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Study Abroad

Exploring the mix of cultures.

January 08, 2019


 We continue our Vietnam Cultural Immersion with a trip to Marble Mountains pagodas and the ancient port of Hoi An.Marble mountain

Overall visiting the city of Hoi An has been one of my favorite places we have gone. It allowed me to grasp the concept of how Vietnam has had great influence from other nations such as China and France, and yet still manages to maintain its own culture at the same time.

Holly Aronhalt

Bailee Duquette, Health Science Major '21

Starting our journey at 3:30pm, the thirteen of us piled into a van and set out toward the town of Hoi An. This small town adjacent to the large city of Da Nang is known for its  cultural importance. As we headed toward this town, leaving the busy city for the first time, our tour guide, named Love, gave us more insight and background information on this culturally important site of Vietnam.  

This town was first influenced by the Japanese. Japan is generally prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, when the Japanese arrived in Hoi An, they built a bridge in anticipation of these natural disaster events. Love then pointed out that this very bridge is printed on the Vietnamese Dong, which is the currency here in Vietnam.   The Japanese originally came to Hoi An in hope that it would be a busy location within Vietnam. Later, China also came and made their stamp on Hoi An as well. So throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, this small town was built up with several houses and businesses. By the 18th century, Hoi An was considered by the Chinese and Japanese to be one of the best trading locations of Asia.   

As the Chinese people built up Hoi An, they built a house that was the home to three famous writers of Vietnam. We got to experience this house first-hand as it was set up in as a museum display. As we walked in, it was immediately apparent that there were many influences from all three cultures into this one house. Love explained each aspect of the house from the doors with sliding slats that open and close depending on weather, to the dinner table that was meant to float in case of a flood. On our way out, we were able to meet the most recent generation to own this house, a descendent of the famous writers. Love explained that the owner is the twelfth generation of this family. As we exited, this friendly museum owner smiled and waved us off as he was happy that we passed through to better understand the rich history of his town.  

As we strolled through the streets of Hoi An, there was different music heard from every direction, lanterns seen strung along to light the pathways, and small boats lit up by a floral light floating down the river. The architecture in this town made me feel as if I entered a different time period as I walked through these streets.   As Hoi An was named a World Heritage Site in 1999, many tourists visit and learn the history of this small town. The many businesses that sell street food, boat rides, and lanterns give Hoi An its tourist appeal environment, and allow the upkeep of this historical town in the modern world. Overall, Hoi An was unlike any place that I have been. Its beauty, rich history, and romance have made me want to visit again in the future.  

Bailee celebrated her birthday at the SOS Village. Here, the children made her a huge birthday card.Bailee bday

Alexander MacDonald, Marketing '19

  Monday January 7th, the class and I had an excursion day to the Marble Mountains and the ancient town of Hoi An. Professor Lemieux surprised us and brought us to a museum on the history of Da Nang in the morning.   The museum was very interesting and I learned about many parts of Vietnam's history from a different perspective. Throughout my lifetime I've primarily learned about history through a one-sided (American) perspective. I valued my time spent there that morning.  

Later that day, our guide Ting met us in the lobby of our hotel. He was very friendly, witty, and knowledgeable of Vietnamese history and culture.  Our time in Hoi An was absolutely lovely. We arrived during dusk and the sky was a warm grey as the sun went down. The Thu Bon River is the body of water that splits the city in half. As soon we got there, we had a traditional dinner on a beautifully lit rooftop patio and then made our way through the city. Our tour guide showed us into a traditional house, which just happened to be the oldest house in Hoi An. In the house Ting discussed what a typical household was like and what the roles were in the family.

Many different aspects of the culture (food, architecture, art, tradition) in Hoi An is a blend of different nationalities such as Chinese, Japanese and French. The blend of cultures in Vietnam that I have been taking note of does remind me a lot of home. Many US Cities will have multiple strong influences from a lot of nationalities across the world. Some common themes I have seen reappearing in Vietnamese history and culture that are different from my own are tradition, influence from religion/folktales, art within architecture, gendered roles in society, and generally referring to history and cultures within your everyday life.   

I believe that this program has given me a stronger sense and knowledge of cross-cultural communications. Although the language is a massive barrier between the children and the teachers (Lasell Students), the ways we communicate are often done through actions, emotions, and gestures. These actions, emotions and gestures are frequently influenced by both of our cultures but always rich with the nobleness and warmth of the human spirit.    My personal interactions with the children have made me believe that human communication is truly the beautiful thing in the world, regardless of whether or not you possess the asset of understanding the native tongue.   Cross-cultural relations are a life long process that can positively shape and round out a persons intelligence. I do believe that experience and listening are the key elements into becoming more adapted to a culture and I'm excited to learn more.