Eric Ardman, UG in CAS, Microbiology/Immunology Major, Chemistry Minor; spent the summer of 2013 traveling in Vietnam. He is continuing learning Vietnamese in DILS in fall 2013.
"I was not expecting my language skills to get me far this past summer when I spent a few weeks in North Vietnam. I had only been learning Vietnamese in the DILS program since mid-January 2013, and it was a difficult language. However, I went into the trip with an open mind and was determined to at least try and communicate with locals. I ended up accomplishing more than I ever thought I could. Not only could I ask simple questions (Where am I? Where is this place? How much for a bowl of phở? etc.) but I was able to make small talk and haggle with merchants and shopkeepers. I stayed in Hanoi for a week and Sapa, in Northwest Vietnam, for a week. I also took day trips to Ha Long Bay and Dien Bien Phu. My language skills proved extremely helpful in Dien Bien Phu, where no one spoke any English. Finding food, a guesthouse, and the historical landmarks were challenges that my language skills helped me overcome. By the end of my trip I felt a connection to Vietnam that I know I would not have been able to make without knowing some Vietnamese. I felt like I was not just passing by for the view, but that I had a fuller experience, a more complete immersion and understanding of what it is like to live in Vietnam. I talked to many expats and locals as well as play badminton and ping pong and share many meals with them. My reasons for learning Vietnamese and going to Vietnam were not serious nor were they for any professional ends; I really just wanted to learn more about the Vietnam War and the history of the country. The payout proved to be way more than I ever thought possible."