Fulbrighters and friends traveled to Hanoi in April for the Fulbright Association’s 2018 Service Corps Trip to Vietnam. In partnership with the local volunteer organizations of Friends for Asia and the Center for Sustainable Development Studies, participants contributed to several service projects with the Vietnamese community, studied and explored important historical and cultural sites, and had the opportunity to network with Fulbrighters in Vietnam.
Participants divided into two groups for the service project. The first taught English to elementary students at Nghia Tan Public School, where they were welcomed by the principal and vice-principals with an introductory reception featuring speeches and snacks. The children were enthusiastic to learn and eager to ask questions (a favorite: “how old are you?”). The second group volunteered at Friendship Village, a residential facility that provides medical care, physical therapy, education, and vocational training to Vietnamese children and veterans who have been affected by Agent Orange. Participants worked with the children and donated 300 reading glasses to Vietnamese veterans, with whom they had the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking discussions about the Vietnam War – which the Vietnamese call the American War.
Interspersed with volunteering, the travelers also visited many of Hanoi’s most famous sites: the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Hoa Lo Prison, and Hanoi’s History Museum. The trip expanded to historical and cultural sites of the surrounding area: the ancient village of Duong Lam, Thay Pagoda, and Bat Trang Pottery village, where the participants used pottery wheels to make their own pottery. The participants visited by boat the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Halong Bay and Trang An. Learning opportunities were not limited to history: participants enjoyed a variety of delicious Vietnamese cuisine, including much-beloved pho and spring rolls. After shopping in a local market, participants also took a Vietnamese cooking class, with the goal of bringing home a new skill as a souvenir!
No Fulbright trip is complete without the chance to network with local Fulbrighters. The Service Trip participants met with Fulbrighters in Hanoi, and shared their experiences. Seeing the wide reach of the Fulbright Program in action, and building bridges of intercultural understanding and friendship – especially where the aftermath of war is still present to this day – was a highlight for all.
Thanks to our trip partner, the Center for Sustainable Development Studies, for producing this video recap of the group’s meaningful service travel experience: