Saigon Sunrise (rather than Saga sunrise)

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

5:30 am, I sit on the sidewalk as the sun slowly leans over the buildings across the way. The city still sleeps for the most part, minus the vendors who are getting ready for their surely busy day. Many people wonder why an American woman is up this early. I have so many questions for them, too. 

My Sunday is filled with many adventures. Back at HWS, my Sunday is usually filled with the view of a notebook, Microsoft Word, and my cup of Saga coffee. Instead, I see many different districts of Saigon. Within this journey, I observe a woman with her daughter, as they feed the pigeons who soon after, will all fly up at once, looking like a wave of feathers. 

When you are in a new environment, every little thing catches your attention. From the beautiful textures and patterns of a temple floor,

to the fallen seed of a redwood tree,

your senses are heightened at all times. We even got a full glimpse of what it is like to heighten your senses to the max with our experience at Noir Dining in the Dark , where we ate our meal entirely without the use of the sense of vision. There have been so many experiences in the past twelve days, that I find it difficult to explain to family and friends what I have been doing. The short answer? Learning as much as possible. 

Some people might ask, how do you stay focused on your studies while abroad? The truth is, every second of every day is a part of your homework. I am lucky that our professor encourages reflection and subjective journaling as part of our curriculum, because it means that it is my job to think deeply about my day-to-day interactions. When it is time to do homework, it just means that it is time for me to get all of my jumbled thoughts onto paper in a cohesive argument about what we did that day, and how it relates to the wider themes of politics, history, and culture in Vietnam.

My reflections could be about the tour of Cao Dai Temple, where Cao Daism is practiced (a combination of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Hinduism, Geniism, and Taoism),

going through the Cu Chi Tunnels, or A O Show . The journals that we do could be about the differences in the ways that Americans and Vietnamese portray their emotion, my reactions to things I see on the street, the food that I eat, or perhaps the run that I went on at 6:30 this morning. My experience abroad is going to be all that I make of it, and focusing on my studies is of course part of this.

While in the air between NYC and Seoul, I made a short list of goals for my time in Vietnam. They were as follows:

  1. Be present. 3 months is not a long time. Be in every moment, undistracted.
  2. Push yourself. It can be easy to get into a comfortable routine of going to the same place for food, hanging out with the same people, and not going out to explore places alone. As we say a lot at HWS, “get comfortable with the uncomfortable”.
  3. Use your resources. You have so much to help you. From your classmates, to the CET staff, and your family and friends back at home for support, you are unstoppable. “Just look around, you’ve got people who love you“.

Being abroad is about bringing together your experiences with your studies. Anthropology and Environmental Studies are what I have been focused on for the past three years. Now I have the chance to bring my knowledge into practice. Thank you for reading! More adventures to come…

As always, please check out the rest of my photos here: