Huynh Minh Trang was accepted by three different universities in the U.S.; she was hoping to start her college life in America this September. But like so many other students who planned to study abroad this Fall, she’s stuck in Vietnam because the Covid-19 pandemic has left her in limbo. Trang is among 190,000 Vietnamese students who put their overseas study plans on hold due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Yet, that was the situation a few months ago.

In July, the pandemic still shows no sign of abating and borders still remain closed. In the U.S., California’s two largest districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, recently announced that classes would be online-only in the fall. School administrators elsewhere are increasingly unwilling to risk crowding students back into classrooms until the coronavirus is fully under control. This uncertainty has left many Vietnamese students scrambling to find a solution for their upcoming college aspirations.

The Uncertain Future

Most students who plan to study abroad this year applied to their university of choice before COVID-19 started. Now, they have to face the reality of not knowing whether or not they can attend university this Fall. As universities around the world struggling to decide when and how to reopen, the feeling of bewilderment looms over all international students. For them, the uncertainty poses frustrating questions of logistics and how such disruption drastically alters their academic futures.

With the international borders remain closed for the unforeseeable future, first-year students find themselves in precarious situation of not being able to travel to their universities abroad or find proper accommodation for the next coming years. To complicate the already difficult situation, the second wave of outbreaks adds another level of difficulty and anxiety for international students and universities all over the world.

To help ease such anxiety, some universities are planning to offer a hybrid of in-person and online classes come fall, while some plan to move all their classes online. Although remote learning can help students stay on their academic track, it may come with some major drawbacks. One of the main reasons for students to pursue higher education overseas is for them to live in a new culture and the college life in addition to the education programs. Devoid of such fulfilled experience, the online program becomes less attractive for some students.

Time difference is also a problem for Vietnamese students if they have to take online courses this Fall. For example, if Vietnamese students take online courses which will be taught in America, they have to stay up during the night to attend classes. The time difference would be difficult to overcome.

Online classes lack interaction, which can be discouraging for students

Pham Hoang Boi, a freshman at University of Minnesota, shared: “My university offers online courses, which they encourage me to take. I took an online course during my quarantine when I first came back to Vietnam, and I think it i\was alright. But to me, it lacked human connection, so I procrastinated. I also encountered other issues: internet connection problems, time zone difference, and difficulty in teamwork.”

For parents, there exists a different type of anxiety: while facing the pressure from the people and even the governments, universities may be forced to open their doors to students sooner than may be advisable. Combined with the unique circumstances that the pandemic has created — including scarce flights, closed borders, and the elevated risk of getting infected, the prospect of sending their children off to a different country becomes much tougher for parents.

“Our entire family and Minh Quan himself agreed that he should stay in Vietnam. The fact that America is suffering from major damage from the pandemic, as well as the ongoing political turmoil make us believe he will be safer here,” explained Dao Minh Son, a father whose son got accepted to Clark University this Fall.

With so many uncertainties and no clear instructions, universities, students, and parents alike have been left with no other option but to hold their breaths and hope for a more comprehensive plan to be announced in the near future.

And the Alternatives

Once the pandemic is over, students will continue to travel abroad for their studies. However, according to many health experts, that time will not come any time soon. As their lives turned upside down, rather than endure a year online with little to no on-campus interaction, some students are choosing to take a gap year to work, learn a new skill or add experience to their resume.

Yet, in such culture as Vietnam, taking a year off is not traditionally done. Many students, such as Huynh Minh Trang, as well as parents, still prefer an uninterrupted education, even in light of a pandemic. These students have begun assessing other options, some closer to home. However, not all Vietnamese students, who planned to study abroad, are eligible to enter public universities in Vietnam. Local private universities, with flexible admissions cycle, became the destination of choice for these students. It is also notable that, for students and parents who decide to change their plans, the most important factor is the quality of the academic experience.

Students have begun assessing other options, some closer to home

Our family supports Quan’s decision to apply to Fulbright because we know Fulbright is a university of international standards, which also receives recognition and support from the Vietnamese government. Hopefully, our son will be able to absorb all the precious knowledge that Fulbright has to offer. We also wish that he would have a special experience at Fulbright and enjoy the school’s extracurricular activities,” added Dao Minh Son.

