The two-week orientation program was an invigorating experience for Class of 2026 (Co26) to familiarize themselves with life at Fulbright University Vietnam. This was set out to help our freshmen develop new skills, connect with the community, and establish meaningful relationships.

One week into the very first semester at Fulbright University Vietnam, many of the freshmen found themselves amazed at how the Orientation Weeks 2022 had worked to ease in their every step navigating university life, from finding classrooms on campus to getting access to a wide range of student services.

Made possible by the Student Engagement unit and accompanied by a multitude of university-wide departments, the two-week orientation program was a comprehensive introduction of Fulbright to its more than 200 newbies of Co26. The program comprised numerous informative workshops and recreational activities, aiming to foster 11 change-maker competencies, including innovative & creative thinking, ethical reasoning, critical thinking, knowledge, collaboration, effective communication, reasoning, lifelong learning, civic engagement, health & wellness, and sense of self.

With small teams allocated in the first week, the second half of Orientation Weeks 2022 brought about new challenges for newbies to work with each other and get hands-on experience, in and beyond the classroom. “All of these lessons get the students ready for the upcoming journey and lay a solid bedrock for lifelong learning and excellence as engaged members of society,” exclaimed Ms. Ruby Nguyen, Student Engagement Manager, Office of Student Life.

Fulbright’s First Project 

“Given three months, what project would you implement to enhance the student life at Fulbright University Vietnam?” was the challenge prompt for Co26’s Fulbright’s First Project.

The project pushed our newcomers to turn their own imagination of college life into reality, given insights and resources at Fulbright of which they have learned in the past week. Aiming to empower students to lead the change that can directly impact their upcoming journey, the Office of Student Life will grant up to VND 30,000,000 to the winning team so they can bring their project to life.

The judging panel comprised Mr. Steve Paris – Director of Student Life, Dr. Dinh Vu Trang Ngan – Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Ms. Dinh Thi Binh Duong – Director of Finance, and Mr. Mitch Kirby – Senior Education Advisor, United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The selection criteria for the winning projects are booth decoration, challenge identification, innovative & creative thinking, implementation plan, and teamwork.

After hours of brainstorming, on Friday, September 16, twenty teams showcased their projects in a booth to the Fulbright community, and make their presentation to the judges. “All of the projects were not only practical, but also heartwarming, and social-oriented,” praised Ms. Dinh Thi Binh Duong. “Our freshmen are surely bringing a breath of fresh air to Fulbright. They come with inclusivity, an unyielding passion of youth, and personality diversity. Despite the time constraint, our newbies still pursued their projects with unwavering professionalism, which showed in the way they delivered their presentation, convinced the audience, and answered the judges’ questions”.

“All of the projects were not only practical, but also heartwarming, and social-oriented,” praised Ms. Dinh Thi Binh Duong.

Group 19 brought home the championship with Fulbike, making bicycles the means of transportation for Fulbright’s Waterfront residential freshmen. Riding a bike improves not only physical fitness but also one’s learning abilities and mental health. It can even develop your sense of adventure. Fulbike, when coming true, will provide free bikes for freshmen to get to the Fulbright campus quickly.

Running up was Group 5 with its Subject Tracking Website, solving the issue of tracking required courses in a liberal arts university like Fulbright. No matter if you pick a dual or single major, no matter if you are confident with your academic choices or you are still figuring it out, the website will assist you in navigating the challenges of academic progress and realizing your potential.

Tackling homesickness, a common problem that many Fulbright students shared moving away from home, the Fulture Fair (Fulbright Culture Fair) of Group 7 won the Second Runner Up prize. In the projected fair, students will ‘bring their homeland to Fulbright’ and share with each other their diverse culture: cuisine, clothing, dialects, stories, and photos.

SignLang of Group 20 won the Consolation Prize with a profound mission. Focusing on empathy, diversity, and communications, SignLang aims to help teach sign language to the Admission Team, facilitating their approach to Fulbright candidates with disabled hearing. The team members will also initiate optional sign language classes for Fulbright students in collaboration with the local hearing aid center.

Apart from the judges’ decision, Sweet Therapy Station of Group 3 won the People’s Choice Award with the highest vote casted by Fulbright students and staff. The Sweet Therapy Station will offer free daily-replenished protein bars, sweets, and coffee aimed to improve the productivity and alertness of the Fulbright community. Furthermore, it will also address the problem of those with low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, with immediate help.

