Fulbright University Vietnam and Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH, United States) recently signed their first exchange agreement, a teaching and learning collaboration between both institutions titled “Connected Courses in Vietnamese Studies”. Connected courses represent a new approach to international exchange in education: while the courses offered at each university will not be identical, their learning objectives and content will be jointly designed and coordinated by their respective instructors and taught simultaneously at both institutions. The first pairing of Fulbright-Dartmouth courses is scheduled for the Fall term starting September 2020.
These innovative courses are structured in two phases. First, during the co-learning component, 18 students enrolled in their respective universities will investigate, in parallel, the topic of development in contemporary Vietnam through an interdisciplinary approach. The instructors will draw on methods and analytical perspectives from History, Environmental Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies to examine development in Vietnam since the 1980s. During this first phase, students from both institutions will work in teams of six – three from each university – and interact with each other via video conference links and other electronic communication. Members of each of these joint Fulbright-Dartmouth teams will co-design a group research project on a topic related to the themes of the course, to be conducted and completed during the visit of the Dartmouth students to Ho Chi Minh City.
During the second phase, in December 2020, the Dartmouth students and their instructors will travel to Vietnam for a three-week intensive program of in-person interaction and co-learning with their Fulbright peers. This intensive program will include guest lectures, film screenings and meetings at the Fulbright campus, as well as joint field trips to sites in Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. This is also the time when the joint teams will conduct their research fieldwork. At the conclusion of the three-week period of intensive co-learning and exchange, each team will present research findings to the other teams and to members of the Fulbright community.
Professor Nam Nguyen, who initiated the program at Fulbright, commented that “this exchange program is an unprecedented chance for Fulbrighters to study, research, deliberate and innovate with their peers abroad. Our hope is to see new perspectives emerge from thematically similar yet distinct educational contexts. By connecting Fulbright University students to the wider world of international academia, we designed a fundamental experience of transnational collaboration and multidisciplinary research, from digital platforms to physical fieldwork.”
Professor Nam is currently co-designing the connected courses with Edward Miller, Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth. “For Dartmouth, this collaboration with Fulbright is an opportunity to build a new kind of international education exchange program,” Miller explains.
“Instead of merely sending Dartmouth students to take classes at a university in a foreign country, we are working closely with Fulbright faculty to allow students from both institutions to engage in structured co-learning with each other. As the premier liberal arts university in Vietnam, Fulbright is the ideal partner for us because of our shared values and our shared commitment to academic excellence.”
About Dartmouth College:
Founded in 1769, Dartmouth is a member of the Ivy League and consistently ranks among the world’s greatest academic institutions. Dartmouth has forged a singular identity for combining its deep commitment to outstanding undergraduate liberal arts and graduate education with distinguished research and scholarship in the Arts and Sciences and its four leading graduate schools—the Geisel School of Medicine, the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business. More at https://home.dartmouth.edu/
I am writing this letter to share with you my thoughts after our co-design-year journey. In addition to explaining my decision to be part of Fulbright University Vietnam, I want to tell you how and why I sought to embed the crucial roles of education, public intellectual leadership, and critical thinking into the three full-length courses I co/taught during the past school year.
“Why did you join Fulbright?” is a question that I have been asked several times, but my answer always remains the same: because of my love and respect reserved for my fellow-Vietnamese students. Fulbright University Vietnam is unique in many aspects, and one of them lies in its outstanding students. A Confucian classic teaches us that an exemplary person has three things in which he delights. The last of these is to seek “from [across] the whole kingdom the most talented individuals, and teach them.” I have taken great delight in the opportunity to do exactly that at Fulbright.
At Fulbright, we learn to become public intellectuals through liberal education
Wise teachers advise us to dwell actively, productively, and peacefully in the here and now because the past is gone, and we cannot do anything to change it; since the future is not yet to arrive, we cannot shape it. On the other hand, even though we cannot change what happened in the past, we still can study it, learn and teach its lessons in a new light. By doing that, we are preparing for a better future right here in the present. Of course, each of us can consciously and ethically change ourselves for the better, and those personal positive changes we’ve made already serve as our modest contributions to society. But working together, we can contribute more significantly to the country and the world in which we live.
