2019 Overseas Learning Journey (OLJ) to Vietnam
Cultural Immersion Programme
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
8 November 2019 to 12 November 2019
On the 8th to 12th of November 2019, a group of 37 students were led by Mr Christopher Tan, Mrs Sue-Ann Lim, Mr Daniel Fung, Ms Nur Atiqah, and Mr Matt Yee to embark on an Overseas Learning Journey to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. For many of the students, it was their first time travelling to Vietnam. It was certainly an eye opening trip for the team of students and teachers.
Places visited during the trip
Over the five days, the students went to an entire range of places and sites. To begin with, they went to historical and cultural sites such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office to examine the colonial architecture and heritage left behind by the French. They visited the City Hall Square which contained a magnificent boulevard and palace-like château, and the Saigon Opera House which was also a colonial remnant of the French. Their learning of history and culture was reinforced with a visit to the Museum of Vietnamese History where they learnt about the long and deep history of Vietnam. At the Museum, they were treated to a Water Puppet Show.
No visit to Ho Chi Minh City would be complete without a journey to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which the students had an excellent opportunity to explore. To increase their knowledge of the Vietnam War, the students visited the War Remnants Museum to learn about the harsh impact of the war on the people of Vietnam. The students then visited other cultural sites such as the Cao Dai Temple to witness a syncretic form of religion where there was a mix of Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity being practised. Following that the students had a chance to witness first-hand how buying and selling actually took place, Vietnam style, in the famous Ben Thanh Market.
Apart from learning about history, geography and culture in Vietnam, the students were also able to experience Vietnam’s gourmet pleasures. They went to a local halal restaurant for a Cooking Class, where they learnt how to make traditional Vietnamese food such as Pho and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. After the Cooking Class, the students went to the Trung Nguyen Coffee House, to learn about Vietnamese coffee and experience making some for themselves after a demonstration. To enhance their learning, the students went to the Nhat Huong Bakery where they had to go through a bread making workshop, which proved to be an enriching experience for them. To seal their learning about food cultures, the students headed to the My Tho Tour where they visited Thoi Son Island. At the island, the students were able to learn about how the locals made honey from wild bees, and got to enjoy eating local tropical fruits such as dragon fruit. They also managed to learn about how traditional Vietnamese coconut candy was made.
Highlights of the trip
The first highlight for the students was the Cu Chi Tunnels. They were led to different sites of the Tunnels and learnt that these tunnels were dug with simple tools and bare hands, and served to provide refuge and a defensive advantage over the American soldiers in the 1960s.The students also learnt about the ingenuity of the Cu Chi people through examining the various booby traps and weapons made to counter the Americans. The students were able to experience crawling through an actual tunnel, eating the cassava that the Cu Chi people ate, and witness the live firing of AK47 assault rifles.
The second highlight for the students was the school visit to the Hong Duc Secondary School where they received a warm welcome by the students and staff of the school. After being given a comprehensive tour of the school, the students went through an hour long English lesson with the Vietnamese students. After their lesson, they managed to form bonds with their newfound Vietnamese friends and exchanged gifts and photographs with each other. They joined the students there for sporting activities such Tug-of-War, sandbag hopping, and having a three legged race. There was even a friendly soccer match and a K-Pop dance off!
The final highlight for the students was the experience of planting rice. The students were brought to a local rice field, where they had to get deep into the muddy padi fields and experience rice planting for the first time in their lives! With a lot of commotion and laughter, the students managed to complete planting an entire rice field on their own. After planting the rice, the students were able to sample some delicious glutinous rice that was made by the farmer.
Reflections by participants
The trip was very fun, interesting and also educational. The most memorable event that happened was planting of rice as I got to learn how much work it took to get rice. Through this trip, I learnt resilience as I had to persevere through the planting of the rice since it was a very tiring experience. I would recommend this trip to my peers as you get to learn a lot of things about the certain country like their history, certain popular spots and maybe the political problems the country may be going through. A difference between Singapore and Vietnam is the way the people sell their items. In Singapore, the people don’t really approach their customers all the time but in Vietnam, the sellers always approach their customers and tell them the prices right away to try to get them to buy the items.
- Celeste 3I2
The trip was fun, the most memorable event was the Cu Ci tunnel because it was something that happened in the Vietnam war. The value I learned was harmony as we get to interact with some of the Vietnamese students by playing games with them. I would recommend the juniors to go for the trip as they would learn something new, and the differences between Singapore and Vietnam. The traffic in Vietnam it is more crowded than in Singapore. I previously thought that Vietnam was not really well developed but now I think that Vietnam is well developed.
- Dannish 2H1B
During our trip to Vietnam, we get to know a lot about their culture such as their language, how they interact with each other, how is their living conditions and also get to know more about their food and their lifestyle through their actions. I feel that the things or the way they live makes Vietnam today. One thing that I can reflect on during our trip to Vietnam is that we must be grateful of the things that we eat and have in Singapore. We also cannot waste our food such as rice because in Vietnam, the farmers there takes 3 months to grow and harvest the rice from the plantation. Through this trip to Vietnam, I learned to be self-directed and honest because if we do a little mistake such as not paying attention to the teacher-in-charge, we will not be able to do things right at the right timing. In conclusion, we must respect each other by paying attention to the teacher who are handling us and to respect the culture in Vietnam.
- Noorayuni 3I4