Flamee-inspired recreational activities

Filled with project-based activities, the Orientation Weeks 2022 also introduced newbies with buoyant recreational activities that help them to loosen up, and foster critical thinking and collaboration among members.

Like an amusement park, “Flamee Park” consisted of numerous game stations, such as Road to Fullympia, The Price is Right, Lemon Soda Station, and Teamlepathy. Each of which asked for a specific knowledge or skill that required all team effort.

“Uncover Flamen’s Secret” was an exciting quest. Based on Flamee Journey Handbook, Flamee stumbles upon the secret treasure left by their grandfather, Elder Flamen. To decipher ancient writings, the little flame embarks on a journey that sharpens their understandings and reasonings. The conundrums were divided into pairs of ciphers, which, when linked, reveal an interesting detail about the treasure. Each team was to find hidden codes scattered around Fulbright’s District 7 campus, the Waterfront Residence, and Lawrence S.Ting Foundation, all of which are locations the freshmen will frequent in the upcoming college days.

Along with many student-centered programs for Co26, the Student Engagement Unit also organized a parents orientation meeting to connect them with Student Life, Academic Affairs, and Admissions. Attending the event, parents learned about the Undergraduate programs and the multitude of student-run initiatives at Fulbright. They were also able to resolve their concerns through direct dialogues with Fulbright staff regarding the upcoming 4 years of their beloved children.

The orientation program culminated in a Closing Ceremony, celebrating achievements of Co26 in the past fortnight with a variety of performances by talented student clubs and the freshmen themselves. The ceremony announced the winning teams of Fulbright’s First Project, and honored the dedication of many Student Orientation Leaders. If it were not for these enthusiastic volunteers, the initiative would not have made such a lasting impact to our newbies.

“I realized the most wonderful thing in every Fulbrighter is the willingness to engage. Everyone is just so willing to help and feel for someone, regardless of who they are or where they come from,” said Trần Nguyễn Hạnh Nguyên, a student of Co26 and also the Best Participant in Orientation Weeks 2022. “The program helped me make new friends and come to understand what it is like to be a Fulbright student. From the very beginning to the last day, I was so welcomed with open arms and companionship that, even in some moments, I did not feel like a newbie at all!”

Phương Mai

From April to June this year, Student Engagement, a division of the Office of Student Life, kickstarted the summer for Fulbright students by lining up a series of try-out activities. These activities aim to cultivate a comprehensive development approach, with a focus on the youth’s physical and social health outside their classrooms.

Varying from healthy meal-making to rock climbing, five summery activities provided students with much-needed short breaks from their approaching final projects and exams. “The try-out series comprised of sports and recreation activities, which aim to promote a balanced lifestyle and enable students to thrive in both school and life,” shared Ms. Ruby Nguyen, Student Engagement Manager, the Office of Student Life. “This also aligns with Student Engagement’s long-term mission: to complement students’ in-class learning with experiential activities, and provide them with opportunities to develop important life skills, build community, and make rewarding connections.”

Attracting a total of 179 accumulated participants with nearly 100% Net Promoter Score, the try-out series brought a breath of fresh air to the campus as Fulbright students explored different after-hour leisure activities including making their salad, jumping for joy, putting together a smoothie bowl, awakening the senses to art via painting, and reaching higher in rock climbing.

“Make Your Own Salad”

The Try-out series was officially launched as Fulbright students got to make their salad, which was unique with various selections of carbs, veggies, proteins, and dressings. The options were endless whether the students wanted to create a paprika shrimp salad, a classic Caesar salad, a beef salad, a chicken salad, or a one-of-a-kind of their own. A healthy salad serving is a perfect quick-to-make dish that provided the right amount of nutrients such as fiber and good fat for a university student amid a hustle and bustle season. Moreover, preparing and having a nutrient-dense meal together at the heart of the Fulbright campus also strengthens social relationships among fellow students.

Sunday Jump Day

At Jump Arena Trampoline Park in Him Lam District 7, Fulbright students spent all their pent-up energy and improved their fitness in a heart-lifting jump fest involving bounce slam dunks, dodge ball, and rock climbing. They even burned more calories with High-Performance Trampoline, Sky Challenge, Ninja Challenge, and Giant Airbag.

It did not only refresh my mind after hours of heavy workload but also allow me to get out of my comfort zone and enhance my critical thinking skill,” excited Nguyen Quang Minh, student of Class 2023.