Describing education as a “slow-moving but powerful force,” Senator J. William Fulbright argued that, “It may not be fast enough or strong enough to save us from catastrophe, but it is the strongest force available for that purpose and in its proper place, therefore, is not at the periphery, but at the center of international relations.” In this spirit, education can bridge the historical gap between Vietnam and the United States, helping us to reconcile with one another and to understand each other better. In the same vein, education makes our full integration with the rest of the world possible. Here at Fulbright, my students and I learn to become public intellectuals through liberal education.
The formation of a public intellectual must start with foundational changes in the heart-and-mind. Senator Fulbright reminds us that, “Our future is not in the stars but in our own minds and hearts. Creative leadership and liberal education, which in fact go together, are the first requirements for a hopeful future for humankind.” In the liberal arts model, social sciences and the humanities play a key role in training students to become responsible citizens for the betterment of society.
This is exactly what Fulbright can offer. As a Vietnamese university, Fulbright aims to be international in training a new generation of students who will represent the full regional, disciplinary, socio-economic and gender diversity of our country on the one hand, while helping to maintain and strengthen our students’ national and cultural identities through liberal arts education on the other hand. Here at Fulbright, my students and I have tried to pursue this vision through critical thinking.
Cultivate critical thinking at Fulbright
Critical thinking is a part of liberal education that trains one to be a whole person by helping one to learn deeply about his/her own social environment, and about the possibilities for making it better. In an antiwar speech titled “A Higher Patriotism” delivered at Storrs, Connecticut, in 1966, Senator Fulbright started with the following lines, “To criticize one’s country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment. It is a service because it may spur the country to do better than it is doing; it is a compliment because it evidences a belief that the country can do better than it is doing.”
Having said that, the Senator went on, emphasizing that, “Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism – a higher form of patriotism, I believe, than the familiar rituals and national adulation.” Critical thinking requires us NOT to take anything for granted, but to question everything with a critical mind. Students should question everything that I (or anyone else) have taught them and accept each claim only after subjecting it to careful examination and thoughtful judgment.
During the co-design year, I had the chance to offer the following three full-length courses, either independently taught or co-taught with colleagues: “Vietnamese Studies: An Introduction to Vietnamese Culture and History,” “Ethics in Context: East Asian Ethical Philosophy in Vietnam, the Region, and Beyond,” and “Sharing Commonality with Others: Contemporary Vietnam and East Asia in Films.” Together, we mutually learned from one another with laughter, tears and silent moments of meditation, and I wish that all what I have shared with you above will stay with you after taking my courses.
When asked by students about what the co-design year means to me, I respond that, it brings me joy by encouraging the discovery of what the rising generation of Vietnamese can do and achieve. It also gives me hope for a brighter future for our country in a globalized world. This is why I joined the Fulbright, and what I have experienced so far has shown me that I made the right decision.
NGUYEN Nam, Founding Faculty
Mencius, “Jinxin 盡心”, 1:20: “’The superior man has three things in which he delights, and to be ruler over the kingdom is not one of them. That his father and mother are both alive, and that the condition of his brothers affords no cause for anxiety; this is one delight. That, when looking up, he has no occasion for shame before Heaven, and, below, he has no occasion to blush before men; this is a second delight. That he can get from the whole kingdom the most talented individuals, and teach and nourish them; this is the third delight.” (James Legge’s translation).
Fulbright, J. W. (2007). “The Higher Patriotism”, accessible at https://progressive.org/magazine/higher-patriotism/
From October 18 to 20, 40 Fulbright University Vietnam students had the opportunity to discover Ben Tre province with their professors. The field trip was the final component and culmination of our Vietnamese Studies course, which examines the cultural, socio-economic, and political changes in Vietnam from the Nguyen Dynasty until now, and what forces shaped Vietnam into the nation it is today. The course and the field study were designed and organized by Vietnamese Studies professors Dr. Nam Nguyen and Dr. Andrew Bellisari.
A coastal province in the Mekong Delta, Bến Tre is renowned for its revolutionary heritage and remembered as a crucible of Vietnam’s history and identity: “here lie the tombs of prominent scholars Nguyễn Đình Chiểu and Phan Thanh Giản as well as the heroic female general Nguyễn Thị Định. It is also home of the Coconut Sect, and the birthplace of Trương Vĩnh Ký,” explains Dr. Nguyen.
“This was a perfect opportunity for us to go to the source, so students can listen to local perspectives, making Vietnam the classroom. By engaging profoundly with a local context, we open broader discussions of Vietnamese history.” remarks Dr. Bellisari.