Fulbright University Vietnam, nevertheless, does not have flexible admissions cycle. Yet, Fulbright takes pride in our co-design spirit and our ability to “build the plane while flying it.” That was why the University decided to launch the Visiting Student Program in June, with the original deadline for application being July 06, 2020.

“Although our Spring admissions cycle ended and Fulbright definitely does not encourage students to give up their opportunities to study at top international universities that they have worked extremely hard for, Fulbright understands and empathizes with the concerns of many Vietnamese families. We are deeply aware of our social responsibility to help find solutions to this crisis, including assisting students affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s why Fulbright launched the Visiting Student Program, even though it means that the University would have to expand its resources significantly,” shared Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam, last June.

Now more than ever, Fulbright understands the precarious situation Vietnamese students and their parents are in. Once again, the University stayed true to its co-design spirit and announced the deadline extension for the Visiting Student Program to July 31, 2020. Students who did not meet the previous deadline can now have more time to apply to this program, if they wish to.

To address the concern most visiting students have regarding their academic credits at Fulbright, Dr. Dinh Vu Trang Ngan, Dean of Fulbright Undergraduate Studies, advised: “Fulbright University will strive to work with international universities where students have been accepted, to make sure they can transition smoothly and have fulfilling learning experiences.”

“Among international universities in Vietnam, Fulbright’s program is the closest to that in the US. I hope I will be able to transfer my credits here to my school in the US. An international education is what I am looking forward to. I believe the Visiting Student Program will be beneficial for me and help me prepare for my studying abroad later on,” shared Huynh Minh Trang.

“Fulbright understands that the Visiting Student Program may not be ideal for all Vietnamese students who now have to face such an uncertain academic future. However, as an institution committed to provide Vietnamese students with a world-class education, we strive to provide them another option to consider,” added Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram, Fulbright’s Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.

Thao Truong

With predictions about a second wave of COVID-19 coming in this fall-winter, more and more universities in epidemic-stricken regions around the world are forced to consider closing their campuses until the end of the year. Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright) hence decided to launch the Fulbright Visiting Student Program, an initiative that supports students whose study abroad plans have been disrupted because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eligibility

Students who: i) have been accepted to a university outside of Vietnam but have not been able to enroll due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ii) wish to have a full-time educational experience at Fulbright during the 2020-2021 schoolyear are eligible to apply for this program.

Criteria

Visiting students will study with Fulbright’s regular undergraduate students, therefore the same academic and character requirements apply. One-year visiting students must have: i) a strong knowledge base, and ii) distinct personal virtues, especially intellectual curiosity, a sense of responsibility, care for others, and a pioneering attitude. To know more about what Fulbright seeks in its students, visit https://fulbright.edu.vn/admissions/

Admissions process

Similar to the regular program, visiting students are admitted based on personal assessments.

After the application round, applicants will go through an individual interview round. The application for visiting students requires:

  • Personal information
  • Academic information
  • Applicant’s profile that has been accepted by an overseas university (in pdf format)
  • Letter of acceptance from an overseas university (in pdf format)
  • A short essay expressing the applicant’s motivation for joining the Visiting Student program.
  • A letter of agreement from the said university that allows the applicant to postpone their study for one year in order to attend the Visiting Student Program at Fulbright (additional submission can be made after enrollment)

Applications are completed through an online form. There is no application fee.

Admissions timeline

Important application dates are as follows:

– June 1, 2020: Application opens for the Visiting Student Program

– July 31, 2020: Application deadline

– August 2020: Interviews and result announcement

Tuition and Financial Aid

Our available funds are specifically designated for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Fulbright; hence financial aid will not be awarded to visiting students. Tuition fee for the Visiting Student program is similar to that of the regular program, which can be found at https://fulbright.edu.vn/tuition-and-financial-aid/ The university’s residence services are reserved for regular students only. Visiting students will plan for their own accommodation.