“Make Your Own Smoothie Bowl”

“Make Your Own Smoothie Bowl” encouraged students to spark creativity in making a colorful and nutritious meal from a wide range of seasonal water-rich fruits including apples, avocados, bananas, etc. The exciting part of a smoothie bowl was the loaded toppings of one’s choice from different seeds, nuts, granola, or coconut shavings. Among many smoothie lovers, Le Thao Tuong Vy shared: “Creating a smoothie bowl of my own made me realize how surprisingly simple it was to adopt a healthy and sustainable eating pattern. I will make more smoothie bowls as my new favorite daily snack!”

Canvas Painting

The process of making art is such a therapeutic act. Its benefits for one’s mental health touch the heart of not only those who considered themselves “artists” but many others who tried it out. Hence, on a summery Sunday morning, Fulbright students gathered at the Crescent campus and awakened their artistic selves with canvas painting. Even though many of them probably had not touched a paintbrush before, all of their pictures turned out strikingly aesthetic and charming.

Despite some of the hiccups along the way, such as limited skills in brush techniques or color mixing, Fulbright “unprofessional painters” worked around the difficulties with their larger-than-life imagination and problem-solving mindset. For example, a flock of birds was a beautiful distraction to an overdone gradient sunset sky. If thinking outside the box was second nature to a painter, then Fulbright students were indeed artists that morning.

Rock Climbing

The Try-out series finally culminated with a rock-climbing session in an indoor gym located in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City. Fulbright students were able to test their physical limits and improve every major muscle group in their bodies on a 15-meter climbing wall of 50+ routes, lead climbing, auto-belay, moon board, and a jungle gym. As rock climbing is an engaging form of cardio and a great way to practice stretching and flexibility, climbers had to use their arms and legs to pull their bodies up the wall, while their abs work to keep them stable and balanced.

Many students found indoor rock climbing – specifically the way they had to navigate the climbing route like a puzzle – to have a huge positive impact on their mental health. Additionally, getting to hang out with like-minded sports enthusiasts was a great weekend release.

Phương Mai

 

The program was brought to life by Student Engagement, a division of the Office of Student Life at Fulbright University Vietnam, with the aim of sharpening students’ leadership skills through hands-on training and wholesome group activities.

After much buzz and anticipation on campus, the 2022 Fulbright Leadership Camp finally took flight on June 11 and 12 at Buu Long, Dong Nai Province. Over the course of two days, 50 campers – who were mainly officers from Fulbright student clubs – were treated to a full-scale package of energizing group exercises, self-development modules, and team-building activities designed to foster vital leadership skills in the vein of Fulbright’s spirit of “learning by doing”.

That spirit is deeply embedded in the university’s student-centered and project-based approach to learning methods incorporated both in and outside the classroom, of which the Fulbright Leadership Camp’s program was a clear exemplar. Alongside learning the backbone lessons on leadership styles, resource management, and strategic planning, student attendees of the Camp were also divided into six teams to come up with proposals for community projects that would demonstrate not only their strengthened capabilities but also proven to be feasible and beneficial to the positive change they would like to see in local communities in the future.

A practical and people-centered training program

This year’s Fulbright Leadership Camp was a joint effort between the university’s Student Engagement division and The New Leaders, an educational organization focused on the development of emotional intelligence among leaders to “better connect with others and inspire them to take action for a good change”. Lending their expertise in the strategic leadership curriculum developed at the Harvard Kennedy School, coaches from The New Leaders – who were Harvard graduates and certified trainers in Public Narratives – have designed a program made for lasting impact for Fulbright students attending the Camp.

Self-awareness, leadership styles, strategic planning, team motivation and inspirations for concrete actions were among the main focus of the Camp’s many activities. For starters, Fulbright campers were encouraged to practice storytelling techniques. By learning to reflect and build on their individual life experiences, students were to communicate who they are, their personal values, and visions for the future through persuasive narratives that confidently demonstrate the mark of a leader.

In turn-based role-playing games, campers had the chance to learn about the six styles of leadership, as well as particular situations in which one style would prove to be more effective than the others. Resource management was another focal point of the Camp’s program, wherein the fundamental skills to come up with and follow through doable objectives, feasible goals, and a practical execution plan were brought to Fulbright students’ full attention.

