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Saint Anselm students and one of their Vietnamese counterparts enjoy a smoothie at an outdoor cafe in Vietnam. (Courtesy Photo)

Saint Anselm students spend holiday break in Vietnam

A half-dozen Saint Anselm students are immersing themselves in the culture of Vietnam as they spend their holiday break visiting historic and cultural sites.

The trip is part of a history course titled “Vietnam Past and Present,” and students, along with history professor Matthew Masur, are traveling the country for an in-depth learning experience that reaches far beyond the classroom.

The group recently visited the Cao Dai Temple and experienced New Year celebrations in downtown Ho Chi Minh City.

Students are blogging to record some of the highlights of their trip, from learning the many different names for rice to the thrill of having a pizza party that featured pies from Pizza Hut, which reminded them of home.

The group is visiting Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, with excursions to the Mekong Delta and other historic and cultural sites. The two-week program immerses students in historical and modern Vietnam through Vietnamese roommates, academic excursions around the country, lectures and activities with Vietnamese peers.

Students will learn about pre-colonial and colonial history, the Vietnam War, the modern economy, Vietnamese demographics and society, and the educational system.

Masur aims for his students to make the connection between history and contemporary society in all facets of modern Vietnamese life.

In addition to historical sites and museums, the group will visit the Hong Ngoc Humanity Center that supports communities and those with disabilities, discuss environmental issues, and learn about Eastern medicine including traditional Vietnamese medicine and acupuncture.

Part of the immersion process for the students includes a “homestay” where the group will stay with a Vietnamese family during their two-day excursion to the Mekong Delta, giving students insight into Vietnamese daily life.

In addition, while in Ho Chi Minh City, the students will room with Vietnamese college students.

“Instead of rooming together, this arrangement allows them to see things tourists don’t usually see,” Masur said.

To complete the course, students will journal while traveling and write a final paper.

Masur teaches U.S. history and American foreign relations, as well as courses on the Vietnam War, modern China, and modern Japan.

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