Local memory, national identity
Students visited the tombs and memorials of foundational figures of Modern Vietnam, be they Confucian scholars, literary masters, pacifists or military, from the pre-colonial and colonial eras, to legendary figures of Vietnam’s revolutionary tradition. Each story began in Bến Tre, but not all are remembered equally. The first goal was to reflect on the historical role they played, and to see it through the local lens.
“What we were learning came to life. We had the chance to follow traditional tours, and we also received more personal perspectives,” says Phuong Thao, one of the participants. Mai Anh, who also participated in the trip, added: “Going to the birthplace of prominent figures and the seat of historical happenings is different from studying them from textbooks. You can connect more with their motivations.”
“Everyone has their own thoughts and ways to worship and recognize contributions to history. We learned so much by seeing how the people in their hometown perceive historical figures, how they care for the tombs, and how they carry on their names,” says Thao.
The students were encouraged to discuss the plurality and conflicting nature of those perspectives both historical and present as well as connect it with national history and contemporary Vietnam.
For Mai Anh, “the trip really made us think on how we perceive the past, how perspectives change, but also how it relates to the present and people now.”
From history to civic engagement
Indeed, discussions on historical perspectives inevitably open to the present, and how students can engage with a continuously evolving society. A key element of the field trip was to develop within the class a sense of civic engagement.
“Learning about historical events gives me something to talk about with people from previous generations, and it’s a privilege to learn from them. In addition, hearing different perspectives and learning independently gives it a mutual, reciprocal aspect, where I can engage in this dialogue. It’s a valuable experience to have these conversations with people who lived through the revolutionary period,” reflects Mai Anh.
For Phuong Thao, “it’s not just about conversations: it’s about how you can understand and empathize with people. When discussing history, we can discuss the why. Why people acted the way they did or made the decisions they made. And it’s a huge source of motivation for me. We can’t build the future without understanding the past. Nationalism is not just about building a sense of identity; it’s about understanding different ideas of Vietnam and our past and build a future together.”
Final presentations: in the steps of historians
To complete their course, students produced a final presentation, continuing the work of historians and contributing to the ongoing dialogue within Vietnamese society. Groups chose their topic independently, ranging from cataloguing and preserving the cultural heritage of Dong Khoi Street in Ho Chi Minh city, to discussing the life of Vietnamese workers in France during the first and second world war, or gathering oral history accounts of post-war Vietnam in the subsidy period.
“The final project was planned beforehand, but Bến Tre gave us time and distance for reflection. For my group, we chose to do an essay film inspired by the one showed to us by professor Nam at the beginning of the course. In terms of researching methods, the frequent check-ins with professors Nam and Andrew were invaluable. They really helped us find sources and question and sharpen our investigative methods, nudging us on the right path of independent thought,” says Mai Anh.
For Andrew Bellisari, this was a success. “The final projects, much like the trip, showed the students that history exists in different registers, where the local, national, and international can coexist in multiple narratives. This was constantly emphasized towards the course, but the trip and the project gave the students a hands-on experience they would not usually have to research and engage with these narratives.”
Fulbright students eagerly joined an intriguing talk with Bao Ninh, the author of the internationally acclaimed war novel “The Sorrow of War”. Having been silent for decades, Hanoi-based famous writer agreed to fly to Ho Chi Minh City and host an open discussion with Fulbright students.
Although from different nations and generations, those who have read The Sorrow of War may share the same wish: having a chance to meet its author Bao Ninh, who depicted an excruciating war from an insider’s perspective with a mixture of emotions.
Ninh’s main character, a thinly disguised portrait of the author as a young man, enlisted in the army at age 17. A decade after the fighting was over, he passed his days in drunkenness and depression – permanently damaged by the war.
The book has won several prominent international awards, including the 2018 Asia Literature Award. It has been translated and published in more than 20 countries.
For the postwar Vietnamese young readers growing up in peacetime, the exquisite war told in the novel definitely goes beyond their imagination. Thus, listening to the author who is also the soldier surviving from battles really helps them better understand what happened in those dramatic years in general as well as the novel in particular.
A wise advice tells us to dwell peacefully in the here and now because the past is gone, and we cannot do anything to change it; as the future has not come yet, we have nothing to do with it.
Even though we cannot change what happened in the past, we still can study it, learn and teach from its lessons. And by doing that, we are preparing for a better future right in the present.