Last but not least, that a leader is nothing without a great team is yet another critical lesson that participants of the Fulbright Leadership Camp had the chance to acquire through workshops on how to call on a team of high-performing and passionate talents who all share the same dreams, visions, and values.

Among the 90% of student campers who reported satisfaction with the program was Quach Minh Phat, Class of 2024 and President of FulPride & Alliance, Fulbright University Vietnam’s official LGBTQ+ support group: “The lessons from the Camp were extremely valuable for my future plans with the FulPride & Alliance Club. It also gave me this wonderful opportunity to get to know students from other cohorts, from whom I can learn tremendously to improve my skills in the foreseeable future.”

“Lead the change where we see people struggle the most”

For their group assignment of coming up with a community-minded proposal, Fulbright campers were divided into six teams and asked to answer the following questions: “What has been bothering you lately?”, “What change do you want to see in your community?”, and “How do you realize them?”.

When it comes to thinking, and acting, for a cause, Fulbright students were unfailingly chock-full of ideas. At the Camp, they came up with projects ranging from building a platform to bring second lives to clothing and goods for the Fulbright community, to raising awareness of sexual harassment and STDs in secondary and high schools in HCMC, from connecting teen moms with support services and providing them with sufficient pregnancy knowledge to creating a platform for easy-to-find, reliable and trustworthy partnership, etc.

After careful consideration on the feasibility of each project’s objectives and outcomes via an execution plan, their level of potential impact on the targeted community, and engaging demonstrations of effective leadership skills, the Camp’s Judging Panel has awarded Team One with the Best Project Award, which entailed VND 20.000.000 to realize their proposed project.

Named “Let It Flow”, Team One’s campaign will foster a women-friendly environment at Fulbright, where women on period will have access to support for menstrual products, wellbeing, and physical health. The project stemmed from the students’ observations of the obstacles that many women are faced with: instead of embracing and living in sync with their menstrual cycle, many young women are struggling with inconvenience, cramps, and even embarrassment.

We will organize workshops in which gynecologists and psychiatrists will be able to explain the breadth and depth of women’s health and reproductive system, thus encouraging cycle syncing,” said Dang Xuan Thy, Student of Class 2025 and a member of Team One. “Every woman should be able to live in sync with her cycle. She should be working with her body, not against it. Once she begins cycle syncing and lives more in tune with her body’s natural rhythms, she may feel more productive, energized, and experience fewer undesirable period symptoms.”

Named “Let It Flow”, Team One’s campaign will foster a women-friendly environment at Fulbright, where women on period will have access to support for menstrual products, wellbeing, and physical health.

The runner-up was Team Four, who was awarded VND 10.000.000 for their proposal of Fin Management, a project aimed to provide the Fulbright community with knowledge of personal finance, specifically freshmen who start to embark on a journey of being financially smart and independent. “We would like to lead the change where we see people struggle the most. By raising awareness about financial management, Fin Management will change all the negative attitudes associated with “money,” and gradually change people’s behaviors toward a far more financially secured life,” shared Tran Ngoc Phuong Nghi, Class of 2025 and a member of Team Four.

The runner-up was Team Four, who was awarded VND 10,000,000 for their proposal of Fin Management.

Limit-breaking activities to discover oneself and connect with like-minded changemakers

During the students’ two-day Leadership Camp at Buu Long, group activities, which were rated their most favorites, brought everyone closer together and created some of the most unforgettable memories. Chief among them was a challenge in which students were blind-folded, placed in disparate spots, and connected to one another only by a rope.

Each member of the team had to follow their leader’s instructions to locate the other teammates, then form a perfect square of the given rope. Blind-folded as they were, the campers found this exercise as one of the most “eye-opening” experiences, for it shed light on the power of team trust and the potential of group achievement in the wake of a true collaborative relationship between a leader and her team.

Personally, the best takeaway from the Fulbright Leadership Camp was all about those blissful moments that I shared with my teammates,” said Nguyen Phan Viet Hang, Class of 2024. “You know what, despite the fact that we were the very first team to do the blind-folded challenge, we actually won the Best Teamwork Award! When I was finally able to uncover my eyes, I couldn’t believe how perfect of a square we’d managed to pull off. We had complete trust in our leader, and it was so rewarding!” 

Blind-folded as they were, the campers found this exercise as one of the most “eye-opening” experiences, for it shed light on the power of team trust.