At the end of the program, visiting students will be issued transcripts for subjects they have taken during the academic year.

On May 19th, Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright) launches the Fulbright Visiting Student Program, an initiative that supports students whose study abroad plans have been disrupted because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the world is facing a possible second wave of coronavirus infections this fall-winter, many universities in epidemic-stricken countries are forced to consider closing their campuses until the end of the year. California State University, America’s largest four-year public university system, recently announced that classes at its 23 campuses would be canceled for the fall semester, with instruction taking place almost exclusively online. Harvard Medical School, McGill University (Canada) and many others have announced similar changes. These decisions have the potential to disrupt the plans of many thousands of incoming students, whose plans to study abroad are now uncertain.

Understandably, some parents are not willing to send their children far away from home this fall, even to universities which will remain open amid the pandemic in America or in Europe. In this ongoing crisis, there are countless unpredictable risks that cause their unease, especially when they witnessed thousands of Vietnamese students trapped in a foreign country and left homeless when their dormitories were closed, and international flights were canceled.

Although our Spring admissions cycle ended and Fulbright definitely does not encourage students to give up their opportunities to study at top international universities that they have worked extremely hard for, Fulbright understands and empathizes with the concerns of many Vietnamese families. We are deeply aware of our social responsibility to help find solutions to this crisis, including assisting students affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s why Fulbright has decided to launch a visiting student program, even though it means that the University would have to expand its resources significantly,” says Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam.

Applications for the Fulbright Visiting Students Program will be open from June 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020. To apply, students must demonstrate that (1) they have been admitted to a university outside of Vietnam but cannot enroll because of the Covid-19 pandemic; and (2) they wish to have a full-time educational experience at Fulbright during the 2020-2021 academic year.

These Visiting Students will not be automatically enrolled as Fulbright’s undergraduate students even though they will be issued transcripts for subjects they take during the 2020-2021 academic year. “The Fulbright Visiting Student Program is not an increased enrollment quota. It is designed to provide students an uninterrupted learning experience in an international academic environment amid the pandemic. After completing the program at Fulbright, students can start enrolling at the universities they were admitted, possibly in September of 2021”, explains Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram, Fulbright’s Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.

Innovative solutions

“With this initiative, Fulbright once again demonstrates its role as a leading liberal arts university with a strong commitment to serving Vietnamese youth in particular and the society in general,” comments Dr. Bill Hiss, former Vice President and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Bates College, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States.

Endeavors to find innovative solutions to help Vietnamese students whose studies are impeded by Covid-19 remind Dr. Bill Hiss of a story that happened fifteen years ago, when several American colleges and universities pioneered the movement that supported students severely affected by Hurricane Katrina. One of the most outstanding initiatives was the visiting student program, where some American universities agreed to accept students from New Orleans universities, who had nowhere else to study due to the area being destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to this program, these students could continue their studies until their universities in New Orleans were reopened. The program, therefore, received positive feedback not only from the student community but from the American public in general.

“Fulbright University will strive to work with international universities where students have been accepted, to make sure they can transition smoothly and have fulfilling learning experiences,” says Dr. Dinh Vu Trang Ngan, Dean of Fulbright Undergraduate Studies.

The visiting student program is Fulbright’s most recent effort in a series of initiatives to support our community in overcoming the Covid-19 crisis. From the early days of the pandemic, Fulbright has been working closely with the Vietnamese Government to provide timely and efficient policy consultation in the fight against the virus. The University also initiated an open online discussion series with leading international academics and experts on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, providing transparent updates to help our community be best prepared for “a new normal” when the pandemic subsides.

The Vietnamese Government has been effectively controlling the spread and restoring the “normal life” much sooner than other countries. For that, Fulbright’s leader, Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, believes the University must live up to its responsibility in helping the young generation to continue pursuing higher education, regardless of where they choose to be.

“Covid-19 once again shows us the great value and importance of the community we all are building. More than ever, this is an opportunity for us to not only lend a hand to those in need, but also fulfill Fulbright’s original commitment towards high quality education for all Vietnamese students,” asserts the President of Fulbright University Vietnam.