In the same line of thought, Fulbright students were eager to meet with the somehow-mythical author of the Sorrow of War. They proactively requested an invitation for Bao Ninh to campus, faculty and staff helped to facilitate the procedure, but initially this was the students’ demand.
Finally, their dream had come true: Bao Ninh, who almost vanished from the public eyes for years, came to the school, opening up a friendly conversation with them, bridging the generation gap, and sharing with them what he and his generation already went through as well as what he thinks we all should do for our future.
An intriguing talk surely will trigger a lot of interesting questions. Bao Ninh’s talk is no exception. Open to both Fulbright’s faculty and students, the talk received questions from various people in the audience, but fascinating inquiries (un)surprisingly came from co-designers (undergraduate students).
Even though students brought up various questions regarding writing techniques, such as stream of consciousness, the astonishing ending, or the presence of a variety of narrators in the novel, their focus remains in the present: how to read the novel in contemporary contexts, how this literary work can help us understand the multidimensional aspect of history, or how fiction can reconcile different wartime parties for a brighter postwar future.
Listening to those questions, one can easily recognizes the inquirers as thoughtful readers with social and cultural concerns. It’s may be too early to predict what these pre-freshman students can do during their college years and afterwards, but what they asked in the conversation with the author of the Sorrow of War brings us joy and hope for a world of peace and empathy.
At Fulbright University Vietnam, the faculty team aspires to create an ecosystem of knowledge about history and culture, and promote experiential learning both inside the classroom or in the field.
For example, three months ago, Dr. Nam Nguyen and Dr. Andrew Bellisari, two founding faculty members of Fulbright and key architects of the core course on Vietnamese Studies, took their students to Hue. The field trip immersed students in an experiential learning space to explore culture and history through multi-faceted lenses.
This time, Fulbright students learned about the traditional culture of Vietnam through the “Cultural heritage and Contemporary Arts” talk, conducted by an unpredictable guest, Artist Nguyen Nhat Ly. It is unpredictable because Nguyen Nhat Ly is a Vietnamese French artist who always draws inspirations from traditional culture to shape his arts and present it in a modern way.
Professor Nguyen envisioned the French-Vietnamese artist would serve as a “tough case” for his students. “Tough” is not because how surrealistic Nguyen Nhat Ly’s arts-making is. Professor Nguyen wants his students to approach traditional cultural arts through lenses distinct from the mainstream. His students, who are used to living in the digital age and listening to K-pop or Western music, might find Nguyen Nhat Ly’s rich artistic space out of their comfort zone.
By exposing his students to unconventional artistic thoughts, Professor Nguyen hopes that his students will form an open mindset in viewing the constant evolution of Vietnamese cultural values.
Tradition is always evolving
Nguyen Nhat Ly is a special artist. Birthed by a Vietnamese father and French mother, he has a unique artistic journey. He used to be a clown and a trumpeter for a circus before studying sound-making and researching traditional music in France. Despite his education at Paris 4 Sorborne, Nguyen Nhat Ly pursued careers as a musical director and a playwright.
The artist started his talk by showing students the opening excerpts from his plays, including Làng tôi, À Ố show, Teh Dar or the contemporary dance show about Cham culture “Palao”. Làng tôi is a visually pleasing circus show about installation arts, set against the musical backdrop of more than 20 traditional musical instruments, while À Ố Show is a circus show that brings together various forms of performing arts, such as pantomime and dance, woven together along melodies of Vietnamese folk opera and hip-hop…
In Palao, life in Cham is captured through special artistic lenses and contemporary music. In the show, performers sing, dance and play traditional musical instruments at the same time, obsessing audience’s minds with red terracotta and white silk costumes (signatures of Cham culture). Teh Dar, another circus show, combines 20 musical instruments of ethnic minority groups, such as Ba Na, Ede, K’ho, Gia Rai, capturing the distinct cultural vibe of Tay Nguyen.
Through those shows, Nguyen Nhat Ly and his team, including director Tuan Le, Nguyen Lan Maurice and Tan Loc dance choreographer, tell stories of different regional cultures – Northern region’s culture in Lang toi, Southern region’s in À Ố Show, Tay Nguyen’s in Teh Dar and Cham’s in Palao – tapping into both traditional and contemporary arts to achieve visually stunning installation art and acoustically pleasant effects.
These shows have put up thousands of performances across 4 continents. Popular reviews describe them as “must-see cultural shows”, praised for its stellar artistic values. From a commercial perspective, those are probably the most successful cases of Vietnamese culture being introduced to international audience.