Another highlight of the Camp’s group activities was Stage Night, where student groups were given 30 minutes each to put on live performances of their choice. Time constraints didn’t seem to have much effect on their ambition, and creative abilities, in pulling off the most entertaining, buoyant and engaging acts for fellow campers. With their Bingo (Lô Tô) minishow, Team Six charmed the crowd away with their impromptu yet arresting performance, and received the highest votes on Fulbright’s Student Engagement Group on Facebook to win the well-deserved Best Performance Award.

Without doubt, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from the 2022 Fulbright Leadership Camp was ‘listening’,” said Hoang Dang Quynh Phuong, Class of 2025 and a member of Team Six. “At the Camp, I’ve had the chance to listen to and learn from different perspectives from my team leader and teammates, not to mention wonderful fellow students at Fulbright. Together, we have created beautiful memories over those short-but-sweet two days. The Camp was a fantastic opportunity that I was privileged to be a part of – to fully immerse in this pool of positive energy, and to have the confidence to step out of my comfort zone. My mindset has been shifted from “I can’t lead” to “I can lead”, and I would love to see myself keep on growing with every future step I take.”

Another highlight of the Camp’s group activities was Stage Night, where student groups were given 30 minutes each to put on live performances of their choice.

Phương Mai

From Jan 4 to 16, Fulbright University Vietnam organized Securing Your Digital Life campaign to provide students with essential information on how to prevent and deal with cyber security threats in the digital age.  

As a joint effort of Fulbright’s Student Engagement with IT Department, Wellness Center, and Student Council, the campaign made its first appearance by an email sent to the student body attaching a phishing URL requiring each students’ email address and log-in passwords. Sixty percent of nearly 600 students clicked on the link with 250 students providing their own credentials. Only 7 students, or 1% of the total number, reported the link as a scam.   

 

The campaign’s first phase “Prevention” demonstrated the lurking dangers when students go onlinean issue which has not been perceived properly. Among a number of well-established engaging activities, the workshop “Digiprevent – Dangers of Digital World” left an impact on the students with the presence of Mr. Phillip Hung Cao – Cyber & Zero Trust Evangelist and Mr. Duong Ngo Cong Hoa – Fulbright’s IT Security Manager as prominent speakers. From the perspectives of those with more than 20 years working in Information Security, the speakers enlightened the students with different types of digital danger sneaking around scam messages, emails, websites, and applications. Password protection mechanism was also explained in detail to make the students aware of how to create stronger passwords and more secure accounts.  

 

Mr. Phillip Hung Cao proceeded to introduce Fulbright students to Zero Trust – a strategic approach to cybersecurity that secures an organization by eliminating implicit trust and continuously validating every stage of a digital interaction. A key component to achieving Zero Trust is Multifactor Authentication that Fulbright is integrating to all students and staff’s accounts whose access will be granted only after users’ successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence to an authentication mechanism. 

 

In the second phase, the panel discussion “Digitreatment – Dealing with Trauma Caused by Data Breach” was hosted to stimulate candid dialogue about psychological trauma caused by digital threats. Accidents happen that no one expects, which may include but not limited to the exposure of sensitive photos and private messages, the misuse of private pictures, being cyberbullied for expressing a controversial opinion, being hacked, etc. Without any instructions on how to handle these unpleasant situations in advance, the victim may go into a state of panic, fall into crisis and destructive patterns. Hence, Fulbright’s Wellness Counselor Ms. Le Nguyen Ngoc Tram moderated the panel discussion while offering psychological guidance on how to stay mentally healthy when a data breach occurs. Furthermore, proper ways to support someone affected by digital threats were discussed, including reaching out to Fulbright’s Wellness Center for private, confidential, and free-of-charge counseling services available for all students.   

It is easy to trust the technology,” said a Fulbright student. “The more convenient it is, the more reckless we are. That is why I fell for the phishing email in the first place. I have learned so much ever since. I love how this campaign was structured with enthusiastic and expert speakers. From now on, I will definitely stick with strong passwords and multifactor authentication.”   

The campaign “Securing Your Digital Life” is one of many Student Engagement initiatives to promote Fulbright students’ campus-wide involvement in learning opportunities, programs, and events outside the classroom. “Our priority is to facilitate activities that contribute to student’s engagement with diverse communities, foster their holistic development, and inspire lifelong commitment to learning and excellence as engaged members of society.” – said Ms. Ruby Nguyen, Fulbright’s Student Engagement Manager.