Study Abroad

Cultural Immersion - Hoi An & Marble Mountains

January 10, 2018

 Village Children


Madeline Kenny  

My name is Madeline Kenny and I am a senior Marketing major and Coaching minor at Lasell. On Tuesday, we returned to the SOS village for our third day of teaching. As always, we were greeting by the children beaming with excitement and eager to learn. The lesson of the day was pronouncing the sound 'th' makes. For the kids, this started out as a big challenge as they are accustomed to making an 's' sound rather than a 'th'. The key was teaching them that their tongue needed to go between their teeth when speaking. Once that idea clicked, they moved through the lesson with ease.   

One of the children in my group is Sang, a 14 year old girl. From day one she latched onto me and dubbed us best friends right away. She has even nicknamed me 'Madelee', which she finds hilarious. She is pretty good with her English and what we cannot say in words, we communicate through gestures, games, and laughter. She is a quick learner and seeing her growth with each lesson is so fun to watch. Not only do I teach her things, but she teaches me as well. The other day she taught me numbers in Vietnamese. She also guides me with the other kids, helping me with their names and ages. We both get excited when we remember lessons from one another. I am lucky to have made friends with this bright little soul. I can't wait to go back to the village for our final few days!   

statue     MM

Yesterday, we traveled to the Marble Mountains as part of our cultural immersion excursions. Before traveling to Da Nang, I had done quite a bit of research on the city and the Marble Mountains were one of my top destinations. The Marble Mountains consist of five limestone rock formations just outside the city. Legend tells that when a dragon hatched from its' shell, the broken shell's jagged points became the five mountain peaks. After climbing nearly 150 steep stone steps, the mountain levels off to show a beautiful pagoda and hundreds of statutes and carvings. There were dragons, Buddhas, and bonsai trees everywhere. Behind the pagoda inside the mountain is a network of caves leading to Buddha statues. There were burning incense and a hushed tone in the mysterious caves. It was both calming and humbling to be in a place of worship and peace. Outside, there is a beautiful view. Panning from left to right, there is the South China Sea, far away islands, and the pastel painted town below. In moments like those I remember just how fortunate I am, how big the world is, and how far I have come both metaphorically and physically. I am so grateful to soak up each and every moment of this experience.             


Jenna Noel

My name is Jenna Noel and I am a Sophomore Psychology major at Lasell College. I applied for the Shoulder to Shoulder program because I wanted the opportunity to experience another culture as well as have the opportunity to work with the kids at the SOS Village. After being in Da Nang for about a week now I think we have all adjusted pretty well to this new and different lifestyle. We have eaten new foods and have gotten to learn the very busy streets of the city.  We have gone to the SOS Village 4 times now and seeing the children's growth in not only their English skills but also their social skills has been very rewarding. We have been able to see how important our work here is, not only for the kids but for us too. Each day we go to the Village more and more kids open up and ask us to dance or play a game with them. All the kids love to dance, the boys like to play anything where they get to run around, and the girls like to braid hair. With our time at the Village and in Da Nang, I can see how hard it's going to be on all of us to leave. 

On the days we don't go to the SOS village we spend our time seeing the different cultural attractions that Da Nang has to offer. We have seen the Linh Ung Pagoda with the Lady Buddha statue, we explored the countryside on our way to the Than Tai Mountains, and on Wednesday we explored the caves of the Marble Mountains and the old village of Hoi An. On the way to Hoi An we stopped at the Marble Mountains and had the chance to look at the many different caves as well as hear some history about the mountain. After the mountains, we made our way to Hoi An where we got to see one of the heritage houses and the Japanese dragon bridge. After getting a tour of that we got some free time to shop and explore the streets, which are almost all lined with beautiful lanterns. A lot of the shops had unique prints, china, Buddha figures, and other unique souvenirs. We went to Hoi An at night which made our experience even better since we got to see all of the lanterns lit up. Being able to experience all of this has definitely been a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am grateful to be a part of it.   

Hoi An

We still have more work at the SOS Village before we leave. We will keep you posted.