However, in his talk with Fulbright students, Nguyen Nhat Ly emphasized the rationality of an artist to breathe a contemporary spirit into their work.
“In making arts, an artist has to be able to identify unique beauty – or a cultural identity – to attract both Vietnamese and international audience. Even in the performing format, the beauty has to be contemporary so everyone at any corner of the world can access and understand.”
Nguyen Nhat Ly said he created a map of Vietnamese traditional heritage and cultural legacies. However, he said it was nothing new, since people did not invent tradition to follow. It is life.
After watching the excerpt from “Palao“, a student from the Co-Design year questioned the existence of a culture nobody has been exposed to: “Is anyone preserving such culture?”
The question was exactly what Professor Nguyen Nam was looking for. The question reflects an open-minded thinking, which helps students both become receptive to new ideas and dive in-depth into a topic.
Professor Nguyen Nam concluded, the shows that Nguyen Nhat Ly put on serves as living examples to his students: Tradition does not simply belong to the past. It enriches and nurtures the present. Tradition is not permanent. Instead it is constantly transforming and evolving.
Fulbright students are equipped with top-quality learning and researching opportunities. Fulbright is committed to building an international faculty and providing students with cutting edge knowledge to thrive in a modern society. At the same time, Fulbright’s vision is to educate our students beyond the intellectual mind.
Traditional values are irreplaceable because modern life cannot function without the past. If cultural identities are ignored or forgotten, the acquisition of new knowledge is only “new” in scientific sense.
Before becoming experts or scientists, students need to be grounded in a strong cultural foundation. Vietnamese people need to gain a deep understanding of our cultural heritage and traditions, both their origins and never-ending evolutions.
Linh V* – Bich Tra m
Cousin: “It’s not a surprise that you got into history major at your high school for the gifted.”
Me: “Why is that?”
Cousin: “You memorize all the important dates. You can pull historical facts out of thin air when asked. Since you were nine years old, you could cite all the Tran kings in chronological order. You are indeed a prodigy!”
– September 2015
I prided myself on being a history expert when I first started high school. Why? Here’s an example:
In 1925, the Vietnam Revolutionary Youth League was founded. This inspired the establishment of the Communist League of Indochinese, which formed the base of the Vietnamese Communist Party in 1930.
My specialty was the ability to remember and link historical facts in chronological order. Yet, I did not know, at the time, my weakness. I could not draw out the lessons history tried to teach us. I thought that it happened that way because it meant to happen that way.
I thought it was, simply, destiny. My high school experience did not really help me correct my weakness either. It, however, helped me vaguely realize that something was off.
After my first high school semester, I switched school and major, from History to English. At this new school, I became a star when it came to history. Needless to say, compared to the other students, I seemed to have quite an extensive knowledge of history.
In class, I could engage in a deep conversation on topics such as the analysis of Ho Chi Minh’s “Trường kì kháng chiến nhất định thắng lợi” (persistence ensures victory), the battle of Ap Bac and Van Tuong, or every other topics in history textbooks. And usually, I would get a 10 for such effort.
However, these discussions made me realized that something was not quite right. When I inquired further on the interpretation of a historical event or an era, either the teachers dodged the questions or their answers did not really satisfy me. I felt like something was still missing although I could not pinpoint what that was. The textbooks were not so much of help either.
I started to feel disheartened and stopped asking questions in class. In 12th grade, I still answered questions but rarely initiated discussions. My classmates must have appreciated it a lot considering I knew how frustrated – but still full of admiration – they were whenever I raised my hand in class. As seniors, I guess we all just wanted the class to end.
The fewer questions I asked in class, the more I pondered them at night. I kept asking myself why we avoided talking about history while we ourselves were writing history.
Each and everyone of us witnessed history unfolding almost everyday, for example, the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, or the #metoo movement. If we did not understand the full truth of history, how could we learn from it and avoid following history’s footsteps?
If we did not understand what actually happened, how could we fathom the extraordinary steps a country such as ours had to go through to rise above the repeated wars and resistance we faced throughout the course of history? We would risk history being lost forever if discussions were not encouraged.
And discussions were exactly what we did in the “Vietnamese Studies” course at Fulbright.
I thought the course would be a piece of cake for someone who knew Vietnamese history by heart. “What more can I learn from this class?”, I thought to myself. Fortunately, I was proven wrong. I realized that there were many aspects of history that I overlooked but might affect the way history could betold.
