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Study Abroad

The SOS Children's Village & Vietnam Cultural Immersion

January 07, 2019

opening ceremony

I thought about the children in the S.O.S village and how we are teaching them and learning from them as well, discovering both the similarities and differences between cultures.
Lily Anderson

Students are really immersed in Vietnam culture and now working at the SOS Children's Village Da Nang.    

Rachel Carlino, Marketing '21

As I embarked on my journey to the SOS village, I was both nervous and eager. Upon arrival, the staff welcomed us with kind smiles and open arms. Then, as we became more acquainted with those working in the village, they provided us with a better insight on how the program began, and how it operates.

Following World War II, a man named Hermann Gmeiner was a child welfare worker that took note of vast number of children becoming orphans.  He began the SOS Children's Villages, in order to help suffering children by welcoming them into these loving, family-like communities. Since the founding of the SOS organization it has grown substantially and now has more than 570 locations operating and helping to care for children in need world-wide.

The SOS village in Da Nang is like a quaint community. There are 16 houses in the village each containing a mother figure and between eight and ten children. The mother of each home is a single woman that devotes their entire life to living in the village and providing for the children. They tend to crops, cook, clean and maintain both the home and children like a typical parent would. Even though the mothers on the village are not biological parents, their love and dedication to the children is apparent. When one of the mothers was asked why she decided to commit her life to working in the village she simply said it was fate - she was meant to be there.

The children in the village live in the homes, go to school, play, and even have responsibilities just like most other children growing up. The children age anywhere from a few days old all the way up to eighteen. At eighteen, even though the children leave the village, the SOS Village continues to provide them with support to help them achieve their goals in either college or vocational school.

Even though I only spent a few hours at the village today, it was more than clear that the people in the village were full of love and committed to helping others. Some of the staff spoke about orphans being abandoned at the gate of the village, and they simply take the children in and adopt them as their own. If the child arrives at the village without a birth certificate they give them a name, and even give them the last name of the director, or a mother in the home. It was so moving that the staff had such a passion for children in need that they adopt them as their own and continue to help them grow and succeed into young adults. I was beyond touched by the people and the SOS Village itself I cannot wait to go back the next few days and see what I can do to help these children. 
Joshua Samson, Marketing '19 

Vietnam is a fascinating place that at times seems like something out of a (fever?) dream. Vietnam is unique being influenced by the French, Chinese, and its local populace. Boasting with beautiful art and architecture, the strongest coffee and best food I have ever had, and a driving culture that feels more like the wild west than a Clint Eastwood movie. Nothing in the world compares to it.

Vietnam and China has had a long history of conflict (China has even ruled over them for over a 1,000 year span!) that resulted in a huge amount of Chinese culture appearing in Vietnamese art, religion, and governmental structure. Not only that, but Vietnam had also been occupied by the French on and off for nearly 70 years (1887-1954 CE). That led to the development of Vietnam's written language and heavily influenced its architecture. Enough about history though, the biggest culture shock here for myself was the feeling of lawlessness when it comes to (or lack thereof) the rules of the road. Now there are little things we had to adjust to such as not pushing our chairs in (the noise it makes is considered rude) or not saying anything when someone sneezed, but the roads were just downright crazy. Most people ride mopeds here and it's rare to see any of them sit still on the road constantly weaving in and out of other motorists and pedestrians alike. Not only that there are little to no parking lots so everyone drives and parks on the sidewalk. The edges of the sidewalks are even angled like a ramp towards the street to allow for easy access onto the curb. We have even seen many people driving the wrong direction on the road and just casually laying on their horn (we really had to get use to the beeping) to let the other drivers know they were coming. All this being said amongst the chaos we have yet to see a single slight fender bender.

The only thing crazier than the streets was how good the food was.  Vietnam's rich history has led to a multitude of fantastic dishes that makes it possible to hit every food group at every meal. Chicken and Beef are common practice with a plethora of sweet and spicy sauces. Noodles can be found everywhere - some more spaghetti like and some more flat long rectangles, but all worth fighting over. It's hard for me to put it into words for our American readers back home, but even the vegetables are so good that we all noted (in all seriousness) we never before wanted to eat so healthy in our lives. Overall the food is (literally) worth dying for and my only complaint is that it ruined Americanized Asian cuisine for the rest of my life.Josh

The only thing that could compare to the food though was the children at the orphanage. Now we only spent one say there so far so maybe this is a bold statement, but I already know at least 5 kids I want to sneak back home in my luggage. The children are more funny, active, and smarter than me 5 years ago let alone the average age at the village. They have better hand writing than me, the worse students' English puts my Vietnamese to shame, and the excitement and confidence they dance with are Bollywood level. We all needed showers and naps after trying to keep up with them and half our time with them was studying! The Vietnamese culture and food has led to some of the most incredible experiences of my life, but they would be nothing without the fun, jovial, and sometimes silly people of Vietnam.