students should do their research beforehand and ensure they bring their prescription and the necessary amount if in-country refills won’t be possible.
Keeping Fit in Ho Chi Minh City
Students often utilize the running track across the street from the the VLS Center. Alternatively, there are many large parks nearby ideal for jogging, weather permitting. There are affordable swimming pools and soccer fields available, but these can get crowded on occasion. Gyms that offer lifting equipment and exercise classes tend to be around 100 USD/month. Several students have enrolled in occasional dance classes at a local studio, which typically costs around 10-15 USD per class.
Managing Mental Health
Mental health issues are commonly stigmatized in local culture and as a result, resources are limited. Some local international clinics and hospitals have English speaking counselors on staff, but their availability and experience in working with college students will likely be more limited than remote counseling services offered through GeoBlue or home universities.
Many dietary restrictions are easy to maintain in Vietnam. There are a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurant options available, and students can often order vegetarian dishes at most restaurants. It’s not hard to avoid gluten as most dishes are made from rice. Students that keep kosher or halal may find it difficult to avoid pork products due to its prevalence in the Vietnamese diet.
For students with allergies, CET collects all allergy information during orientation to help avoid these allergens during all group meals.
Resources from Alumni
These are alumni-written essays that reflect upon how their own identity affected their time abroad (both good and bad) and what it was like to navigate another culture in their position. We encourage you to read these to better understand what studying abroad in Vietnam could be like for you or your future peers.
In final evaluations, we ask students how their identities affected their experience abroad. The following are a few select quotes from recent program evaluations to help you understand what life in Vietnam may be like for you or your future peers.
TALK TO ALUMNI
Chat with alumni about their experiences abroad. Once you start an application, your online CET account will give you access to the following resources:
- Alumni Support List: A directory of students who have volunteered to chat about their experiences abroad in Vietnam.
- Identity Abroad Support Network: A group of students who have volunteered to discuss their identity-related experiences in Vietnam. This is a volunteer-based program that started in 2019. Volunteers can also opt to have their contact information kept privately by CET staff and only shared when certain lived experiences are asked about.
Don’t see anyone listed for the Identity Abroad Support Network? Call CET for more information and resources. Consider joining after your program to support other minority students abroad.