For example, I did not take into account the recreation of traditions, the emplotment of historical narrative, the erasure of identities, how different sides might view a historical event, the change, the context, the causality, the contingency and the complexity of history as a whole. In the “Vietnamese Studies” course, we were asked to dive into the mess with historiography.
As one of the class requirements, we traveled to Hue to reassess not only our prior knowledge of a controversial period of history, but also our personal experience with this city. For some of us, this journey was the journey of growing up, of leaving childhood behind. Why?
It seemed as though our thinking, mindset, and belief were contested, deconstructed, and recreated everyday during that trip. Suddenly, we realized that we were no longer innocent high school students who were being told what history was.
We, as adults, have to constantly learn and adjust our outlook on history and how it should be understood. To make it even harder for us, our professors asked us to reflect on the findings by trying to narrate history with our personal experience. Endless chains of questions kept going through our minds.
Were there enough representations of different groups in the current narrative? Should we cling onto our deeply-rooted notion of textbook history or should we learn to live with the ever-changing clarification of it, and the discomfort and counter shock that come with it?
And if we followed the latter, which way could we approach and be in touch with our feelings while keeping our heads cool to take in new academic knowledge and thinking?
We emerged out of the class, constantly searching for the answers for these questions, knowing that we would never find the most satisfactory ones. We discussed then fell into complete silence. We absorbed the waves of emotions and thoughts that hit us.
We suddenly understood that history was not just about dates and events; it was about how stories were told and perceived. For the first time, our interpretation of history mattered more than how well we could cite them. It was hard; but it was how it should be.
Khanh Minh – Student of Co-Design Year
In July, 2018, speaking to members of the U.S.-Vietnamese business community in Hanoi, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State said Vietnam’s experience since the normalization of relations with the U.S. (1995) should be proof for North Korea that prosperity and partnership with the U.S. is possibleafter decades of conflict and mistrust.
He suggested that North Korea could learn from Vietnam in achieving twofold missions – economic growth and political stability.
In the seminar “Following Vietnam model? Crisis in Korean Peninsula and North Korea Dilemma” hosted by Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, using soft power framework, Dr. Yooil introduced recent development of Northeast Asian security crisis and assessed Mr. Pompeo’s comment on the Vietnamese model as a proof for North Korea.
North Korean economy is considered one of the weakest economies in the world and most of available resources are distributed to military industries and “Juche” ideology has been practiced for over 60 years. Against such background of rising political conflicts, other more successful models such as China and Korea, despite remarkable achievements, are not readily available to North Korean specific designs.
Dr. Yooil argued that though Vietnam and North Korea bear many resemblances, the two countries are different in many respects (median ages, total population, market size, etc.), resulting in reduced possibility of Vietnamese model’s success in North Korean circumstances.
On the other hand, the motives of North Korean leaders (economic development vs. regime stability) are unclear. By highlighting the importance of ‘socialization’ aspect of soft power as a form of productive power, Dr. Yooil concluded that the Vietnamese model as a source of soft power would only work if the benefits of the model were fully socialized among North Koreans.
19 Co-Design Year Students in the Introduction to Vietnamese History and Culture course are currently in Hue City (Central Vietnam) for one week. Hue is known as the land of historical and cultural heritages of Vietnam. It is also home to five UNESCO heritage sites.
Two founding faculty members at Fulbright, Dr. Nguyen Nam and Dr. Andrew Bellisari, chose Hue as their classroom for the second week of their Vietnamese Studies Course: Introduction to Vietnamese History and Culture.
“In high school, we saw pictures in textbooks to show history. Now, we’re looking at it up close and learning different stories interpreting it,” said Co-Designer Nguyen Cao Minh Thao. “Professors Nam and Andrew are challenging us to rethink how we look at our country’s development.”
Students are looking at the history of the city to illuminate Vietnam’s history broadly and the forces that shaped imperialism, nationalism, and revolution. Experience-based learning means students are using not only their intellect but also their senses and their feelings to observe history.
“One of the things I like about the trip is that it brings more humanity into what we learned. We learn argumentative essays and put on a very distant, academic face,” said Co-Designer Nguyen Cao Nghi. “When we get into tombs and get a sensory experience. There’s an emotional attachment to what we learn. It is the epitome of what we learn in a liberal arts education. We get to know it with depth and breadth.”